Tom's Reviews > The Call of the Wild, White Fang and Other Stories

The Call of the Wild, White Fang and Other Stories by Jack London
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Jul 24, 11

bookshelves: classics, favorites, jack-london

Jack London was really, really good at what he did, and what he did was craft stories about dogs (or with dogs) where the main focus is the animal and its place in the world - the tug between the Wild and the comforts of civilization. The biggest question in The Call of the Wild and White Fang (which was sometimes referred to as The Call of the Tame, apparently) was always "At what point does the wolf become a dog, or the dog the wolf?" Many books will make you question what it means to be human - this one will make you question what it is to even be civilized, and how far you would go for loyalty.

Both novellas were fantastic. I didn't quite find the short stories at the end as interesting, but I don't hold that against London - if that book only contained the novellas, I would have been perfectly happy. One thing I found particularly interesting was that humans were secondary creatures in those books, and were forces of nature more than they were legitimate characters. There were only a couple the reader was truly allowed to have feelings for, and even they were completely expendable. It was a wake up call to see a dog watch some prospectors fall through the ice with their sleds, and then watch as the dog turns away and the prospectors are never mentioned again. The humans were there to drive the dogs' stories, they were not there to be the stories.

I think the biggest part of these books - potentially even bigger than the humans crafting the nature of the dogs - was the setting of Arctic Canada. The weather is harsh, the people have to either take it in stride or become harsher, and the entire world seems poised to kill you at every turn. Sled dogs are the preferred method of travel, and that causes a whole series of different issues over time (like those prospectors above). London did a fantastic job of crafting this harsh enviroment, to the point where I actually found myself shivering slightly at his descriptions as I read the book in the middle of a July heatwave. You could hear the snow crunch, see the breath coming out of mouths, and even feel the cold seep down through your skin into your bones, getting in where it might not ever get out.

If you're a fan of dogs or adventure stories, this is definitely worth getting your hands on. The writing is clear, the descriptions both straightforward and engaging, and the stories make you want to keep going, while in the back of your mind you find yourself rooting against your own species, just so the dogs have good lives. A worthy read if I've ever had one.
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