I’m really picky about the kinds of science fiction and fantasy books I like. I like stories that have a well-defined world while also not requiring an encyclopedia to understand that world. I like stories with well-defined characters who help guide the reader through this other world. So, when Gregory Tasoulas reached out to offer a review copy of his book The Journals of Incabad Reyl for me to review, I thought I’d give it a shot. It seemed right up my alley and, on the whole, I’m not disappointed. It’s not really the kind of sci-fi/fantasy story I’d read, but it did end up being pretty good.
In a different Universe where electricity is the defining driving force of all natural existence, and life exists on floating islands called troves, Incabad Reyl is the greatest scientist of his time. It was his research on the 12 electrons that gave the Equation of fractal dynamics, the Equation that became the basis of Horizon’s modern technology. The Equation that brought about a better understanding of the echomagnetic fields of the 12 permanent Storms and ushered Horizon into an era of technological advancement based on its abundant electrical forces.
But his Equation was flawed and incomplete…
And so, decades after his famous research that put him on a pedestal as Horizon’s greatest scientific mind, Professor Reyl embarks on a clandestine adventure to find what he calls the Master Equation. An equation that will define the elusive variables of the Horizon’s volatile and ever-changing echomagnetic fields. Or so everybody thinks.
His only ally a cryptic Oracle from the trove Ocheron, Lieutenant Auburn Thorn.
Together, the two men leave the trove Accadia, one of the ten Cradles of human civilization and travel to the distant and unexplored trove Tarn, where they venture deep into the uncharted jungle. With the help of Auburn’s oracular abilities, they discover an ancient technomagical building of unknown origins.
While the superficial harmony between the ten Cradles of humanity unravels around them, the two will have to face unforeseen adversities and betrayals, in a race to save humanity’s future.
Let’s talk about the good, first. I’m a big fan of stories that are told in the form of journal entries/memories/etc. I love stories that are delivered in ways that aren’t just the usual third-person prose and I love when there’s a really good reason for a story being told from the first-person point of view. Here, the story is told exclusively through transcriptions of Incabad Reyl’s recorded memories, giving us readers a nice, healthy dose of unreliable narrator syndrome as the story goes on and we learn how he hasn’t even been truthful with his own recordings, let alone with the other characters. Telling such a complicated story in a complicated universe directly through the eyes of the main character was a really smart decision as the reader gets to learn what, exactly, is happening just as Reyl experiences it.
There is, however, a downside to this. Reyl is a very famous, very smart “philosopher” – a word which, here, seems to be used in much the same way one would use “scientist” in the real world. This means that Reyl constantly uses complicated terminology to explain what is going on. This is really rough for someone like me to get through. I love world-building, but I really don’t like to be thrown into a world where I literally need an encyclopedia to understand what is being said. And, since an actual glossary of terms was included in this book, that immediately turned me off and it took me a while to get past that. I’m not saying that authors shouldn’t create complicated worlds for their stories to take place in; I just know that those kinds of stories tend not to be for me as I would rather just focus on experiencing the events that are happening rather than having to look up the definitions for made-up words in order to understand what turns out to be simple sentences. This kind of world-building tends to really exhaust me as a reader and it hinders my ability to get immersed into the story that’s being told as I constantly have to go to the book’s glossary to understand the nuances of the universe. Some people will love that kind of thing, but it’s not really my cup of tea. And that’s okay; it’s not a bad thing that this book does that. I’m not saying it didn’t work or that it’s terrible the book does that. It’s just not usually what I enjoy in sci-fi/fantasy stories.
That being said, I did eventually get past that. It took the better part of the first quarter of the book for me to do so, but I got there. And once I did, I did really start to enjoy the story being told. It’s not a particularly action-packed story or anything, but it is a really interesting one. Reyl believes that, prior to what is considered to be the beginning of modern humanity, many technologically advanced civilizations inhabited the Horizon – the name of the planet the story takes place on; Earth, I assume. So, he sets out on a quest to explore one such previously inhabited place in order to prove his theory correct and, in doing so, uncovers a mystery so much grander than he could have imagined. It’s a really interesting story, involving lots of fictional archaeology, politics, and science; investigations; and characters supporting each other and betraying each other and it’s all just executed really well. Unfortunately, the novel doesn’t really have a satisfying conclusion; it just kind of ends, teasing a further adventure for the characters that may or may not actually be a story Tasoulas intends to tell. I like to know ahead of time if the story I’m reading is intended to be part of a series, so I always get a little annoyed when a cliffhanger is thrown at me without warning. But, again, that’s not really this book’s fault – it’s more of a me thing.
All in all, The Journals of Incabad Reyl is an interesting, well-written science fiction/fantasy novel. While it wasn’t really the kind of thing I normally like reading, I did end up enjoying it a fair amount. For what it’s trying to be, it’s very well-executed, featuring a few really interesting characters at its core and a society-spanning mystery that is surprising and genuinely earth-shattering for the world of the story. This kind of story isn’t really my cup of tea, but it’s definitely gonna be the cup of tea for a bunch of other people. If you like stories with super complex worlds that are so well-constructed that you just want to throw yourself right into them, this book will absolutely be for you. If you prefer your stories to be a bit less complicated or to take place in a world a bit closer to our own, then this might not be for you. Either way, it’s certainly worth giving a try. It wasn’t really my cup of tea, but I still enjoyed it quite a bit. It’s definitely worth checking out if this is your kind of sci-fi.
3.5 out of 5 wands.