Volwys & Other Stories by Douglas Thompson, published by Dog Horn Publishing, is Thompson's eighth published book, and my first exposure to what I can say is some of the best fiction reading I've had the pleasure of kicking off my 2015 reading year.
Rooted firmly in science fiction and futurism, Volwys & Other Stories sets off the reader with small delights, from the suspense-filled "Dogbot (TM)" to the haunting love story that forms the backdrop of "Theonae" and its awe-inspiring dystopia, and the hazards of meeting one's duplicate - much less six of them - in "Multiplicity", each story offers something different for the reader to chew on, especially if you like your fiction with a dose of the philosophical, political, and environmental, a rare nexus of concepts I'm tempted to sum up as a thinking person's science fiction.
All of this leads up to the central novel, "Volwys", which lands us squarely in the center of a changed world distorted to a mere echo of our own present day one. The beauty of Thompson's prose is that he's mastered the art of seamless world building, so the reader need not be jarred from the narrative simply to stumble over definitions. Thompson makes it look easy, when in fact, it's anything but, and this is something that I, as a reader, can appreciate.
Volwys takes on with greater expansiveness the themes and ideas he touches on in previous stories, making use of the theory that climate change results in a new ice age that threatens humanity, creating divisions and inequality between classes, those who have the knowledge of technology and those who have access to it, and the rest who do not. Add in the odd but disarming figure of the Wolf King, who our main character Rrio serves, a product of genetic experimentation. Rrio himself is an aberration, or a triumph, of medical science, reaching two centuries of age by the time the plot begins to quicken. We follow him as he straddles an uneven line between revolutions and conspiracies, and keeping the Wolf King, and the tenuous civilization he rules, secured. He is a tragic figure that serves as the last link to our age, a shadow of his former self, hunting for the elusive Selterlyan. Sinister "cherubs", new mind-reading gods who service and steward the remaining people of Volwys, provide an air of malice and tension as Rrio attempts to get to the bottom of the conspiracy at hand, with few at his side he can trust.
While it took me several months to read this book, I think I would have consumed it in the space of days if other engagements had not interrupted me. I can only hope all of my readings go half so well for the year of 2015, and I highly recommend Volwys & Other Stories to those who like to delve into a dark and futuristic science fiction, while also revealing human relationships in its many complicated facets.
Martin Rose writes a range of fiction from the fantastic to the macabre, with work appearing in numerous venues and anthologies. Bring Me Flesh, I'll Bring Hell, is a horror novel published by Talos in 2014, with another novel, My Loaded Gun, My Lonely Heart forthcoming in 2015. More details are available at www.martinrose.org.