by Dylan S Hearn
These books are part of the Transcendence Trilogy set slightly in the future, not totally dystopian but not far off. The third book, Genesis Redux is due later this year.
The first thing to say is that both books stand alone. Naturally I read them in reverse order, as you do, but it made not one jot of difference. You don’t need to know what happened in Second to enjoy Absent, nor are you left with a cliffhanger ending if you read Second first.
How to describe them? Futuristic thrillers with an underlay of politics, intrigue, corruption (the three go together, don’t they?), globalisation and a finely understated sense of irony and satire.
Second Chance has a number of strands: a new independent delegate is elected to the governing body in England and gets out of her idealistic depths, a technician at the Re-Life laboratory works to improve the cloning/regeneration process, and an information analyst finds himself alone and betrayed. The seemingly separate strands are brought together with the investigation of the disappearance of a college student.
For me, what made this a great read, was the sheer strength of the characterisation. In the delegate, Stephanie, and the information analyst, Randall, Dylan has created two excellent and credible characters. Plus, some of the secondary characters are equally good, Gant and Sian in particular.
Here’s an extract with Stephanie and the unscrupulous Gant, who is the Prime Delegate’s enforcer.
“So is this business or pleasure?”
“A bit of both, actually.”
Gant was standing close enough for Stephanie to smell the sweetness of his breath. Reaching up, she gently brushed some dust that had fallen on his lapel. “Why don’t we talk business first, then …” She had been looking forward to this moment. A little flirt, a look, a knowing smile …
“I understand that you’re planning to vote against the budget proposals next month, and that you’re actively persuading others to take your side. The Prime Delegate would very much prefer for this not to happen.”
Stephanie froze. This was the last thing she wanted to talk about. She tried to think back to Sian’s briefings. “I’m not sure what you mean.”
Gant pressed closer, his smile gone. “Please, Stephanie. Don’t treat me like I’m an idiot.”
“Come on, Zachary.” She gave him her best impish smile. “You don’t mind if I call you Zachary? I’ve no argument with the government. I’d be more than happy to support the Prime Delegate’s cause if it was in the best interests of my district. As far as I am aware, the details of the budget proposal haven’t been made public, so I can’t form an opinion until they have.”
Gant’s face hardened. “This isn’t a game. You’ve somehow found out that the proposal includes a number of capital projects, so you’ve decided to try and overturn the bill. Isn’t that right?”
The warmth from earlier had evaporated. Stephanie took a step backwards, looking for space in which to think, but Gant followed. Was he was bluffing or did he really know this? And if he did know what they were planning, where the hell had he got his information from?
“Look, if what you say is true I may have a few issues, but I’m sure we can work them out. Why don’t we go back to my office and talk this through?” She looked up at him, smiling. “Then, once we’ve reached a compromise, we can move onto the other reason you wanted to speak to me.”
Stephanie found herself pushed hard against the wall. She tried to move away but Gant’s grip was solid.
And it just gets worse after that … bad move Stephanie.
by Dylan S Hearn
So, what about Absent Souls?
Well, this one is totally different. Some of the same characters, well, sort of, and a development of others. O’Driscoll, who is basically outside the law, was mentioned briefly in Second, but plays a strong role in Absent. Another great character, bad, but not so bad. Always good to love the baddies and hate the goodies. But, how do we know who is who?
In this book, our heroine is Juliet, yet, as the plot develops she is left not only knowing who to trust, can she even trust herself? And the Re-Life laboratory marches on. Plus, we move out of the UK to America, or something that resembles America, for a little revolutionary action and serious global interference.
But as my fave character was O’Driscoll, King of the Shambles, here’s an extract including him and his somewhat impetuous cousin:
The cellar smelled of mildew and rot. O’Driscoll ducked under an old oak lintel. He wasn’t a tall man but even he had to watch his head in this place. He made his way towards the back of the room where a man sat tied to a chair. The side of the man’s face was swollen, his left hand clamped to a table bolted to the floor. Charlie stood at one side watching, out of the spotlight, invisible to their captive. His cousin, Darragh, stood by the man, wiping a bloodied knife on the apron he was wearing. A fingertip lay on the floor, blood gleaming in the brightness.
As O’Driscoll walked over to Charlie, Darragh leaned towards the captive. “Why are you holding out on us, Sjaak? Who are you protecting?”
The man said nothing, the only sound his breath through gritted teeth. Rivulets of sweat dripped down his waxen face.
Darragh took hold of the wounded finger and squeezed. The man’s screams echoed around the crumbling brickwork. “How long have we known each other, Sjaak?” he asked. “Five years? Ten? Is this a Dutch thing? I heard some of the Rotterdam boys tried to muscle in on the Turks a few months back. Are they trying to do the same here? Is that it?”
The man looked down at the floor, refusing to meet his gaze.
Tough times, and O’Driscoll later finds the tables are turned on him as he is forced to run.
Again, great characterisation, tense and exciting plot, totally unpredictable, leading to a very good ending.
Both books are well thought through and well crafted with some cracking characters. I never could work out what had happened to the missing student, and I found the investigator Nico somewhat bland, but having said that he was almost normal. That’s the nearest I can get to fault finding.
Good books and recommended if you like these sort of reads. Or even if you don’t.
(This review has appeared elsewhere.)
Dylan S Hearn previously has been featured on Reading Recommendations here and here. roughseasinthemed is a professional editor, writer and journalist who writes and publishes the blog, roughseasinthemed.