I’ve been reading Dean F. Wilson’s Great Iron War series since the beginning now, and since that beginning novel, I’ve grown more and more engrossed by his complex tale of the war between a well-armored Resistance and a race of creatures best described as Demons that have taken over the Earth. Over the course of the series, Wilson has spun a compelling tale of what’s almost essentially one long war, with each book largely dedicated to a single front of that war and a given effort by the Resistance.
And yet, from the beginning, I’ve often said (here’s my reviews of books one, two, and three) that Wilson’s series suffered a bit too much from a lack of backstory, and that while the story was always easy to follow and understandable, it still felt as though we were thrown into the middle of a situation we never quite understood. What’s with these “Demons”? Is the entire world like this? Are there people beyond the Resistance and the Regime?
Landquaker surprised me – in a good way – by actually taking on a lot of these questions, and providing some interesting answers along the way. Like the other books, this one is focused on a primary objective – the titular tank, a powerful weapon of the Regime’s that needs to be destroyed – but Wilson does something different this time, allowing the Resistance to start looking for allies in the tribes outside of the major cities. This gives us a window into Wilson’s world that we’ve been deprived of so far, and it’s a fascinating one – one in which the machines are moved by literal spirits, where the use of magic is more complicated and more primal than we would have thought. More than that, though, Wilson gives us more glimpses into the life of the Demons and the Regime, letting us see for the first time part of what motivated these creatures to come to Earth.
What makes this work, though, is how Wilson handles it; none of this feels like forced-in exposition or infodumps. Instead, it all fits organically into the story, as characters banter, circumstances dictate a change in strategy, and so forth. Do I wish some of this had come earlier? In some ways, yes…but Wilson’s choice to use it here is effective, and nicely broadens his world when we least expect it, and forces us to start thinking about some of our assumptions about the Regime. It’s nicely handled, and satisfyingly engaging.
As for the action that Wilson’s so good at? That continues to deliver, with Wilson bringing out a three-point front in the book’s climax that never confuses the reader, no matter how complex the plan – and the reactions to that plan – becomes. There’s an art to action, and even more of an art to wartime action, and Wilson does it right, keeping the reader oriented at all times and giving you both the bigger picture and the more intimate personal front.
I’m not sure how much longer The Great Iron War will last; the end of this one certainly seems as though things are escalating quickly, and possibly out of control. I’d be surprised if Wilson didn’t have an end in sight; this doesn’t seem like an open-ended series. Nonetheless, it’s become an interesting, engaging, and exciting series, and one that I’ve really come to enjoy a lot over the course of these books. It’s gotten better with each successive entry, and that arc shows little sign of stopping anytime soon. And I’m excited to keep on enjoying them as long as he’s writing them.