Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Book Review: 'Anthem's Fall' by S.L. Dunn

Washington state author S.L. (Sean) Dunn makes his literary debut with ANTHEM'S FALL, a novel he states he wrote amid the wanderings of his mid twenties wandering in St. John USVI, Boston, Maine and Seattle. He earned his degrees in anthropology and biology from the University of Vermont. His path to becoming a writer he explains elsewhere: `I've always looked up to authors with a certain degree of reverence. In this often prosaic world we live in, these few people, these mysterious and intrepid storytellers, work in the realm of awe, joy, sorrow and wonder. Raw emotion is the medium of the storyteller, and that notion has inspired me for as long as I can remember. The best writers can lift someone from the boredom or the unfairness of their life, and provide a refuge where peace or meaning can be sought. Buried somewhere so far down within myself that it took more than two decades to uncover, I've always wanted to add my own humble signature to the pantheon of human imagination. It's hard for me to define triumph or failure in this pursuit of "authorship", but I know that I can look back at my mid twenties and rest easy with the knowledge that I tried my hand.' With words such as these we, the reader expects a novel of significance from Sean - and he most assuredly delivers.

Because this is an important debut, it is best to rely on the author's synopsis of this complex, prescient tale: Anthem is a distant world with monarchical politics and technological dexterity vastly superior to ours.' Above a horrified New York City, genetics and ethics collide as the fallen emperor and a banished exile of the same herculean race ignite into battle over the city's rooftops. In the streets below, a brilliant young scientist has discovered a technology that can defeat them both, yet might be more terrible than either. The young emperor Vengelis Epsilon narrowly escapes the reckoning of his empire at the hands of strange machines known as Felixes. The Felixes are identical in every respect to the godlike men of Vengelis's world save for their mechanical blue eyes. Feared to be indestructible, the wanton holocaust of the Felix appears inescapable. His family murdered and his empire maimed under a shadow of destruction, Vengelis pursues the pained final words of his dying mentor, and sets course for a remote and unchartered world--our world. The son of the man who created the Felixes, Gravitas Nerol has spent four years in lonely exile. His crime? When the Lord General of the Epsilon Army ordered the genocide of a vastly inferior race, Gravitas refused him. A warrior to his marrow, Gravitas has cast aside his former life and committed himself to the pursuit of knowledge. Kristen Jordan is a young and talented graduate student working on a cutting edge research team. Their wildly inventive new biotechnology, the Vatruvian cell, is the celebrated milestone of modern science. Yet Kristen remains uneasy about the capabilities of the inexplicable Vatruvian cell, and as their project develops, it begins to ring oddly familiar to the perilous technology of Vengelis's home. Set both in modern New York City and in the technologically sophisticated yet politically savage world of Anthem, Anthem's Fall unfurls into a plot where larger than life characters born with the prowess of gods are pitted against the shrewd brilliance of a familiar and unlikely heroine.'

Why does this science fiction fantasy-laced novel work so well? Because it is penned by a young man with an extraordinary sensitivity both to imaginative worlds, creative characters and an unbounded sense of how to express all of this into a spectacular story. Sean Dunn is one of the important young authors to rise to this peak with a first novel. Grady Harp, July 15

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.