The Secret Journeys of Jack London: The Wild
This book is the first in a series reimagining the youth of the writer Jack London. At age 17, Jack makes his first foray into the wilderness, traveling to the Yukon with his brother-in-law to join the Klondike Gold Rush. However, his partner soon drops out of the running, and Jack is left to make his own way in the rough frontier town of Dawson. He quickly makes both friends and enemies, but humans are not the Yukon’s only inhabitants. When Jack strikes out from Dawson, he encounters a series of supernatural creatures of the north, including a mysterious wolf protector, a shape-shifting woodland enchantress, and the insatiable Wendigo.
The narrative keeps up a breakneck pace, catapulting the young hero from one confrontation to the next; whether facing blizzards, monsters, or human slavers, Jack is never quite out of danger. Nonetheless, Jack’s character is a little too naïve and single-minded to be believable. The real-life Jack London was already in his 20s when the Klondike Gold Rush began (as the author acknowledges in a historical note), and the 17-year-old Jack in the book seems strangely caught between ages – he has the simplistic, self-centered outlook of a child, paired with the confidence and physical prowess of a much older man. This disjunct, combined with the characters’ continually spouted clichés and awestruck references to “the Wild,” made the narrative grow stale for me. The action may be intoxicating, and the supernatural elements intriguing. But without any character growth on the part of the protagonist – and without the original language to make the setting come to life – this book didn’t follow through on its potential.
Jack London, as a young man, journeys to the Yukon in search of gold and adventure. What he finds is desperation, greed, and many strange and supernatural beings, the majority of them malicious. He does find gold, but not in the way he intended.
We all know Jack London as a writer, but this tale was far too eerie for him to write down. Only when Jack passes the tale along to someone else does the story come to be written.
This exciting and well-written book contains legend interwoven with truth. If you like strictly factual stories, this may not be the book for you. But if you enjoy the strange and mysterious, I would recommend this book. Although it takes a while to get going, the story then takes off, making the book hard to put down.