Way of the Wolf (Book One of The Vampire Earth) by E. E. Knight
The back cover of the paperback edition includes a quote from Paul Witcover, describing the books as “…(if) The Red Badge of Courage had been written by H. P. Lovecraft.” It is a fair description, perhaps also with a dash of the movie Red Dawn and some coloring from White Wolf’s World of Darkness. The Old Ones are on top and the free fringes of the human cattle fight against them.
The book is structured as a series of vignettes, major moments in the life of the central character. Knight uses the in medias res technique to hook the reader immediately then works into flashbacks. The characters are adequate with occasional flashes of real brilliance. The action is well described and paced nicely—fast enough to read well and convey urgency, slow enough to allow the reader to absorb the nuances of the setting. The underlying concept is, obviously, genre-blending and presented smoothly without heavy-handed plot devices or hackneyed clichés. Dialogue is a tool Knight uses to his advantage and he definitely has a knack for it—realistic and informative. Theme and plot are necessarily simple but, in the first book of a series, this is not a weakness. Character and milieu drive the work.
The book is reasonably self-contained and the second book of The Vampire Earth is scheduled for release in May 2004. The book and the series promise to be an enjoyable mixture of military (guerrilla) adventure and horror, both content and style are reminiscent of Matheson’s classic I Am Legend. As happens with increasing frequency these days, the author’s website provides even more information on the series and more details on the backdrop setting.
On a related note, E. E. Knight is most likely a rising star in genre writing (and yes, I know it's a pseudonym). Not only is he talented but he has spent his time in the trenches, has an impressive portfolio of short work, and has shown the single most important skill in a writer—a workman’s ethic, the willingness to work hard and long based on faith in his own abilities irrespective of the whims of fate and editors. This hard work is beginning to pay off. In addition to The Vampire Earth books, Knight has also been tapped by Del Ray to write a new Lara Kroft Tomb Raider novel for mid-2004.
The recommended reading is Knight’s own list of influences and respected peers.
Lord of the Rings et. al. by J. R. R. Tolkien
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by Shirer
R. E. Howard, any and all, esp. the Conan series
C. S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower series
Watership Down by Richard Adam
Alan Dean Foster, any and all, esp. the Commonwealth books
Robert Lumley’s Necroscope series
Risen by J. Knight (an e-book)
Earthcore by Scott Siegler
The Fan-Shaped Destiny of William Seabrook by Paul Pipkin
(This review original written and published in Kilimanjaro magazine, reprinted with permission.)