Book Review: The Heretic

22471354Alex Roddie, author of The Atholl Expedition and The Only Genuine Jones

Lucas Bale’s debut novel is gripping, suspenseful science fiction. It seizes you right from the first word, and the chase scene at the climax of the story is some of the finest writing I’ve seen in the genre.

Eve Seymour, author of The Last Exile and Resolution to Kill

One to watch.

Nadine Matheson, author of The Sisters

An engrossing and tense post-apocalyptic adventure. Lucas Bale delivers in his exciting and brilliant debut that does justice to the Sci-fi genre.



The genre of science fiction has been moving away from vampires and werewolves and the supernatural toward dystopian universes. In his debut novel, Lucas Bale tackles this popular topic in a way that is (almost) uniquely his. If you’ve ever seen the hit show Firefly and have read this book, you know what I’m talking about.

Much of the inspiration from this book seems to draw from the show, and it gets hard to separate the two at points. The character of Shepherd comes off too much like Capt. Malcolm Reynolds, but because he’s such  likable character, you kind of just go with it.

There were definitely other elements that could be traced back to the show, but they were few and far between, and not something I dwelled upon.

The novel actually opens up with an introduction to Jordi, who I presumed at the time to be the main character, and what he is going through until the two plot points meet up near the end of the story. As a 14 year old boy, he has the characteristics and personality of someone younger and older than his age would suggest. I remember reading a line that said–and I’m paraphrasing here–that there was a “stirring in a place he didn’t fully understand” when looking at the neighbor’s wife. I don’t know about you, but all the teenaged boys I know are fully aware of what that is by at least 12 years old. But then, a few chapters later, he’s going up against men with guns like he does it all the time.

After we meet Jordi, we’re introduced to Shepherd, or Shep. I, for some reason, thought this was perhaps an older version of Jordi and that we were being given flashbacks to his life, as Jordi lived in a rural area, while Shep was in the big city. I’ve read it before in other books, and just assumed it was happening here. Even the writing changed a bit to suggest such, as we didn’t get a clear break between character points of view.

But strictly speaking about the writing, it captured your attention, and made you want to figure out what the writer was trying to accomplish. It may not have been the most well-executed style, but it seemed to work for the story at hand. For me, however, there was so much detail over every little thing that it was easy to get tripped up and confused as to what they were describing by the end of it. In this case, less would definitely have been more.

One of the main issues I had with the novel was the jumping back and forth, both between characters and time. While we really only get one or two solid flashbacks, it just seems like Jordi’s character is set in the past, and there’s no way to really get around that. Yes, they cross paths and eventually team up, but it feels strange. They’re like two heads of the same coin, distinguished only by their age. Their pasts, what little we actually see of them feel very similar in a way that portrays things that aren’t written on the page.

However, even with these issues, knowing this is a debut novel speaks wonders. By the end of the story, the writing becomes more clear and focused, the characters have strong points of view that differentiate themselves from the others, and the plot thickens, making you interested in what is coming next. But for me, the most intriguing thing about the novel itself was the Preacher. He’s connected to both Jordi and Shepherd, and has a past he’d like to keep hidden. At least for the time being. He seems to go against everything that you learn about Preachers in the story, but at the same time, keeps to their values and stereotypes. It’s an interesting combination.

The ending did leave me wanting more, though. It left off relatively in a stalemate, and I wanted that catchy cliffhanger that urges readers to pick up the next installment. Even though not everything gets solved or explained, with the way the book ends, it could be read as a standalone novel, which isn’t always the best thing when trying to create a series. But as the author progresses with the rest of the series, these little things–and I’m probably just nitpicking here–will no doubt improve. Practice makes perfect, as they say, and although it isn’t perfect, there’s much to like about this debut novel and shouldn’t be passed up lightly.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

[Disclaimer: I received a free ebook copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.]



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