My name is Marten Mann. I work for the devil, or the prince of lies, as you people are so fond of calling him. Yes. You read that last line correctly. I am employed by the powers of evil as acquisitor ad infinitum. I did not seek out this job: I was chosen for the position. To put it in simpler terms, I am a broker of sorts - you know, the guy who finds out what it is that you want the most. I make it readily available to you for a price. I think we all know just how costly that one thing that you think you need so much can be, which is why I urge all of my clients to choose wisely.
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After I finished Mr. Mann, I was left just scratching my head and wondering, "What was the point of this and what are all those rave reviews about?" This fantasy novel uses a religious base for world-building and since mythology and religion are often used as the launching point for fantasy, that made sense. The religious mores used are kind of a combination of the monotheist religions (heaven/hell, one God, one Satan), some Hindu/Buddhist teachings (reincarnation), with a touch of Puritanism (work righteousness, no salvation through grace) thrown in. Since this is a fantasy novel and not a theological treatise, I'm fine with mixing different theologies and adding some new ones (humans were created by angels and the breath of human life coming from the sacrifice of one special angel), but I still expect a fantasy world to be consistent and have internal logic and Mr. Mann came up short there.
Marten Mann is recruited by Abaddon (Satan) to gather souls from among the living. Marten finds his targets by reading their auras and targets the blackest souls that he finds. His pitch is, "You are already damned. You've done such horrible things so you are going to hell. But if you sign my contract, you can have anything you want for the next 20 years before you are consigned to the flames." Big surprise - most people sign, but there is major puzzlement in this process:
1. If you are already damned, why wouldn't you sign - you have nothing to lose! Usually when a story is about selling your soul to the devil, the assumption is that you haven't already lost it. 2. If you are already damned, why is the devil bothering to recruit you and give you something you want - sounds like he already has you for free. 3. If you know you are damned and you have "one last wish", why not wish for redemption or a clean aura or something that would negate your damnation? 4. Marten learns that reincarnation is available to all, even the damned, so anybody who doesn't make it to heaven on the first try (apparently most don't), will get as many chances as necessary. OK, so what is the point of hell and why bother with those contracts??
In addition to this central strange tenet of the contracts that didn't make any sense, there are other inconsistencies that I found odd and confusing: 1. Marten says he can read an aura and tell how good or bad a person is, but he is badly mistaken at one point (spoilers to give more detail) and the reason for that is never explained. 2. Marten could read auras as a living human, but after death, his ability is greatly enhanced - as an Aquisitor, Marten actually knows exactly what you did to get your blackish aura until he doesn't. After "reading" his marks in detail through most of the book, he meets a Vietnamese woman and has no idea why she is damned. No explanation for why he loses the ability with that one woman. 3. Marten is a man given to violent rages and anger and when you get his backstory, that facet of his personality is fairly understandable. However, he is also supposedly a man of great empathy and compassion, yet he admits to beating other children growing up just because they were different or he didn't like them and he lives a greedy, selfish life until he dies. So he only found his empathy and compassion after death? 4. After being told that there is no path to redemption other than living a good enough life through however many incarnations that takes, a group of people suddenly find heaven through - wait for it - forgiveness. I love the concept, but this runs completely counter to everything that was previously lined out for Byron's "world".
In the end I thought the characters in Mr. Mann were interesting and the story wasn't boring, but the "magic system" is inconsistent and confusing and the conclusion was pretty limp. I felt like John Byron used Mr. Mann more as a vehicle to comment on religion, culture, and rock music than to tell a great story or make a concise point.
Todd McLaren did a good job with narration and I would definitely listen to him again. He had a lot of nice character voices, although the women from Vietnam seem to sound a bit more Italian than Pacific Rim.
In real life, theology may be inconsistent, but the inconsistency doesn't work well in a fiction novel since it stymies the process of suspending disbelief.
- Tango "Two great passions - dogs and books! Sci-fi/fantasy novels are my go-to favorites, but I love good writing across all genres."
WOW!!! Anti-Breaking Bad
This is a dark, dark fantasy that is beautifully written, incredible character complexity, SUPERBLY NARRATED!!!! and honestly thought provoking.
First of all Marten Mann one of the best characters I have experienced in a long time. He is like Walter White if Walter had been a bad guy who became good.
Then there is Abby and all I will say is "sympathy for the devil"
This story is dark make no mistake about that but there are part in this story that are so heartwarming it makes all of the dark point worth going though. John Byron is able to do what few authors are able to do; say there is no good or evil and MAKE IT CONVINCING!!!!!
Then there is the narration. OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!!! Todd McLaren brings this book to life in a way very few narrators every done. Every thing from how he portrays emotions to how he describes the world so beautifully it brought me to tear at times
This book is well worth your money or credit. If you like dark fantasy, character complexity, superb narration and a story that is both thought provoking and heartwarming. than this is a MUST HAVE!!!!!