Monday, November 18, 2019
Book Review: 'The Altered Wake (The Sentinel Quartet, #1)' by Megan Morgan
‘No human wanted to share space with monsters.’
Maryland author Megan Morgan grew up in West Virginia with a passion for science fiction and fantasy and began writing her imaginings in Junior High, creating universes with bizarre but fascinating characters. Her skills in writing were polished in college and now she lives and writes in Baltimore, Maryland. THE ALTERED WAKE is he debut novel, not noting the other part of the title we can see that this is at least a quartet of books in the making.
Megan’s book falls into the genetic engineering science fiction genre, but her writing proves that her goal is communicating her strange plot with prose that is at once exciting and eloquent. Characters are constructed slowly and carefully, creating three-dimensional realities we can see and with whom we can connect.
A taste of her writing style, from the opening pages, is an invitation to explore – ‘Cameron took the curve too fast. A shiver ran through the motorcycle, up into her hands. She shifted down, her eyes on the next bend, this one so sharp it almost became a circle. Each twist and turn meant time lost. The fool who chose motorcycles as the vehicle for patrols must have been more concerned with fuel costs than the schedule. Snow tires gripped the asphalt of the curve. Cameron’s revolver lifted away from her hip, and her blade slid a few centimeters against her back. The shell of the bike rattled, and the battery buzzed in the cold air. Wind knifed into the gaps between her gloves and jacket and under the edge of her helmet when she rounded the next turn. Cameron shuddered. She remembered the long, straight roads of Cotarion’s southern plains, and the summer sun that had warmed her back when her patrol began. Now her bike’s brilliant scarlet lay under a coat of gray winter dust. Some of the Low Crescent Mountain villagers did not even recognize her as a Sentinel until they saw the golden eyes embroidered on the shoulders of her jacket. Cameron glanced at her odometer. Not far. She dropped down another gear. A town sprang up out of the mountainside. She drove between the steep roofs and tiny shuttered windows common in the Low Crescents. The light was fading, and they had just reached Palisade. At least they hadn’t fallen further behind. A few houses flashed by, then a pub, a small hotel, a mechanic’s shop, all showing signs of salvage in their construction. There was a Remnant somewhere nearby, visible in pieces of pale metal cut into roof tiles, a gleaming post where a log would normally be, a series of perfectly smooth glass windows. The few people on the street looked up at the hum of her engine, and their eyes followed her progress. Posters plastered every building, and from every poster a child gazed. Cameron slowed, enough to glimpse a few words, and then she slowed more, enough for the second motorcycle to catch up. When her patrol partner was near enough, she made a few hand signals, and though she couldn’t see Captain Fletcher’s face behind the dark glass of his visor, she did see his shoulders stiffen. He was going to argue. He followed her to the scarlet flag that flapped over the Public Safety Office. They pulled their bikes into the small gravel lot in front of the PSO. In this, at least, Palisade was lucky. In many towns, the PSO was a blocky building, cheaply made. Palisade’s was older, and it looked like an arrowhead of stone and wood from the front, pointing into the sky. No salvage, either. They both pulled off their helmets. Captain Fletcher’s mouth, usually curved in a pleasant smile, was marred by a frown. “Are you stopping over some missing posters, Kardell?” “You could go on alone while I look into it, Sir. I know catching up to our schedule is important.” The frown deepened. A breeze ruffled his thick hair, which was unaffected by hours under a helmet. “It’s against regulations for us to split up.” “Yes, Captain Fletcher. It is also against regulations to ignore a call for help.” “I don’t need lectures from a Unibrow on regulations. When you’ve been Sentinel more than four months, then maybe you can form an opinion.” “Sir, I’ve been a Sentinel for six months.” Captain Fletcher cursed. “You know what I mean.”
The opening foray is well seeded in the provided synopsis: ‘As long-dormant superpowers awaken, a young woman faces a terrible dilemma: betray her nation or hunt down her best friend? The future. Earth’s governments have fallen, succeeded by a unified military order. An elite group of soldiers, the Sentinels, protect Cotarion from marauders and neighbors alike. Within, shadowy forces at the highest levels conspire for the power they need to enact a mysterious agenda. But now, something has changed. Men and women have emerged, displaying superhuman abilities powerful enough to threaten the established order, and the High General commands Sentinel Cameron Kardell to track a superhuman gone rogue. A superhuman who holds the key to these powers’ origin. Who happens to be Kardell’s best friend. Who will reveal the truth of Cameron’s own origins. The Altered now wake.’
Science fiction/fantasy, yes, but catch the glimpses of or current global conditions and settle in to a book that not only entertains but also makes (?forces?) us to think…and that is a sign of success. Welcome to Megan Morgan!
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.