Wild Country (2019) is the seventh book in Anne Bishop’s series THE OTHERS and, also, the second book in her THE WORLD OF THE OTHERS series.
In Bishop’s fictional universe, the world is made up of humans — who, near as I can tell, are mostly descended from white Europeans — and the “terra indigene,” also called The Others, monstrous creatures with the outward appearance of human beings and who are, apparently, the indigenous peoples of the American continents, Africa, etc. There are shapeshifters who can shift from, say, an eagle or wolf into a human body, and Sanguinati, a cabal of blood-suckers who specialize in legal and financial matters. (It was at these realizations that I decided this was not the book or series for me, and in checking around online, it seems that I’m not the only person to have found these allusions troubling.)
The Others resent humans for their attempts to colonize Thaisia, the America-analogue, and a series of brutal massacres have been committed by each side, resulting in humans living in subservience to the Others. The Others are portrayed either as childlike innocents, with no understanding of etiquette or behavior, or as all-powerful and bloodthirsty killers. Human characters, some of whom have supernatural abilities involving intuition or manipulation of luck, are interchangeable and tend to fall on the dull side.
World-building is unsatisfying and confusing. Place-names like Chicago, Africa, and the Atlantic Ocean are spelled as “Shikago,” “Afrikah,” and “Atlantik Ocean” for reasons that go unexplained. Cars, mobile phones, and e-mail exist in this world, but the characters act and speak as though they’re stuck in a parody of an old-timey Western movie, operating general stores and saloons while lawnmen and outlaws vie for dominance. Characters rely on trains to get them to frontier outposts and a few ghost-town settlements where Humans and Others live in uneasy peace and uphold some really, really outdated ideas about gender roles.
I can’t speak to Bishop’s intent in creating this world under these specific circumstances, but I also can’t ignore the similarities between the way her non-human characters act or are viewed by human characters and condescending “colonist/pioneer narratives” written about European encounters with First Nations people and Native Americans, nor am I comfortable with the similarities between the Sanguinati and various anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.
It was all too easy for me to put Wild Country down and find something else to read, and I won’t be returning to it or to THE WORLD OF THE OTHERS.
Set in the world of The Others: