A tightly-paced and thrilling sci-fi tale that cracks opens the door to a much larger story set in humanity’s future, The Heretic (Beyond the Wall Book 1) is the debut novel of Lucas Bale (@BalesPen). I enjoyed it quite a bit, and have added the remaining books to my To Read List.
Although relatively short at just under 200 pages, there is a lot of action packed into The Heretic. The story opens with teenager Jordi, exhausted from toiling in the fields during harvest, being woken in the darkness of early morning by the sound of a dog barking on the edge of his village. Deciding to add wood to the embers of the fire, Jordi gets up and sees mysterious dark shapes approaching his village.
Meanwhile, flying his beloved freighter Soteria through one of the wormhole tunnels used for interplanetary travel, a man named Shepherd dreams through a fitful sleep. Shepherd is a fairly benign outlaw, eking out a tenuous existence on the fringes of human-settled space by using the secret hold of his ship to conduct some smuggling. The central authority, the Magistratus, uses brutally harsh tactics to keep the outer settlements in line, but there is a big enough need and large enough gray areas for folks like Shepherd to operate.
There are also some other folks working those gray areas, folks who want the humans scattered around space to know the truth about how and why they came to be where they there. This is the larger story hinted at throughout The Heretic, and I thought the author did a great job of sprinkling in breadcrumbs and hints about this larger story without bogging down the action involving Jordi and Shepherd.
Seasoned readers will probably note the broad outlines of this story have been told before — rebellious settlements on the outskirts of an authoritarian central authority, which is hiding the truth about something momentous — in both actual history and previous books, TV shows, and movies (one reviewer compared it to “Star Wars” and the author credits the much-revered TV show “Firefly” with inspiring him). That shouldn’t stop new readers from finding and enjoying The Heretic on its merits as a fast-paced, thrilling sci-fi adventure.
For more from the author, visit his blog.