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Midnight in New Promise
Lon Prater
Scrybe Press, 31 pages

Midnight in New Promise
Lon Prater
Lon Prater lives on the Gulf Coast with his amazingly patient wife and their two delightful daughters. Between work and play, he writes obsessively about things that could never happen and edits Neverary.com, a webzine for other people with the same compulsion. His writing has been printed in Borderlands 5 and published in various other venues online.

Lon Prater Website
ISFDB Bibliography
Scrybe Press

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Kit O'Connell

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Midnight In New Promise, the recent chapbook by Lon Prater, has a certain pleasing circularity to its plot -- it begins and ends with an act of violence. Our hero, Grieven Derleth (a name I found more humorous than I think the author intended) is a man who makes his living on "dirt" -- that is, collecting secrets and selling them to the highest bidder. When the story opens, Grieven has been caught spying by the Governor's ogre, beaten soundly, and left in an alley.

Despite his injuries, our narrator takes time out to tell us about New Promise in an expository fashion. The setting is a city undergoing an industrial revolution, complete with a swelling population and unemployment, workers' strikes, rampant pollution, and a thriving criminal underworld. However, in New Promise, humans live alongside ogres, elves, gnolls, gnomes, and a host of other fantasy species. Countless tiny Pagan cults operate in the city though they are outlawed in favor of the official religion, the Undying Spark.

Although the setting is interesting, Prater overly relies on his readers' knowledge of fantasy races from other settings and does little to give each its own identity here. Further, he would do well to practice immersing us in the setting rather than broadly lecturing us on it, even if the space allotted to the story is quite short.

The author does an effective job of carrying us along with Grieven's nasty business as he uncovers an intricate web of blackmail and political influence. At times his writing even approaches the poetic. His most successful creation is the Undying Spark, who have an equation that disproves the existence of all gods but have still created an intricate religion; the story is most engaging when Grieven visits their official church, the Rationarium.

This story is too rough around the edges at such a short length, and though the cover price of $4US may not seem like much, it is hard to recommend it wholeheartedly when you could buy an entire, more satisfying novel at a used bookstore for the cost. Judging by Midnight in New Promise, Lon Prater is an author who is worth reading and I'll be tempted by the sequel, Murder in New Promise, when it is published. However, for now readers are better off looking for this writer in another medium.

Copyright © 2004 Kit O'Connell

Kit O'Connell is a writer and bookseller from Austin, Texas. Not just a book critic, his poetry has seen print on Storyhouse Coffee Cans, among other places, and he has survived Burning Man twice. He is sporadically at work on short fiction which he won't tell you anything about, but you can read his regularly updated journal at todfox.livejournal.com.


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