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Scales
Anthony G. Williams
Authors Online, 220 pages

Scales
Anthony G. Williams
Anthony G. Williams is a military technology historian. He is the author of Rapid Fire: The Development of Automatic Cannon, Heavy Machine Guns and their Ammunition for Armies, Navies and Air Forces, and the co-author of Assault Rifle: the Development of the Modern Military Rifle and its Ammunition (with Maxim Popenker) and the three-volume series Flying Guns: Development of Aircraft Guns, Ammunition and Installations (with Emmanuel Gustin). The Foresight War was his first novel.

Anthony G. Williams Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Foresight War

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

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'"Sometimes the beast has its uses, when faced with other beasts. It is a question of balancing the scales"'
If you like books that start with a bang, this one begins well. Journalist Matt Johnson is beavering away one evening in his study, when a mysterious buzzing noise fills the room. Shortly thereafter an explosion destroys the building. When he wakes up in hospital it becomes clear that some time has passed, and his life has been radically altered. Upon arrival for treatment, he was suffering from severe and extensive burns, and was not expected to live. However, due to a previously unknown process, which the doctors cannot explain, Johnson's body has been repairing itself, rebuilding him from the inside out, pushing old teeth out of the way for a perfect new set, and changing his skin to chameleon-like scales. As his remarkable transformation progresses, Matt takes the name Cade, and discovers that he has a range of new abilities, including empathic powers over the nervous systems of others. At first, he uses this ability to help heal the sick, while coming to terms with his new self. Inevitably, word gets out and attracts the attention of the media, followed by MI5, for whom Cade goes to work part-time, providing unique counter-terrorist services. Events proceed at a breakneck pace, eventually leading to a revelation concerning Cade's origin, which evolves into the most important discovery in the history of mankind.

Anthony G. Williams is among a growing band of authors doing his own thing outside of big league publishing, and doing it with style. Scales is his second novel, and marks a departure from his previous publishing forays. This book is a work of pure science fiction, as opposed to something with an historical context. Narrated in the first person, the very readable story suggests inspiration from Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger In A Strange Land, the TV series Sliders, David Icke and a smattering of Harry Turtledove's Worldwar novels. I found it entertaining throughout, and finished keen to read more. Having said that, the story quite often felt rushed, perhaps due to the financial constraints of POD; the greater the page count the more it costs to print, thus making it more expensive to buy. Happily, this has no impact upon product quality or cover image, both of which are excellent. Written more like an extended essay than a full length novel, the book has a greater number of ideas than available space. Understanding is never a problem, it's just that a natural expansion of the more interesting themes, relationships, and complexities of science would've been welcome. If backed by a major publishing house, and encouraged by an experienced editor, Scales could easily have doubled in length. Suffering most from truncation are Cade's personal relationships, which are like instant coffee; fine for a quick fix, but not as good as using a percolator. A percolator, in literary terms, being development time and page count.

As the novel progresses its scope broadens dramatically, and sometimes falls prey to credibility issues. Cade seems to develop abilities and skills to get himself out of tight spots, rather than using existing powers to best advantage. Similarly, the technologically advanced saurian inhabitants of a parallel dimension we meet in the second half of the novel become irritatingly naïve, and in dire need of a kick up the backside. In some ways that is what they get, when Cade warns these benevolent lizards about the danger posed by Nazi-like Saurians from the Germany of another alternate Earth. The nasty critters provide the author with his best source material for a sequel, if he wants to develop a series that could attract a following. Scales begins with a bang, and ends like the big bang, ever expanding. A virtually invincible, scaly, trans-dimensional, super-hero adventurer, complete with the ability to induce orgasms for his women friends using thought alone, is a whole lot of fun. But, there's room for improvement. I would hope that future works marshal, refine, and closely focus upon the better ideas, giving them plenty of breathing room.

The first four chapters of Scales can be read for free at www.quarry.nildram.co.uk.

Copyright © 2007 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at www.inkdigital.org.


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