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Formats
Paperback Book Details
  • 09/2019
  • 9780997363678
  • 384 pages
  • $13.95
Ebook Details
  • 09/2019
  • 9780997363685 B07X6RQQZF
  • 631 pages
  • $2.99
Fourth Trait
It’s 2095. A cataclysmic event known as the Great Catastrophe has killed ninety-five percent of the world’s population. The survivors share a common thread: genetic traits that enable perception of the physical and emotional experience of others, both living and dead. Turns out death is an empty persistence in limbo, and the dead, or unattached as they’re now known, plague the living. But scientists have developed a genetically flawless replacement body. Death is cured. And the unattached have teamed up with an army of living sympathizers plotting revolution. Raile Alton is a military scientist, and he’s tasked with developing technology to destroy the unattached—but he’s failing. When a mysterious entity crashes a government raid, Raile encounters the only survivor, Eethena Twenton, a prolific scientist turned revolutionary. Could she be the solution to his failing mission? He offers her freedom for information. But who’s helping whom? Soon Raile finds himself on a journey of discovery that could unravel what he believes about his past, and the edge of a dark conspiracy that leaves him in a fight for his life—and death.
Reviews
Bryan’s debut is an intermittently absorbing but frequently confusing political science-fiction epic set in 2095. The hero is Raile Alton, a cynical scientist working for the UEA, the provisional government that took power after the global Great Catastrophe killed off most of the world’s population. Those who survive possess heightened mental powers but are plagued by ghosts called “unattached.” When an unattached actually murders a human being, it triggers a sprawling series of events as the UEA and their opponents in the resistance engage in byzantine schemes, double crosses, and power grabs. Quests for sex, revenge, eternal life, power, and simple human comforts underlie the more metaphysical aspects of the conflict.

The frequent betrayals amid detailed military operations become wearying after a while, as do the many undefined, distracting neologisms related to mental powers and the afterlife. Some of the characters are better developed than others: Alton proves to be complex and vulnerable underneath his world-weary veneer, and Delva Brownson, the daughter of a resistance leader, is another nuanced character whose doubts about her place in the world make her far more interesting than her mother, a rabid caricature. The pacing, dialogue, and plot twists form a fluid narrative, though the vague, cliffhanger ending is unexpected and unsatisfying.

Bryan has clearly put a lot of thought into building this world and its metaphysical underpinnings. The story is as much about the mysteries of the afterlife as it is about the schemes of its desperate characters. Bryan notes that the traitors to the resistance are desperate for a taste of easy living and that the UEA traitors are angry about the corruption inherent in the system. For some of these, the end justifies the means, but the narrative embraces a more humanistic approach beyond simple comfort and revenge. This near-future story of discontent in life and after death leaves readers with much to think about.

Takeaway: This metaphysical murder mystery will appeal to fans of more philosophical and conceptual science fiction and horror.

Great for fans of M. John Harrison’s Light, Philip K. Dick’s The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: B
Illustrations: -
Editing: C
Marketing copy: C

Formats
Paperback Book Details
  • 09/2019
  • 9780997363678
  • 384 pages
  • $13.95
Ebook Details
  • 09/2019
  • 9780997363685 B07X6RQQZF
  • 631 pages
  • $2.99

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