How do you follow-up a book like Hunger Makes the Wolf? Which took the elements of a biker-gang, oppressed miners (and other blue-collar types), magic, space travel, and corporate greed to create an action-packed, fun, suspenseful and surprising read. Well, you take that foundation, and build on it to create a book that takes those elements and does a better job with them.
The pressure on TransRift Corporation is mounting (even when they don't realize it), especially on their operations base on Tanegawa’s World. There's a growing level of unrest with the miners -- which they respond to in a way that hasn't worked for anyone since the opening of Exodus. There's the constant need for more resources, if possible, resulting in stronger and more efficient product. The government is sniffing around, wondering about what they're up to and how they're treating people. Meanwhile, the loose organization of miners in each city is getting stronger as are the ties between them. All in all -- it's a powder keg ready to blow.
Not having to create a world, Wells is able to spend more time on characters this time (at least that's my impression -- it's not like I was dissatisfied with the characters in Hunger). We see depths and shadings of character in people I wasn't sure where capable of depths and shadings -- and if we get that from beings like that, imagine what we get from the more fully-formed people.
When writing about the last book, I said that I wanted more with the Ghost Wolves as a whole, to get a better feel for them. I got that this time -- but not quite enough. I'm not sure what it would've taken, however. They seem more cohesive as a unit -- Hob taking to leadership, and the Wolves taking to Hob. It's a fascinating group -- and one I clearly can't get enough of.
There were plenty of mysteries, questions, enigmas wrapped in each other about the nature of the Weathermen, the Bone Collector, Hob's abilities (and those of others, too) and what TransRift Corporation has found in the mines left over from Hunger -- and Wells doesn't answer them all. Are some things clarified? Are some things better understood? Yup. Does everything get spelled out for the reader? Nope. I love the fact that there's a whole lot that we don't get to wrap our brains around, but that we just have to accept -- just like the characters. But it's done not in a way that you feel unsatisfied with what you're given.
There's even a little bit of sweetness to be found in friendship, family, and romance. Not so much that it becomes a "kissing book" or anything, it's just an added touch.
I find the politics a little hard to swallow and simplistic -- but I can't think of the politics of any SF book/world that don't strike me this way, honestly. At least not once they get beyond the most vague notions. I'm only mentioning it because it seems that important to the novel. Which is not to say that it detracts from things too much -- if I can suspend disbelief enough to buy the capabilities of the Weathermen, or a fire-throwing, one-eyed, space-biker; I can buy whatever the workers on Tanegawa’s World try to replace the corruption they've suffered under.
I get the feeling that this is going to be a duology -- there might be more stories to tell with the Ravani, or Tanegawa’s World, but they probably won't be as closely tied to these two. I'm satisfied with a duology -- we got a complete story and a very satisfying one. Wells started strong and ended stronger -- can't ask for more than that.
I'm excited to talk about this book and I want to say a whole lot more -- and feel like I should. But I'm not sure what else to say without giving anything away. Hunger Makes the Wolf was one of my favorites last year, and this is better. Ultimately, there's not much more to say than that.