At school, Mick and Connie cooked up all the ways the world could end.
Years later, Michel imagines apocalypses for a living, and lives inside fantasies of the Fall. Conrad works in advertising, spinning aspirational dreams out of imaginary light.
Will their reunion reveal who killed Conrad’s mother?
Will it make them a lot of money? Or, just maybe, bring about the collapse of Western civilization?
A surreal whodunnit about what happens when unhappy men get their hands on powerful media, Wolves is an informed, atmospheric, cutting-edge tale of the near future.
Wolves has been hailed as Simon Ing's "spectacular return to SF," and it is that, I think—though the text's spare speculative elements only come into focus in advance of the finale, when the augmented reality Conrad's company conceives of matures into something more meaningful than an idea.
The rest is something else: a catastrophic coming of age tale complicated by a macabre mystery which reminded me of This River Awakens. At the book's beating heart, however, is the frustrated friendship between Conrad and his schoolmate Michel:
Michel was quiet, lugubrious, self-contained. For me, at any rate, he had extraordinary presence. A glamour. If he understood my feelings for him, he never let on. He showed very little tenderness for me. He wasn't interested in my weaknesses. He wanted me to be strong. He cared for me as you would care for your side-kick, your familiar, for the man you had chosen to watch your back. He said we had to toughen up. (p.31)For what? Why, for The Fall, folks!
"The End Times were on their way. [Michel] was convinced of this." (p.98) Conrad isn't so sure, but he plays along with his hero's apocalypse prep—both to be with him and to escape the hell of his own home, an Overlook-esque hotel with an equally unsettling clientele: war veterans who were blind before our central character's father equipped them with special sensory vests.
All of which comes into play in a major way later, but at the beginning of the book, it's background. At the foreground of this phase of the fiction is Conrad's manic mother: a woman who habitually abandons her family in favour of "a protest camp that had grown up around a nearby military airbase." (p.51) She has to be rescued from this retreat repeatedly—a pattern rudely interrupted one summer when Conrad discovers her dead body in the boot of his father's car.