Beyond Redemption by Michael R Fletcher

Beyond Redemption by Michael R Fletcher is a book that will feature in the "Best of Lists" for a lot of fantasy lovers in 2015. It is a startlingly original story - cloaked in bloody violence and grim darkness yes but where it absolutely scores is the evocative world-building and the fantastic characterization that is second to none. Full of hard men and women in a world gone mad where your beliefs define reality and then again, nothing is ever real.

Beyond Redemption is Canadian author Michael R Fletcher's second book and purportedly his experiments of exploring the themes of schizophrenia in a fantasy setting. Well, for me the experiment succeeds wildly! What Michael has created in "Beyond Redemption" may not be the first choice of "best reads in 2015" for a lot many traditionalists but he's bucked all major fantasy genre trends here creating a multi-layered complex narrative riddled with raving mad scheming schizos each baying for the others' blood in a world - that never seems real. 'Afterdeath' is a reality. Mirrors can be dangerous, for your reflections may kill you. Your very own emotion may kill you. Slavers can enslave you with just mere words. What you believe is reality. And you never know if the Gods you created are your worst enemies or best friends. 

The book features many POVs - and the whole world has a teutonic feel to it, largely owing to the free usage of german terms [ Gefahrgeists or sociopaths, Geisteskranken or the insane ] and the germanic-sounding character names. Konig Furimmer is a theocrat - in a world controlled by the beliefs of such ( a religious head, a Geisteskranken whose beliefs have created an entire city by itself] and he plans to "construct" a God - thereby controlling the beliefs and lives of all those who follow this new religion called Geboren Damonen. Konig has carefully groomed a child by the name of Morgen who will one day "ascend" to be their God. And in this venture, he is assisted by his chief scientist Auschlag whose experiments with the sane and insane have created many Geisteskranken as well.

In to this mad milieu, come in a set of three mercenaries: Bedekt, a scarred old warrior near the end of his times looking for that one last job that will comfortably see him through retirement. Stehlen, a shadow-assassin kleptomaniac - known as Kleptic - a tough female whose bitterness and foul temper is only matched by her willingness and penchant for violence and stealing. And last, Wichtig - whose only aim in life ( and afterdeath) is to be World's Greatest Swordsman - a gift for gab and swordsmanship that sees him through tussles and bar-room brawls. Their last job is 'Morgen' - the God-Child and kidnapping him just seems like their ticket to escape their mercenary life.

Well laid plans never go well. And the trio were never clear about the execution of such anyways. Konig sends his pet 'Hassebrand" [ pyromaniacs who can set things & people on fire with just the thought ] Gehirin Schlectes after the trio - but the world outside can be a treacherous place. Slavers who get people to worship them with just mere words  or looks. The walking dead who double up as assassins. Shape-shifters whose loyalty and love is undaunted. The dangers and distractions in this world as wrought by the beliefs of the insane are many. It definitely makes for entertaining read.

It's a spiraling meltdown of schizophrenia, a rabid kinetic blast of madness given free rein. Body counts pile up higher than most books. There are no good guys here. Hell, you cannot even trust your bloody reflection. it is this mounting sense of tension and mistrust that forms a common thread throughout all characters - all deranged, psychosomatic certified lunatics - some with a craze for power, some for blood-letting and violence, some for science, some for fire and some for self-adulation. This need underlies the world building. where cities are formed up based on beliefs and religions go to war over self-constructed Gods.

There are no favorite characters for me in this book - I really couldn't back anyone. But the most fascinating for me personally was perhaps Morgen - the God-Child whose potential is limitless and the last few chapters that see him realize his potential were bloody awesome. Wichtig with his wise-cracks and self-manipulative wiliness comes a close second - his desire to become the Greatest Swordsman was an interesting affectation that was laid bare well by Michael. Other characters that I greatly admired were the 'Doppels' - Konig's never-trusting backstabbing squabbling emotions like Trepidation, Acceptance and more. Mind-blowingly well-done!

Michael's writing is lucid and easy and it helps keep things moving inspite of it being such a heavy subject. I did feel the book is a bit messy in terms of the POV shifts and the fact that you're inside the deranged minds of some highly dangerous lunatics causes these shifts to be even more confusing. And at times, the narratives tends be a bit loose - tending to be ala Steven-Erikson-style philosophically meandering. I don't know if Michael considers Steven Erikson's magnum opus the Malazan books to be an influence but reading Beyond Redemption did at times feel a wee bit like that. The world building is colossal and comparable and the characters are pure gold mad-genius.

But rest assured, it's a blast of a read that you cannot put down once you get started. The world tilts. slides. and then explosively surges forward on a downward slope from where there is no looking back. There are no training harnesses here. Michael hits you a massive wallop with this nutjob of a fantasy novel - where nothing is sacrosanct. Full points for the thought-provoking originality where supposedly he set out to explore Schizophrenia in the context of Fantasy. He hits it out of the bloody park with this book. If you like to be surprised, then go for it.

Yes. It's dark - darker than the voids of abandoned craters on the remotest planets of our solar system. And hell, it's bloody and grim. It's a book for the brave. Those who dare to venture beyond ordinary and need their books to be "different" - Beyond Redemption is a rip roaring tale of darkness and violence in a brilliantly imagined psycho-fantasy world where nothing is real. And nothing is safe. Not even your emotions.


Bob R Milne said…
"darker than the voids of abandoned craters on the remotest planets of our solar system"

Ha! Well said. Move over grim dark, this is mad dark . . . and it's awesome!
Sachin Dev said…
Thanks Bob :) Indeed, Mike could well be the pioneer of a new sub-genre, Mad Dark Fantasy. LOL! Read your review of Beyond Redemption, well written indeed!!

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