Last year (late 2018, to be specific), I discovered a fun literary magazine called f(R)iction. What I like best about f(R)iction is that they highlight new and emerging authors, which are often the types of authors who are writing the works that I like to read, but can never easily find. Seriously, have you ever tried to go out and find a good new fiction author to read? It’s difficult! In one issue of the magazine, they highlighted The Wolves of Winter by Tyrell Johnson and after reading the small bit in the magazine, I was hooked!
The main plot of this book is that there is a worldwide epidemic that essentially ended civilization as we know it. The book follows a family that is doing their best to make life work out for them in the Yukon and, in particular, it follows the experiences of a young girl as she tries to live whatever life is leftover after civilization came to an end. Johnson goes out of his way to bring you into the desperation and seeming hopelessness of this new world and he tells this story though the eyes of these few remaining humans. It is a story that we sometimes see in movies and sometimes on television shows, but Johnson brings that story of despair to life in the written form.
While the family thinks that they are alone in the wilderness (with one big, burly, creepy neighbor living nearby), they soon find out that there are others who are still alive out there in this otherwise dead world and that not all of them have the most noble intentions. What struck me about Johnson’s writing on this theme is that he painted a very dreary, hopeless vision of the life that this family was living, but then when he introduced the outside world there were vibrant sparks of hope that glittered throughout the remainder of the remaining narrative. That’s the type of impact that Jax has on this story; for the family living in the wilderness, Jax is the beginning of the unraveling of their understanding of the end of the world. In other words, if Jax is out there (and the people hunting him), then maybe there is something, some bit of the world, that survived what they believed was the apocalypse.
Every once in a while, Johnson takes you back to the way the world was before the epidemic took over. As you might imagine, the longer the book goes on, the more the reader learns about some of the most compelling plot points that span from the pre-epidemic world to the post-epidemic world. We learn about how the epidemic spread, how the government tried to take control, how there was research going on into a vaccination and possibly a cure – all of the things that you might imagine in this genre and dealing with this type of content. What makes this all compelling in this story, though, is how the characters are woven into the larger narrative.
And that is what is fun about reading Johnson’s The Wolves of Winter. The story shifts from despair to action/adventure and excitement to, ultimately, hopefulness. Johnson does all of this by weaving the characters that you know (remember, these are likely the last people alive) into a story that starts as small as a log cabin and expands to, potentially, the entire planet. If your are into new writers and you are into well-told stories about the apocalypse, then check out Tyrell Johnson’s The Wolves of Winter!