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Shadowhawk reviews the final novel in the first 12-for-12 trilogy of self-published novels by Matt Forbeck, set in the RPG setting Matt Forbeck’s Brave New World.
“The battle of the century comes to a spectacular and dramatic conclusion, true superheroes style.” ~The Founding Fields
All good things unfortunately come to an end. There’s no escaping it, no denying it. Whether it is Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, Frank Herbert’s Dune Chronicles, Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, the Horus Heresy series (as it inevitably will), or any other series, it all comes to an end. When it does and if you are truly honest with yourself, you feel nothing but sadness that you will no longer be venturing in these fantastic worlds with such great characters that you grew to love, to hate, to simply be with. The experience has come to an end and there’s no going back (prequels not withstanding of course). That’s exactly how I felt about Matt Forbeck’s self-published Brave New World trilogy. I came in not having an idea of the setting or characters, but over the course of the trilogy, I became friends with some of the characters and bitter enemies with others. In retrospect and with hindsight, the experience has been phenomenal. First-time experiences are always like that.
The ending of the second novel, Revelation (reviewed here), promised great things for the third novel. The reveals that occurred post-climax were just jaw-droppingly shocking, an experience that is one-of-a-kind and not easy to top at any rate. I’ve commented before on how consistent and impressive Matt Forbeck’s work is. That is still true. I just don’t get how any writer can be so talented, novel after novel and I wonder if this is how fans of Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson and other luminaries of genre fiction feel. I’ve certainly had this feeling with some of my own other favourite authors (James Swallow, Nathan Long, Arthur C. Clarke, Frank Herbert, Paul Kemp, etc). But I have to say that Matt is definitely one-of-a-kind, just like that ending to Revelation.
Now, apart from that slight but justified hyperbole, the ending to Resolution is somewhat of a trope/cliche. You can see the ending coming from a mile away but the fact is that with good writing such endings ascend to whole another level. Which is what Matt has done here of course. Given the variety of superpowers possessed by the various good guys, it is no surprise how things are ultimately going to play out. Assembling all that in one place however, is a whole another ball game. And that’s the beauty of it. All the pieces of the puzzle fit perfectly because the puzzle is so finely crafted. Given another collection of characters, things would have played out much differently, but I’m glad that they didn’t because I like how things actually turn out at the end of the novel.
All of Matt’s characters are still solid. Patriot, Lisa, Street, Frieda, Citizen Arcane, Ragnarok, Devastator, Superior, Iron Mask, and all the others proved to be a stellar cast this time around. Some characters such as Truth and Charge didn’t get a whole lot of attention this time since all these novels are quite short, and that was another cause of sadness, but the ones who did make it in were more than enough to keep me hooked. In this novel, I think that Matt definitely hit his stride where they were all concerned, particularly the principal characters such as Patriot, Lisa, Devastator, Ragnarok, and Superior. Starting off with the right-out-of-a-movie opening with Patriot trying to down a jet-fighter in the skies over Isla Delta while being held up in the air by one of his friends, to the tragic and emotional ending where a notable character bites the dust, I just couldn’t get enough of any of these characters.
My standout characters in the trilogy will definitely be Patriot, Superior and Devastator. Apart from their evocative names, these three pack so much punch that its like seeing a battle between Superman, Orion and Darkseid. The concept is just too spectacular to be put into words. Whether it is Patriot’s unswerving morals and righteousness about ridding America of the tyranny of President Kennedy, Superior’s unswerving faith in the old adage of “the ends justify the means”, or Devastator’s outright villainy, there is something on offer for everyone between the three of them. They exemplify the Brave New World setting in the same way that Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are the big-three names of the DC Universe. They are icons around whom the entire setting orbits, their every action has ramifications that echo down to the people around them.
And the down-to-earth perspective that Lisa, Frieda, Tara, Street and some of the other characters bring to the entire trilogy adds another dimension to the intense relationship between the three super-characters above. Each character is done justice, is seen from a variety of perspectives to give a fuller picture of what makes them tick, what drives them, motivates them. They are all definitely some of the most endearing characters I’ve read to date, especially since they are almost all superheroes and supervillains.
Like I said, I was emotionally invested in the whole lot of them and I was rather disheartened that I wouldn’t be getting any more of them in the near future. Which brings me back to the point about these novels being so short. The experience is mostly satisfying but for that little nugget. I want fatter books!
The various twists that happen over the course of the novel are all a step up from what we’ve seen before. The urgency that surrounds the entire narrative of Resolution necessitates that the stakes are ten times higher than they were before, since a lot of plot-threads are being moved towards a conclusion that is going to shake the beliefs of everyone in the setting, whether it is the good guys or the bad guys. Characters that were thought to be completely lost also need to make their comeback, in one way or another, so tying it all up neatly by the end was a tall order, an order that Matt delivered on handsomely.
As such, the pacing works out almost perfectly. The narrative is short and snappy and doesn’t linger over events. However, sometimes things get a bit too quick and abrupt, such as when Lisa has to make a certain…. journey. It just happens and only a few lines are spent on that transition. Such things are very few and far in between, which is good.
The history and mythology of the setting as it unfolds, particularly in relation to the first deltas and Superior as the first alpha superhero, was something that I enjoyed once again. We also meet a more magic-oriented superhero (name already mentioned!) and that was a nice break from things, whether its the plasma-charged guys like Patriot or supergeniuses like Street or the lazaruses like Lisa. Points for diversity! It also helped that this magician-hero had some wonderful scenes in the story, in true showman-style, which is just what he prefers anyway.
In the end, Matt Forbeck’s Brave New World trilogy has been a damn exciting experience, an experience that seems to have been over before it got going. The series has some of the coolest superhero battles I’ve read or watched. It has characters who are memorable. It has a premise that is so classic in its feel and is yet so different.
I hope that Matt gets a chance to revisit the setting and these characters some time in the future and in a bigger length as well because I would definitely read a 100-150k novel set in this world!