Warning – you are in spoiler territory, deep at this point.
I don’t write for the fans. It’s a fallacy that authors pander to every fan desire. I’m sure some do. My belief is that if you do that and you write trash. It is where most fanfiction falls flat. This is mostly because fans can’t agree on anything. They squabble over every little detail in a big shared universe. Their personal perspectives override logic and common sense at times.
As such, I write things I would like to read. I am a fan myself. As it turns out, some people happen to like the same things I do. So I invite you to indulge me as I tell you my favorite parts of Hour of the Wolf.
The arrival of the McKenna’s Pride in the Terran system. It’s a tiny moment, but one I savor. When the Republic realizes that the McKenna’s Pride is in the Wolf fleet. Jaws drop. The Admiral tries to downplay it, but it is an emotional moment. It tells the reader, “We’re not in Kansas anymore.”
The contrast of the Falcons and the Wolves. First, you see it in the space battle. Alaric takes out the space stations first, then it is more like watching a surgeon work. The Jade Falcons actually give the Republic the fight they wanted at the zenith jump point. When the Wolves land, no none will debark until Alaric does. When the Jade Falcons land, Malvina has to order them to stay on their ships until she sets foot on Terra. The Wolves show up in-force – where the Falcons trickle in. Alaric and Chance focused on logistics and replacement equipment, munitions, parts, and techs. The Jade Falcons trickle into Terra so some of their units are fresh when the ilClan trial begins.
My tankers. Dujordan and Hawkins rock. If you hate them as characters, you need some serious self-reflection. Their banter came about in Diet Mountain Dew filled rage one night. Their dialogue was written by me, speaking out-loud, both parts. I literally cracked myself up.
Their origins came from research. I was re-reading some BattleTech fiction and realized that all of the Clan characters, with the exception of Horse, talk exactly the same. If you remove their names, they all sound the same. There is damned little personal banter we put historically in books that you see with real people in the military. So I decided to have a tank crew perspective and then thought, “this is my chance to explore them being funny/snarky.” The results were some of my favorite characters ever. The fact that they straighten up when they think Alaric is watching, well, that’s a very military thing too.
Kalidessa Kerensky and the Howling Furies. Editor Supreme John Helfers suggested that I condense the character perspectives to one mixed unit (or so) for Clan Wolf. I picked the unit and a canon character from the list and the Howling Furies were born. Having said that, she needed a personality, a persona, that people would respect.
My inspiration for Kalidessa I was the character that Robert Redford played in A Bridge Too Far. Remember that scene where he was tasked to row across the river? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACiWrHFMeYY That is Kalidessa being tasked with holding the attention of the Republic forces in China. She volunteers her people for every shitty assignment because that’s who she is, raw determination on steroids. She is only afraid of failing in her own eyes and those of Alaric. Her own people respect and fear her. She has a kind side too, like when she warns her bondsmen to never get into a game a chance with Hawkins and Dujordan. Kalidessa knows that you cannot rise to the top if you don’t step-up, that that puts her people at risk. THAT became the essence of her character.
The first big-ass counterattack. Brent Evans and I spoke early on about what separated the RAF and the Wolves. The Superheavies were a big part of that. I proposed massing them. Why? Because it is cool. The counterattack is a damned serious threat to Clan Wolf’s operations. It causes a great deal of tension with Chance’s character and we get to see the War Bear in action. Brent and I worked out the tactics for dealing with both Clan honor and the Superheavies, which was a fun discussion. Brent plays a lot and really played thorugh the mechanics of the tactics.
The coutnerattack is the first point where we see Alaric’s plan suffer a setback. John, during edits, had me amp this up to a new level.
The counterattack is critical and cool. We see a glimmer of victory in the eyes of the Republic. It showed flaws in Alaric’s plans. For a while, it worked. But in the end, the counterattack is about Chance Vickers. She sees it for what it is and does something most characters can’t, admit that she can’t just fix it. Previous Clan characters would have mounted up and gone off to deal with it. Not Chance. She summons the War Bear. How many of us would have the balls to tell Alaric, “I can’t handle this – I need help”? She grew as a character in that moment.
Redburn Gets His Day. The headhunter mission to take out the Clan leadership is devastating, all thanks to Damien Redburn. We see Ramiel Bekker die in the assault – and Alaric almost does. Garner Kerensky dies. Malvina and her saKhan both are near death as a result of it. Redburn goes out believing he has saved the Republic. The Wolves and Jade Falcons do turn on each other. What he has accomplished is to start to strip away Alaric’s dream team. He also set things up for Chance Vickers to be in command, alone. Heroic figures deserve a heroic death and Redburn got his. Moreover, he was the hero that the Republic deserved – not Devlin Stone or Jonah Levin. Redburn was what all of the Republic fans wanted. He stomped on the earth and the ground trembled.
What would Alaric do? Chance is so deep in Alaric’s head, she reaches out to Stephanie Chistu to tell her that Clan Wolf is not attacking the Jade Falcons. Brilliant – and totally in-character. I enjoy their little talk at the start of the ilClan trial as well.
Lady Synd’s taking down of Chance Vickers. This leaves Alaric, for a short time, without any of his dream team on-planet.
Haake hanging the McKenna’s Pride off of the Jade Falcon flagship. Let’s face it, that is some seriously ballsy-shit. Especially given that Malvina isn’t the most rational of leaders. The death ride of the Republic fleet is great – but Alaric telling Malvina to fight it out on the ground, that is awesome and is a moment where we see some of his genetics come through. Haake’s great line: “Khan Ward, if they so much as break wind, I intend to unleash hell.”
Stone learning Alaric invited the Jade Falcons to Terra. Only Nixon could go to China – and only Alaric would invite the Jade Falcons to the party. Stone really thinks their arrival is going to play to his hand and allow him to ally with Alaric. Alaric bursts that bubble big-time.
The Republic Surrender on Belle Island. I was born in Virginia and raised in Michigan (returning to Virginia). Everyone would have expected me to include some American Civil War sites in the fighting for Terra. Fooled ya! Instead, the surrender takes place on Belle Island in the Detroit River. I lived outside of Detroit for several years and it seemed only fitting to have the surrender take place there. I actually revisited Belle Isle the summer before writing the chapter to capture some of the look and feel.
The Freaking Falcon Guard! This started with a conversation with John regarding the Old Guard. Some fact checkers cringed at the Republic Old Guard. Their critique was warranted, the Old Guard didn’t show up on unit lists before. Then again, I don’t see sourcebooks as limiting good fiction and the story of the Old Guard was good fiction…much better than many of the other RAF units.
I have always marveled at Napoleon’s Old Guard both as a concept and for their influence at Waterloo. The Republic, in my mind, deserved such an elite unit. Stone would have reveled in having such a unit.
John agreed, but didn’t like how I was employing them in an early draft. He said, “I think you should use them. But instead of attacking the Jade Falcons, have them go right after Malvina.”
Of course, a regiment or so of elite warriors going after one warrior seemed lop-sided. The solution was the reconstitution of the Falcon Guard. I always enjoyed the tale of the Last Stand of the Black Watch when a handful of warriors took down dozens of Rim World’s ‘Mechs. Wouldn’t it be cool to do something similar? And if you are going to do it, why not use the Falcon Guard?
I wrote it up in an hour, it flowed. The ever-tightening ring of destroyed enemies as the Guard protected Malvina from certain death. The reader would be rooting for them, but at the same time kind of hoping that they would fail and she would die. After all, it is Malvina.
A fun call to John was essentially me saying, “I’m bringing back the Falcon Guard.” “Of course you are.” He was on his way to a CGL meeting and pinged me later. “I told them you were bringing back the Falcon Guard and everyone is pumped about the idea.”
Good, because it was already done by the time he let me know.
When the armor plate fell off Fratricide. Some things I can’t explain why I enjoy them as much as I do. That little instance was genuine. It made you wonder, what else could fall off? For a moment, BattleTech got a dose of reality.
The Northwind Challenge. Alaric telling the Highlanders that he is on their native soil and ‘come and get me,’ was awesome. If you didn’t think so, well, I think you missed something. I visited that region of Scotland where the fighting was, so I knew the ground well. I knew if he had the Highlanders on Terra, they had to fight in Scotland. Alaric played them, that’s true, with a slight ding to his honor – but it was neat to picture them fighting in Scotland.
Chris Kornfeld’s Arc. It is rare we deal with MechWarriors coping with PTSD, but Kornfeld was. Urban warfare is brutal, and he let us see that. Then there is the final battle where he witnesses the Jade Falcons massacring prisoners. That was a lift from the Battle of the Bulge and the Malmedy massacre. Kornfeld is one of the few that comes right out and thinks, ‘screw the Exarch!’ near the end. He has seen troops simply thrown at the Jade Falcons with no hope of victory and it leaves him bitter.
Tara Campbell’s Arc. Alaric flipping Tara Campbell went through a few editorial changes. I still love it by the time we were done. To save the Highlanders, she sacrifices herself. Incredibly noble, in fact it is one of the boldest sacrifices by a Highlander ever. Then she is offered to the Jade Falcons and goes. The Falcons are feared, not respected (something Malvina tended to blur in her mind.) To me, there is some fantastic story potential there. She can show the Falcons honor in a different perspective. She also knows that the best way to prevent another Malvina is to be inside of the Clan. Tara’s story could be the most compelling to emerge in the early years of this era. I believe Tara will instill a different definition of honor to a very broken and battered Clan.
The God-Damned Black Watch. Tex gets it. The Jade Falcons came from the Black Watch. That last stand against Amaris was the stuff of myth and legend. The Falcons have always prided (pun intended) themselves on being the best of the best. Alaric knows that and gives them a great honor by making them his guards. The Jade Falcons that emerge from all of this will not be numerous, but be uber-elite warriors. Beaten? Aff. And from that they will emerge as more deadly and potent than ever before.
Kerensky’s burial. It was necessary to bring the General home one last time. The Hidden Hope was complete. Nicholas’s vision for an ilClan was complete. Now where do the clans go from here? They are a people without a destiny that has been preordained. Alaric has to wrap his hands around that.
The end of the book. Stone lays all bare, but was he telling the whole truth? I love him stripping apart Alaric’s ego with words. Chance shows herself to be ruthless when she eternally tucks Stone in for the last time. Stone knows that history is going to treat him well and that the Inner Sphere is poisoned against the Clans – and lets Alaric feel the full brunt of that. Of course he saw himself being Wormtongue to Alaric, whispering in his ear and guiding and manipulating him, but that all fell to shit too thanks to his failing body and a kiss from his pillow-pet. Stone is all about schemes and many simply die with him, but some will live on in rumors for years. Even now the fans are debating what parts he was being honest about.
The reader is left wondering what part of what Stone said is the truth. Alaric is left emotionally devastated. It sets the stage for the events that are to follow and marks a change in Alaric’s character we have yet to fully see. Those were my moments.