"The Brotherhood of the Wheel" Book Review
Written by Gabino Iglesias
Published by Tor Books
Written by R.S. Belcher
2016, 384 pages, Fiction
Released on March 1st, 2016
The difference between a mediocre author and a great one is simple: one will grab a group of things and make a mess; the other will make them dance together in a very entertaining, cohesive way. R.S. Belcher belongs to the second group, and his latest novel, The Brotherhood of the Wheel, is the kind of multilayered, shifting narrative full of elements that would be an unreadable jumble in less capable hands. From violent encounters and missing children to creepy Black-Eyed Kids and a supernatural serial killer, there’s not much Belcher left out of this hefty novel, but he somehow pulled it off with flying colors.
To anyone seeing him on the road, Jimmy Aussapile would be nothing more than another trucker sitting on his rig. What those people wouldn’t know, however, is that they’re on that particular highway thanks to the efforts of men like him. Back in 1119 A.D., nine crusaders became known as the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon. They were created to protect travelers to and from the Holy Land and, while they eventually suffered and had to go underground, they’ve kept their word and still work to keep people safe from things they don’t even know exist. Aussapile’s brotherhood, now made up of truckers, bikers, state troopers, bus drivers, and a plethora of other traveling/driving types, call themselves the Brotherhood of the Wheel, and they’re the soldiers fighting to keep real monsters from taking over. After saving the day yet again, Aussapile picks up a special hitchhiker that puts him on a dangerous path. Children have been disappearing all across the country, and what’s happening to them is not as merciful as plain death. This new missions makes Aussapile cross paths with Lovina Hewitt, a Louisiana State Police investigator working the same case and hiding a very personal, painful agenda, to his new trainee and brother, and then to a town that’s not on any map and from which residents can’t escape. What they do there has implications for the entire world, and everything from shadow people to Black-Eyed Kids will try to make the Brotherhood fail.
The first thing that should be mentioned about The Brotherhood of the Wheel is that it brings a truly wonderful multiplicity to the table. This is a road adventure and a mystery, but it’s also a supernatural thriller and a horror novel. There are guns and fights and high-speed chases that wouldn’t be out of place in a Hollywood blockbuster, but there’s also history, arcane knowledge, and the kind of supernatural encounters that keep lovers of creepy stuff searching the darkest corners of the web. Belcher pulls all of it together and then carefully constructs a plot around it before throwing his group of characters into a quest the outcome of which affects the entire world.
Besides successfully bringing together a plethora of bizarre elements, The Brotherhood of the Wheel offers readers a full cast of well-developed characters, all of whom have a backstory and a reason to be where they are and do what they do. Furthermore, the dialogue works well and the relentless pace keeps things moving along for almost 400 pages.
This is a long narrative that follows various characters and constantly switches from explosive action to chapters in which they are just trying to figure out what’s going on. While this is not conducive to a profound exploration of the supernatural elements presented, Belcher offers enough of each to let readers know exactly what he’s talking about. Also, that balance helps the action passages stand out. A fight in the woods against some Black-Eyed Kids and a frenetic escape from shadow people after being kidnapped are two standout passages that prove Belcher can do fast and gritty very well.
The Brotherhood of the Wheel has something for everyone, and it walks an interesting line between genres that I wish more authors would explore. Also, if you ever wondered what would happen if a fan of history tried to digest all contemporary urban legends and then write something using both, this one is not to be missed.