Gunslinger. Skyhorse rider. Lone Wolf. Malvius is a veteran gunslinger in Larragon, a six-planet solar system with two rivers: two train lines linking each planet together. The two rivers are a beehive for opportunistic merchants and feisty gunslingers.
All you need to survive in Larragon is a skyhorse to roam the open space and a gunblaster to protect your hide and earn your keep. Wild moons and saloons are aplenty, money is easily made and lost, but life for Malvius isn’t about money, it is about helping who needs helping, shooting who needs shooting.
Along comes the Raoke Gang, shattered, their leader wounded, half of the gang incarcerated. Malvius feels compelled to help. Little did he know that simply relaying a message from their leader to the survivors of the Raoke Gang will send him on a wild course of events that will see him facing off a space wizard, assisting a space train heist, and become Larragon’s most wanted man.
A Wolf in Space is a novel that blends together science-fiction, western and some touches of the noir genre, being the first full novel in the Raoke Gang series, written by Alex Valdiers. A story that is a recount of the adventures our main character, Malvius, is living in the Larragon system; mixing his own memories with some soliloquies that help us to connect better with him (in a style that is similar to the Saevus Corax trilogy).
Talking about A Wolf in Space is talking about Malvius, a gunslinger in the space; a lone wolf, with the sole company of his loyal space horse Rhiann, traveling from planet to planet in this sort of spatial system living adventures. From the start of the book, we can clearly see how Malvius governs his life by staying loyal to his philosophy, not accepting bullying and in many cases, taking decisions that might cause harm to himself, but always in the spirit of living adventures in that inhospit space.
In some points, especially when exploring Malvius' past and his dream of being a writer, you can feel how much Valdiers has put of himself into the book, transmiting that passion for the genre and the freedom, as well as his origins and how that can be a barrier sometimes, but always balancing well with the own existence of the character.
Malvius is the angular piece that ties together all the episodes related in this novel, which encapsulates several adventures, reinforcing that sensation of that frontier where freedom exists; from mafias and casinos that can feel closer to those noir elements previously mentioned to those iconic gun duels in the dessert that screams western. Each planet/location in the system is unique and well differentiated, sometimes including certain easter eggs to Earth locations. Outside of those locations, Valdiers has also made an excellent job at transmiting the inmensity and the danger of the outer space, a desert between planets.
The cast of secondary characters is well developed, especially those that are part of the Raoke Gang, who incidentally end gaining a big narrative weight when the plot advance; most of them hid more than you can see at first sight. Despite this is a story about Malvius, those secondaries are the spices that season this dish.
Pacing might suffer at some points, partly due to the mix between Malvius' philosophical moments and the adventures, but it is really enjoyable, especially because this mix allows you to recover your breath after intense moments.
A Wolf in Space is a great debut novel, a book that combines sci-fi with the freedom and escapism of the western genre; Valdiers is an author to watch in the space, and hopefully, we will have multiple Raoke Gang novels after this one.
Alex Valdiers is a French indie Space Western Fantasy author of Laotian descent who currently lives in the South of England. The lack of a suitable platform and market for French Fantasy prompted Valdiers to move to the UK in 2012. After years of practice, his debut novella The Choice of Weapons, the first Raoke Gang novella, was released in August 2023. It is currently a SFINCS semi-finalist. His debut novel, A Wolf in Space, the first Raoke Gang novel, comes out on January 23rd. Valdiers aims to publish another two Raoke Gang novels before 2024 is over.