Paul reviews Beyond Redemption, book one in Michael R. Fletcher’s grimdark fantasy series Manifest Delusions.
|Series: Manifest Delusions #1||Genre: Fantasy, Grimdark|
|Date of Publishing: June 16, 2015||Trigger Warnings: All of them|
|Page count: 495||Publisher: Harper Voyager|
Faith shapes the landscape, defines the laws of physics, and makes a mockery of truth. Common knowledge isn’t an axiom, it’s a force of nature. What the masses believe is. But insanity is a weapon, conviction a shield. Delusions give birth to foul new gods.
Violent and dark, the world is filled with the Geisteskranken—men and women whose delusions manifest, twisting reality. High Priest Konig seeks to create order from chaos. He defines the beliefs of his followers, leading their faith to one end: a young boy, Morgen, must Ascend to become a god. A god they can control.
But there are many who would see this would-be-god in their thrall, including the High Priest’s own Doppels, and a Slaver no one can resist. Three reprobates—The Greatest Swordsman in the World, a murderous Kleptic, and possibly the only sane man left—have their own nefarious plans for the young god.
As these forces converge on the boy, there’s one more obstacle: time is running out. When one’s delusions become more powerful, they become harder to control. The fate of the Geisteskranken is to inevitably find oneself in the Afterdeath.
The question, then, is: Who will rule there?
I’m not quite sure where, or indeed how, to start a review of BEYOND REDEMPTION. Certainly, I feel the need to point out the fact that this book is so GrimDark that even aficionados of the genre need to be aware of just how GrimDark it actually is.
No doubt you’ve already read Abercrombie, Lawrence, Smith Spark, and other luminaries of the craft. While their books are sure as shit dark, they are but scummy rock pools compared to Michael R. Fletcher’s ocean of filth.
The plot, boiled down to its bones, is pretty simple — a god is going to be born; who will control him? — but the way it plays out, and the world it plays out in, is the most mindfuckingly intricate thing I’ve experienced in a long time.
BEYOND REDEMPTION’s world is a ghastly, vile thing. It is governed by absolute chaos and enforced by whoever has the strongest delusions.
While there are a few sane people knocking about, most of the cast are Geisteskranken — The Delusional. There are just so many varieties of Geisteskranken, each based on real-world mental illnesses and conditions, each with their own powers.
Cotardists (think they’re dead), Gefahrgeists (sociopaths), Hassebrands (pyromaniacs) are just three of the twenty Geisteskranken listed in the book’s glossary, which also includes comorbidics who suffer/are blessed with more than one condition.
For all the chaos of the world, the ‘magic’ itself is fairly rule-based in the sense that they all work in very specific ways. The kicker, though, is that everything is ultimately based on the strength of belief, if you believe something strongly enough, it will be, if enough people believe the same thing… well, the world’s your rotten oyster.
To be fair, the world is a rotten oyster regardless of belief, it’s horrible, but gloriously so. The people are even worse, and the things that happen in this book, Jesus, if there was a list of trigger warnings, it’d probably fill a novella.
The three main characters Bedeckt, Stehlen, and Wichtig, are a remarkably engaging trio. The dynamics between them at first glance appear as friendly and as positive as the response you’d get if you tried to hug a feral cat. But as the story progresses, you start to see a little bit of who they are behind the pain, behind their own personal delusions, and you start to like them.
Don’t get me wrong, they’re bastards — but they’re YOUR bastards.
Then there are the other bastards, the ones who are most definitely not your bastards, to a character, they are all grotesquely fascinating and so amazingly unique.
It’s odd that despite the violence, darkness, and widespread nihilism, BEYOND REDEMPTION is such a fun, humorous book.
In terms of dialogue and writing, BEYOND REDEMPTION is suffused with such tarry thick and pitch-black humour, it pours from the page like blood from a head wound. The prose is descriptive, frequently graphic, but never anything short of exhilarating.
This was a book that I really didn’t want to put down and one that I demolished over a couple of days.
It’s not for everyone, but if you like some dark fantasy, dive headfirst into this cesspit.