The book I would like to look at today is Among Wolves, the first of two books in the Children of the Mountain series by R.A. Hakok. It was published on July 10th, 2015. I read this book over the course of a day, the longest of all of my vacation-week reads (most of the days, I finished at least one book and started at least one new one). This one clocks in at 381 pages.
This Kindle ebook was free when I added it to my library and is still available for free as of June 2017.
This is another free Kindle ebook that was recommended in one of my daily emails from Bookbub. This service emails you about free and discounted ebooks in genres you are interested in. I have gotten tons of free ebooks through this service.
“There’s only one place left that’s safe.
It’s the last place you should be.
Gabriel remembers the Last Day. He and Mags had been on a tour of the White House with the rest of Miss Kimble’s first-graders when it happened. They fled with the President to a long-abandoned bunker, even as the first of the bombs began to fall.
Ten years have passed, and now Gabriel is almost grown. He still lives deep inside the mountain, waiting for the world to thaw. But outside the storms continue to rage, and supplies are running low. The President says it will be okay, because they are the Chosen Ones. But Gabriel isn’t so sure. Gabriel’s their scavenger, and he’s seen what it’s like out there.
Then one day Gabriel finds a bloodstained map. The blood’s not a problem, nor are the frozen remains of the person it once belonged to. Gabriel’s used to seeing dead bodies. There’s far worse to be found in any Walmart or Piggly Wiggly you care to wander into.
Except this one he recognizes, and it shouldn’t be all the way out here. Now all Gabriel can think is how he’s going to make it back to the bunker and let the President know what he’s found.
But Gabriel’s troubles are only just beginning. For things are not as they seem inside the mountain, and soon he will face a much larger problem: how to get Mags and the others out.”
Rating/Triggers: PG-13 (violent/gory images, themes of apocalypse and worldwide breakdown/disaster, could be scary for an audience too young for that kind of thing)
Genre/Stats: As of June 3rd, 2017, this book’s Amazon ranking and genres are as seen below.
Spoilers May Exist Below!
Diversity: For a cast of characters as limited as this post-apocalyptic community, there was a surprising amount of diversity and inclusion. Many characters are not highly specified in their appearances, which was nice to me because you could think of them in all sorts of ways.
To be honest, the whole time I was reading, I was imagining what this would look like as a movie and all of the possibilities there. 😍
There was one explicitly black character, as far as I can remember, and he was dead (but vital to the plot). There were some minor characters in the subplot (a flashback-type situation where the actual end of the world was explained, but more on that later) who were Asian. But many of the characters simply weren’t described by their skin tones/races/ethnicities/etc at all (which I thought was at least better than making everybody explicitly white, right?).
The main female character, Mags, is rather rebellious and likes to push against gender norms and the system of authority in the community, which seems especially pertinent in the tiny, super-religious community setup of this novel.
Also, one of the confusions for Gabriel in the plot (like, one of the two main tensions of the major plot) is that he thinks the old man he scavenges the outside world with, who once was one of the guards/military/Secret Service/whoever guarded the underground city-in-the-mountain place where they live, murdered the other old guard (the explicitly black character I referred to before).
It turns out that the two men had been a couple. Gabriel didn’t understand at first because he had grown up in this weird, extremely religious environment that the President created underground and had never really seen/heard much about homosexuality, but then when it clicked he didn’t really question it or say anything bad, he just accepted and respected it, which was cool.
Originality & Plot: I thought that there were a lot of really neat ideas and themes going on throughout this piece. It wasn’t extremely original (small, isolated community existing post-apocalypse), but it’s hard to find an apocalypse story that is.
The way that the apocalypse is brought around is interesting, though, as is the way it is slowly revealed as a subplot while the main plot goes on. The President, who leads the little community of the only known survivors, used to be a pastor. He sends one of the devout women from his old church, who seems to happen to do calculations for what buildings in other countries might house nuclear facilities (it’s never outright explained, like some of the other details in this piece, so it’s a little difficult to figure out exactly what happens, but that’s what I got from it), on a mission in Asia to a nuclear facility she has detected.
She carries a virus she is supposed to infect the facility with. It is supposed to target and break down certain kinds of metal in order to destroy the nuclear facilities and help get rid of the nuclear threat in the world. She is told that it will not affect or harm her. But, of course, that’s not how things like this go. This book is listed in Horror, right?
Instead of being fine and just passing the nano virus around the facility (though it would seem that does happen, too, it seems to spread around the world very quickly and destroys buildings and all sorts of metal objects), the woman becomes the first Fury. The virus apparently targets the iron in people’s blood (because no scientist would have thought of that! Or maybe it is purposeful, like the rest of the crazy plot) and basically turns them into a kind of vampire creature they call Furies later on.
Her hair all turns white and her eyes turn all white or all black and then she blacks out and tears some guard’s throat out in the bathroom. The virus sapping all the iron from Furies’ blood makes them need/crave other blood, apparently, and we see two others in the space of the novel. Hopefully, there will be more of/about them in the second book.
The community Gabriel grows up in is led by the President (like of the USA). His elementary class “just so happens” to be the only one visiting the White House in emergency-level circumstances when most of the country/world seems to be pretty much shutting down from the spreading virus. They are all swept into the helicopters when the President flees to his underground safe haven just before bombs start to drop, and then are raised in a small, extremely strict, extremely conservative environment, led by the President (who seems to have gone back to a kind of pastor role). He requires that the children go to his sermons and do confessions consistently, and he plans on choosing
They are all swept into the helicopters when the President flees to his underground safe haven, just before bombs start to drop, and then are raised in a small, extremely strict and conservative environment, led by the President (who seems to have gone back to a kind of pastor role). He requires that the children go to his sermons and do confessions consistently, and he plans on choosing their partners/mates for them. I don’t even want to call it spouses, because the whole thing is just so wrong.
But it seems like any adults who have tried to say anything about the wrongs of the system disappear or die mysteriously. The children’s teacher “commits suicide” after she tries to keep educating the children though she was told not to. Many of the kids end up unable to read, which seems to be what the President wants, while Gabriel and Mags practice with books from outside and Mags even secretly teaches others.
Ben, the black guard I’ve referred to before, started to question the community and work on a plan to travel to other underground bunkers (which becomes the second part of the plot, basically), and then mysteriously dies while outside the bunker (he is shot by the President’s main crony and Gabriel finds his body, which is why he thinks Marv, the old guy, killed him). Once Marv and Gabriel start to cause the slightest bit of trouble, the President has his crony basically put the virus in the two scavengers’ breathing masks/respirator masks. Marv kills himself eventually so that he won’t become a Fury, and Gabriel just luckily never wears his mask anyway.
And then there’s the “virgin” pregnancy. One of the girls growing up in the mountain gets pregnant and believes that she got pregnant virginly, like Mary in the Bible stories that the President tells them. She doesn’t realize that the President hs been drugging her and his crony carrying her back to her bunk afterward… And when she tells the community that she is pregnant, he exiles her outside, where she freezes to death just outside the mountain.
So yeah, murder definitely seems to be the President’s favored way of keeping his secrets and weeding his community as he desires. He has a whole weird religious fervor going throughout his community which leads to lots of interesting religious imagery throughout the book (metal crosses Marv and Gabriel wear while outside to detect the virus, the “virgin” birth, the focus on blood with the Furies, different apocalyptic threads to hold to).
Image from Brandy Dopkins on Flickr. Used under creative commons license with no alterations.
Editing Perspective: I noticed extremely minimal errors in editing and was pleased to note that my reading was never pulled from focus by mistakes or issues in grammar, content, development, or anything else. I was extremely pleased with this one!
Feminist Perspective: The children’s teacher and Mags were both strong, interesting characters who attempted to be as powerful as they could be in their situations. Mags rebels against the norms that the President tries to enforce about feminine appearance and behavior. The teacher even pushes back against him when he tries to tell her not to educate the children.
However, the majority of the characters are male, especially those who see any action in this book. The main character of the book is male. It can be argued, however, that the President enforcing his highly traditional norms on the other characters makes it this way. It also seems extremely likely that Mags and the other female youngsters will likely play much larger roles in the next book.
Final Review: I really enjoyed this book. I absolutely suggest reading it if you are even slightly interested in any of the genres or topics that are included in it. I have already added the next installment to my wishlist and will review it as soon as I obtain and read it.
I am currently working on several more book reviews and other videos and posts. Is there anything in particular you like or dislike about the content I have been creating lately? Anything you’d really like me to do next?