Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Book Review: 'Fallen Sun' by Harule Stokes

Young New York author Harule Stokes grew up in Crown Heights, Brooklyn and has seen his share of violence and drug abuse. But, armed with the knowledge of his elders, a faithful father and a strong spiritual base, Harule was able to make his way out of an assuredly dark existence and into a life of positive possibilities.

Harule’s first novel was SECTORS in which he combined a rather unusual state of science fiction and fantasy with some redeeming qualities of spiritualism. He created dysfunctional worlds ruled by disparate types of creatures/people. He continues that in this novel FALLEN SUN. His ability to painting broad canvases of dystopian grandeur ranks with the best sci-fi writers, as the following opening suggests: ‘Ophelia stands atop a pile of rubble covered in tall grass above the once-chaotic battlefield. Below her rests the remains of the mangled dead and shattered machines. There would be a nice breeze today if it were not for the billowing, acrid black smoke of war that occasionally blots out the warm spring sun. I know she hears my approach. She’s just as aware of my footsteps as I am of her breath and calm, steady heartbeat. Her uniform, torn in the back, exposes where she took direct hits from gunfire and a black-worm seed infestation. The bleeding may have stopped hours ago, the wounds completely healed, but her skin still shows remnants of black-worm's barbs and the rapid-growing roots that tore into her flesh. The scars are reminiscent of the mountain ranges on those old, plastic topographical maps my students loved to touch. The remaining inflamed welts on Ophelia’s back are slowly disappearing. It's a reminder that some scars don’t fade so easily, like the haunting memory of her screams that linger in my mind. It’s tough to get black-worm roots out once fully implanted. It’s even harder to get them out of a Finger of God.’ And that simply introduces the mood.
The synopsis covers the storyline, complex though it is, very well: ‘Jocelyn Martinez was not a warrior, she was a teacher. But, when her country began losing the war with its southern neighbor, Keynosa, she answered the call to arms. She agreed to be transformed into a living war machine. She agreed to become a Finger of God. Three years later, nearly half of her country, the Northern Alliance, lies in utter ruins. Yet, over countless battles, she and her brothers- and sisters-in-arms have turned the tide. Now poised to finally defeat Keynosa's powerful Guardsmen army, they are confronted with a threat that may cost them the war. The process that transformed them into the world's most powerful weapons, is also driving them insane. Despite 42 years of life, losing both parents, and experiencing a painful divorce, nothing could prepare her for the tragedy of seeing her friends slowly fall apart. Yet, they cannot relent. The Guardsmen are starting to adapt. They’re preparing a weapon that can stop even a Finger of God. Hanging by a thread, the Northern Alliance must make its final push towards victory. But, can they succeed before it all falls apart? Can Jocelyn ever hope to live a normal life again? The end may be near, but no one knows for certain whose end it will be.’

There is a sense of conviction and creed and spiritual redemption that comes out of these characters. It signals hope on many levels. Grady Harp, June 16

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.