Back earlier this year, author Ian Michael serialized his new novel, Ultra Violence (Tales from Venus, Book 1), on the Famous Maximus web site.
His book is now out on Amazon, and if you’re at all a fan of alternative universe fiction — think Charles Stross or J. D. Horn (doesn’t have to be sci fi) — take a look at Michael’s new book. In coming years, you can say you helped discover him. Here’s the link: https://amzn.to/2VQP23p
Here’s my Amazon review:
This is a satisfying first novel in the alternative universe genre. The key to making such stories successful is that the alternative universe has to be logically consistent, given its ground rules, and all the characters must behave according to those rules. Otherwise, the author can dig themselves out of any predicament with a bit of magic. And after a while, who cares?
So imagine a universe pretty much like our own up until the mid 20th century. It’s somewhat more technologically advanced than ours, though. There are the same two political blocs, one in the East centered on the Soviet Union and Chinese, and one in the West around NATO. Each bloc has staked out and colonized one of the two nearest planets. The East went to Mars and the West to Venus. After suitable terraforming, citizens of each bloc stream to their respective colonies: “Terrans grew tired of their hellish lives in overcrowded, crime-ridden hive cities. They flooded to the other two planets, building powerful nations in their own right.”
Like children everywhere, the colonies began to act increasingly independently of their mother planet. So now, instead of two superpower blocks in mutually assured deterrence, humans are faced with a situation of three actors, each suspicious of the other two and all armed to the teeth with the most destructive weapons their advanced technologies would allow. A fundamentally unstable situation. And then the Venusians discover what they think will be a counter to even the most advanced weapons of the other sides: People. Ultra violent people.
The action begins.
Without giving too much away, let me just say that Michael soon switches focus from grand strategy down to a small group of Venusians who find themselves caught in his scenario. This is, of course, a common technique — to get you emotionally invested in the people involved, and ask yourself what you would do, by putting you in with a bunch of characters that you come to care about doing things that you would care about if you were there.
I think you’ll enjoy how Michael’s develops his motley crew as the story moves along and perhaps agree that although you might not have done what they did, what they did do was logical and consistent with the ground rules of their universe. In the process, he tells a tale that kept me turning the pages. And since their universe isn’t too different from our own, there might be something for us to ponder, too.
Looking forward to more from Ian Michael!
A couple of additional thoughts. For my taste, Michael does a great job with the dialogue. The key to good dialogue, of course, is that it doesn’t draw attention to itself. People talk like real people talk. So you say, “That’s not so hard. I know how people talk.” Try it yourself, then find a critical reader who will give you an honest opinion (not an easy job). I think this portends great things from Ian Michael.
About that title. Most readers, I’m sure, will recognize the phrase “ultra violence.” Ian assures me that this is not an accident. What if Burgess’s ultra violence could be instilled by governments for military purposes? Perhaps something like the Wehrmacht’s use of methamphetamines during WW II? Then what happens to those super soldiers who survive?
[Disclosure: I’ve never met Ian Michael, although we have written back and forth and talked on the phone. I do know his father, Larry Kummer, who runs the Fabius Maximus web site. That being said, I am probably the last person a budding novelist should be taking advice from.]