I really enjoy good dystopian novels, and have read several over the past few years. I saw Wolf Country recommended online and thought it sounded really intriguing.
The story is set in a capitalist dystopian London in the year 2050. Everyone is defined by their ability to spend and lives accordingly: low spenders occupy the smallest homes in the least pleasant areas, mid-spenders enjoy a better life, and high-spenders live in luxury, as long as they can keep up their spending. Above all of these are the Owners, who don’t need to contribute, but live their own lives of luxury. If you can’t contribute to society through spending because of age, ill health or inability to hold a job, you are labelled as non-profit and there are three options open to you: retirement to a dignatorium for a year of luxury before being euthanised (if you’ve earned it); instant euthanasia, or being banished to the Zone, a wasteland where non-profit people are left to fend for themselves against various gangs.
The novel centres around the protagonist, Alice, a mid-spender who fully buys into the system she has grown up in, never questioning her role in society… until her husband disappears. He is presumed dead, but the lack of any final news on what happened to him leads her into depression, the loss of her job and a descent into the low-spender area of society. She begins to uncover the truth of the world she lives in, where nothing is as straightforward as she previously believed it to be.
Wolf Country had me hooked from the first page. It built a believable world that was both threatening and ominous. Early on the author builds a sense that something is not quite what it seems: from the wolves that apparently roam the countryside, to the ‘perfect’ dignitoriums, where residents get to live a happy life for just a little while before dying in the T-wing. The chilling truth of a world where people are valued only for their profit is slowly revealed to the reader and we experience the difficulties that the protagonist faces in accepting that she has been lied to her whole life. The moment a therapist suggests the potential solutions to Alice’s depression is particularly shocking.
The only criticism I can offer is that I was left wanting more: I would have loved to see the characters take on the system and fight back… but then maybe that means the book is open for a sequel.
Fast-paced, thought-provoking and disturbing… a fantastic read!