Beyond the Wall
Books One and Two
By Lucas Bale
My friend and colleague Lucas Bale has just released books one and two of his critically acclaimed Beyond the Wall series as a collected volume. Here’s my summary review of this remarkable work of science fiction. To read my original full reviews of these books, click here for The Heretic and here for Defiance.
As a child, I was obsessed by science fiction. I devoured the works of Isaac Asimov, Aldous Huxley, Douglas Adams, and many other writers. I think what really attracted me to the genre was the sheer variety and originality of the stories: a kaleidoscope of worlds and characters.
This series is something very special indeed. I read all three volumes when they were originally published, but when each piece of the puzzle is read in context the final product is so much more than the sum of its parts. This book includes both The Heretic and Defiance.
In the first book, the author paints an uncomfortable and frequently bleak vision of a future in which humanity has spread beyond the ruins of Earth. Like all good science fiction, the story focuses on the characters. Bale has chosen to depict only a few characters in this book, but they are masterfully drawn and succeed in paying homage to classic science fiction like Firefly and Star Wars while retaining a distinctive individuality of their own. The freighter captain Shepherd is especially memorable, and his vessel Soteria is very much a character in her own right with numerous surprises up her sleeve.
The Heretic is fast-paced, mysterious, frequently brutal, and like most of the best science fiction poses more questions than it answers. In the first book the reader is given tantalising glimpses into a vast and complex universe – but it’s during the course of the next two books that answers begin to emerge.
While The Heretic was an excellent introduction to the fictional universe of Lucas Bale, Defiance goes deeper. The first volume felt like a prelude to a series of grand scope and in the second we see that series flower and unfold. The pervading sense of danger and chaos is communicated very well and the tone is unrelentingly dark, gritty, and realistic.
The story of Defiance is told from the viewpoints of three new characters. All are complex and driven by a potent cocktail of fears, hopes and neuroses. I found the story arc of Natasha particularly intriguing. A tunnel navigator, she is one of the misunderstood few who can use their senses to feel their way through hyperspace. It’s a novel take on interstellar travel and tunnel navigators are shunned by those around them. Weaver, another primary character, is a Caestor investigating a murder.
Both end up at the dilapidated colony of Jieshou – a forlorn but vividly depicted location. Events later move to an abandoned spaceship and this is the best section of the book, utterly chilling and almost unbearably tense.
Taken as a whole, Beyond the Wall is a story of great depth and you will finish this book desperate to read the third instalment. If you love classic science fiction such as Hyperion or Dune then you’ll find a huge amount to enjoy here too.
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