Finally this month I’ve ordered several speculative-fiction titles from Marcher Lord Press, the new-and-interesting online-but-genuine publisher for Christian-leaning sci-fi-and-fantasy novels. Yes, it’s taken me a while! Sometimes real life — and financial constraints, even for their very reasonably priced offerings — prevents me from exploring a new more strange new worlds.
That third book arrived yesterday, probably because it was released sooner: Hero, Second Class by Mitchell West. This is not a review of that book — but I am enjoying it a lot. (I’ll offer more of my thoughts below.)
Naturally we’ve been talking a lot about Marcher Lord here on Spec-Faith (though I recently realized the site’s search function makes it more difficult to determine how much). But two of our contributors — whose books I’m still waiting for! — have written here, none other than the original site starter (and current host) Stuart Stockton, author of Starfire, and Jill Williamson, By Darkness Hid. (Jill, I hope you stick around a while. I loved your take on Twilight.)
Rebecca L. Miller offered her take on By Darkness Hid in February, and now I’d like to offer an overview of all the Marcher Lord titles published so far. They came in waves of three each. Last October the publisher released the first three novels, and this month comes the second wave.
Here’s what I know about the first three releases. And perhaps by the time I proceed to the next three, I will have finished Hero, Second Class and worked my way to others.
The Personifid Invasion by R. E. Bartlett
The author is previously known, having already published The Personifid Project with Creation House in 2005. So Invasion is a sequel to that book — a story set in a society whose members can prolong their lives and consciousnesses with new cyber-bodies.
Amazon shows Project with a full five stars from all six reviews, though the page’s review gives it lower marks for too much action and “too little time fleshing out her provocative ideas and characters.” Similarly, readers’ reviews are saying that the sequel spends a lot of time playing with technology and not as much with characterization. To me, the premise sounds similar not only to The Matrix but Sigmund Brouwer’s robots-and-space series The Mars Diaries.
Still, the only reason I won’t read this book is if I haven’t yet read the first installment first.
Summa Elvetica: A Casuistry of the Elvish Controversy by Theodore Beale
More from an already-published novelist — though apparently his first three books are out of print and very hard to find — this novel has one of the more intriguing (and difficult to market!) premises of Marcher Lord’s titles. In short, what if a hybrid real-and-magical world forced the Catholic Church to determine whether magical creatures had souls and needed redemption?
This seems unique for several reasons, of course, but I think the most radical one is this: imagine a fantasy world in which the Catholic Church is not overly evil for a change.
Personally, I’m on the other side of the Reformation, so I might find some of the Catholicism as intriguing and foreign as the fantasy creatures. But as someone who enjoys doctrinal discussion altogether and fantasy, I’m sure I will enjoy a combination of the two, done well and with substantive balance of theological themes and character-depth scenes.
Also, it has a spectacular cover. And just now, seconds before writing this sentence, I learned the author is the same as WorldNetDaily’s “Christian Libertarian” writer, “Vox Day.”
Hero, Second Class by Mitchell West
First-time novelist here, folks. Grin and be inspired! Yes, Mr. and Mrs. America, it could happen to you, too! I’m partway into this novel and enjoying it overall, and I look forward to writing a review once I’m through.
But already I can say that from a marketing standpoint, it’s tops. The cover is comical, the back description made me chuckle, and the author knows his fantasy conventions well and can spoof/tribute them just as well, especially from movies. For fantasy book conventions, the jokes seem less prevalent — for example, I was sorely disappointed to find no jokes embedded in the requisite Fantasy World Map. Regardless, it’s enjoyable. Even the bad jokes are so bad, they’re good. (“Destiny has decreed …” Groan/grin …)
Also, I’m still looking for any Overt Christian Messages to kick in, yet I won’t be bothered at all if it isn’t there and the end asking for me to Pray the Prayer. Perhaps this collegian author was substantive enough to present a theme of the “upset of the balance” between good and evil being exactly what the world really needs, even among the jokes? That’s my guess for now.
As an oft-attempted humorous-fiction writer myself, I could have a few suggestions for punching up the hilarity here and there (such as, someone has to be serious in a comedy book, and I recommend the narrator). So for me, maybe it’s more difficult to kid a kidder. And those familiar with The Princess Bride, Monty Python (I am darn sure that was a Holy Grail copy/tribute) and even the hilarious cartoon superhero spoof The Tick will note some similarities. Still, Hero, Second Class is so far a fun and different read. It’s also blessedly thick.