A Review of The Way Of The Shadow Wolves: The Deep State And The Hijacking Of America by Steven Segal

Alleged rapist and human trafficker, cop groupie, washed-up action movie star, and personal friend to Vladimir Putin, the paradox of Steven Segal is how he manages to stick around despite being –by damn near every account– a universally unpleasant vacuum of charisma. I could go on, but I feel that no introduction of Steven would be complete without the tale of the headlock. Legends tell of Steven’s conflict with legendary martial artist and hollywood stunt coordinator “Judo” Gene Lebell. Allegedly, the two fell into an argument on the set of the film Out For Justice. The crux being Steven’s claim that he was “immune” to being choked unconscious. Allegedly, LeBell called his bluff, and put the actor in a headlock. A headlock that resulted in Steven losing consciousness, and control of his bowels. Steven denies the story. He also wrote a book.

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The book is garbage, but garbage in a way that can be easily overstated. I wanted to take a page from other reviewers of this book, and call the text what it is; a fever dream of exhausting mediocrity, swaddled in delusions of grandeur. I wanted to whale on it. I wanted to denounce it like some ridiculous fire-and-brimstone preacher of internet literary criticism. But this does not capture the core, the essence of Way of the Shadow Wolves. There is a paradox at the heart of this text, a contradiction that even now I struggle to describe. Because despite everything, despite the balls-to-the-walls premise, the disastrous prose, and the buckwild plot, this book is deeply and powerfully boring. To call it a fever dream is to imply that it might be exciting.

Some books are bad in a way that must be experienced firsthand. This is not one of those books. In a way, I feel that you’ve already read this book. You know Steven Segal. You met him in elementary school, when he told you he has “every black belt.” You met him in college when you tricked him into smoking a bag of oregano. You met him at your most recent family gathering, where you were trapped in an awkward one-sided conversation about “those people.” The bad-ness of Steven’s work is deeply familiar.

We have our boots. We have our waders. We have our shovels. But, before we wade into the shit, there is one more thing we need to get out of the way: The Shadow Wolves are real. In 1972 the United States government agreed to the Tohono O’odham Nation’s demand that border enforcement agents patrolling their land have at least one quarter native ancestry. The result being the specialized unit of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers known as The Shadow Wolves. In the 2020 Sonic the Hedgehog film, Dr. Eggman states that they are who trained him in the art of tracking.


Let us cook Way of the Shadow Wolves from scratch. Think of every dogshit C-list action movie you’ve ever seen. Ideally, you want the trash cuts of post-9/11 hysteria marbled with ex-cia heroes and vaguely arab villains. Drop it all into a stockpot. Next, roughly dice some comic books and kung-fu movies, the more racist the better. Now add some datura, it doesn’t matter if it’s edible or not, because you saw a native American in a movie make something like that once and you’re totally 1/64th Cherokee. Add a whole can of Qanon and a whole can of racism. Boil until you have pacing thicker than mud.

Way of the Shadow Wolves is a police procedural meets a spy thriller, a fast-paced action drama about elite agents on the fringes of the law who have the huge sweaty meaty balls to do what needs to be done for our country. It is Steven’s attempt at the action schlock he embodies as an actor. Our hero is John Gode: Shadow Wolf. Reservation-born native American tracker, ICE agent, and Kung-Fu master. I believe he might have been described at one point. If he was, I do not care. Steven does not care. It does not matter. John Gode is Steven, and he’s the most badass dude to ever not be gay. He is: Special Agent Shaman Cop. He’s gonna beat up the deep state. That’s all you need to really need to know. In fact, it is shocking just how little you need to know about this book.

We begin in a movie theater, where our protagonist is alone, watching the end credits of a movie about the atrocious treatment of native Americans on behalf of the united states government. When the film finally ends, John says to himself “It’s about time.” He gets up to leave. The chapter immediately ends. My compliments to the chef. A delightfully bland apéritif of a character introduction. Steven uses the essential point of first contact with our protagonist to tell us vital information like “He doesn’t like it when movies are long.” or maybe “He didn’t like this movie about the trail of tears.” It is unclear. To quote English-Albanian philosopher Dua Lipa, “Go girl, give us nothing.”

I have been dancing around the quality of the writing. It seems impossible to approach without the footing of a new paragraph, an opponent that requires full-focus, an all-out assault. It is nigh-incomprehensible. I hate comparing bad writing to drugs. It feels too easy. But there is a specific air to Way of the Shadow Wolves. There is a distinct cadence, simultaneously manic and lethargic, that comes from attempting to write while day drunk on over-prescribed amphetamines. And make no mistake, if Steven was not entranced by the muse of Too Many Uppers And Downers At The Same Time, if he wrote this thing stone sober, that is worse. Small quotes will not do the writing style justice, you must see for yourself how sentences flow into each other:

“The desperado’s mind went back in time to a small town in Mexico twelve years before, where he first met his two cohorts when they were thrown together by a tragic set of circumstances. Their parents had been gunned down by a cartel who was at war with a competing cartel for control of the area, which was a pathway to the American border near Nogales, Arizona. All three had been shepherded to a local mission where they were being cared for by the Franciscans, who were becoming overwhelmed by the growing number of children left homeless due to the rampant killings by the warring cartels …”

Labyrinthine. A paragraph structure that would feel more at home with Calvino, or Garcia Marquez at his most experimental, though stripped of its deft control and musicality.
Segal will regularly change temporal perspective in the middle of sentences. A single run-on sentence will begin in the past, have a middle clause in the present, and then return to the past by the end. There is a downright massive cast of characters for a 200 page book. Damn near every chapter introduces three or four more names, and we are lucky if Steven describes them before discarding them entirely. This book is a slog. I find myself losing patience with Steven.

Some time has passed since I began writing this review. Originally, my approach was surgical disassembly. I was going to go over the plot, summarize its anatomy, pick apart its flaws with surgical precision. But the more I cut, the more I felt as if I was the butt of a joke. I was performing an autopsy on a clown, pulling sheets of colorful rope from its gut, and the cadaver was laughing at me.

There is a moment, about halfway through. A woman approaches John at a bar. An assassin, who later attacks John in the parking lot with karate. A furious series of crescent kicks, effortlessly blocked by John Gode, who punches her in the ribs and knocks her to the ground. Realizing that her martial arts are defeated, she draws her gun, but John Gode is too fast. He fires his own weapon before she can get the shot off, killing her instantly. “Her round went upward toward the sky as she fell backward with eyes wide open, seeing nothing.”

This scene stuck with me. It illustrates one of the critical flaws at the heart of Way of the Shadow Wolves. Nothing hurts John. Nothing even gets close. He does not struggle. He does not sweat. He does not bleed. Steven clearly intends this scene to be badass, a moment where his self-insert hero defeats a dangerous enemy without trying. This book is an action movie, but John’s untouchability makes every action scene read as a moment of profound and boring cruelty. This was not a contest of master martial artists. This was an adult kicking a child in the throat.

I find myself losing patience with Steven. I am running out of humorous ways to describe this vapid tripe. This is, in my mind, the greatest condemnation of bad writing. There is no hell lower than being boring to mock. I see myself as a sort of sommelier of the awkward and disastrous. I will be the first to tell you “Wait! Don’t throw that out! There are things to be learned!” But Steven repeatedly proves himself to be a sort of Alchemist of Shit, capable of transmuting theoretically interesting bullshit into just fucking nothing. If this book deserves credit for anything, it is its miraculous ability to squander its own premise.

Why write this? Any of this? Steven clearly does not read. Or, if he does, he seems to subsist entirely on a diet of comic books about monkeys that do kung-fu. Why write this? At some level it all comes down to “because Steven wanted to” right?


But I cannot shake the feeling. To call this book masturbatory is to imply that Steven might have enjoyed it. There is a desperation to the power fantasy here. To be feared by men, desired by women, revered by all, yaddah yaddah yaddah, all the same trite excretions of blunt masculinity. But there is something else. Steven wants the same thing that every conspiracy theorist wants; a simple world. A world he can understand. Steven is exhausted, overwhelmed with a world he feels he can neither effect nor understand. I am exhausted.

I fear my earlier allusions to expressionist novels may have been more spot on than I imagined. Way of the Shadow Wolves has a plot in the sense that Sunny-D contains fruit juice. Its presence is a formality, a ceremonial hat worn for tax purposes. The plot is there, but it is unimportant. This is not a text that can be debated with. Because within the world of the text, politics is not complex. It is not actually a web of interconnected groups, each with their own interests, rivalries, alliances, and historical contexts. Behind all of it is two things: Good guys, and bad guys. The good guys are all working together, and the bad guys are all working together.

I find myself losing patience with Steven. I fear my earlier allusions to expressionist novels may have been more spot on than I imagined. Way of the Shadow Wolves has a plot.

John Gode finds a human tooth in the desert. It belongs to a body, a body of a woman described in lurid detail. Nearby, he meets a young native American man, a man who calls himself Sweet Tooth. The body is missing teeth, missing hands, missing feet. A trademark cartel killing. A young native American man. “I’m gonna be like, your assistant right?” A buddy cop dynamic. Meeting the task force. Tailing an ICE van full of cartel soldiers. A hostage situation. A shootout in the desert. Far away, faceless men in suits with masonic ranks plan a mass killing. Some sounded like they had Arabic accents. Freemasonry. Interrogation with a snake. The corpse was a woman. The woman was a reporter. She had the evidence on a flash drive, evidence that proved the existence of the deep state. What if its all connected? A sex scene, or almost a sex scene. A sex scene interrupted. A shootout in the desert. Kung Fu assassins at a bar. A cartel defector. A shootout in the desert. What if its all connected. They’re working with the Jihadists. The USA is already “half latino.” The government is paying the cartels to ship Jihadists north across the border. They’re well-trained and well armed. You can’t trust anyone. A terrorist defector who hears the voice of the prophet. The ghost of John’s grandfather. The sun sets over the Sonora. A shootout in the desert. They kidnapped John’s mother. Bring them the flash drive. They’re planning to bomb the casino. A shootout in the desert. The police chief was a traitor. The Catholics are in on it. Its all connected. A shootout in the desert. Assault by night. Rescuing the hostage. A knife dipped in pigs blood. A pit of vipers in the sonora.

Steven ends a chapter with the line. “They had functioned like a well-oiled machine that had just saved two innocent lives. All lives matter. Do they not?”

I am tired. I find myself at a neighborhood block party, trapped in a conversation I’ve had a thousand times. This time the man on the other end is a sweaty divorcee in range glasses who looks like a sunburned thumb. Last week, it was a woman with a necklace of crystals and blonde hair bleached blonder. “Haha yeah” I say, looking down at my phone. “Burgers look good this year huh?”

Thank you to my Patreon supporters who made this review possible.


#reactionblogging #racism cw #politics cw #rape tw? #murder cw? #unsanitary cw? #anything that makes me laugh this much deserves a reblog #(my favourite line is ”Way of the Shadow Wolves has a plot in the sense that Sunny-D contains fruit juice.”)

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