This steampunk thriller series continues with humor, energy, and air-scorching speed.
In Decay, the second book in Mark Lingane’s YA steampunk Tesla Evolution series, the teenage heroes and their mentor, Nikola, are in danger again as their city is attacked by enemies both outside and inside the Steam Academy’s city walls.
Written with verve and wit, packed with action and authorial legerdemain, Decay follows Sebastian and his friends as they try to reclaim their pre-cyborg-war city, the Steam Academy, and their daily lives. Sebastian is still intent on finding his mother; Melanie is enjoying her relationship with boyfriend Gavin, but missing the combat training area; and Isaac is smitten with the daughter of a refugee family. Thousands of strangers from outlying areas have come to the Academy for safety; with them arrive the seeds of an insurrection, led by a woman whose faith clouds her mind. Nikola grows weaker from his near-daily contact with his protégé Sebastian and other male students, who are called teslas for their ability to manipulate physics. The cyborgs continue their war against the humans, and all too soon, Sebastian and his friends are again fighting for their lives and those they love.
Lingane’s prose style is warm, humorous, energetic, and controlled, a tough job to handle when the pacing moves at air-scorching speed. He has mastered the art of moving a story through action without leaving the reader behind, which makes for pacing that doesn’t seem faster than necessary.
The Star Trek: The Next Generation references to the Borg Collective in Lingane’s cyborg culture are enough to make the connection without overdoing it. The cyborg speech rendered with computer symbols is refreshingly free of stilted delivery, a subtle reminder that many of the cyborgs were once completely human.
Minor problems do exist. Once the major action moves outside the city walls, no one seems to stop for food. There are traveling sections where such breaks could have been mentioned. Active run-and-fight scenes wouldn’t include food breaks, of course, but each character carrying a snack stash would fix this easily. If the characters actively fighting are supported by electromagnetic energy, whether via being teslas or otherwise, a clear example of this would be an innovative way to keep the characters’ energy levels up. Hints are left that this could be the case, but more is needed.
On the author’s website, Lingane calls himself a “rock ‘n’ roll writer.” If this description is meant to imply that he takes elements of more than two genres and melds them into a unique world peopled with familiar and interesting characters (as rock music has done with blues, jazz, country, and other musical genres), it’s right on target. Just as a skilled juggler would do with a trio of balls, Lingane keeps the pacing, characterization, and story moving in time with one another, creating well-known patterns with his own personal style.
The Tesla Evolution series began with Tesla, and continues after Decay with Faraday. More books in this series are planned, so those who favor science fantasy but are wary of a full steampunk experience may want to dive into this series now. Decay has a darker, more serious tone than Tesla, but never suffers for it because hope lives in each of the characters. A great read and a writer to watch.
Decay is the second book in the Tesla Evolution series by Mark Lingane, following on from the first book, Tesla. In the war-torn future, in the only known pocket of existence left for humanity, a war for supremacy between cyborgs with their technological dominance and humans, some with newly-discovered near-magical abilities, and steam-powered machinery comes to a boil and draws in the likes of Sebastian – a new recruit to the Steam Academy – as well as his friends and allies met during his journey. After a tiring battle claims countless lives and nearly destroys the last safe city known to humanity, we join Sebastian, Melanie, teacher Nikola and others at a time when battle is a daily chore and defenses are slowly but surely eroding away. That is until a new revelation about the cyborgs comes to light, and provides hope to humanity, perhaps even all of it.
Decay is a significantly darker outing than the previous installment, where the first was more of a quest to discover Sebastian’s destiny and his mother’s fate, Decay has no such strong light at the end of the tunnel. The theme of the book is stagnation and despair, with small hopes and bitter disappointments nudging characters along simply because they have to. This is in no way a failing of the book’s writing, which is excellent and in fact a notable improvement from the first across the board; the tone of the book is well set and motivations of the various characters have become more individual and complex. Aside from a desire for the simple ability to exist now, we see differing opinions on how to proceed from reconciliation, to study, to straight, unrelenting war. These are presented subtly and nobody at this point in the story is considered particularly wrong in what they believe, even the so-called “enemy” who are now much less painted as thoughtless monsters and more as necessary evils at worst; tortured, human souls at best. The Academy is given more shades of gray along with everything else, and distinct and flavorful culture is presented for everything now that the concepts have been established. The quirks of the societies in play are well thought out, even if a couple of ideas will be easily dated in time, such as a reference to Twitter in the introduction of a character named “@summer14Rose” (“@summer” was already allocated.) For some these occasional nudges will make the book a joy, and they are thankfully not ham-handed in their use or presentation.
The presentation and editing of the book is, again, excellent and an overall improvement from the first book. The overall tongue-in-cheek levity of the first has faded with the serious nature of the sequel and has now become a more somber and complex affair, but with the same witty and unusual author behind the wheel to provide a fun and enjoyable edge to the piece again. The camp concept of steampunk versus cyberpunk has been turned into a deep and rather realistic, believable book that retains its winks and nods in the right places to remind the reader not to get bogged down. The book is gentle when it needs to be and hard when the bolts hit the fan, and there’s not really a boring paragraph in it. With a sequel on the way soon – Faraday – Lingane is certainly an author to pay close attention to this year and in the future.
The city has been rebuilt for war. The waves of cyborg attacks are just the beginning – what follows is more devastating. Not only that but also the flood of refugees surging in daily is as much of a problem as a resource. Actually in one or two cases the word 'problem' is a bit of an understatement. In the middle of this hell Seb and Melanie are doing their best to fight and survive, although survival doesn't look like an option once they realise they have to go into the enemy's hive and bring the battle to the cyborgs.
Aussie author Mark Lingane has enjoyed a writing career that has spanned genres. He's brought us interesting adult fiction offerings in crime romps, sci-fi and even sci-fi detective noir however, as good as they are, none have been as excellent as YA sci-fi Tesla 1 which was definitely his best. Was? Yes, was, because this, Tesla book 2 is even better and totally rave-worthy.
By the way, the books are best read in the right order as the explanatory stuff in the first book isn't recapped here, making room for more action. Trust me, the science may be fascinating but that's not a complaint as the action more than makes up for it.
The battle lines are drawn and life just keeps getting worse for Seb and Melanie. You'd think that being Teslas would help but, this time, it's definitely a handicap. (By the way, Teslas in Mark Lingane's dark world are humans who can sense and manipulate electrical fields.)
As usual across all his books, Mark slides in cultural references and puns for both younger and older readers alike. He always was good at it but here he's perfected it, enriching rather than distracting and in some cases working leaping across the age spectrum in a single bound. For instance the cyborgs' new super weapons are Sullivans. Ring any bells? Indeed, those among us not old enough to remember the Australian day time soap will harken back to Monsters Incwithout any problem.
In Decay we learn more about the dragons and their ominous link with disability (not the one we'd expect). We also learn the conventions for naming cyborgs and smile in empathy as the names are rejected. (We may not be cyborgs but we've all been there at some time!) The enemy hive is rather familiar too. Oh and Merv, Sheila and Bindi are back to make us smile for at least a little while.
Mark also has the knack of plotting around some interesting themes. He offers us the timely demonstration of people in times of darkness choosing political forces brandishing appealing rather than logical arguments. Entwined with this there's also a science-vs-religion thread. It proves his skill and the sort of voices on the side of religion that on this occasion, despite being a clergy wife, I'm on the side of science.
I read the book in one sitting as the tension and action climbed to one stonking great climax and a pretty huge cliff-hanger. At one point past battles are described as various types of intense carnage and it's not over yet! (By the way, there is gore but to a manageable level for all but the most delicate young or older person.)
Typing as one who's been privileged to review Mark's novels from debut onwards, it's obvious to see how he's grown as writer and the Tesla series is more than a pinnacle: it's a pinnacle with the phrase 'movie material' balancing on the top. As for that cliff-hanger, Mr Lingane you're a cruel man. Luckily for you (as well as us) that the wait isn't too long. Tesla 3: Faraday comes out late summer for the northern hemisphere and in your late winter if you're antipodean.
The book is populated by characters living in a darkly frightening, futuristic world dominated by computer technology versus a genre of science fiction that typically features steam powered machinery rather than advanced technology.
Decay deals with the aftermath of the devastation inflicted in the first novel. Sebastian, the hero of the story, and his side-kick Melanie, continue to crusade against the cyborg enemy. These beings were born as humans, but have had machines and technology added to enhance their effectiveness. They are being controlled by a central, well hidden, machine.
Whilst the fabric of the city is being slowly restored, a new threat evolves in the form of an enormous influx of refugees, who inflict problems unforeseen by the book’s heroes.
Decay depicts an ever more complex world than where enemies become harder to identify.
And yet Sebastian wants nothing more than to simplify things. To create a clean slate, if you like.
“The previous year had been devastating. With so much lost, he felt like it was almost worth throwing everything out so a new future could be forged without the horrible memories of the past.”
Mark Lingane successfully continues the unique style of Tesla and this new book is even more enjoyable. This particular style is on course to become a distinct genre in its own right. And that says everything about the brilliance of the author. Never one to be restricted by conventional barriers, Mark does not let such trivia stand in the way of his unique handling of a novel.
A brilliant 5 star read!
Accolades continue as Decay, book 2 in the Tesla Evolution, is listed as a finalist in the school focused Wishing Shelf Awards. Winners will be announced on April, 1.
On April 1, Decay (Book 2 in the Tesla Evolution) was awarded the silver medal by the Wishing Shelf Award for Independent Books.
This brings the award tally for the book to four.
- Foreword Reviews' 2014 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award Finalist - Science Fiction (Adult Fiction)
- Science Fiction Prize Runner up in The SPR Full Moon Awards 2014
- Top Ten Best Self Published Books of 2014 - theBookBag
- Silver Medalist in the Wishing Shelf Awards for teen readers.
- Insync Holdings
Decay was awarded the runner-up position in the 2014 SPR Full Moon Awards in the Science Fiction division.
Decay continues to gather attention from award competitions, now accepted for the Ditmar and Aurealis Australian Science Fiction awards.
Respected UK book review agency, the Book Bag, has chosen Decay (Book 2 in the Tesla Evolution) as one of the top ten self published books of 2014.
DECAY has been selected as a #SCIENCEFICTION finalist in Foreword Reviews' prestigious 2014 #INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards! In a competition with over 1,500 other entrants, it's pretty great to have made it this far. Stay tuned for the winner announcements at the end of June. Feeling the #indielove!