If my recent reading choices are any indication, I must be getting a little tired of the winter cold and ice! I’ve been reading books about the atomic bomb (The Bells of Nagasaki), about having to leave Earth due to an ecological disaster (The Green Book), and, this weekend, I read about a wolf and a human family trying to survive nuclear winter in Wolf of Shadows, by Whitley Strieber. I sound like I’m in desperate need of some signs of Spring!
I’ve actually had Wolf of Shadows on my bookshelf for 20 years, but decided to revisit it for Carl V’s Sci Fi Experience. I really liked it when I first read it, and found myself thinking about it again after reading about the bombing of Nagasaki. It’s a very short book and can be read in a single sitting, but it’s big on ideas. It’s a story of a lone wolf and a young woman and her children struggling for survival during the nuclear winter following an atomic bomb explosion near Minneapolis. What fascinated me most was that the story is told through the eyes of the wolf. This wolf recognizes the woman as the person who had been watching and studying him for so long, so he protects her and her surviving daughter. They all struggle to survive the freezing cold and encounters with hungry animals and desperate humans, as they head south in search of warmth and sunshine.
In this book, there were powerful messages about finding new ways of relating to animals and of finding better ways to deal with human conflict. What happened to the wolf and the woman and her daughter? Did they all survive this terrible ordeal? There was no answer at the end of the book about life in this post-apocalyptic world, but in his “Afterword,” Whitley Strieber spoke directly to his readers and told them:
The true end of the story comes when we decide, as a species, to dismantle the machine and use our great intelligence on behalf of the earth that bears us, instead of against her.