Book Review: Beyond Redemption by Michael R. Fletcher
A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Series: Book 1 of Manifest Delusions
Publisher: Harper Voyager (6/16/15)
Mogsy’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Would it make sense to call a book “grimdarker than grimdark”? This question was the second thought that crossed my mind as I pensively closed the cover on the final page of my copy of Beyond Redemption. It followed right on the heels of my first thought, which was “Damn, that shit was a hundred different kinds of awesome.”
Grimdark, after all, is a term frequently used to describe fantasy fiction with mostly dystopic, brutal or violent themes. Very often it also features characters that are amoral or dishonorable. All of this applies to this novel, which most certainly is nihilistic and violent—viciously and disturbingly so. It’s also aptly titled, seeing as no one in this story is in possession of a single redeeming attribute. They are all terrible, disgusting people. No joke, I could strip these characters down to their infinitesimal building blocks in order to examine each and every single atom under an electron microscope, and I still wouldn’t be able to find the smallest trace of goodness in any of them. It’s quite amazing, really.
Gods help me then, why did I enjoy them so much? Perhaps one has to be a little bit crazy to revel in reading about dark, gritty and twisted characters such as these. In which case, can you please pass me some more of that sweet, sweet insanity?
Fortunately, Michael R. Fletcher is happy to oblige. The world he gives us is literally steeped in chaos, madness, and delusion. In Beyond Redemption, individuals known as Geisteskranken are the unstable and insane individuals whose psychoses manifest as reality. Furthermore, under normal circumstances their powers are also shaped by collective beliefs, so the more people who believe in your delusion, the more those ideas become the truth.
Let’s just take a moment to digest this, shall we? You’re essentially being thrown into a world where the “magic” is delusion, and all your magicians are batshit insane. Come on, doesn’t that sound positively delightful!
Not to mention, there are just so many types of Geisteskranken. Rarely do I recommend this, but in the case of this book, it might actually be helpful to check out the glossary of all the different kinds of delusions described in the back before you start reading. It’s an impressive list, each one more frightening than the last. Hassebrands, for example, like to set fire to everything as an outlet for their repressed rage and loneliness. Therianthropes, on the other hand, think they are possessed by animal spirits, and are able to shapeshift into these creatures simply because they believe they can. But perhaps the most nefarious of all are the Gefahrgeists, sociopaths who are driven by their desperate desire to be at the center of attention and to rule over others.
And heaven forfend if you happen to be one of those Geisteskranken who are comorbidic, a person who manifests multiple delusions. These men and women tend to be even more unhinged, as mental instability often goes hand in hand with comorbidity. In Beyond Redemption, High Priest Konig Furimmer is one such individual, a twisted madman who seeks to forge order from the fiery chaos around him. Konig’s plans involve creating a god – a god his church can control. An innocent and sheltered young boy named Morgen is being groomed for the honor, to be killed once it is determined that he is ready to Ascend.
But before his Ascension could come to pass, Morgen is stolen away by three wretched thieves: Bedeckt the old cantankerous warrior, Stehlen the bloodthirsty kleptomaniac woman, and Wichtig the pompous Gefahrgeist who fancies himself the Greatest Swordsman in the World. Konig has no choice but to send the most dastardly of his Geisteskranken after the trio of brazen miscreants, hoping to salvage his plans before Morgen is forever corrupted. Anything can happen in this wild, dark tale of cat and mouse, but one thing is guaranteed – there’ll be a body count numbering in the hundreds and a whole lot more blood and guts spilled before this is done.
If you think a book like this sounds too crazy and ludicrous to pull off, I don’t blame you. The thing is though, it works. It really does. Declaring the protagonists as flawed might be the understatement of the century, but I was nevertheless fascinated by their delusions and eccentricities. You might find yourself wanting to root for them, even if you hate yourself a little for it. They are all so vile and depraved, and yet I cannot deny this was one of the most fantastic and unique cast of characters I’ve ever met.
It’s impossible not to get completely sucked into this story. Not that I wanted to fight the pull, mind you. Beyond Redemption is so wildly imaginative and intensely entertaining, you just can’t help but embrace its bleak world, the tortured characters, the wicked concepts. Giving in to the madness has never felt so good.