Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Book Review: 'Furnace' by Joseph Williams

Michigan author Joseph Williams earned his BA in English as well as his MA in Creative Writing from Wayne State University in Detroit. Joseph focuses his attention on writing horror and science fiction novels. His output is rather astonishing since his earned degrees – collections of short stories in collections (THE MIDNIGHT DISEASE, THIRTEEN, SWINGING FROM STARS, TIMBERS OF FENNARIO, FEAR OF THE ABYSS) as well as the novels DEAD SOULS, TORN REALITIES, ORIGINS, DETROIT MACABRE, THE HUNT and now FURNACE.

This being the first of Joseph’s novels this reader has read opens a door onto a new frontier in terror and the manner in which Joseph manages to connect the reader’s mind with his adventure is accessible yet unique. He opens with the following: ‘I screwed up. That’s the only reasonable explanation I arrive at each time I consider the Furnace incident. No one else seems to see it that way though, no matter how deeply they wade in the muck and mire of data logs and survivor testimonies. The Crown performed an inquest when we returned to Earth. The chief investigator assigned to the case claimed there wasn’t a man or woman alive—excluding, maybe, the friends and relatives of the deceased—who would blame me for what happened to our ship in deep space. Beyond it, really. That’s the worst part. We had no idea where the hell we were, and it was my job to know. Space is an infinite cesspool of misery with fresh horrors on every rock you land on, but the Furnace incident was different than any so-called ‘normal’ complication on a hostile planet. A lot different.’

Without our even knowing he we are connected to a mystery that we must follow in one sitting. Joseph provides a fine synopsis: On a routine escort mission to a human colony, Lieutenant Michael Chalmers is pulled out of hyper-sleep a month early. The RSA Rockne Hummel is well off course and—as the ship’s navigator—it’s up to him to figure out why. It’s supposed to be a simple fix, but when he attempts to identify their position in the known universe, nothing registers on his scans. Nothing at all. The vessel has catapulted beyond the reach of starlight by at least a hundred trillion light-years. Then a planetary-mass object materializes behind them. It’s burning brightly even without a star to heat it. Hundreds of damaged ships are locked in its orbit, but before the scanners go offline, the crew discovers there are no life-signs aboard any of them. As system failures sweep through the Hummel, neither Chalmers nor the pilot can prevent the vessel from crashing into the surface near a mysterious ancient city. And that’s where the real nightmare begins.’

And so he has us where we cannot leave his well-considered plot until book’s end. Joseph Williams is a handsome young man with a true talent for his chosen genre. He obviously is committed to his art and we are more than likely going to hear much from and about him. Strong work, this. Grady Harp, February 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.