The Wolf's Hour - Robert R. McCammon

"The Wolf's Hour" was a surprising and memorable read.


This is not modern urban fantasy, with hip, kick-ass characters, struggling against their wolf nature while trying to save the world from demons in just three days.


This is a book with the self-confidence to save the world over several months (and seven hundred+ pages) AND interweave an "origins of" story as it moves along.


The hero, Michael Gallatin is a man more likely to rip an enemy open that engage in witty reparté.  He is a serious, focused man, totally committed to his mission. Turned into Werewolf as a child in post-revolutionary Russia, Gallatin now works for the British Secret Service, fighting to destroy the Nazi war machine.


On the surface "The Wolf's Hour" is the kind of book I would normally pass over: it was written in 1989, the plot sounds like "Indiana Jones goes wolf", the Nazis are bad, the allies are noble, there a snow-bound Russian palaces, castles full of evil Nazis, brave resistance fighters, beautiful women who can shoot, drive tanks or fly planes, and larger-than-life evil bastards with no redeeming features.


And yet this book WORKS.


It works because McCammon can write. He knows how to build a scene and evolve a character. If it takes weeks to get from Paris to Berlin, McCammon takes you on the journey and helps you feel the passage of time and understand the sustained stress imposed by the situation and the focused determination needed to win. He describes places in a way that gets under my skin, whether it's the snow-covered corridors of an abandoned Russian palace, the grotesque grandeur of a Nazi castle or the unbearable inhumanity of a Concentration Camp. He delivers wonderful set-piece action sequences. He allows his hero enough introspection to make him to give him a worldview and not just killer reflexes.


It works because the evil things that McCammon's Nazis do are not fiction but horrifyingly real and he does not flinch away from them. They fuel the anger of Gallatin's wolf and make the Nazis far more monstrous than any werewolf could be.


It works because of the skillful way that McCammon weaves the story of how Gallatin became both a wolf and a man into the story of how Gallatin takes on the Nazis in a way that adds depth to Gallatin's character and delivers a welcome change of pace.


Finally, it works because Simon Prebble is the perfect narrator for the twenty-two hour-long audiobook.


There are things I could have lived without. The sex scenes seem somehow dated, although you could think of them as period, and the scenes with Hitler seemed to add little except caricature.


If you are looking for a change of pace and want to spend some time in another era (actually TWO other eras) and a different perspective on the supernatural thriller, then "The Wolf's Hour" is worth a listen.