A fellow book reviewer has been lamenting about missing the good old days of reading just for fun. Most of my reading is non-fiction and reading for fun is not much different than reading and reviewing. I do all the same things read for detail, take notes, evaluate the thesis, and so on. It’s my guess that reading non-fiction for fun is probably not most peoples idea of fun. It made me think of the last time I read something fun.
Recently, Mark King sent me a copy of his book Frenzy to review. Once it arrived, I set it on my desk and mentally bumped it up in my queue since it was a hardcover sent all the way from England. Yesterday, knowing that I was going to spend three hours on a train, I removed the dust jacket, put the book in my bag, caught the train.
There was some valuable introductory information on that dust jacket I left at home. I started the book on the train and began to wonder: What kind of world is this taking place on?…Overseers? I began thinking a futuristic feudal system, prison colony, maybe aliens like the television series “V”. As I read more information came out. It is earth. But something happened that changed the entire planet. King puts together a great story, never leaking too much information to the reader too quickly. Several thoughts came as I read farther, maybe Logan’s Run. No, it wasn’t quite that either.
Daniel is an apprentice woodcutter and works under his father’s supervision. They live in a mud and thatched hut and are entrusted with a metal ax. The culture and society seems to be early Middle Ages with two key differences. The people are completely illiterate and quality metal tools and weapons are scarce. No one remembers society before the Overseers came. That is mostly because after reaching the age of forty people are removed from their village and sent to a retirement community as a reward for their work and tithing to the overseers. People seem relatively happy in their station and all look forward to their retirement award. Life is primitive, but pretty good.
However, like any society where things run smoothly and there is a powerful ruling group, there is a darker side. Daniel accidentally discovers that darker side and goes on the run to avoid summary execution and to protect his family. On the run, he meets the young hunter Gwendoline (don’t call her Gwen) and Mary, who is past her fortieth birthday and hiding to avoid summary execution. Mary remembers life before the Overseers and slowly she begins to tell Daniel what happened to earth. Now the three of them must leave and try to find the item that may allow them to resist the Overseers who are hunting them down and maybe free mankind from their tyranny.
Needless to say, three hours on a train and I completed the book. It took me a while, but I know what the book reminded me of. Years ago, I read books like Riftwar Saga and other fantasy adventures where people were put into situations that they did not expect and were called upon or pushed into by fate. Frenzy has that same feel. The adventure and the quest come together for three unlikely people who with their different abilities form a capable team. This book, however, has no magic or magical beings. It is science fiction but told in a manner of a fantasy story, but I could almost see Daniel as the fighter, Gwendoline as the their or ranger, and Mary as mage/sage.
I can say this book took me back to the days when I read just for fun. King creates a story that is fun and easy to fall into. Even without reading the summary on the jacket, the story quickly fell into place. It is fast moving and a fast page turner. I managed to read this book in two sittings, but wished I could have read it all in one. It’s a book you do not want to put down. I recommend to any who likes science fiction and particularly to those who like fantasy novels. Frenzy takes the best from both genres and gives the reader a nice escape.
Book Review by Joseph Spuckler