THE SECRET JOURNEYS OF JACK LONDON: THE WILD by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon
I really didn’t know what to expect from Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon’s first book about Jack London. The Secret Journeys of Jack London: The Wild is listed as a YA novel, but it’s a sophisticated read and very authentic. Of course, the authors bent real history in interesting ways and threw in some twists and turns that were totally their own.
Since Golden is a fellow author on the Buffy the Vampire series and Lebbon is known for his work in the horror and dark fantasy fields, I’d expected a lot of supernatural threats early on in the novel. They don’t come till later, though, and that may be off-putting to some YA readers who picked this book up thinking that seeing Jack London going up against truly “wild” creatures would be awesome.
I don’t know how many kids know who Jack London is these days. My thirteen year old doesn’t and he’s well read. I grew up on London, and his book, Before Adam, was one of my first loves – rivaling the Tarzan series that I’d just discovered.
Golden and Lebbon’s book is more solid adventure story than supernatural. At least, it is at first. Then they dip into some eerie twists that reminded me of a lot of fantasy tropes, like Robert E. Howard’s “The Frost-Giant’s Daughter” and staples of the northern mythology involving the Wendigo. This was good stuff and I enjoyed it immensely.
The thing that I liked the most, oddly enough, may be the thing that young readers find least appealing. I loved the adventure, the measure of a man taken against the savage loneliness of the wilderness. Today’s urban-oriented young readers may struggle to quite grasp the intensity and threat that Golden and Lebbon unleash on the early pages of Jack’s journey through the Yukon during the gold rush days. But for me, the narrative was a delight, a return to my younger years reading London’s own novels about the area.
The idea of pairing young Jack London with a wolf spirit that guides him and defends him is pure genius. There could not be another animal familiar for him. Another thing that the authors do well is show the camaraderie of men, of the savage violence that brings them together and separates them as well.
I don’t know what the authors have planned for the second book, but they have a wealth of material to play with. London traveled the world a lot and did numerous things. I’m looking forward to the continued secret journeys.