cover image The Pack

The Pack

Tom Pow, . . Roaring Brook/Porter, $16.95 (228pp) ISBN 978-1-59643-159-1

In Scottish author Pow's (Scabbit Isle ) first novel to be published in the U.S., three children live with wild dogs in a post-apocalyptic world where humanity itself seems on the verge of going feral. Bradley, Floris and Victor live in the squalid Zones that sit in the shadow of the Invisible City ("while in the Zones the city seemed to be dying—rusting, putrefying, belching steam from broken vents—the Invisible City was constantly changing: new shops, coffee bars, businesses") with their companion dogs Hunger, Shelter and Fearless. The mysterious Old Woman tells them cryptic stories of the "Dead Time" that brought about the world's ruin. When bandits kidnap Floris, Victor—whose human nature is slowly reverting to animal ways—pursues her into the Forbidden Territories that separate the City from the Zones, with Bradley and Hunger close behind. A ruthless gang led by Red Dog kidnaps Bradley and forces Hunger to take part in a dog-fighting competition, described in a long, disquieting sequence. An escape leads to the discovery of a dark secret at the heart of the City: children are held as slaves because their small hands are adept at building electronic devices and security systems. The plot takes a while to unfold and includes an overabundance of allegorical messages (the moral stain of sweatshops, the perils of urban life, the ease with which men revert to their animal instincts), but the finale is extremely effective. Ages 12-up. (July)