The Converted by CR Hindmarsh

Rating 8.0/10
A story that starts out a little slow and rocky but gets much better the further you get into it.

With his patients dead and his genetic research in tatters, Dr. Anton Springmann fled his homeland as a fugitive, taking a one-way diesel ship to New Alania. But within hours of his arrival, screams ring through the night. Hordes of gray, humanoid creatures--devils, to the townspeople--attack Anton's new home. Among the dead, Anton finds a single survivor: a young girl, Elisa Pierce. Her skin grows cracked and she begins to mutate. She's becoming a devil. Anton's seen it before.

Tormented by past sins, Anton struggles to save Elisa before the change takes her completely. But old enemies have pursued him across the seas, and now Anton is being hunted by more than just devils.

Redemption doesn't come cheap in New Alania.

Set in a land where six-guns are sacred and personal genetic modifications are the mark of nobility, THE CONVERTED is a fantasy novel with a hint of steampunk that's not afraid to delve into the darkness. Summary provided by Amazon (http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Converted/dp/B004WDZAJW/)

I'm a big fan of people who go out on a limb and try the self-publishing game. As a married man with a time consuming job and lots of hobbies, I am envious of those who manage to find the time to write stories, the only way for me would be to make writing my full time job. I think about what it would be like to leave my job and become a writer, but my own thoughts always get the better of me. "What if people don't like my stuff?", "What if its just bad writing?", and "What if I lose everything?".  Someone who is taking his chance at the self-publishing game is author of The Converted, Chris Hindmarsh. If Hindmarsh can keep producing stories that are equal to or better than The Converted, then I have no doubt he will be successful in his endeavours to become a mover and shaker in the self-publishing industry.

The Converted is set in the world of New Alania, a world that is very reminiscent of Bas-Lag from the New Crobuzon novels by China Mieville. This is an industrial world, a world full of factories, experiments with electricity, and experiments with genetics, all of which has resulted in a culture of genetic modification. There are religions that mirror our own, and there is the idea of gun worship, an idea that really defines how different societies operate in New Alania. Without going into more detail and providing spoilers, it is obvious that Hindmarsh has put a lot of thought into his world building, creating a place that I would happily visit again and again.

While I loved the culture, I cannot say that I loved the characters and their relationships. With the exception of Ben and Sa, I found it very hard to relate or even like to any of the characters in this book. Their moods can be inconsistent, their goals are never really well defined, and they often react to situations in ways contradictory to how I thought they should be reacting. The relationships that form between the different characters can also seem a little odd at times, especially the romantic one between two of the main characters. An unlikely relationship between two very different characters can often work, but it usually comes as a reward for the two characters after chapters and chapters of emotional and sexual tension. In this case, the romantic relationship was formed based on opportunity and spontaneity, two characteristics that hardly belong to the two characters in question, and while I actually grew to appreciate the romance in the long run, it was a romance that should have blossomed much later in the book or not at all.

The plot is a real strength in this book, and it had to be so that it could carry some of the weaker characters. While I found it hard to invest in the main character Anton because I just couldn't relate to him, I found it very easy to invest in his story because of his mysterious background, especially as these background mysteries start unravelling and big connections start being made to current plot points. The action sequences are very well written and are integral scenes that really drive the plot rather than being superfluous scenes added for the sake of having action. Intrigue and suspense is used to great effect, the mysteries are hard to decipher and are unravelled at appropriate times, and all the loose threads are dealt with in an appropriate and timely fashion. There are a few issues with prose towards the start of the book, sentences are far too short and the viewpoints can waver from paragraph to paragraph creating a somewhat staccato reading experience. After around 100 pages, these issues just seem to disappear almost instantaneously as Hindmarsh really gets into a good rhythm with solid sentence structure and well defined viewpoints pushing this book along at a more appropriate pace.

The Converted has all the hallmarks I have come to expect from a debut novel. It has a deep story set in an intricately described world with a broad spectrum of unique characters, but it just seems to be missing something, that little bit of polish that turns a good story into a fantastically immersive story. This is a story that starts out a little slow and rocky but gets much better the further you get into it. Similar to what I said in my review of The Passage, I implore you to keep reading  The Converted because there is a complex story in there with a bunch of different threads and a pay-off that is well worth it.

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