Jamie Marriage

Jamie Marriage is an internationally published Australian cyberpunk author with a taste for the dangerous and obscene aspects of life. His work ranges from the sarcastic to the satirical. Links to his work can be found at www.JamieMarriage.com

Hogan-Crucibleof-Souls_3D_smallversion-1Once in an age a novel comes around that stirs up such excitement that even before it reaches a publishing house the author grows a following that many writers can only dream of. A Crucible of Souls by Mitchell Hogan is one of these astounding novels.

Originally self published by Hogan in 2013, A Crucible of Souls quickly attracted followers drawn to his enthralling storytelling style and complex characters. With more than thirty thousand ebook sales under his belt Hogan was approached by the speculative fiction arm of HarperCollins, Harper Voyager, and now this great series has a new home between physical covers. And as many bibliophiles will attest, it isn’t Sword and Sorcery unless you get to feel the pages beneath your fingers as you read.

And Sword and Sorcery this series is, but it’s thankfully far removed from the classical epic styles and with plenty of twists to provide distinction from the old tropes that usually permeate the genre.

A Crucible of Souls follows the complex and event plagued life of Caldan, a young man orphaned in his youth under mysterious circumstances and raised by sorcerer monks in a monastery that is part refuge, part school for the wealthy and magically gifted. After an incident in the monastery results in Caldan’s exile from everything he knows, he is quickly thrown into the real world with little more than a collection of half-trained skills, a pair of enigmatic rings, and a burning need to find out what happened to his family.

What follows is both far and familiar to readers of the Fantasy genre. This is still a tale of magic and swordplay in a pre-industrial revolution setting, and there are the classic themes of heroism and epic struggle redolent since the golden age of Fantasy, where Hogan differs from most authors is how he crafts his characters. For when a writer creates a world, it’s the characters that define what it becomes.

Hogan’s characters are some of the most human to be found on paper in many years. Deep and flawed, ambivalent, conflicted between self-interest and doing the right thing, every character in A Crucible of Souls is sculpted from raw emotion into something real and shocking enough that even though many only last a few pages the reader nevertheless is drawn to every story they might have to tell.

And it’s not just the characters that work so hard to make this novel a success. Hogan has built a world unique in its treatment of the subject of sorcery, of the desperation of mankind, of the atrocities committed in the name of “doing good”. And while this is primarily Caldan’s tale, Hogan does not shy away from giving brief glimpses into the minds of other characters that make this novel such an enthralling experience.

Any fan of the Fantasy genre will love this novel, as will anyone who enjoys epic storytelling, complex characters, or just getting the chance to read something that stands far above the norm.

 

Jamie Marriage

Jamie Marriage is an internationally published Australian cyberpunk author with a taste for the dangerous and obscene aspects of life. His work ranges from the sarcastic to the satirical. Links to his work can be found at www.JamieMarriage.com

Henley_TheHuntForPierreJnrThe notion of summarizing an entire trilogy in one brief review seems implausibly difficult, if not irrational in the extreme; the intense development of characters, the interplay of groups or philosophies, the twists and turns that halt the breath and make the reader re-read the same pages again and again for a deeper understanding boggle rationality. But this is required for The Pierre Jnr Trilogy by David M Henley. This is not a single book that stands all alone, but a creature, nay an organism, that is the sum of every part.

Broadly the trilogy is the story of persecution, revolution and evolution. It takes place on earth some years distant from our own. Past war and reconstruction, technological marvel and true horror, have left a world connected by technology to the point that mankind’s every interaction is monitored as both a measure of control and stability. There are now roughly only two groups that make up the globe’s twenty billion population: The World Union, the bulk of the population connected by The Will that takes consensus votes from every member as to any decision that is made within the Union; and the Psis, a telepathic and telekinetic sub-race born from the confusion of the last dark age, persecuted and vilified as the new monsters in the shadows.

This is also a story about Pete Lazarus, a telepath who can’t remember his past but wants to stop the one force bent on destroying everything: a young boy called Pierre Jnr.

The Hunt for Pierre Jnr

The first volume of the trilogy quickly builds setting and character for the arc that is to come. Pete Lazarus has decided, after years of hiding, to hand himself into the force bent on capturing every Psi on the planet and sending them to concentration camps amongst the artificial islands that dot the oceans. But his surrender is dependant on one condition; he wants to be part of the team that hunts Pierre Jnr, a mythical telepath so powerful that he controls everyone he encounters, but whom no-one can ever remember afterwards.

Pete is quickly introduced to other members of his hunting team; Colonel Pinter – also known as The Scorpion – retired services hero and seen as an expendable asset; an information operative of incredible skill, Geof Ozenbach; and Tamsin Grey, a telepath trained to hunt her own kind.

Henley uses this novel to set the scene for the rest of the trilogy. Here we learn how this new world functions, how The Will is everything and can change the very nature of society overnight, and how one wrong step for an entire group of peoples can land them in prison and permanently medicated in minutes.

When the mysterious Pierre Jnr manifests his powers in one of the world’s greatest megacities there is little doubt that this isn’t just a race to catch one little boy, but to save the very nature of mankind.

henley_manifestations+coverManifestations

After the sudden release of an impossible force that consumes an entire city, the world union is thrown into disarray. Using this opportunity presented to them from a source unknown, the Psi’s of the world now unite under a common banner to claim the freedom they crave, even if it is at the expense of any non-Psi they encounter.

In this second volume, the World Union and its dogmatic leader Ryu Shima are now faced with two opponents. On one side is the revolution of a class of people he had spend his life suppressing, and who were now intent on establishing their own sovereign nation. On the other side, is the Beast of Busan, an all consuming black mass of unknown origin that swallows up man and machine alike.

This second novel is far more about development. Intense new characters are introduced and the bulk of the trilogy’s integral backstory is explained. This focus does little to detract from the action, however; as the revolution ascends so does the ferocity of its members and the retaliation of the World Union’s armed Services.

All of this buildup has to lead to something big…

 

henley-convergencecoverConvergence

This third volume is the culmination of everything up to this point. The Psi revolution that claims more members by the minute — be it voluntarily or through manipulation — the black mass that has enveloped more cities, the paranoia of the world’s leaders, and the intent of Pete Lazarus to achieve a resolution that doesn’t result in the death of everyone.

To dig deeper into this elaborate design would be to spoil what is an incredible journey of ethical and philosophical discovery.

David M Henley has created a trilogy that is both deeply complex and highly enjoyable. Every chapter, divided up with either lines of worship or warnings about Pierre Jnr, is a twist of the ethical knife. Be it influenced by The Will of the people, manipulation by the Psi’s or by Pierre Jnr himself, or pure self interest, each decision that must be made is a hard one. It serves to make the reader ponder their own reaction to the situation and to ask themselves what the right choice really is.

The Pierre Jnr Trilogy is truly a masterful work by an author who has a grasp on his world that begs for future interactions. With his distinct characters and swift narrative flow in a land both alien and familiar, Henley has penned something truly unique, yet at the same time very reminiscent of the great golden age science fiction writer/philosophers such as John Brunner, David Niven or Algis Budrys. A long read all-in-all, but one well worth it.

 

Jamie Marriage

Jamie Marriage is an internationally published Australian cyberpunk author with a taste for the dangerous and obscene aspects of life. His work ranges from the sarcastic to the satirical. Links to his work can be found at www.JamieMarriage.com

alexander-abducticonWelcome to Abducticon! This weekend will be of this world.

Getting to read something light and crazy is a great pleasure in a world where so much so science fiction is dark and complicated. AbductiCon by Alma Alexander is a wonderful example of what you can do with familiar settings, pop culture, and a less serious tone.

Taking place in a generic science fiction/pop culture convention, the novel begins in the midst of the chaotic moments before the opening of a mid-sized convention catering to science fiction and fantasy fans, gamers, and the general geek community. Anything that could go wrong is going wrong: the posters are getting re-printed for the third time, the guest of honour missed his flight and out of contact, the coffee in the hotel is terrible, and there are some strange silver people getting in the way and confusing the staff.

Andie Mae — running the con for the first time after instigating a coup to assume power from the man who had been running it for the last three decades — is caught up in matters common to those in convention management when, suddenly, she has to face a crisis not only unimagined by previous management, but also by anyone else outside of fiction. Her convention, hotel and all, are abducted by alien androids with baffling motives. Within a very short period the convention is newly christened “Abducticon” and becomes something far greater than just an evening for fans to meet Terminator and Star Trek actors.

Making fun of itself and the very culture which spawned it is one of the main elements of Abducticon. Alma is quick to jump on any chance to throw in a quote or simile from popular media, be it a Star Wars joke when an elevator gets stuck, introduction of new technology only seen in Star Trek, or even just cursing in Battlestar Galactica fashion. It’s these little forays into the cultural heart of what is, especially in America, a very popular community, which helps to flesh out character and explain concepts that could easily be the basis of long philosophical discussions.

Alma has done a great job putting this novel together. Characters are well drawn and with plenty of depth; the setting is perfect and believable – even if the situation isn’t – and the interactions and discussions thought provoking and real. There are plenty of interesting concepts afloat such as the limitations of the laws of robotics and the nature of destiny. More than enough to impress, not only the die-hard Sci-Fi buff, but also, the casual reader.

Abducticon is a fantastically fun ride: not quite a spoof, not quite serious, but on every level enjoyable from cover to cover.

 

Awards

davitt-award  aurealis-award   logo-curtin-university

Peacemaker - Aurealis Award
Best Science Fiction Novel 2014

Curtin University Distinguished Alumni Award 2014

Transformation Space - Aurealis Award
 Best Science Fiction Novel 2010

Sharp Shooter - Davitt Award
Best Crime Novel 2009 (Sisters in Crime Australia) 

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