Review: Wild Country by Anne Bishop

Review: Wild Country by Anne BishopWild Country (The Others, #7) by Anne Bishop
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: urban fantasy
Series: The Others #7, World of the Others #2
Pages: 496
Published by Ace Books on March 5, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
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In this powerful and exciting fantasy set in the world of the New York Times bestselling Others series, humans and the shape-shifting Others will see whether they can live side by side...without destroying one another.

There are ghost towns in the world—places where the humans were annihilated in retaliation for the slaughter of the shape-shifting Others.

One of those places is Bennett, a town at the northern end of the Elder Hills—a town surrounded by the wild country. Now efforts are being made to resettle Bennett as a community where humans and Others live and work together. A young female police officer has been hired as the deputy to a Wolfgard sheriff. A deadly type of Other wants to run a human-style saloon. And a couple with four foster children—one of whom is a blood prophet—hope to find acceptance.

But as they reopen the stores and the professional offices and start to make lives for themselves, the town of Bennett attracts the attention of other humans looking for profit. And the arrival of the Blackstone Clan, outlaws and gamblers all, will uncover secrets…or bury them.

My Review:

Having read the rest of the series, I’m still trying to figure out exactly where Bennett is in relation to the world we know. Lakeside is probably Buffalo NY. Lake Silence takes place in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York, and I think that Hubbney is either Syracuse, Oneida, Utica or Schenectady NY. We don’t actually see maps.

Bennett is in the upper Midwest Region in this world, so it could be any small town. It’s certainly not Chicago, because that’s Shikago.

But the problem of where things are relative to where they are in our world is starting to feel relevant. Or, more to the point, the ways in which the World of the Others does and doesn’t match our world keeps getting both more interesting and more troubling at the same time.

One of the things that makes this world so interesting is the way that human nature really isn’t any damn different in spite of all of the different ways that this world developed than our own. At the same time, that’s also one of the issues that keeps tripping me up.

I can accept that human beings would be just as self-centered as individuals in this alternate of our own history, and would also have just as short of a collective memory as they clearly do in this series. That really, really short collective memory is the thing that keeps getting them in trouble, over and over and over.

But this is a world where humanity did not evolve as the apex predator. The Others, especially the Elders of the Others, are the apex predators, and always, always have been. There is also a well-known long history of those Elders slapping humanity back into the Stone Age whenever they stop taking care of the planet and forget that they are not the ones in charge of this world.

The part of me that loves science fiction is becoming increasingly perturbed by this. If humanity is not the apex species, wouldn’t it have evolved differently? That the human race in this story is so much like us in spite of the differences is part of what draws readers into the story, but it’s also starting to make less and less sense overall.

YMMV

The story in Wild Country takes place simultaneously with the events of Etched in Bone. I don’t think you have to have read that in order to get into this one, however. The story in Wild Country is the story of a group of humans and terra indigene (The Others) starting over in the abandoned town of Bennett, somewhere in the upper Midwest.

The terra indigene are there to see if they can control a town that will mostly be populated by humans. It’s an experiment. It’s also a favor to their allies in the nearby Intuit town of Prairie Gold.

The humans who are drawn to the place are either there to make a fresh start, or are there because this empty little village at the edge of nowhere provides them with an opportunity that does not exist in the settled places that remain after events in Marked in Flesh, where the Elders got tired of the neo-Nazi shenanigans of the Humans First and Last Movement and simply decimated the human population. Again.

And there are a few who think they can take advantage of the unsettled conditions that exist at the margins of every human frontier – forgetting entirely that the humans are not in charge and never will be.

And that the Elders cannot be conned.

Escape Rating B: I couldn’t resist reading this book as soon as I received the eARC, in spite of not being able to post the review for two months. So far, every book in this series has been like reading crack, once I start I can’t stop until I finish.

The narcotic seems to be wearing off.

I still enjoyed this book, but it didn’t grab me the way the previous books have. It also didn’t hold me the way that the previous ones did. It turned out to be interesting but not compelling.

I think part of the problem was that there isn’t really a central character. Or there are too many characters contending for the position. It felt like we’re supposed to see either Tolya Sanguinati, Virgil Wolfgard or human police officer Jana Paniccia as the POV, but perspective seems to pass around a bit too much for it to work completely and there are too many others, like Jesse Walker vying for a position. Just as we start to get invested in one character we’re on the move to another.

One of the reasons that Lake Silence worked so well is that it did focus on a singular, sympathetic character. That’s missing here.

I found the whole setting up of the town to be complex, intricate and downright fascinating, but I also seem to be on a kick where complicated political stories are really working for me at the moment. There is a LOT of minutiae involved (driving Tolya Sanguinati bananas) and it doesn’t exactly make for a fast read. Interesting, but not quick.

And then there’s the Blackstone Clan invasion, along with the knot wrapped around one of the few family members to escape them. Abigail has been hiding in plain sight in Prairie Gold, but moving to Bennett has exposed all of her secrets just at the point where her nightmare of a family comes back into her life.

The invasion of the Blackstones provides a lot of danger and dramatic tension at the climax of the story, but their kind of evil didn’t feel like it fit into this world. Or possibly it’s that Abigail’s particular talent didn’t feel as well-thought-out as the other human talents we have seen.

All in all, an interesting outing in the series that kept me entertained but didn’t live up to its predecessors. Which doesn’t mean that I won’t be back for any future forays into The World of the Others – because I certainly will.

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4 thoughts on “Review: Wild Country by Anne Bishop

  1. I’ve been trying to hold off buying this one until the price drops (I usually buy both the book and audio), so maybe your review will bolster my resolve.

    I agree with your assessment that these books have been like crack, but I can’t exactly pinpoint what the allure is for me. As you note, the worldbuilding isn’t as tight as it could be, and the humans are often ludicrously venal and stupid. The bad guys aren’t subtle or clever–they make me want to slap my forehead in every single book. It’s like there’s some sort of collective amnesia at work that keeps them repeating the same behaviors. So frustrating. Also, the books spend inordinate amounts of time on the kinds of minutiae that you say drive Tolya crazy in this book. Heck, a huge part of Written in Red was about Meg learning how to run a mailroom, and the other books aren’t much different. But…I still relish those mundane descriptions of everyday kinds of events. I’m definitely on board for this book, just maybe down the road.

  2. I loved elements of it but had a hard time with the constantly changing POVs as well. And for all the read time dedicated to her, I couldn’t help but feel Abigail was nothing more than a McGuffin. I think she was intended to build up tension but mostly I felt that the baddies were bad enough without throwing her story into the mix. Not to mention that I was completely lost by whatever it was that her gift was and how it worked.

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