Shadowhawk reviews the second in a brand new trilogy of self-published novels by Matt Forbeck, set in the RPG setting Matt Forbeck’s Brave New World.
“A fantastic sequel that really delves into the history of the setting and increases the stakes the good guys are fighting for.” ~The Founding Fields
I read the first novel in the series, Revolution, back in June (a review of which can be found here), and when I was done with it, I was left feeling rather elated about the whole experience. I had a few issues with the novel, mainly in the pacing department, but on the whole I loved the book and was really looking forward to reading the sequel, Revelation. So when I got a review copy of the book earlier this month, courtesy of Matt himself, I went in with high expectations. As I mentioned in the review for Revolution, he is one of the most consistent authors I know of and his work has always impressed me. He continues that winning streak with Revelation which, if anything, is much better than it’s predecessor.
When we left off our principal characters in Revolution, they had just done the impossible and their actions had totally changed the playing field between Patriot’s superhero rebels, known as the Defiance, and the government-sanctioned superhero task-force known as Delta Prime. And in the ending, we were treated to a rather spectacular on-screen entry of a character whose origins were highly mysterious. With Revelation, Matt picks up all those little strands and continues on with them, expanding on the setting of Matt Forbeck’s Brave New World and showing us the aftermath of the events in the previous book.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this series NEEDS to be made into a movie because these books are full of some of the most fun cinematic moments I’ve read. I understand that Reactor 88 Studios are working on something and I look forward to seeing how that project goes. The people on the covers of these books are actors from the movie in fact. High-speed car chases, superhero duke-outs and so on keep the novel ticking along and it’s like you really are right there alongside the characters.
Patriot, Charge, Lisa, and Street return once again alongside some new folks, and a couple others that Patriot has a long history with, for this book. This time, the four of them are on an emergency evac-and-escape mission as they have to make sure that an unregistered delta girl and her family aren’t caught in the crossfires of the Delta Program and have a safe haven where they can live normally.
From the start, that angle really had me hooked. In the previous book, it was Lisa who was on the run for the same reasons and it was Patriot who was out to keep her safe. This time the stakes are bigger on both counts, and that’s reflected in the narrative in more ways than just that. This time, the Catholic Church itself is involved and in a surprise twist to the setting, it appears that the Church has its own cadre of Deltas, and that there is a treaty between the Church and the US Government, to the effect that the former cannot provide any Sanctuary (asylum) to runaway Deltas, in return for the Church maintaining it’s own Delta corps.
The narrative here is as much about Patriot and his friends, new and old, continuing on the resistance against the government as it is about the Church, or members thereof rather, to make their stand against or for the government. The tension that grips the story throughout is really well done. I think that the only way it could have been better is if the story were bigger, in terms of word-count that is. More space to tell the story and the events would have really helped to solidify the narrative, and allowed the author more leeway and freedom to explore the setting in this format.
The characterisation is also great, although I think there were a few underused areas here. First off, Patriot is fantastic. This time around, he feels much more like a wise-cracking Spider-Man, while yet retaining his unique features. He is still tough as ever, still as ready to get into the thick of things as needed, and still as willing to stand by his friends as he was before. Street is the same, and Matt touches on his particular power quite a lot in the story: he can literally work magic with machines. The evac-and-escape team’s vehicle of choice is a prime example of this. Lisa was just as likable as she was in Revolution, if not more so. She gives the entire team that “human” touch as she is still new to all this superhero business, her rare delta-power notwithstanding. Life is tough with the rebels, but the way Matt presents her is as if she is growing into this new life and coming out that much tougher because of it. That was a nice touch. She also has a really heart-breaking moment in the novel, one which left me rather depressed at what had just happened. It’s that paranoia that “normal” people have I think in such cases: their fear of a superhero. Remember the scene from Lords of the Rings: The Two Towers when a man of Rohan accidentally lets loose the arrow (at Helm’s Deep) which triggers the Uruk-Hai charge at the fortress’s walls? Yeah, that.
Charge I felt was rather under-used, especially since that’s him on the novel cover. He has some decent moments in the novel, but overall a lot more could have been done with him. I find him to be one of the most interesting characters so far in the series, especially given the revelations about his background and his relationship with Patriot that are made at the end of Revolution. So yeah, lots of promise and I hope that in Resolution he gets a fitter outing. Then we have the mysterious character I mentioned earlier. Truth be told, I had already surmised who he was so I wasn’t surprised when we find out the truth. The particular scene though has a vividness of it’s own, one that I found to be very thrilling in fact. He’s just that type of a character. The things he tells the principal characters shed a lot of light on the events that are set in the opening chapters of Revolution and really put things into perspective. The character reminds me of a certain other famous superhero, one who arrives in a similar fiery manner as him. Good stuff all around.
I remarked previously that the world-building in the first novel was excellent. Matt had done a great job fleshing out a lot of the different characters, factions, the locations etc in Revolution and that was something I expected to continue in Revelation. And Matt delivers on that. With the added angle of the Catholic Church into the narrative, it all puts things into stark perspective for our characters. The setting is most definitely quite dark in its mood and tone, yet retains an upbeat nature that I think works well with itself, one that I think should be intrinsic to most superhero settings. We see the rebel superheroes, we see the “loyalist” superheroes, we see the people on the front lines, the people in the halls of power and together, it is an almost overwhelming experience, in a good way that is.
I had almost no problems with the pacing this time around, although I think that the mysterious character’s explanation of his history was a tad overdone and could have been trimmed in a few places to retain that punchy feel to the narrative. Still, there were no down-points for me this time around as there had been for Revolution. The pace is rather consistent and hits all the high-points at the right time for the right effect.
The style that Matt has chosen to write these novels, first person perspectives from a variety of different characters, was also something that I enjoyed more fully this time around. Previously, I had found them to be a bit clunky, but now that I had already grown used to them, I wasn’t annoyed at all in that respect with Revelation. In truth, I think it made for a much more atmospheric and immersive narrative, which is always a good thing.
As a character-driven story with some great locations and truly fantastic events, I think Revelation works like a charm, minus the really minor issues that I have with it. And as such, I really recommend this novel, especially if you liked the Revolution. There is in-world consistency in both books and at no time did I feel like I was being treated to events for the hell of it. This is definitely one of the most enjoyable superhero novels ever!
Shadowhawk is a regular contributor to TFF. A resident of Dubai, Shadowhawk reads, reads and reads. His opinions are always clear and concise. His articles always worth reading.