When Psychosis Meets Dark Fantasy- Michael R. Fletcher’s Beyond Redemption
I interviewed Michael R. Fletcher earlier last year, when he first gave me a review copy of Beyond Redemption, the first book of his Manifest Delusions series. The interview was a good idea for me to get to know him as an author and to help promote his work before finishing his novel, which I knew would take some time. Although I already had the review copy, what I read was good enough for me to buy a copy later on.
A few weeks ago, though I had started the Beyond Redemption work first, I was able to read Fire and Flesh, which served as a great introduction into the world of Manifest Delusions. Fire and Flesh was a short read that was also entertaining, and I’m glad I finished it before finishing the novel, since it complimented Beyond Redemption so well. I wrote a review for the work which is also here on Comicbooked.
The story behind Beyond Redemption is pretty interesting. Delusions grant special abilities to powerful people. A theocrat raises a gifted child in the hopes that the child will become a God, a deity who will be under his control. Why worship a God when a God can worship you and do whatever you wnat, right?
As the theocrat works towards his goal, three adventurers hear of this special future deity, and see an opportunity to reach their own selfish goals…
In reading Michael R. Fletcher’s work, I was first impressed with how hard he worked to create something new. Fletcher was successful in being innovative with this epic series he’s created. He took German words and terminology in a creative way (as he’s not a native or fluent German speaker, he did take a lot of artistic license in the task!) to describe characters, places, and settings in his Beyond Redemption novel. The innovation doesn’t end there: Michael R. Fletcher used psychology, and different neurological/pathological disorders in his world building as well. I jokingly told him his work made me want to study the DSM-V, and he admitted to spending a lot of time researching this psychology manual, in order to make realistically demented and delusional characters.
The research paid off.
There are powerful people in this novel with a variety of abilities. Through delusion, there are those who can use doppels, basically neurotic copies of themselves that assume some specific aspect of their personality/psychology and do tasks for their creator. There are Hassebrands, who can conjure fire with mere thought and desire. There are Mirrorists, who can communicate to reflections and gain truths others can’t, and powerful seducers who can play on people’s emotions in a cult leader fashion, making them do the unspeakable.
Michael R. Fletcher’s Beyond Redemption is a joy to read. The psychological complexity that comes with such a fast-paced novel is pretty impressive. Like his short story Fire and Flesh, which served as a prototype for the Manifest Delusions series, Beyond Redemption bridges the gap between a novel with depth and a novel that flows. The action scenes are crisp, but they don’t linger too long. The descriptions are thorough, but they don’t get lost in too much flower and fluff.
This is why Fletcher impresses me so much as a writer. Some authors feel a story should go the complete route of entertainment for entertainment’s sake, with a bunch of “kabooms” and “kablooies” with little character development, little world-building, and a huge lack of heart. Other writers, who I am biasedly a fan of as a lover of epic fantasy, can get quite prosey, with expansive world-building, heavy focusing on characterization, and detailed observations in every scene. For Fletcher to bridge the gap for a epic fiction lover like me, and a “for the thrills” reader like others, is pretty impressive. It’s cool to see characters like Gehirm, Erebrechen, Konig, and Aufschlag who are very complex in their psychology and personalities, yet still see a story that moves without effort, where there is always something interesting happening. From action scenes to dialogue and character interactions, the story never stops, even when we look into a character’s contemplation. As an author, reading Fletcher’s work is educational in the way that one doesn’t have to go all the way simple, or all the way difficult; he’s found the middle road in writing epic novels.
Fletcher writes in an omnipresent third person style, which is one of my favorite types of writing. For people who like to stick with one character all the way through the book, this book isn’t for them. Fans of works by Tad Williams, Dostoyveysky, and George R. R. Martin, who love to see a story from different character’s perspectives at different points of the story, will love Beyond Redemption and the Manifest Delusion series as a whole. Fletcher also does not shy away from looking at different perspectives within singular scenes, where we can see what one character is feeling and thinking along with the character they are interacting with. This adds to Fletcher’s focused evaluation of humanity and the mind in a world where delusion is power, where people have special ability due to their mental illnesses and flaws. This shows an experimental aspect of Fletcher’s writing where he isn’t afraid to break the rules, and doesn’t just want to give us one set of eyes to view the story from. He’s also good at making us feel empathy for characters who are pretty despicable, people who have rough pasts and current circumstances that make them horrible, as if fate could never give them a better experience. We understand that their temperaments and abnormalities have a source in their histories, and perhaps they don’t have the choices they believe they have.
In Beyond Redemption, there is a look at cults and cultist behavior. From Konig and his need to make a God whom he can control, to the priests who worship this chosen deity, and the Charles Manson/Jim Jones nature of Erchebren (by far the most disgusting character of the book), Fletcher looks at how the vulnerable how exploited by manipulators, but he also looks at how manipulators are perhaps the most vulnerable people… even more than their victims. We see fragile egos in leadership roles who will do anything to accomplish their goals by using people, but when their backstories are revealed to us, we see broken figures in pain, self-hating, broken humans who are trying to run away from themselves in pursuit of power. Such people can be responsible for holy wars and utter chaos.
Along with a standard glossary for cities and terms, there are also two more helpful glossaries in the back of the book. One is a Cast of Characters, which can help since many names are loosely based on German and, though there aren’t too many characters in Beyond Redemption, it can help people keep track of them. The other glossary is very helpful; titled The Delusional, this second glossary helps people keep track of the different types of abilities people have in the novel. For instance, people who have pyromantic (fire magic) abilities are called Hassebrands, and people who can interact with reflections in mirrors to learn about the future or recieve other answers are called Mirrorists. There are many classifications people can fall into depending on their powers, so this list is very helpful, especially since Fletcher’s mythology is pretty unique and thorough, even for a novel that proved to be a quicker read than most epics I’ve encountered.
I loved this book. I finished it at a great time, because the second book of Manifest Delusions, The Mirror’s Truth
, is out now on Amazon
. I can’t wait to devour that book as well, and I hope you get a chance to check out Fletcher’s work as well.