Friday, April 10, 2015

My review of Milton Davis' novel From Here To Timbuktu. A really impressive tale!

 From Here To Timbuktu is a 217 page steam-funk novel by Milton Davis, which is set in an alternate timeline, and was released as a e-novel in March of 2015. Steam-funk is a variation of the steam-punk genre, with many of the same trappings that one would expect, told mainly from an African and African-American point of view. Here's a short interview with the author, over at YouTube, where he explains the genre more fully. As someone who has been reading (and enjoying the hell out of) the steam-punk genre, along with adventure fiction and pulp/New Pulp fiction for quite some time, the one thing lacking in my enjoyment of these genres has been a lack of strong, well-written heroes/heroines of color (with some notable exceptions). Milton Davis' novel admirably fills this gap, with a burst of full-on action, detailed/engaging characters and settings, along with an organic and fluid style of narrative that invariably draws the reader deep into his fictional universe.


Set in an alternate timeline, in the year of 1870, the young country of Freedonia is preparing to celebrate its bicentennial. The Haitian Revolt of 1791-1804 has succeeded far beyond its participant's greatest hopes, and after spreading to America, Freedonia is founded in its wake. Deacon Ezekiel Culpepper is one of the residents of this young country, trying to settle down and lead a normal life, but he never seems to be able to escape the blood-and-fire of his past life as a soldier. While he attends church during the day, he surreptitiously works as a bounty-hunter to makes ends meet, lacking any real desire to operate the family farm that was left to him. The skills that he learned as a soldier serve him far better in his secondary profession, and he wholeheartedly admits to himself that he will never be able to run a fully functioning farm on his own, nor does he want to...


Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Famara Keita labors to complete his task. A horro (Soninke for Warrior) from the kingdom of Mali, Famara has been given the duty of recovering an ancient book that was stolen from the Elders of his people. The book contains technological secrets that are far beyond the current capabilities of the nations of the world, and it would be an absolute disaster if it fell into the wrong hands. After seeking the book for over two years, his quest is close to an end, if he can manage to overcome the forces of the greedy and murderous El Tellak, leader of the Ihaggaren people. El Tellak seeks to sell the book to the newly formed Prussian empire, adding another adversary to the list of those that the horro must overcome, but the most deadly one is still to come... El Tellak's sister, Menna, a deadly assassin and a bitter rival of her brother for the leadership of their people. The various factions are in place, the prize has been revealed, and all will soon come together in a thrilling, globe-trotting adventure, as our two heroes and their allies combine forces to preserve the world as they know it...


With this release, Milton Davis crafts a detailed, many-faceted world, and populates it with interesting and relatable characters, along with some truly loathsome villains that revel in their actions. A world which inexorably draws the reader into its mythos, and absolutely begs for an expansion of the setting and characters, with future entries in this setting being an absolute must have. The dialogue is natural and free-flowing, the core personalities of the characters well-defined, and the background settings are vividly rendered. The action sequences are equally sharp and detailed, never becoming muddled or confusing around the edges of the scene, and usually don't call for too much of a suspension of disbelief. After being introduced to the characters, and reading about their capabilities and individual skill-sets, you come to believe that they are fully capable of pulling off their various exploits. The story is streamlined and fast-moving, with the 217 page novel racing by, largely due to the author's accessible style of writing. Really good stuff...


I'll briefly respond to some of the negative points that I've seen online, regarding this release. Yes, it does have some typos that could have been cleaned up by a full-time editor, and no, it doesn't detract from the reading experience, at least as far as I go. I noticed them, here and there, and kept reading. They weren't egregious enough to affect my appreciation of the story, and I quickly moved past them. This is a small press, so just move on down the line, and appreciate a well-told story. There has also been some talk about the nature of the end-game, and how it plays out. While not being a confidante of the author, or aware of his mindset, I'll put forth a theory. One, the two warriors are absolutely death-on-wheels, so the final events take place as they should. Two, this is a classic setup for a sequel, as some things happen off-camera (if you'll allow me to mix metaphors), and other events only add to the apparent certainty of a sequel. So stop complaining, my friends, and keep your fingers crossed for a series set in this world, with these characters. If you won't, I will...


To sum up my thoughts on this release, Davis has crafted a wonderfully engaging tale of adventure, populated by characters that are fully-formed, lovingly rendered, and sadly missing from a large swath of published genre fiction. With an intricately-detailed setting, a history that is rife for future expansion, and a knack for creating characters that are both relatable, and easily assimilated into the reader's psyche, this is recommended reading. All told, it's one of my favorite stories that I've read in quite some time. Do yourself a favor and check it out...


Here's where you can get the Kindle edition of the story. Here's the publisher's FB page, where you can find more quality stories. And here's the publisher's website. With that said, I'll sign off... As usual, happy reading, all!

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