Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Wolf's Hour by Robert R. McCammon

After reading Swan Song and asking about opinions for further reading by   Robert R. McCammon, one novel that came up in a few posts was The Wolf's Hour.

The short review? Thumbs up.

Take one part James Bond, in high action mode, and add a dash of werewolf and you've got the basis of the story. Oh, it's also set during World War 2 and involves a vital plan to save the allies during D-Day.

The writing engaged me. Robert's use of flashbacks to break up the sections of the book worked well ranging from how young Russian Michael Gallatin first suffers the 'curse' and how he grows with it and eventually joins the 'civilized' world.

Some of the things that stood out to me, is that despite Michael's potent abilities, heightened sense of smell for example, great physical abilities, and apparently like catnip to the ladies, is that he rarely 'walks' through any conflict and suffers several set backs.  Some of these set backs take time to overcome and recover from. Some of them have deeper costs.

There is also a lot of internal turmoil the character endures as he seeks to divine what exactly he is and what his role in society is.

In terms of gaming? Yeah, there were several bits that would be useful. Spoilers for the novel will follow. If you'd rather not be spoiled on some odd twenty + year old book, read no further.

1. Not everyone is a bad guy. One of the strengths of characters like Elric and Drizzt is that they play against the archetype of a member typical of their race.  Here, just as in the Captain America movie recently, the author reminds the reader that not every German is a Nazi with the introduction of a character named Mouse.

2. The surreal. There are a few points in the novel where due to the excess of the Reich, that things that would be vastly out of place in the 'real' world are seen as normal. One example of this is a train that a big game hunter has set up as a death trap that keeps circling the city of Berlin while he hunts the people within it. Another is a exclusive Nazi club where atrocities are on display and excess is the standard.

3. Delayed combat. Robert has at least three villainous characters who get their comeuppance at a later date than their initial vile acts would lead the reader to hope for.

4. Mystery. A part of the story that takes a good chunk of time is the unraveling of the "Iron Fist" bit where Michael has to discover what a local German artist and an undercover spy have in common with stopping D-Day from happening. Pathfinder has a few supplements that can handle such additions to them like Lorefinder a bolt of the Gumshoe system straight onto the Pathfinder engine.

5. The exotic with the mundane. World War II has a TON of supernatural crossoever elements to it. Usually those elements though, are in putting the players against some type of horror from beyond. Cubicle 7 for example, recently did World War Cthulhu and one of the settings is World War II. But what if the players are the monsters? Imagine the monster of Frankenstein. "What did you say your name was again? Adam? What happened to you? You look horrible. What were you in some type of accident?" The monster's rictus grin was unnerving. "An accident? Yes. An accident of birth you might say..." There are many opportunities to take the standard super hero types from say the Invaders and put a little Mythos twist on it. Sub Mariner an American patriot first and foremost and a spawn of the deep ones secondary? Lots of potential there.