The second Secret World Chronicles book is World Divided, by Mercedes Lackey with Cody Martin, Dennis Lee, and Veronica Giguere. It picks up the story from last time and continues it. After all, the Invasion was a big sucker punch attack to the planet and everyone was scrambling to pick up the pieces in the aftermath. Consolidating power, claiming territory, all of that good stuff up until some people forgot that the invaders weren’t defeated. At all. They chose to strategically retreat after some very hefty reinforcements came to play. And they did start moving on to follow-up attacks targeting surviving threats and potential intelligence that could bite them in the ass.
But with all the various enemies, because the invaders sure weren’t the only threats in the first book, our heroes weren’t doing too much to be proactive. Oh sure, they were getting their feet under them once more, making alliances and friendships, but on a large scale they were still reacting. World Divided is where our key characters make the choice to start acting instead, forcing their opponents to react in turn to what they’re doing. Taking the initiative.
You can also see the core characters for the series really beginning to entrench themselves in what will be the roles they’re known for by the end. Not everything is settled, especially not when a twist shows something no one would have expected, but that’s what you like to see in a big story like this.
These books aren’t new. Well, the fifth is only a year old but that’s besides the point. Most of the series predates the 2016 presidential election and yet it’s disturbing how many parallels can be drawn between this world and our own real one. Which is also very sad. If there’s a crisis situation in our world – which there definitely is – it’s one we made for ourselves with our own actions. No outside forces have attacked us, no destruction corridors mar our cities, and yet so many people are hunkering down trying to weather the storm, just like in this series. There’s a line at one point about how just about every person, post-Invasion, has PTSD. And I would say that there seem to be a lot of people in today’s world who have similar issues just due to everything that’s been going on. And we’ve done this to ourselves.
In the books, the head of ECHO is Alex Tesla, great-nephew of the famous Nikola Tesla. He’s a likable enough and energetic young man before the Invasion. But that day broke him. He spends his time in World Divided dwelling on his failures, his inability to get help from the people who’ve backed him for years, and generally considering the world doomed. He even reflects on how he would have welcomed the opportunity to see ECHO shine against an opponent truly meant for the strength of the world’s largest metahuman organization. Also on how he’s viewed his employees as toy soldiers. In many ways, it’s been a game to him. Conflicts with criminals, board meetings, shareholders, etc. But now the reality that these are people’s lives has sunk in and he can’t deal with it. I also suspect that, because he spends most of his time around metahumans, he’s got something of an inferiority complex, leading him to believe that because he isn’t a meta himself, he can’t offer much to his company or even the world. I can understand the thought process, but Tesla is simply one of those people who can’t seem to stand up again after the Invasion knocked him on his ass.
Readers are meant to be upset with Tesla. He’s a leader who won’t lead. We’re meant to cheer for those who are willing to step up and fill the vacancy his actions have left. Well, some of those people. After all, the world is not as simple as you might want. Just because the invaders are still a threat doesn’t mean that everyone still alive is a good person or interested in helping others against the invaders. Capitalism is alive and well and a number of people are out there just to make money. Or to preserve their own hides. Or both.
It sucks fighting a war on two or more fronts, but our heroes don’t have much of a choice. The invaders absolutely need to be dealt with unless we want the planet turned into a flaming cinder. But if we keep the planet intact, we’d also like it to not be under the control of sociopaths or psychopaths. So, there’s that.
I’m reminded, as I go through, that there are good reasons why I traditionally reread series in full when I revisit them. There’s just so much going on – no surprise when these things average 500-600 pages apiece – and yet an incredible number of events are clearly foreshadowed. That’s part of why I love rereading books after I’ve finished the series: you can’t properly appreciate most of the foreshadowing until you know what it’s leading up to. And once you do know, you can see how beautifully it was done.
To my mind, if I read your book and know I will never, ever read it again, no matter how much I’ve enjoyed it, you have failed. I want your book to be something that I can reread again and again, finding a new appreciation for it every time I crack it open. If I never want to read it again, there’s no point in keeping it. There’s no point in recommending it. There might be reasons to remember it, but my memory will likely fade over time. And it’s unlikely I’ll go back and say “huh, I vaguely recall this, maybe I should reread it.” There are not many books I’ve disliked on a first reading, revisited, and changed my mind on. It’s definitely been weighted in the other direction, wherein I reread books I’ve not touched in years and realized that they were utter crap and not worth saving.
The Secret World Chronicles are not crap. They may be hard to read sometimes, because of my mood or reaction to current events, but they are good, solid books about people being heroes. And just because most of these people have superpowers doesn’t make them any better off than ordinary folks. In fact, it seems to come with a lot of mental and emotional baggage instead. And part of what makes these books so good is the time spent examining that baggage, and trying to deal with it.
What I’m saying is, we’re all Alex Tesla. Whatever’s happening in our lives may not be a planetwide invasion, but we each are given the opportunity to rise to the challenge presented or slip into a depressive funk. Every time that we choose to fight, whether it’s for our rights as living human beings, to get that better job, or just to get out of bed today, every time we fight we are the heroes of our own lives.
And we can do it. I believe that. I believe in you, just like I believe in me.
You can do it. I don’t know you, but I know you can do it.