“Wolf and Iron” and Human Wave: A Blast from the Past

I’m going to toss out an idea here. Gordon R. Dickson’s book “Wolf and Iron” (linked below) is a remarkably dark view of a post apocalyptic world. In that world the apocalypse consisted of a widespread economic collapse leading to a breakdown in various “services”. Communities become more “insular” as larger organizations fail, with individual neighborhoods practically becoming independent city-states. Roving bands of bandits complete the breakdown of rule of law, particularly when combined with any traveler or travelers not strong enough to protect themselves is seen as prey by those in more settled circumstances.

The main character, Jeebee an academic type, is struggling through this apocalyptic scenario trying to survive and reach his brother’s ranch.  His first interaction with other people almost ends in him being murdered for his meager belongings and does lose him some key equipment.  Along the way he meets a tame wolf (raised by a now deceased cattle rancher) that accompanies him and becomes his main companion.

The story is very grim and very bleak, at least in the story’s short term. But it’s also got an upbeat component. Jeebee is the sole surviving (so far as he knows) repository of a brand new field of “computational” social science, one which actually predicted the collapse although in true clueless intellectual fashion he never personalized the results of his work until it was almost too late. And, so, he works to preserve that knowledge so that when the world recovers from the current collapse it can be extended and, it is to be hoped, used to prevent such collapses in the future. There’s a strong undercurrent of “no matter how bad things seem now, we’ll get through this and we’ll make things better down the road”.

That undercurrent I believe makes this book “Human Wave” and so Wolf and Iron illustrates that “Human Wave” does not have to be all sweetness and light. It can be quite dark and still be Human Wave.

Wolf And Iron

3 thoughts on ““Wolf and Iron” and Human Wave: A Blast from the Past”

  1. When I read The Dark Forest, second book in the Three Body Problem trilogy, I was prompted to think about the Dark Forest Theory advanced in the book. In essence, all civilizations will eventually compete with each other over the limited resources in the universe, and so if a civilization wants to avoid being destroyed by its neighbors, it had better learn to keep quiet.

    I couldn’t help but wonder about a story line where someone introduces to the galactic civilizations trying to lie low in the dark forest, the notion of comparative advantage.

    Another question about the Dark Forest Theory, which I’d love to run past the author someday is, why do we assume it only applies at the planetary or multi-planet empire level? Why haven’t nations wiped out nations, tribes wiped out tribes, family groups wiped out family groups, etc?


  2. I really enjoyed that book when I was younger. I need to read it again, I did pick it up as an eBook when it was on sale a while back so now have it in two formats. What caught me the most the first time I read it was that it was a post apocalyptic story that didn’t require society to collapse because of war or cataclysmic natural events.


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