Admittedly, there is something kinda cool about blending magic and technology together. It doesn’t make sense given Clarke’s law (“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic“), but it’s more for aesthetic value, like having mystical Jedi Knights in a mostly science fiction setting.
But as a tip for writers, if you’re going to throw magic and science together, you could at least make the rest of the story just as interesting.
Case in point, MageTech Assassin‘s Vendetta by J.R. Urie.
The Story: They Took Away His Family, So He’ll Take Away Their Lives…! (Dun dun dun)
Matherion is a young man living in a world where hi-tech meets high fantasy, with laser guns and hovercraft (excuse me, “mobis”) alongside elves, orks, and gargoyles. However, when his father kills a drug dealer, it means the end of his family except for his sister Adella, from whom he becomes separated. To avenge his family and earn a living, Matherion becomes an assassin and pursues a vendetta against the now-successful individuals who ruined his life…
…For about the first hundred and forty pages. After that we get a surprise “What If?” section where we see Matherion become a police officer instead and his family is whole and everything is wonderful. And then we get a glossary for all the made-up jargon and slang. And then some strange epilogue involving elves and by that point I have no clue what I’m reading anymore.
The Cast: Life Among The Dregs Of Town
Matherion is our protagonist, the titular MageTech Assassin (in that he assassinates people using a combination of magic and advanced technology). There’s something about him that I can’t quite put my finger on. Half the time he seems content to be an assassin and spending his money in nightclubs, but the other half of the time he’s wracked with pain about his family and suddenly gets uncomfortable being an assassin. I’d say this would show some depth to his character, but there doesn’t seem to be any consistency to his attitude.
Other characters include Adella, his beloved sister who disappears after their parents and other sister get brutally murdered, and a Duke (whose name I can’t begin to figure out) who sponsors Matherion through assassin school. Between the very fantastic names and slow pacing, it was very hard to distinguish all the supporting characters from one another.
The Style: Pretty In Purple Prose
Essentially, what gets me most about this story is the way it’s written. Normally, I’d think a family vendetta would be rather interesting, but here the pacing just plods along and the tone doesn’t seem to change much between when Matherion is killing someone for a job and when he’s out in a nightclub drinking with an exotic dancer. The dialogue is so stilted that the only way to tell emotionally impacting scenes from the rest of the fluff is to check for an exclamation point at the end of a sentence.
Also, it seems that it’s impossible for anything to be ordinary in this fantastic world. You can’t have a door lock; it has to be a “maglock.” You can’t have just any old limousine; it must only be a “Verton-Titro’en limousine.” And God forbid any material in this story should not be “synthetic” — synthetic leather, synthetic concrete, synthetic steel (I’d make a joke about how even the characters and plot are synthetic, but that’s too easy).
Final Verdict: Nice Premise, But Not Yet A Thriller
Honestly, I have to give the author credit for making a strong attempt at building his own fictional world and giving it history and depth. With a little more polish, it could seem as vivid as the urban environments from William Gibson’s Sprawl Trilogy or Steven Brust’s Dragaera series. But the characters aren’t too fleshed-out, the plot jumps around a bit, and the dialogue is too stiff to be taken seriously. But what it lacks in focus, it makes up for in potential.
I received a complimentary copy of MageTech Assassin’s Vendetta as a member of the Dorrance Book Review Team. Visit dorrancebookstore.com to find out how you can become a member of the Book Review Team.
Bibliography: Urie, J.R. MageTech Assassin’s Vendetta. Pittsburgh: Dorrance Publishing, 2011.