Thursday, November 25, 2010

König’s Fire

Well, merry Thanksgiving to me. Turns out that I and my darling wife have caught the stomach flu that hit our son earlier this week. It was a long, unpleasant night, the only bright spot of which was the fact that I was able to finish reading König’s Fire by Marc Schooley.

This is the story of a man who was nicknamed Sascha König, a man nicknamed Nebuchadnezzar by his Nazi brethren during World War II. König is sent to the Nachthaus, a Nazi camp in a mine set in the middle of a dense forest, to be its resident chemist. The Nachthaus is a prison for dissidents, political prisoners, war prisoners, and other undesirables. One of König’s duties is to stoke the fires of the Nachthaus’s ovens. He gets them to burn seven times hotter than before (hence the nickname).

But all is not well at the Nachthaus. For starters, there is the gypsy girl, whose eyes haunt König as he goes about his work. And then there is the fact that nature itself is pounding at the front gates of the Nachthaus, trying to eradicate the evil from its midst. But most of all is the fact that König’s conscience is stirring and he’s beginning to realize that he’s been in the wrong for a long time. The question is, will he awake from his daydream or will he let the Nachthaus consume his soul?

This was a weird book. I’m just going to be blunt and come right and say it. I mean, I read the backcover copy and so I was ready for a little bit of weirdness, but there was a lot more than I ever expected. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’m all about the weirdness in a speculative fiction book. I guess what threw me off was how the weirdness was introduced. Schooley introduces some of the weird concepts in a matter-of-fact way, almost as if it’s natural to encounter what König experiences. Now Schooley easily explained why nobody seemed all that surprised to see what König saw in the Nachthaus, but it still was a bit hard to swallow at first.

There were also some times when Schooley’s authorial voice got in the way of the story, but those times were minor. The most jarring was when König starts referring to a group of women as “de vemen.” I get why he did it the first time, but Schooley kept using that phrasing through the rest of the book and while it made some sense to help label this particular group of women (who had a specific role in the story), the repeated use was a little off-putting.

But these are all minor complaints. Overall, the story is very good, unpredictable and a true rollercoaster ride through the choppy waters of where obedience and duty intersect with morality and virtue. König was a fascinating character, especially given his role and duties in the Nachthaus, but he was also one in a great cast. In short, this was a great book and a great addition to the Marcher Lord Press library.

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