Growing up, I always read more horror and fantasy than science fiction, but my favorite movies were always sci-fi. Alex Wells’ debut novel Hunger Makes the Wolf is somehow the best of both worlds. It takes me back to the essence of what made me love those films—exciting, edge-of-your-seat adventures I’d watch over and over—but it also mixes in elements of the fantasy novels I loved, including a complexity of worldbuilding to rival any epic.
We jump right into the action as Hob Ravini and her companions, find a body in the dunes of Tanegawa’s World while on a supply run for their bandit outfit, the Ghost Wolves. The body turns out to be someone they know—someone dear to Hob, who was orphaned on the corporation-controlled planet of Tanegawa’s World ten years earlier, and to the Ghost Wolves, her adoptive family. On the body, Hob discovers a strange ore sample that will prove to be worth more than anyone truly realizes—more than that, it will be a catalyst for bringing change to Tanegawa’s World and beyond.
Hob, an eye-patch wearing junior member of the crew, heads off to find answers while the others return to base to inform the remaining Ghost Wolves, including their leader, Old Nick. Instead of answers, Hob only finds more questions, and quickly discovers the closest person she has to a sister is in trouble, her fate twisted up in the larger, more sinister machinations of TransRift, Inc., the company responsible for colonizing Tanegawa’s World and numerous others, whose citizens live hardscrabble lives on poorly supplied mining and farming outposts (think Dune, and not just because of the sandblasted setting). Unbeknownst to any of the colonists, a sequence of events has been set in motion that can’t be stopped. Sacrifices will be made, and deals bartered, and a revolution sparked. Hob must use her hidden fire-wielding “witchiness” to save her friends, the Ghost Wolves, and possibly the planet.
This is a book that screams for a sequel. Not because the story is incomplete or unsatisfying, no, but because the world is so well thought-out, the characters are so intriguing, and the corporate intrigue-meets-sapce bikers plot is so addictive. Wells (who you may recognize as one of the hosts of the Skiffy and Fanty podcast) expertly weaves two timelines, one present day and one labeled “Then,” driving the plot forward full-throttle in one while grounding it with compelling character work in the other. There is, too, a balanced perfection to the blended science within the fiction, despite the fantasy trappings.
This thing drips with tension—between characters, within the story itself—that makes it impossible to put down. I needed to know what would happen next, what would Hob do. Tanegawa’s World may be a desolate and uninviting terrain, but it provides fertile ground for the characters,who truly blossom on the page. I am more than ready to ride sidecar for Hob Ravini’s next adventure.