Hello internet, I have a two books to recommend to you! Yes, all of you. They are “Hunger Makes the Wolf”* and “Blood Binds the Pack” by Alex Wells, and trust me, you need these books in your life. They’re a duology, and while I hope Wells writes more in this world the two books are a complete story on their own.
There’ll be minor spoilers from here on out–I’m going to try and keep things vague as the 2nd book just came out a couple of weeks ago but if you’re really spoiler adverse and rather not risk it here’s my elevator pitch as to why you should read these books: space witches, desert biker gangs, unions, friendship, geology, and more solidarity than in the local co-op’s bylaws.
Here are the basics: there’s this shady corporation, TransRifts Inc, that because of secret proprietary tech has a monopoly on space travel which is making it a touch tricky for the trans-galactic Federal Union of Systems government independently govern. The main setting is Tanegawa’s World, a mineral-rich desert planet that’s basically owned by TransRifts and so the whole place is one big company town. Wells has a solid understanding of labor history and it shows, both in the politics (which were not subtle, and let’s be clear, I was 100% ok with that) and in how the economy functioned in a way that made sense. I am the terrible reader that really wants to know where the raw materials come from, who’s doing the farming, etc, so I appreciate a book that explicitly tells me these things. Yes all the witchery is cool, but the nagging sensation that there’s no structure holding the world together will bug me no matter how much I like everything else in the story (I was not the ideal audience for The Hunger Games, for example).
But ok, that’s all background. The thing that made these books really special to me is that relationships matter, and they matter a lot. I like people, I care about people, and I want my fiction to care about people as well. And what’s really great about HMtW/BBtP is that there’s a variety of people that get cared about. Different skill sets are valued! There’s Hob, the badass biker witch who can control fire, and is best friends with Mag, who’s quieter, more traditionally feminine, with skills that are more interpersonal and organizational and they’re both GREAT. The vast majority of my important relationships are with friends, so whenever I see fiction that has women being friends with each other as being important it’s super exciting! MAG + HOB 5ever!
Over and over again in HMtW/BBtP there’s an emphasis on working together and people needing each other to accomplish things. This was such a refreshing change from the individual/small group of people fighting to save the world that’s more typical in spec fic. I don’t want to disparage large swaths of a genre that I read a lot, but in reality? No one’s going to get much accomplished on their own. We are all part of a greater society, we rely on others. I don’t care how self sufficient you think you are, you did not pave your own road/weave your own clothing/build your own car or whatever. At this point I’m kind of a hard sell on narratives about the lone hero that saves everyone because they were Chosen. Yeah, there are characters in HMtW/BBtP that have special abilities, yes they do heroic things, but one of the themes is riding off by yourself is a bad idea, and in the end everyone had a part to play. IT WAS SO SATISFYING. SPACE UNIONS NEED TO BE MORE OF A THING.
There’s one last thing I want to mention that IS a spoiler, but it might make it a much easier read to know in advance that the final body count isn’t as high as you might expect (parts are very tense! Wells does suspense very well! BBtP has a countdown! I was very concerned!), and no one who was explicitly queer died!
My feelings about these books can be summarized as !!!! hearteyes !!!! and with that, I believe that I may have used up my lifetime quota of exclamation marks. Just go read the books.
*Confession: I KEEP reading this title as “Hungry Like the Wolf” and getting that song stuck in my head.