This is one of those classics that I somehow missed until I won a copy. I’m very glad it came to my attention. It’s a very interesting mix of alternate history (what if the Nazis had won their war?), time travel, and a retelling of the Wild Hunt. The story starts off slow, with hints of ‘something not quite right’ as Alan Querdilion reacquaints himself with an old friend years after WWII has come to a close. The two find themselves drinking and smoking by a late night fire when Alan relates his odd tale of a walk on the weird side.
Alan finds himself in a future world 102 years after the Nazis obtained dominance. He stumbled upon it after having escaped a WWII POW camp, lost, dehydrated, and zapped by something he bumbled into. He wakes up in a German hospital-type place. The two nurses and the doctor try to help him, thinking he is suffering from a bad hit to the head. Eventually, he learns something of the baron whose land the hospital resides on. Slavery is common place for both young men and women. Alan won’t let go of his believe that this place and time is not quite real, but he quiets down enough about it for the doctor to start taking him out and about.
What Alan learns is disturbing. The slaves have been bred or perhaps genetically altered at the zygote level to provide a service or entertainment for this baron. Some are physically altered as kids or teens, such as having vocal chords cut. The baron treats many of these specialized slaves as animals, using them to hunt as well as providing them to be hunted. It’s all rather disturbing and very well written. The book doesn’t get caught up in bigger picture morality issues. Instead, it stays focused on Alan’s tale as he tries to survive this encounter and his thoughts on what is wrong or right.
Alan eventually offends the baron by sneaking about and he is tossed into the fenced forest to be hunted at leisure. This starts the heart pounding suspense as Alan must avoid the Hunt again and again. The moonlit Wild Hunt scenes were absolutely riveting. The plot thickens as he meets others who are part of this hunt and he learns a little of the politics off of the baron’s property.
As you might guess, since Alan is telling this story from the beginning years after the even happens, he survives the event, though not unmarked. The reader is left to decide whether or not Alan truly experienced this event, if it was his hallucination, or if Alan made it up to mess with his friend. It’s an excellent suspense-filled tale.
I won a copy of this book from the publisher (via The Audio Book Reviewer) with no strings attached.
Narration: Stefan Rudnicki was excellent. His performance really added to the tension and excitement and the disgust Alan felt from time to time. His female voices were good and his accents were well done. During one of the hunting scenes, these wild cats (sort of) are being used to hunt and Rudnicki was in the middle of the narrative that explains the wild yowling sounds as they go on the chase when my old deaf cat let out a yowl of her own. I almost jumped out of my skin!