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Traveller

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The Legend of T93 - Michael R. Herrman This book does
not
have
zombies
or
vampires

in it.

Sorry!

These days, to keep your finger on the pulse of pop culture, you have to be into all or either of zombies, vampires, or post-apocalyptic dystopias (by far the classier choice, friends) and although this book does not have zombies or vampires, it portrays a savage post-apocalyptic world, all right.

Post-apocalyptic dystopia

..but not only does it do that, it offers shreds of hope. In spite of the horror and extreme violence experienced throughout the novel, there are a few rays of sunlight through the clouds, which is refreshing, for a change.

The author shows us three very different societies, a fascist technocracy, a fanatical theocracy, and a democracy that is an experimental colony featuring a lot of interesting, resource-saving technologies.

In view of all the current debates raging about how BAD The West is being with their huge carbon prints and living lives of waste and luxury, Hermann suggests a few interesting (though not always entirely appetizing!) alternatives.

I haven't quite read a book like this before, sort of a mixture between action and speculative fiction, with a tad of horror thrown in, and I find myself struggling to place it into a specific genre.
After agonizing over this aspect for a while, I've decided that is a good thing, since that hopefully indicates that this isn't a copycat of something else.

Part of why I became interested in reading it, is because somewhere here on GR, I saw the author making a comment on how hard it is to write in first person present tense. ..so I thought:" Heh, right! ...another one of those". Lessee... all the authors I've read so far making use of this viewpoint, ends up making a Royal mess of it, because, indeed, it is a very difficult viewpoint to use, and can paint the author into all sorts of uncomfortable and clumsy corners.

So after my experience with Suzanne Collins and her clumsy prose, I thought I'd give this guy a go and see if he could handle the viewpoint better. He does, much, - though to be fair, he cleverly overcame many of the limitations of such a narration, by interspersing it with sections of 3rd person past tense. Smart, Mr Hermann, smart! ..and he even made his plot device that allows for these alternating viewpoints plausible. Simple, really, but plausible.

I often have a peep at indie fic or new, budding author fic, either because I'm curious, or because they ask me to. I often don't go much past the first page before tossing it aside, because often it's so obviously badly written that it becomes apparent in the first few sentences.

With this particular novel, the main reasons why I actually kept on reading past the first page, were :

1) It didn't start off with: "I scowl with frustration at myself in the mirror. Damn my hair – it just won’t behave, [...]
I must not sleep with it wet. I must not sleep with it wet."

(Also, no eye-rolling in T93, especially no eye-rolling at self.)

2) Neither does it have paragraphs like:" I push open the door and stumble through, tripping over my own feet, and falling head first into the office. Double crap – me and my two left feet! I am on my hands and knees in the doorway..."

There's absolutely no tripping over own feet in this novel, I promise!

3) This author's style seemed obviously skilful and intelligent right from the start.

When you start reading this, you don't even notice it's first-person-present tense. The narration is terse, economical and effective.

So, checklist: No eye-rolling or tripping over own feet, no zombies, no vampires. Does that sound boring? ...but it isn't!

This book threw such a lot of new ideas at me at first, that I found it a bit hard to absorb, but I soon got into the flow of it, and after weathering it through a scene or two of extreme violence, I was emotionally invested in both the protagonist and the antagonist.

In the antagonist, you ask? No, I didn't mean that in a good way... ..unless you see it in the "this is the kind of guy you love to hate" way. It's been a while since an author actually managed to make me hate an antagonist, usually because I see right past the author's grubby hands setting the stage for me to hate a caricature. Even though I felt I could squish this bad guy like a bug, somehow he still felt like a real person - just a really, really hateful person.

It speaks for this author's skill that almost no one seemed like a caricature, and when I met the one character which did seem like one to me, I thought to myself; "Ugh, that is so typical!...soo typical of this kind of person.." so no worries on that, it was a well-crafted caricature.

Bottom line? I don't know... I've been trying hard to wrestle this novel down to a size and shape in which I can tag it and pack it into a nicely labelled box, -but I can't. There's quite a bit of fighting and surviving and military maneuvers and violence;- so good, if you like that kind of thing, and there's even some bittersweet romance, done in a really nice way, and there's some interesting world-building, and some interesting technology.

The one thing idea-wise (and believe me, in my usual, inimitable way, I've been trying my best to try and tear holes into the novel's plot) that I struggled a little bit to get my mind around, (in a good way, though) was the idea of a sub-biological computer, but I guess that's only because the rest of the novel felt so realistic and plausible to me, unlike the kind of SF that has aliens and fantastical stuff in it. Upon reflection, I have to admit that the ideas that Hermann throws around regarding the MAMBA computer, has been touched on in SF before, and not only that, in many ways this type of thing is already almost happening in real life. Such a computer and what is done with it in the novel, is certainly not impossible, I guess.

I mean, if you were to time travel a person from 150 years ago into our present times, he or she would certainly have dropped their jaw at the internet and viewed mobile phones as something akin to magic. So who is to say what might be possible in the future?

Otherwise criticism-wise, there was a place close to the beginning, where I thought he went a bit overboard with the violence in a really visceral way, but I suppose according to today's standards of writing, this is par for the course, and besides, I suppose it does make for deeper engagement; plus, it was part of a rather necessary plot device.

So, if you're tired of zombies and vampires but would like to see an intelligent, well written novel pushing some new ideas wrapped around a good old-fashioned battle between a resourceful man on the street and a really hateful bad guy, set in a post-apocalyptic future with not just one, but three interesting societies, then you might also enjoy this.

I'm still not sure what rating to give this - a four-and-a half, perhaps; - only, GR doesn't give half stars. In view of all the indie authors out there whose technique, prose and plot isn't half as good as this, getting 5 stars just because there's... well, I'm not sure why a lot of those novels get 5 starred by so many people, but I honestly feel like 5 starring this one to even out the scales. I certainly would like to read more from this author, so I'd like to show my support with a 5 star. Hmmm.

What the heck. This novel spoke to me on many levels, so let's do it. They're my stars, after all.

Oh. I got my copy on Smashwords for $2.99, btw. I thought it was quite a good price, not sure if it is still going for that now. :)