A short review of White Fang by Jack London

London's White Fang - a story about a wolf whose mother was part dog and father full-on wolf, told mostly from the wolf's perspective - is full of detail. I don't know what inspired London to write White Fang but whatever it was it must have driven him to climb into caves, chase small animals and watch a few dog fights - otherwise I have no idea how he could have written this book.

The story of White Fang is nothing too exciting, to be honest. To enjoy White Fang I'm guessing you'd have to be a dog lover, or a nature enthusiast, or simply enjoy reading about the Wild, the American Indian and the gold miner's life and times through the eyes of an animal. There is no hook, no twist, no one thing that you can point to that would make someone want to read this book.

That doesn't mean this book isn't very good. In fact, I would recommend anyone give it a try. London often times feels a bit dry to most people but I think reading a dry book on occasion can really help a reader force focus. Never once, even after pages and pages of a small puppy's first experiences, did I get bored or think that the story was being purposefully drawn out.

Here is a quick excerpt, ripped from Project Gutenburg where you can read White Fang in whole, where London describes the Wild's desire to kill anything that moves.

"It is not the way of the Wild to like movement. Life is an offence to it, for life is movement; and the Wild aims always to destroy movement. It freezes the water to prevent it running to the sea; it drives the sap out of the trees till they are frozen to their mighty hearts; and most ferociously and terribly of all does the Wild harry and crush into submission man—man who is the most restless of life, ever in revolt against the dictum that all movement must in the end come to the cessation of movement."

London's descriptions of Beauty Smith, who was the owner of White Fang for a time and treats him ill to become a prized dog-fighter, was simply brutal. I tweeted that I thought London had a personal vendetta he was filling with these pages. I thought it was great. He handed it to Beauty Smith. I wish it went on forever.

Looking back I think this is how London wrote White Fang. He probably created a list and story arc for this book. Dog is born. Dog lives. Dog fights. Dog gets angry. Dog gets happy. Dog travels to California. Then, he spent the next few years filling in the middle with as much detail as he possibly could dream up. Down to how the coals from a hot fire feel on the padded foot of a wolf. And somehow he pulled it off beautifully.

I should probably begin to rate books, since I'm reviewing them from time to time. I'll rate them based on the following categories: Readability (the most important thing to this reader), writing, pace, and story. Here is how White Fang stacks up.

  • Readability: 3.5 - I had little trouble getting through this book. Others, however, probably would.

  • Writing: 4.0 - London's pen for White Fang seemed to drip words onto the paper. Nothing forced.

  • Pace: 3.0 - Slow at times. Even the action was seemingly in slow-mo. Not all bad.

  • Story: 2.5 - Nothing to get excited about but worth a read.