Posted by Literary Titan
Douglas Wells’, debut novel, The Secrets of all Secrets begins with a mysterious stranger, who issues a fateful quest. The reader follows Zane, a graduate school and seminary drop-out, who receives a USB from the stranger. The USB contains a message that promises the Secret of All Secrets and he is pressed to go find out how far the rabbit hole goes. He soon meets a waitress at a diner, named Dali, who received a similar USB. They initially butt heads, but they soon come together to figure out the mystery. They are dogged at every step by four conflicted government agents, who pursue them to the very end.
Wells combines smart, informed prose with fun, engaging dialogue to create an interesting story that hails the modern quest narrative, but also the old-fashioned road narrative calling to mind Jack Kerouac and others of that generation. There are plenty of moments where Zane calls back to his graduate school education with references to Pascal and Tolstoy, which do become a bit pandering to a point, but soon get lost in the action that ensues.
Zane and Dali are both enthralling characters, where Wells’ skill shines through and even shows up among the government agents who serve as the bulk of antagonism in the novel. The decent character portrayal also smoothes over the often-sparse description and scene setting that would normally keep the reader engaged, but the characters are able to do this on their own. The ideological lines that all the characters have seem to be commentary on our day to day lives, from government drones to Zane’s cynicism.
The setting of Northern Florida was an interesting choice and provides a unique setting rich in regional idiosyncrasies as well as clashing rural and coastal tendencies. Zane and Dali adventures are increasingly crazy and fit in with this setting choice. They venture into an armadillo festival, nudist resort and even find a presumed dead 60’s rocker. All of this combines to be a sort of satire of American politics and greed.
All in all, The Secrets of all Secrets will keep the reader’s attention until the very end with its light-hearted prose and topical social commentary. Wells blends the ironic with wry humor and never misses a point to push the absurdity of his tale a little farther, as if encouraging the reader to do the same.
Pages: 224 | ASIN: B07147R17F
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Posted by Literary Titan
It all starts with a dead cat. Thomas Beckon is a father of two daughters, a husband to a kind, happy woman named Pat, an IT Manager, and a seemingly nice man who many fondly refer to as “Tommy.” His life changes when his daughter’s cat dies, and he realizes that the dead cat’s soul temporarily inhabits the body of another cat in the house. It’s always been his belief that even the smallest creatures have souls, so this discovery intrigues him more than it surprises him. His curiosity leads him to attempt a soul transfer of his own, taking over the body of the remaining cat. After much struggle, he’s successful.
This early success gives him the confidence to move on to humans. He comes to believe that he’s trained his entire life, through his interactions with his co-workers and his ability to understand them, to take on the role of Inlooker. An Inlooker is an immortal supernatural being which has the power to take over the souls of others. Beckon works to enhance these powers, not just reading souls and manipulating his own, but taking control of other people, body and soul.
He starts out using this power for what he believes is “good,” but even his idea of good is twisted around his own self-interests. He moves from doing “good” to purposely doing evil. As Beckon explores his abilities and learns the extent of his power, he will face many enemies, the strongest one of all, himself and his baser instincts. When the future of the world and humanity hangs in the balance, the question for him becomes: can he overcome his greed and hunger for power and chose to utilize his superpowers for the greater good?
Set mostly in England and written by a British author, The Inlooker has a distinctly English voice with a dry sense of humor readers often find in British mystery novels. I enjoyed the voice most of all. It’s humorous, dark, clear, and ironic. At first, I didn’t like the narrator’s intrusions into the story, but I soon grew used to them and enjoyed the quirky voice very much.
The author, Terry Tumbler, is able to move around in time without confusing the reader and without making unnatural or abrupt scene changes. I like the way he reveals Thomas’ true nature slowly, first showing us how he became the Inlooker, and then backtracking to illustrate how he was kind of always an Inlooker, or at least an Inlooker-in-training. His skills didn’t just appear in an act of God type of moment; rather, they were always evolving, always building until the moment when he took over the cat.
This idea of latent powers is further explored when Thomas uses his powers selfishly and heartlessly. Early in the book, I was reminded of the quote by Sir John Dalberg-Acton: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” I at first believed that ultimate power corrupted Thomas, but as the story went on, I realized that self-centeredness and the lack of conscience he displayed always existed within him. Societal norms, familial pressures, and office etiquette had served to control his baser instincts, but once Thomas achieved absolute power, he no longer needed to work within those parameters, so he didn’t. In an ever-evolving world that grows more complicated with an alien invasion, Thomas must decide if dominating the world or saving the world is his ultimate destiny.
I like the format of the book, specifically the short chapters and the descriptive chapter titles. Both kept the story moving at a steady pace. My own personal preference would be for the book to end with Chapter 25 and to not include the Addendum and the five Reference chapters. Beckon does a splendid job in Chapter 25 of wrapping up all the major themes and storylines of the book in a satisfying, yet unexpected way. Readers who like to dive in deeper and learn all the ins and outs will likely enjoy the evolution of the story in the remaining sections.
Pages: 350 | ASIN: B00VVCVEZ6
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