Beyond Redemption by Michael R Fletcher (Manifest Delusions #1)

"We are, each and every one of us, addicted to chaos. Gorgeous, devouring, chaos. Every visceral pleasure comes from the moment when we truly lose control. That moment when our minds white out and thought vanishes, when the fire within us devours all rationality." 

The world of “Manifest Delusions” is one of the most creative, gut-wrenching, and fascinating worlds I’ve ever experienced in speculative fiction. It is a world where belief spawns reality, all communication is manipulation, and the mentally insane gain God-like powers until their delusions grow too powerful and consume them. It’s a world where your own dopplegangers scheme to murder and replace you; where your mirrored reflections can tell the future if you’re foolish enough to trust it; where narcissists and sociopaths and cannibals and pyromaniacs all wield enough influence and power to topple kingdoms and overthrow religions. 

In Beyond Redemption, Fletcher paints a grim world that he leans into heavily, and this decision is what helps make this book so remarkable. In the early parts of the narrative, the reader is transported from one dour nightmare to another, and I was concerned that it would be exhausting over time. Fortunately, Fletcher has a gift of writing in a beautiful, literary prose that displays clear insights on the lurid nature of humanity. I found many passages to highlight and share, and I was constantly impressed with how easily Fletcher seemed to intuit wisdom out of the bloody muck and shit his characters were dragged through. His skill at squeezing humor and self-reflection out of the direst of circumstances is one of the greater joys I had while reading this story. 

"This was the calm eye of the storm, the hot center of crumbling sanity and last hopes. In all directions, the horizon coiled and heaved, a lurid bruise, a maelstrom of abhorrent neuroses given form. The sky looked sick, reality ill with gross mistreatment."

There are no heroes in this journey. There are bad people, and then there are those that are even worse. Mass murderers, thieves, self-centred and delusional egotists, lying and manipulative kidnappers: these are the protagonists that you will likely end up rooting for. Now imagine how wretched and abhorrent their adversaries are. 

One character starts the story as the embodiment of innocence and purity and then proceeds to experience the harsh nature of the world through behavioural cruelty and physical torture. The end result is both shocking but not unexpected and leaves the door wide open for repercussions in the next volume of the series (which has skyrocketed to the top of my to-be-read pile). 

"We are driven by desire masquerading as need … Understand a person’s needs and you can bend them to anything."

If you’re looking for the epitome of grimdark fantasy, look no further. Fletcher is a brilliant writer and this book blew me away. I have barely discussed the plot of Beyond Redemption in this review, as I think it is important for readers to experience each reveal with as little preparation as possible. Layer by layer, page by page, this story will crawl under your skin and redefine your views on sanity and communication. 

There can be beauty in darkness, and elegance in horror. Fletcher delivers these on all fronts. 

9/10 There can be beauty in darkness, and elegance in horror. Fletcher delivers these on all fronts

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