Victernus, by Baumarius – Book Review by Fred Patten
by Pup Matthias
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Victernus, by Baumarius.
Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, November 2015, hardcover $25.00, trade paperback $14.99 (301 pages), Kindle $1.00.
Here is another grabber beginning.
“Namara drew the hot cell phone away from his face slowly. Shifting his attention to the television across his bright, clean living room, he watched as a fresh feed streamed in on a live news channel. Soldiers under the new administration broke down the doors to his lab and were streaming into the lobby. He grumbled, ‘Lynn…’ as the reporter said that the research done there was going to be repurposed for the public. A familiar voice emerged from below, and he remembered that he was still talking to his friend. He lifted the phone back up, ‘Mahalia? I have to go. Lynn finally did it. No…meet me at the sanctuary. If all goes well, I’ll be there in a few days.’” (p. 1)
But it goes downhill from there. Namara Galvarros, a Puerto Rican, turns himself on page 7 into the anthropomorphic wolf shown on Whiluna’s cover. From there on, Victernus is a fairly typical s-f novel of a tiny group of freethinking scientific rebels vs. an oppressive reactionary government that wants to seize the scientists’ new technology to control the public and to stay in power. The important difference is that these scientific rebels are led by Namara, first as an intelligent wolf, and later as the wolf-man.
Victernus is appealing if you like comic-book superhero plotting, due to vivid descriptions and the furry goal. Here is the good guys’ hidden sanctuary in the Rocky Mountains in 2038:
“They came into another clearing; a glass, hexagonal platform surrounded by mahogany planks, where they could see the whole sanctuary from above. It was raised, and similar rooms were spread out in the forest below them, connected to each other by bridges and ladders. Each one had a blue light glowing beneath it, providing ample visibility. There were chairs and tables arranged neatly on each one. Silver railings were along the edges, and blue, transparent screens floated in the air just outside of them. All kinds of experimental equipment were lying around on the tables. But, most importantly, the whole structure was covered by dense trees, so very little sunlight came through.” (pgs. 34-35)
Here is Namara transformed from a wolf into a wolf-man:
“Namara held up one of his hands and examined it. Black pads rested on his palm and sharp claws extended from the end of his fingers. Once again, his body was covered in a mix of light and dark grey fur, some areas longer than others. The backs of his ears and his chest were stained crimson, like the wolf before.” (p. 66)
The story unexpectedly jumps a couple of centuries, to after civilization has collapsed:
“The tall skyscrapers that stood there had their windows smashed out and large trees grew into them, their long vines hanging down and twisting around the steel frames. A few beaten up hovercars were sprawled out on the road ahead. Namara picked up his pace, jogging past them to find his way into the city.” (p. 86)
As you can see on Whiluna’s cover, Namara loses his left hand and has it replaced with a robotic claw. He finds a gigantic cavern with palm trees under the ruins of Washington, D.C., and … well, it gets really weird. But vivid.
The writing is simplistic. Victernus starts in 2038, twenty-two years in the future, with hoverbikes, stun guns, invisibility cloaks, high-speed pressure trains, both telepathy and transporter (teleportation) devices … Are we likely to have these in just twenty-two years? It reminds me of those flying cars that everyone is going to have Real Soon Now, that have been predicted since the late 1940s. And flying-car technology has actually existed for decades, whereas nobody has yet developed hoverbikes or tube trains that can travel from the East Coast to Colorado in a couple of hours. The U.S. has become an oppressive police state where the Army can kick down people’s doors and shoot them – by 2038?
“‘Everyone in this country has to be microchipped, supposedly to keep out terrorists and illegals. They’re putting up towers everywhere, and there will be few blind spots. They’ll send out drones to anyone who doesn’t have a chip.’” (p. 57)
Namara, as an intelligent wolf (not yet a wolf-man), easily passes as some kind of German Shepherd-like dog.
It’s sometimes confusing. (1) We’re told from the beginning that Namara is searching for a mysterious Koanthanatus, but he can’t describe what Koanthanatus is. A physical object? An abstraction, like a philosophy? Who knows; but it’s important! (2) “She nodded, ‘Ah. I am Mahalia Galvarros, Namara’s mate. We’ve been […]’”. (p. 34) Has ‘mate’ replaced ‘wife’ by 2038? Or are she & Namara non-wedded partners? But she’s using his last name. (3) Life in 2038 America seems futuristic but relatively normal up to page 46, when Mahalia says, “Yeah, and now most of the western states can’t be lived in, not to mention most of Europe, thanks to the war and the droughts.” Wait; what!? (4) “If you want, you guys can get chipped and go underground.” (p. 58) Isn’t it the people who aren’t chipped who can go underground? If you’re chipped, “they” can find you, to send out a drone. (5) What does “His [Namara’s] eyes changed from yellow to a glowing light blue, and they were filled with thin, mechanical rings.” (p. 123) mean?
Victernus can safely be described as amateurish, too, since the author’s online biography (http://www.baumarius.com/), says that, “Baumarius, also known as Luke Gonzalez, is an 18-year-old Puerto Rican artist who lives in Connecticut.” He’s only 18 years old, and he’s published this novel? How long has he been writing? In addition to the above, he consistently uses “lied” for “lay”. “Mahalia lied down beside beside him […]” “Namara lied back down […]” “[H]e could tell that it was Jordan by the pattern of their breathing.” Pattern of his breathing. (Hmmm. Baumarius is Puerto Rican and he lives in Connecticut. Namara Galvarros is Puerto Rican and his laboratory is in Connecticut. A bit of Mary Sue here?) He’s an author, artist, animator, and musician who has composed a CD full orchestral soundtrack to go along with this novel, available for $7.
Victernus’ cast is totally human except for Namara’s turning himself into a wolf-man. Why? “‘I made myself this way to find out what may be one of the most innocent things within all of humanity’s existence.’” (p. 188) Nobody understands him. Neither do I, except that it has something to do with Koanthanatus.
Victernus is Edge of Awareness, Book 1. Book 2, Ephemeron, “should be published by this fall (2016).”
“Koanthanatus is calling.”