I’ve mentioned a couple times that the most writing I do is roleplaying. Imagining and creating fictional characters to interact with other people’s characters. Creating stories with other people’s help and insight. I’m not a LARPer (live-action roleplayer), but that’s a thing to, and people can take it pretty seriously. There’s a large number of people across the world who do these things.
And some of them are authors.
That’s how we came to have Invasion, book one of the Secret World Chronicle. The cover says it’s by Mercedes Lackey with Steve Libbey, Cody Martin, and Dennis Lee. It also tells you that the characters you’re about to meet were first envisioned in the MMORPG (massive multiplayer online roleplaying game) City of Heroes. Think about that. A group of people roleplayed together and one of them, a professional author, said “You know, we’ve got this great storyline going. I bet we can make it into a real book!” Or something like that.
It makes for an interesting and unusual book, to say the least. I guess it’s most comparable to shared world series like Heroes in Hell or Merovingen Nights. There is a narrative, of sorts, that progresses. But segments are written by different authors, as well as side stories happening in the same world, sometimes at the same time. It’s not entirely cohesive either.
I find Invasion to be more cohesive than the above, likely because it was probably edited by Lackey and she probably had a lot to do with the overall flow. But I think it leaves me with more questions. In Heroes in Hell, you accept what you’re told because it’s Hell, and it’s not supposed to make sense unless if that’s how it drives you mad. But here I have some basic questions about the underlying logic of the world. In a roleplay context it makes sense: the players don’t know how it all comes together, and so there is no player knowledge that might slip into the characters’ thoughts. In a book, it makes things feel somewhat unfinished and maybe a bit disjointed. There are a lot of main characters running around.
Nikola Tesla is not one of them, yet. I mentioned last post that I was moving to this series because he’s a side character here too. It is specifically stated in the last chapter that he is alive, though little else is known. So you know, Invasion was published in 2011, and is set in that present. There are name drops to some of the major events of that time, including Kosovo and Darfur, that support the setting. And the reader is being informed that the great inventor, Nikola Tesla, is alive. By his great-grandnephew Alex, no less. Perhaps I should elaborate.
Alex Tesla is the CEO of Echo, an international peacekeeping organization of metahumans. Metas have been around since WWII, first appearing on the side of the Nazis, and later triggering in the Allied forces to oppose them. Since then metas have been a part of the world: superheroes, supervillains, and everything in between. Echo has five different ranks used to indicate power levels. The lowest are Echo SupportOps, who don’t actually have any special abilities other than training and a will. Then you have the OpOnes all the way up to the “countries will make emergency plans just in case you become a threat” OpFours. Needless to say, those last are relatively rare. Most of the characters we focus on land in the OpTwo range. I can’t actually recall being introduced to an OpThree.
Anyway, the story actually starts with a German metahuman, a genuine Nazi, coming to surrender himself to Echo. He insists he has vital information for Alex Tesla, but who’s going to take him seriously? After all, the man is reputed to have died over sixty years prior.
And then there’s a worldwide blitzkrieg by Nazi soldiers with some crazy technology.
Suddenly the whole world is recovering from the biggest terrorist attack in history! Then our main characters converge on Atlanta, the homebase of the Echo organization. The rest is, of course, the story.
At the end of the night, I’d say there are six main characters. John Murdock, Seraphym, Red Saviour, Belladonna Blue, Red Djinni, and Vickie Nagy. That last one is the one most clearly written by Lackey and, frankly, I’d have to call a bit of a Mary Sue. Vickie is not simply a metahuman, but also a mage. Which is an interesting addition to a world with superheroes, though it’s stated that mages tend to keep themselves secret from the world at large, while still managing to work with the FBI at times. Yeah, I’m not asking the millino questions there.
There are a number of elements found in Invasion that are quite familiar to me as a Lackey reader. Phrases such as “Jesus Cluny Frog”, or “econobox car.” I had to wonder what she originally researched Systema, a Russian unarmed combat method, for, as it appears both here and in Shadow Grail. Kind of like both Shadow Grail and Gwenhwyfar are based in Arthurian lore. Etc. Mercedes Lackey is an author who not only has a comfort zone that she imbues in all her books, but she also likes to reuse her ideas. Either that, or she gets obsessive about one thing and puts it in all her work for a while. Or both. Again, these are just things that I notice, having read an awful lot of her books and stories.
I have a somewhat love-hate relationship with the Secret World Chronicle, as you may have noticed. These are not books that I collected as soon as they came out. I read the synopsis for Invasion and was…not interested enough. But, who can resist free? I checked it out of the library eventually and decided it was…okay. And eventually, when more of the series had been released, I revisited the world. It got better. In fact, by the time I’d read the fourth book, I was intrigued enough to do some light googling. And the books stayed in my mind. There came a point last year when I admitted that yes, I do clearly enjoy them enough to add them to my collection. So, book one got me free shipping on an amazon order, and the other three appeared in one of my holiday gifts.
It’s as good a reason as any to reread the books now. It also prompted me to see what’s going on with the fifth book, because the story sure didn’t end with the fourth. According to amazon, the release date should have been January 3rd of this year. The fact that it’s still a preorder makes that…interesting. And obviously my local library doesn’t have it yet. Still, I can tack it onto my wishlist and keep my eyes open. Despite how lukewarm my original reception of the series was, I am committed to reading it now.