Book Review: The Reader of Acheron by Walter Rhien

readerDystopia without the baggage—that is what I call this excellent book—Or how about just excellent fantasy.

There is so much Dystopian fiction out there these days that one can hardly swing a disembodied zombie arm without hitting another book about our broken future. But, so many of them feel like regurgitations of the tried and true, the same-old-same-old. Because of that, I rarely break open a dystopian story.

But, that is the beauty of this book—I didn’t know it was a dystopian fantasy when I opened it up and I was well into the story before it struck me. That says something, I think. It is easy to create the next Escape from New York or Bladerunner or Planet of the Apes, based on over-done models and a million stories of the same ilk. But, authors of these sorts of stories can never really compete with the originals.

This book is very different. It isn’t the typical in-your-face, evil empire, dark, corporate take-over, or even over-used nuclear fall-out stuff. It was more subtle, more deeply ingrained in the culture of the people involved, an almost invisible but ever present feeling that accompanied the cool characters as they dealt with the conflicts that arose from that very same setting.

It was organic, naturally occurring.

I completely lost the sense that we were on some dark future earth. Instead, I was there, living in the world that these characters lived in, facing the dangers and challenges that they faced. They didn’t know it was a dystopian future; it wasn’t part of their experience, so why should it be part of mine. It was pretty awesome. The dystopia was part of the fabric of the world, not simply a setting, an obvious tool to elicit cheap reader-associations.

Focusing on the setting and the author’s masterful world building is only half the story though. The characters are real and deep and filled with their own internal conflicts. Rage and sorrow comes to a reader as slavery is set against the emotional co-dependency of people that evolve in such a world, and the empathy that one cannot help but feel towards them.

We are set in a world of people that cannot read, and reading is a crime punishable by the unthinkable. It is the in-born quest for knowledge and freedom that create the conflict in this story. The characters feel it. The characters live it and strive against it unconsciously, but with all the need and desperation of a drowning man.

And I loved it. I loved them.

I think that you will enjoy this book immensely. I did, and I am not even a fan of the genre. Come—take a read. I know you won’t regret it.


Get the book here.

Visit the author’s website here.

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