FF’s Star Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Joshua Banker is the author of The Realm of Tah’afajien Series. I had read the second book, A Prison of Flesh, in the series. In that one, I had already become familiar with Banker’s almost fey recipe for speculative fiction authors to cause readers to have an almost euphoric experience while reading. In The Fifth Era of Man, I got this feeling right from the start. That each one of the words had been daubed with bits of that transcendental euphoria that Banker has already proven himself pertinent at providing.
In the year 3220 of the Modern Calendar, Calvin Reeger owes somebody big time. A man named Jaefor. A man who would gladly make furniture out of the skins of Cal and his family if Cal doesn’t pay up. Tales have reached Jaefor that the Archaeology Bureau has unearthed a site buried a half-mile or so beneath Natx Hollow. Cal is to go there and retrieve, no matter what it is, something ancient and valuable. Under the guise of working for the Merced League, Cal escorts an An-Sebban, a gatherer of data, to Natx Hollow. What he finds there, along with members of the Archaeology Bureau, is a room where a woman warrior named Prae awakes after an impossibly long slumber. She wants answers. Cal, his An-Sebban ward, and two others, decide to help her find them.
Cal, snappily revealed to have ash blond hair, wearing a jacket with orange patches and brass clasp closures, and carrying two matching revolvers that are worth even more than his own life, moves through a crowd in the beginning of the book like a man tasked with something important to do. Because his eyes are wary of pickpockets and such, I could already envision Cal as a man who, no matter how fast he moved, never missed a detail. He moves through Urigo Sector, described as a sort of haven within the boundaries of Greater Decedistadt where almost everything you saw came with a price attached.
The author made it easy for me to get know Cal early on and I was glad that the author didn’t make his protagonist one of those overused dark and mysterious types because of what Cal did for a living. Jaefor describes him best. “I, on the other hand, see the raw talent, the once-capable gunman, who squandered a life of promise in the pursuit of wine, women and wealth, only to end up with none of them.” After events unfold in unexpected ways in Natx Hollow, we learn more of why exactly Jaefor chose Cal, an obvious failure in life, to fetch his prize. To Jaefor, Cal is the kind of dumb who always manages to survive and that is why he chose him specifically, much to the chagrin of Illgosses, a player within Jaefor’s circles who thinks up a plot to kill Cal and make off with whatever Cal finds.
Oebe Nsu-Orgette, the An-Sebban ward that Cal is meant to escort under the pretense of working for the Merced Leauge, filled me with much fascination when I met her. Being an An-Sebban, Oebe’s purpose is to be a kind of observer who collects data for what is known as the Central Archive. As it is revealed, the reason that the An-Sebban collects this data is simply to know. She doesn’t process what she sees like normal humans and she has little use for emotions.
Centurion Prae Ganveldt, like Oebe, is a fictional object of fascination. But, to put it mildly, I’d feel more safer being alone with Oebe in a room than with Prae. She may be in possession of the kind of technology that fans of futuristic gadgetry would flock to, but she is a skilled warrior with a short fuse. She and Cal can constantly be seen trading sharp words and during these exchanges there is often something funny to be found. It was hate at first sight for these two. Prae ultimately has Cal, Oebe, a Bureau man named Peter, and the strong Apello tagging along with her to Ala’ydin, a place where she seeks to find answers as to why she has been woken up like this from her sleep.
Halfway through, Prae eventually tells those tagging along with her more about herself, her kind, her age, and in what time period she existed. When she tells the others of her own parents and the reason for them never having reached the age of two hundred, I found that reason to be weak in contrast to everything she has said before this which sounded scientifically believable. “It, uh, it was not expected as many of those who were able to breed did so at the cost of their own life span.” Then again, Prae’s “uh” might only be because she is not the type of person to explain things. She’s a soldier from another timeline with a much longer lifespan than normal humans and she’s in possession of a different kind of technology, so almost everything she says and does has her companions asking questions.
I was well-informed of every setting because Banker could transport me there easily. I think he is an author who can walk around in his own imagination and relate every last thing he sees within it clearly. Reading, I actually saw and experienced the settings because that is what the author does. Manipulating the readers’ senses so that they see colors, smell aromas, and even feel things that aren’t there. His talent to vividly describe things in general is a talent that Banker can be proud of because he is truly good making readers see.
Joshua Banker asks the question of whether humans have existed as they thought they did, if the world is as old as they think it was, and if humans are really as technologically advanced as they believe themselves to be. I haven’t read anything like this before. To say that I enjoyed it wouldn’t even begin to describe what it felt like to read this book.
Date Published: March 20, 2018
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