Vinson Gant was just another spice trader, forty years old and doing well for it, running a tidy and profitable routine, enjoying a comfortable life high above the dusty smog shroud of Hazhur. That is, until a favor on behalf of a trusted associate in honorable business practices – the safe transport of their 14-year-old daughter – goes off the rails – literally. When his Hak-9 magnetic railed vehicle crashes in the dirt-poor surface districts, a simple job embroils Vinson and his passenger, Qassi Ferenyu, in an ancient, intergalactic, and almost hopeless conflict between humanity and the galaxy’s purification-frenzied “cleaners.” When Qassi finds herself the unintended recipient of fantastic powers, all by a twist of fate at the hands of the hostile creatures, suddenly powerless mortality has the strength of an immortal on its side in Bradly Byykkonen’s debut novel, Immortal Dawn.
From the first page, Immortal Dawn is ready to pull you into its world, with thoughtful details filling your head-space immediately, setting the scene from the get-go and immersing the reader quickly and thoroughly with its mixture of bizarre cultural quirks and far-out technological innovation, yet never letting go of its connection to current-world humanity and remaining relatable to modern-day. The themes of class, crime, fate, and oppression are analogous to modern issues, while Byykkonen keeps those links subtle and at a reasonable level of disconnection, maintaining the book’s own world while making it accessible from ours. The characters of the ‘jaded old businessman’ working ‘another job’ is a sci-fi staple, and plays well with the ‘young girl with fantastic powers’ in this almost-strange world in a way reminiscent – but not too familiar – of The Fifth Element and of course, Dune, helped by its occasional droplet of the absurd in its otherwise very serious setting. Any character capable of starting the tale of the “young girl with only a bar of soap [who] defeated two armed men” has an inseparable humor about them, but that never detracts from the dire quality of the situations faced by Qassi and Vinson.
The book is filled with unusual technology and alien culture, all with appropriately foreign invented linguistics at and Dune-tached that, thankfully, is quite simple to grasp and gives the reader perfect time for every new concept to sink in without the text treating its reader as incompetent at following the narrative regardless; whatever “dahl’tyar” might be, it’s obvious the term is powerful when it brings an unshakable hostile force a moment of hesitation. The book is very pleasant with its awareness of what the average reader is likely to need to advance without a double-take.
Immortal Dawn is grim, but with reason, and fails to be suffocatingly miserable as much as keenly aware of the corruption and the intended solutions as viewed by a claimed higher-power. It continually oozes with flavor and succeeds at most every turn in meeting the standards of a good, solid sci-fi novel. The nearer the ending, for me, was a slight turn into a much different kind sci-fi than it began with, and Qassi’s role expands to a much bigger one which becomes the catalyst for this, but nonetheless it remains one of the more enrapturing reads of my 2015 so far.
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