Western meets science fiction in this simple world on the edge of a high-tech civilization. Complete with a monarchy led by a family hive-mind, a religious system paying deference to a cadre of gods, and a man with implanted tech to rival a supercomputer, The Warrior Within is a breath of fresh air as this identity-conflicted man tries to discover what his place is in his world, and the universe at large.
THE WARRIOR WITHIN
Tor.com, March 2018
A small desert town on the edge of an abandoned city gets three visitors who aren’t there to play. As the city changes around them, one man steps up to face the interlopers. He’s not what he seems and begins a journey of discovery that ultimately shows who he truly is.
WHY I LOVED IT
Implanted tech is pretty common in science fiction, but this takes it to a whole new level. The protagonist has a full team of personalities built into his head, comprising of a series of databases able to assist him in any task he might need to complete. It’s on the Jason Bourne side, if he were aware of his abilities and could also be a doctor/politician/strategic thinker. As the title suggests, the Warrior personality is the most favored. There’s a constant conflict between the character’s main persona and those implanted within him as he tries to make the right decisions and avoid revealing himself to those around him.
A BURIED HIGH-TECH WORLD
I love this ramshackle town on the outskirts of a desert sitting next to a high-tech city with intelligent skyscrapers. Everyone is living in shacks and has forgotten what the cities really are. Surprisingly, no one seems to care all that much, and it creates that true-to-life small town feel where people just go about their business, getting by and never thinking to change. They know where their food is coming from, they know the work that’s expected of them, and they know everyone in town. It’s surprising to see the complacency of the planet’s residents – they’re vaguely aware of a space traveling universe yet aren’t interested in exploring what lies beyond. They simply tear pieces off of the high-tech buildings in order to get food and water. It would be a dystopia if everyone weren’t so blasé about their situation.
STRANGE SOCIETAL STRUCTURE
I was most interested in the introduction of a local religion centered on the ruling family and the gods/goddesses they’ve created to keep their people in line. While most of the population doesn’t seem to really believe in the religion, the church is their main food source. There isn’t much force from the church to believe, beyond the occasionally chase and murder of thieves, but the people do what’s expected of them so they can eat. It’s an interesting take on how a religious system can just become another task, as beliefs eventually disappear and people forget what they’re really worshipping or claiming to believe.
At the head of the church, and the monarchical structure, is a wildly original family of interconnected leaders who sit inside their mobile churches and dole out resources in exchange for prayers. They’re beautiful and genderless and believe themselves to be a big deal, even though the rest of the universe couldn’t care less about them. This perception plays into the silliness of a small town structure. People get a bit of power and think of themselves as rulers of the universe when, in reality, they are sitting in a chair in the middle of a simple civilization with nothing to offer the universe.
THE GENRE-BENDING JOURNEY
The addition of a Wild West plot added some mystery and fun to the regular science fiction of the novel. You’ve got the strangers coming in from across the desert with motives unknown to the townsfolk. You’ve got the saloon that houses multiple showdowns with these new bandits. You’ve got sheriffs who don’t know how to handle the interlopers and an outlaw who refuses to give in to their demands. It’s a fascinating plot structure when layered within the science of the world. Giving a hero technological abilities above the imposters makes for something of an unfair fight, but it definitely makes the final showdown that much more satisfying.
Post-Technology, Hive Mind, Human Enhancement, Artificial Intelligence, Space Travel, Religion
WHERE TO BUY
McIntyre, Angus. The Warrior Within. Tor.com, 2018.