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Uncaged Review – Silas Morlock by Mark Cantrell

Silas Morlock
Mark Cantrell
Horror/Dystopian

“Humanity built its monolithic spires of hopes and dreams and tried to believe that the whole sordid mess actually meant something.” Terapolis is an urban sprawl of global proportions. The vast city state has smothered whole nations, liberated humanity from the tides of history; the place is ripe with secrets… Here, billions of people live only to give themselves to The Gestalt. An esoteric technology, said to unlock the secrets of creation, it offers humanity the chance to realise its most-cherished and forbidden desires. For Silas Morlock, enigmatic Master of MorTek, The Gestalt is his greatest achievement, but little time remains to fulfil his purpose and save Mankind from itself; death gathers, an ancient struggle between good and evil nears its peak. On the other side, the Incunabula; bibliophiles who refuse to stop peddling the items most poisonous to the hold The Gestalt has on human minds. And then there’s Adam, the misfit dreamer pulled into a conflict beyond his understanding. His own desire will take him on a terrifying journey into the heart of darkness. Poor Adam, he will learn the secrets of Terapolis; if they don’t shatter his mind, he’ll become the unlikely saviour for good… or ill. It’s a struggle played out in the shadows, where the lines are blurred, and nothing is quite as it seems. For the lost souls embroiled, the stakes are the very highest. But secrets are for keeping, in the dark places…

Uncaged Review: In Terapolis, books are banned because they caused a plague long ago, and the Gestalt (an advanced form of virtual reality) is what society craves. They work for all their lives to get money to go into the nearest access point for the Gestalt. It is what they think about and live for. Reality and memories get blurred. Terapolis, a semi-organic and living city, has consumed a good portion of the globe already. At MorTek, they are working on new Gestalt technology that will bring them closer to “Completion,” but the bibliophiles of the Incunabula are working to preserve all the literature they can in the hopes of outlasting and ultimately defeating Silas Morlock. Caxton, an author in the Incunabula, is finishing a very important manuscript and has become very concerned with (much to the chagrin of his fellow Incunabulites) a young man named Adam. Caxton and Adam are being followed by hired hands Marla and Otto. The libraries are always in danger of being burned if discovered. Can the bibliophiles hold out against Morlock and help society escape the darkness?

As a bibliophile, I really enjoyed this book and the underlying messages that it presents. Books do have a drug-like quality to them, and they are dangerous to those who crave power over the masses. If you can get rid of free thinkers and stop the spread of ideas, you can control the population.

I loved the character development in this book, especially Adam’s. He struggles with being addicted to the Gestalt like everyone else, but he has also been exposed to books. He keeps getting told that books and the Gestalt do not mix, and he is attempting to break free from the Gestalt, but the Incunabulites do not fully trust him, having turned down much better candidates for their ranks. Caxton, who appears to be going mad throughout the book, is insistent though, and much is revealed about how the characters connect. Laura, a courier for the Incunabula and a former girlfriend of Adam, is a great character also. I liked her more and more as the book came to its conclusion. The author included some really fun nods to other books, TV shows, and movies (I particularly enjoyed references to Fahrenheit 451 and the one quip about Star Trek “red shirts.” Parts of Caxton’s manuscript are woven into the novel in such a way that the backstory and the ultimate plot of the story is revealed in a very natural way.

My main complaint with this book is that there were many sections and aspects that I was not clear about. This book is both very dark and very metaphysical/spiritual. There were a lot of concepts that I didn’t understand fully. The Gestalt really isn’t artificial or virtual reality–it is some sort of spiritual or energy thing. People often are transported to other places or realms outside the Gestalt as well, but these episodes are neither dreams nor visions. Many people hear voices. The people who have just come out of a Gestalt access point (G-spot) walk around glassy-eyed and in a daze. Some sections of the narration were very smooth and easy to understand, and I felt like I finally had a grasp on things. Then there would come a section that was very confusing, with lots of terms I didn’t understand. I trudged through it though, and I am glad I did. In general, everything is just very vague and blurry – part of that I am sure is intentional (the citizens of Terapolis come across as confused themselves) but part of it is that I had a really hard time visualizing the city itself. It is some sort of chitinous organic material, but I wasn’t clear on exactly what that meant. Terapolis has multiple layers and levels, tunnels and sections. It gives the impression that the city is one big organism that is, in fact, feeding off the people. It’s like a nightmare that the people are stuck in.

I also do wonder how books could ever be truly banned. I can understand that people might slowly lose the ability or the desire to read, but as it was stated in the book at least once, you have to have writing on signs and manuals. It really does seem necessary that some sort of written communication exists. I was not clear on whether or not there actually was a plague that was spread by the books. It seems that this was just a convenient lie to get rid of them, but no one ever says that explicitly, so I am not sure.

Overall, reading this book was a very pleasant experience. The editing was good, and it kept my interest throughout. The characters were believable, and the content is very imaginative. Although I wish some of the concepts were a little clearer, I can appreciate the book for what it is. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves books and believes in the power they hold to keep society FREE.
Reviewed by Emily

4 1/2 Stars

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