Born 1957, in Springfield, IL.
Writer. Has worked variously as a farmer, trapper, meat cutter, grocery store manager, prison guard, missionary, bookkeeper, ice-cream maker, technical writer, and documentation department manager for a computer company.
Writers of the Future Grand Prize, 1987.
On My Way to Paradise, Spectra, Bantam (New York, MY), 1989.
Serpent Catch, Spectra, Bantam (New York, NY), 1991.
Path of the Hero (part of "Serpent Catch" series), Spectra, Bantam (New York, NY), 1993.
"GOLDEN QUEEN" NOVEL SERIES
The Golden Queen, Tor (New York, NY), 1994.
Beyond the Gate, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1995.
Lords of the Seventh Swarm, Tor (New York, NY), 1997.
"STAR WARS" NOVEL SERIES
The Courtship of Princess Leia Bantam (New York, NY), 1994.
The Rising Force, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1999.
The Ghostling Children, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.
The Hunt for Anakin Skywalker, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.
Capture Arawynne, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.
Trouble on Tatooine (game book), Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.
"MUMMY CHRONICLES" NOVEL SERIES
Revenge of the Scorpion King, Bantam (New York, NY), 2001.
Heart of the Pharaoh, Bantam (New York, NY), 2001.
The Curse of the Nile, Bantam (New York, NY), 2001.
Flight of the Phoenix, Bantam (New York, NY), 2001.
"RUNELORDS" SERIES; UNDER NAME DAVID FARLAND
The Sum of All Men, Tor (New York, NY), 1998.
Brotherhood of the Wolf, Tor (New York, NY), 1999.
Wizardborn, Tor (New York, NY), 2001.
The Lair of Bones, Tor (New York, NY), 2003.
Work in Progress
Further volumes in the "Runelords" series; a new series featuring the children of characters from the "Runelords" series.
Equally skilled in creating science fiction and fantasy, Dave Wolverton has been praised by reviewers for dealing with difficult moral questions that might arise in the future, as well as for his attention to character and detail in the fantastic worlds he constructs. A contributor to the St. James Guide to Science-Fiction Writers commended Wolverton's "dynamic settings and attention-grabbing plots." In stand-alone sci-fi titles such as On My Way to Paradise and Serpent Catch, as well as in the space-opera series "The Golden Queen" and especially in the immensely popular fantasy series "Runelords," Wolverton—who also writes under the name of David Farland—has earned comparison with Robert Jordan and J. R. R. Tolkien, as well as praise by fellow writers such as Orson Scott Card, Terry Brooks, and Robert Sawyer for his epic premises and style. Readers have also responded to his work, sending at least one of his novels, Wizardborn, from the "Runelords" series, onto the New York Times extended bestseller list.
Wolverton gained early prominence as recipient of the 1987 Writers of the Future Award for the long short story, "On My Way to Paradise," which he later turned into his first novel by the same title. This tale revolves around the futuristic exploits of a middle-aged pharmacologist who becomes enmeshed in interplanetary espionage while trying to save a fugitive. As Jackie Cassandra noted in Library Journal, "in a future where humanity is overshadowed by the 'advance' of technology … the struggle to remain human becomes a desperate search for identity and redefinition." The main character faces many horrible decisions, from whether or not to harbor a fugitive to a pained debate about whether certain murders are necessary for the greater good. Orson Scott Card wrote in a Los Angeles Times Book Review: "This book can be read with equal ease as an action-packed thriller, as a disturbing vision of the future and as a searing examination of terrible ethical dilemmas." Penny Kaganoff of Publishers Weekly similarly noted: "Wolverton paces the action smartly, and in the final chapter introduces a surprise revelation that throws the motivation for [the lead character's] decision, as well as its consequences, into complex relief."
Critical praise continued for Wolverton's second offering, Serpent Catch. On a distant moon, mankind has isolated various creatures—including Neanderthals, an early species of man—in order to breed and harness extinct species. Unfortunately, the keepers of this world have isolated the different species too well and the ecosystems begin to collapse. The hero of the story is Tull, a half-breed with a Homo sapiens father and a Neanderthal mother who must break down the barriers between the species to restore order. Specifically, he must return sea serpents to the oceans so that his people can live on. Gene LaFaille wrote in the Wilson Library Bulletin that "high adventure, ribald humor, and character development on a scale to be envied result in a novel nearly impossible to put down before it is finished."
Wolverton chose to return to this universe in his next book. Path of the Hero continues the adventures of Tull, who, as the title indicates, must learn to become the Okansharai, or heroic Redeemer, of his people. Once he learns inner peace, he believes, he can free his people as well as other human beings who have fallen under the oppression of the cruel Slave Lords. Once again Wolverton drew critical praise for his creativity. Roland Green wrote in Booklist, "Whether or not Wolverton set out to use [science-fiction] elements to tell what is also a fine heroic fantasy, he has certainly managed to create a solid page-turner." Sister Avila Lamn commented similarly in Kliatt: "This novel is speculative fiction with a powerful message of peace and freedom."
From "Star Wars" to Space Opera
Wolverton's next release offered him the unusual opportunity to contribute to the world-famous "Star Wars" series based on the film series directed by George Lucas. Set in the time period after the three Star Wars movies but before the widely read Timothy Zahn books that make up the sequels to the movies, The Courtship of Princess Leia centers around power and politics in the struggle against the remnants of the Empire. By marrying Prince Isolder of the planet Hapes, Princess Leia can secure a valuable ally for the rebellion's New Republic. Roguish Han Solo is not so ready to lose his beloved, however, and prepares to do whatever is necessary to battle Isolder for Leia's heart. Eventually all of the characters find themselves under terrific danger from a warlord of the evil Empire, leaving Jedi knight Luke Skywalker to save the day. Several reviewers praised Wolverton on his ability to make an interesting contribution to a hallowed series. Jackie Cassada of Library Journal described Wolverton as "a vivid scene builder, capturing the cinematic flavor of the Star Wars universe while expanding on the outer reaches of the galaxy." A reviewer in Kirkus Review noted the story's "firm prose, … realistic dialogue, and more action" than other "Star Wars" novels. According to a Publishers Weekly reviewer, "Readers … likely already know who Princess Leia will marry, so Wolverton deserves high marks just for making the journey along the road to the in evitable interesting.…Allinall, the novel raises expectations for Wolverton's future works once he moves on to other things."
Wolverton did move on to other things, beginning a new series with The Golden Queen. In it, Wolverton spins a yarn that a Kirkus Reviews writer labeled as "a hybrid sword/science fiction opera." Set in the far future, human beings struggle under the oppression of the insect-like dronons. Led by their Golden Queen, the dronons seek to alter mankind's genetic code to make them more insect-like. The hero of the story, a young man named Gallen O'Day, along with his companion—a talking, genetically enhanced bear—are sucked into the mix by accident. They soon rally behind mankind's last champions: Lady Everynne, a clone of a perfect human, and her protector, Veriasse. A Publishers Weekly critic remarked that Wolverton "relies on fantasy fundamentals time and again, including a standard quest format, stereotypical characterizations, and a predictably happy ending. Yet the legions of Star Wars fans will probably devour this mix."
Based on the success of The Golden Queen, Wolverton released its sequel, Beyond the Gate, one year later. Gallen O'Day, now grown to be a true warrior, is again summoned by Everynne to take on the role of Lord Protector of Tharrin. Along the way, he battles a new invasion of the dronons, seeks to marry his love, the innkeeper Maggie Flynn, and endures Orick the talking bear's anguishing over entering the priesthood. A reviewer wrote in Publishers Weekly that "weak writing and a lack of clarity make this book less focused than its predecessor." A Kirkus Review article echoed these sentiments, quipping that "only fans need apply."
Despite such critical reservations, Beyond the Gate was popular among Wolverton's fans. Accordingly, the novelist added a third book to the series, Lords of the Seventh Swarm. Gallen and his pregnant wife, Maggie, flee to the edge of the galaxy to ride out yet another dronon invasion. Their choice of planet is unfortunate, however; they are soon pursued by the mad ruler Lord Felph, who tries unsuccessfully to enlist the two in his schemes for world domination. A Publishers Weekly critic wrote, "As always, Wolverton tells an enjoyably light-weight story in the mode of 1930s pulps or the old Flash Gordon serials. As a modern touch, he adds a modicum of sex and, unusual for SF, a considerable amount of Christian evangelism."
Wolverton has also contributed to two series for younger readers. For a "Star Wars" series, he wrote titles such as The Rising Force for Scholastic. He features twelve-year-old Obi-Wan Kenobi in tales that function as a prelude to the action in the Star Wars movies. In another movie tie-in for young readers, Wolverton spins tales inspired by the film The Mummy Returns. In Revenge of the Scorpion King he introduces twelve-year-old Alex O'Connel, who is living in Egypt in 1937 and seeking adventure. Alex gets more than he wants when the Scorpion King rises from the dead and comes looking for revenge. In The Heart of the Pharaoh Alex once again gets in over his head as he tries to stop the Nazis from plundering the tomb of Cleopatra. And in Flight of the Phoenix Alex faces a larger test than battling mummies when he must come to terms with the egg of the mythical phoenix.
Science Fiction and Fantasy
Working from an unpublished work by the late science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, author of such classics as Battlefield Earth, Wolverton returns to adult fiction in a tale of time travel in A Very Strange Trip. Everett Dumphee becomes an unwilling recruit, one step ahead of the law that is after him for transporting illegally distilled liquor. Joining the army, he becomes a truck driver; transporting a Russian secret weapon—a time machine—to Denver, he suddenly finds himself in a time slip when the machine accidentally becomes activated. Dumphee is jostled through time from the Ice Age to the time of the Mayans and to a Western U.S. railroad station under attack by warring Indians. Though the novel sold well—partly because of Hubbard's name on the cover—it did not fare as well with reviewers. Leah Sparks, in a Library Journal review, complained of the "campy, farcical quality and slapstick sense of humor that do not do justice to either Hubbard's or Wolverton's earlier works." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly voiced similar concerns about the humor and weak characterization, and concluded that Wolverton has "done much better on his own—and so did Hubbard."
Much better received was Wolverton's first installment in the "Runelords" series, the 1998 The Sum of All Men. Writing as David Farland, the author "postulates a medieval world in which peasants must sometimes give up their physical endowments—such as strength, stamina, or intelligence—to a member of the aristocracy," according to Collin Leslie, writing in Quill & Quire. Such a transference of endowments presents these noble classes, the Runelords, with great power as well as beauty, wit, and courage, and also ensures that they are magnificent warriors. Meanwhile, the peasants have become helpless as a result of their loss. These "dedicates" are then cared for by society. The book focuses on one Runelord prince, Gaborn Val Orden, who vows to act morally, unlike most of the other princes. Peasants freely offer their powers to Van Orden in this magical transfer, in hopes that he will protect their homes from an invading army led by vicious Runelord Raj Ahten, whose power has been increased by the thousands of "endowments" he has taken. This Wolf Lord is also attacking the lands of Princess Iome, whom Van Orden hoped to marry. Thus, Van Orden and Ahten square off against each other. At the end of this first installment, Ahten is forced to flee by Van Orden—who has become Earthborn through a magical spell—but it seems certain the evil lord will return to wreak havoc in future installments.
Reviewing The Sum of All Men in Booklist, Sally Estes felt that Wolverton gets his series off "to a dynamic start with a compelling, action-packed story set in an intricate created world" and dubbed the tale a "sure winner." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly found the magic transference of power and beauty at the heart of the story to be an "intriguing hook," but also felt that some readers may be "disappointed" in the novel "despite its many fine qualities." Leslie, writing in Quill & Quire, praised the research and "compelling descriptive passages in the book" as well as the characterization and the "generally fast and smooth" plotting. For Leslie, Wolverton/Farland "proves himself to be an important new talent in the fantasy fiction genre." Similarly, Jackie Cassada, reviewing The Sum of All Men in Library Journal, commended Wolverton's "inventive approach to magic and his skill at depicting complex, believable characters."
The "Runelord" series continues with Brotherhood of the Wolf, in which the warring between Van Orden and Ahten is put on hold when an even worse enemy for both appears on the scene. Reavers are "gruesome crab-shaped elephants with formidable magical powers," according to a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, and their arrival forces the combatants to temporarily unite to fight this dreadful common enemy. A subplot also involves the nine-yearold girl Averan, as well as a romance between Prince Celinor and Princess Erin. A contributor to Publishers Weekly wrote that Wolverton "continues to show considerable promise, suggesting that his next novel may carry 'The Runelords' to a yet higher pantheon." Similarly, Booklist's Sally Estes praised the "strong characterization, setting, and action," and Library Journal's Jackie Cassada commended this "powerful story of heroism and sacrifice set in a world of grim choices."
Speaking with a contributor for SFFWorld.com, Wolverton noted that his penchant for world building and the creation of new fictional creatures—such as the reavers—had begun early. "As a teen I wanted to be a wildlife biologist, following in my brother's footsteps," the author noted. "At sixteen I wrote my first book: a text on mammalogy. I used to skip classes in high school and go to Oregon State University to attend classes on marine biology. So, for me, creating new creatures is a blast. Basically, you have to adapt the creature to its environment." Wolverton further noted, "Actually, for me, science isn't difficult, it's fun, and most of the time writing is play. Creating creatures and worlds is sometimes easier for me than creating characters. But for the story to really work, you have to have great characters and powerful conflicts."
The third book in the "Runelords" series, Wizardborn, appeared in 2001. Here, the reavers continue to be a threat, but Van Orden is on a new mission, one of atonement, that takes him to discover the Place of Bones and kill the master of the reavers. Ahten's powers have been countered by the reavers, and meanwhile, Averan, the wizardborn girl, has eaten the brain of a dead reaver in order to gain knowledge of how to battle them. The popularity of the series made this title a bestseller and also brought critical praise. Cassada, writing in Library Journal, dubbed it an "epic tale of war and valor," while Booklist's Estes called it a "massive and compelling saga." The saga continued with 2003's The Lair of Bones, in which the combatants meet each other for a powerful climax, with the survival of the human race at stake.
Wolverton plans to develop a series around children of Van Orden and Iome for a future series—planned at five books—and then move on to other world-creation projects. For him, such creation is at the heart of the writing process. "If you want to know what the hardest part [of writing] is," he told the interviewer for SFFWorld.com, "half the time I feel as if it's getting completely immersed. But that's not the roughest part. Being inside is beautiful, but the really tough part, the real hell of this job, is when I'm forced to withdraw and re-enter the real world. Not because it's so hard, but because it's so painful. Every time you withdraw, you feel as if you've lost something."
If you enjoy the works of Dave Wolverton, you might want to check out the following books:
Timothy Zahn, Heir to the Empire, 1991.
The "Sword of Shannara Trilogy" by Terry Brooks, 1977-85.
Alan Dean Foster, A Splinter of the Mind's Eye, 1978.
Biographical and Critical Sources
Reginald, Robert, Science Fiction & Fantasy Literature, 1975-1991, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1991.
St. James Guide to Science-Fiction Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996, p. 1032.
Booklist, March 1, 1993, Roland Green, review of Path of the Hero, pp. 1160, 1219; February 14, 1994, p. 1035; May 15, 1998, Sally Estes, review of The Sum of All Men, p. 1601; March 15, 1999, Sally Estes, review of Brotherhood of the Wolf, p. 1676; March 1, 2001, Sally Estes, review of Wizardborn, p. 1233.
Bookwatch, July, 1994, p. 12.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 1994, p. 254; June 1, 1994, p. 742; June 1, 1995, p. 746; November, 1995, p. 20; November 15, 1996, p. 1640.
Kliatt, July, 1993, Sister Avila Lamn, review of Path of the Hero, p. 21; November, 1995, p. 20.
Library Journal, December, 1989, Jackie Cassada, review of On My Way to Paradise, p. 177; April 15, 1991, p. 129; March 15, 1994, Jackie Cassada, review of The Courtship of Princess Leia, p. 104; July, 1998, Jackie Cassada, review of The Sum of All Men, p. 63; June 15, 1999, Jackie Cassada, review of The Brotherhood of the Wolf, p. 112; December, 1999, Leah Sparks, review of A Very Strange Trip, p. 206; April 15, 2001, Jackie Cassada, review of Wizardborn, p. 137.
Locus, July, 1989, p. 21; October, 1989, p. 27; January, 1990, p. 53; June, 1991, pp. 21, 50; May, 1993, p. 53; August, 1993, p. 27; October 1993, pp. 21, 58; June, 1994, p. 60; July, 1994, p. 62; September, 1994, p. 64.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, December 3, 1989, Orson Scott Card, review of On My Way to Paradise, p. 13.
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, August, 1989, p. 32; June, 1990, p. 36; August, 1991, p. 85; September, 1991, p. 50.
Publishers Weekly, November 17, 1989, Penny Kaganoff, review of On My Way to Paradise, p. 48; March 14, 1994, p. 67; June 20, 1994, review of The Golden Queen, p. 97; June 26, 1995, Sybil Steinberg, review of Beyond the Gate, p. 90; December 9, 1996, review of Lords of the Seventh Swarm, p. 65; June 29, 1998, review of The Sum of All Men, p. 41; May 10, 1999, review of Brotherhood of the Wolf, p. 63; May 31, 1999, review of A Very Strange Trip, p. 72; March 26, 2001, review of Wizardborn, p. 69.
Quill & Quire, July, 1998, Collin Leslie, review of "Runelords," pp. 33-34.
Voice of Youth Advocates, April, 1990, p. 42.
Wilson Library Bulletin, September 1991, Gene La-Faille, review of Serpent Catch, p. 112.
Official Runelords Web Site,http://www.runelords.com/ (December 26, 2003).