Sunday, September 2, 2012

"Beast from the Sea," A Supernatural Noir Thriller

Beast from the Sea is an unusual novel of speculative fiction written by a very talented author, a young woman who is a relative of ours writing under the pen name R.B. Kannon. It is a tale of the supernatural and the metaphysical, a murder mystery with a noir flavor, a political thriller and a horror story all rolled into one... The disparate strands of this subtle, sophisticated novel are artfully woven together into a seamless whole.

This tale is set in the (fictional) desert city of Babylon (not the actual city in Iraq!). Here is my short teaser introduction to the story with no spoilers:

Babylon, "a city both ancient and new," sprawls on the edge of an evaporating sea, and burns beneath a desert sun. Five years ago a popular uprising against her ruling Ministry and its allied religious establishment, the Unity, was put down with extreme violence. The city, now embargoed by the outside world, simmers with suppressed rage and teeters on the edge of chaos.

The brutal murder of Ministry Undersecretary Aaron Crowley has Detective Maxwell Summers caught in a dangerous bind. A powerful and feared Apostle of the Unity, Lucrecia Grey, was present at the scene when Crowley was murdered. Summers knows that the Apostle is essentially untouchable, even if guilty. Yet despite the dangers to his career, and perhaps to his life, Summers is driven to a relentless pursuit of the truth of Crowley's murder. Unfortunately for him, truth is a rare and unwelcome commodity in treacherous Babylon. 

Meanwhile, on the city's outskirts a controversial paleontology dig has uncovered mysterious artifacts of Babylon's ancient past. Some find it troubling that the Apostles of the Unity seem to have more than a merely scientific interest in these strange findings. Summers, as he wonders at the presence of the Apostle at the murder scene, finds it troubling that the murdered Undersecretary was the Ministry's sponsor of the dig. 

Crowley's handpicked dig site supervisor, Elijah Carver, may be the wild card in the deck. An outsider to Babylon, a man with an unknown past, the scientists on the dig team respect him but are puzzled by Crowley's choice, for Carver has no scientific credentials from Babylon's University, or any other, for that matter. Yet his apparent knowledge of the site and its ancient past is uncanny. 

As unwelcome as truth of any kind is to Babylon's rulers, truth will ultimately out when the paths of the Apostle, the detective, and the enigmatic Carver cross. Each of these three characters is in relentless, obsessive pursuit of his own conflicting objectives, and when they collide with one another the truth of Babylon's ancient past and troubled present cannot help but be revealed. The only question is, can Babylon survive the revelation of truth, or can it subsist only on lies?

The prose is beautiful and poetic, the settings are evocative and atmospheric. The characters are finely drawn, and the dialog is noir-detective-story snappy. One reader told me the world of Beast from the Sea is so vividly realized that from the first page he felt like he'd walked into a real world with a real history behind it. Another reader, a former professional photographer, called it "cinematic," like "a sequence of storyboards." I found it to be a compelling story, filled with gorgeous textures of light and color and sound. In some places it is horrifying, though never gratuitously so; in others it is heart-breaking, but throughout you sense that it is informed by a humane and compassionate sensibility.

Check it out, and especially see the reader reviews at the Amazon Kindle listing. And note that although author R.B. Kannon is young --- in her twenties --- this is not to be classified as young adult or teenage fiction, this is a book written for grownups, though it certainly can be enjoyed by intelligent young readers, also.

It's available now on Nook and Kindle... see our Kindle listing link below. If you don't have a Kindle e-reader, you can download a free reader for PC from Amazon, or one for the  iPad. If you prefer Barnes & Noble, they have free downloads of a reader application for Android mobile devices and also the iPhone and iPad.

The cover artwork was created by web and graphics designer Jason Sikes of Village Green Studios.

Update: Blogger Clayton Cramer has his capsule review here: Clayton Cramer's Blog: Beast From The Sea

Update 10/6/12: Hmmmmmm... a mysterious fossil find, the sea beast of Cincinnati...

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