We are delighted to welcome Peter Higgins back to the Gollancz Blog for a special post on his Wolfhound Century trilogy.
It’s only now all three books are done and out there, they’ve got away from me, that I can tell the story whole. When you’re face is pressed up close against what you’re doing, you think you know what it is but the big finished picture still surprises.
The Wolfhound Century trilogy is about a city in the west and an endless forest in the east, and the vast continent between them. The forest is all tangle and possibility, without centre or edge, and things come out of it, and everything that comes out of it is alive: walking wind, great swollen rivers, giants and the walking artefacts of witches, wolves that can become men, clouds bearing sentient rain. In a way it’s about the limitless of life and perception, the deep dark wells of the imagination. And the city is all old cities, street built upon street, layered with memories of human history: specifically, it’s built out of fragments of real central European and Baltic cities: St Petersburg above all, but also Prague and Vienna and Moscow and Berlin, and anywhere else like that you care to name. London’s in there too, buried, the London of Charles Dickens and Josef Conrad.
The city and the continent and the three books themselves are full of dark shadows of twentieth century history: marching crowds and ragged columns of refugees, revolutionary modernist artists, factory workers, secret policemen, dispossessed aristocrats. There’s a lot of Soviet Russia there and Stalin haunts it, and Bolshevik propaganda, and the technocrats of the high days of Russian technology. History there is more compressed and essential than ours: change comes quickly; there are horse drawn cabs, but there are also big black cars with white-wall tyres; bi-planes and physicist working on atom bombs.
The story echoes and replays, changed and reimagined, fragments of twentieth century art and music and writing: the thrillers of Graham Greene and Eric Ambler rub against the fantasy of Robert Holdstock, memories of 1940s science fiction, Doctor Zhivago and the poetry of Osip Mandelstam.
And what’s it all about? It’s about what that twentieth history was about: the totalitarianism that wants to close human possibilities down, that wants to make people part of a mechanism, functional elements of something else: party, state, an all-consuming ideology and the march of history. And it’s about all that an individual actually is: fear and courage and violence, trust and betrayal and the possibilities of imagination and love. It’s about what a human living at full stretch can fully do and fully perceive all the things that are really out there, in the forest and it the streets of the city, the possibilities, traces and presences that the aggressive and totalising state attempts to deny and silence, and never really can.
The final book in the Wolfhound Century, Radiant State is available in bookshops and online tomorrow.
Peter Higgins is the author of the Wolfhound Century trilogy. You can find out more about Peter by visiting his website.