Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Review: Secret Journeys of Jack London: The Wild by Christopher Golden

Whatever I thought this book was going to be, it turned around, slapped me in the face and made me feel like a girly-girl for saying (out-loud in an outdoor voice) EW on more than one occasion.

This book. Crikey.

I really love adventure based stories, and I really love boy-adventure with all the nitty-gritty survival and danger elements. A lot of this is because I live vicariously through it, because you wouldn't catch me dead more than a day's journey away from a shower. The rest of it you can blame on my older brother for introducing me to the Hardy Boys and Batman at a very young, impressionable age. Hiking, mountain climbing, river rafting - I love it all to pieces and partake of these activities, but only if I know there's a shower waiting for me at the end.

There are no showers in this book, mmkay? But you'd expect that, with Jack London being the main character and all. Christopher Golden and his co-writer, Tim Lebbon, have taken famous author Jack London and made him into the seventeen year old protagonist of a series about formerly unknown adventures that Jack London had as a young man. If you've read Call of the Wild, (and if you haven't, what's wrong with you? Get thee to a library!) you know that London (the real one):

A) admired dogs/wolves and the spirit of the wilderness and
B) was not adverse to writing violence.

Golden and Lebbon keep to that legacy quite well.

Young Jack London sets out for the Yukon to experience the untamed land and to attempt the hunt for gold. At first he is accompanied by his sister's husband, who is older than him by almost fifty years. (No, really, fifty years.) His brother-in-law, realizing he will not survive the journey if he attempts it, leaves all the supplies and hope on Jack. Our intrepid hero is not deterred, and sets off into the wild alone. Meeting a couple of kindred spirits on the way, Jack and his compatriots soon run afoul of men who prove to be almost as wild as the land they're exploring, or so they think. Dark creatures lurk deep in the undiscovered country, creatures that are very hungry and take familiar shapes before devouring their prey. Jack must overcome all the dangers the Yukon has to offer: man, nature, the supernatural, and the wildness within himself if he is to ever return home to California.

As far as characters go, Jack can be a difficult one to live with for as much as he carries the story. Jack asks of himself several times, "Who is Jack London?" at a couple of places I felt like the authors weren't sure, either. Jack is young and impulsive, which makes sense in a seventeen year old boy who is on his own. However, he also comes off as cold and completely uncaring towards his companions in places you'd expect a little concern or compassion. The authors give us a pretty promising secondary character named Merritt (which is awesome) who really gets the short end of the stick as far as development from the authors and sympathy/concern from Jack. Jack is also learning to communicate with the wild, including a wolf that has seemingly supernatural capabilities.

Maybe I wanted too much from Jack as a character, but I really struggled through the middle of the book.

It paid off.

The end beastie that Jack tangles with is absolutely hair-raising, spine-tingling, read-through-your-fingers terrifying. This is the part at which I was shouting "EW! Ew, ew, EW!" repeatedly. I won't spoil what it is, but it is based in actual myth/lore, and I may never camp in the north.

The last quarter of the book is stuffed with all the things I was hoping for throughout, and it was a good payoff for my reading investment.

(But seriously. Ew.)

If you like high outdoorsy adventure, historical supernatural folklore fiction, or Jack London, The Wild might be a tree for you to bark up. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

The Wild was published in 2011 by HarperCollins. According to Christopher Golden's website, 20th Century Fox has picked up the film rights to The Wild and the second book in the series, Sea Wolves.

There's also a hint of a third title to be added to the series later.

In my next post, I'll be recapping the awesomeness that was BEA2012 in the Big Apple, which I traveled to with my fab coworkers Amy and the very awesome Brtiney of I Eat Words and got to meet lots of bloggers and had a generally smashing time! 

Happy howling!
Er, reading!