The Mirror's Truth by Michael R Fletcher (Manifest Delusions #2)

War isn’t insanity, it’s the base state for all reality. Plants war for sunlight. Animals war for food and water. Wolves battle to decide who leads the pack. All life is struggle. Peace, now that is insanity.

The hard-boiled crime author Jim Thompson was best known for writing novels in which his characters began the story in dire circumstances, and then the situation only worsens with each passing chapter. An overwhelming sense of dread envelops the characters to the point where it seems like death is the only easy way out. In Michael R. Fletcher’s excellent sequel The Mirror’s Truth, the author doubles down on Thompson’s lead: our heroes start the book dead, and somehow it only gets worse from there. 

Fletcher’s Manifest Delusions series features a world of responsive reality, where belief defines the environment, and the insane and delusional wield the most power. It is an environment that digs at the boundaries of grimdark; it uses every descriptive passage to visualize the worst circumstances that are imaginable. Instead of having a character spit on the ground in disgust, the character would "raise an eyebrow at the black-flecked yellow phlegm," or "(cough) dry racking heaves and (spit) bloody phlegm and shards of teeth." In describing the coming of a rainstorm, "the heavens vomited torrents of wind-driven rain" or "the dark clouds went from looking like bruises to something closer to a swirl of bog water stained with dysentery," or “lightning shredded the sky, lighting the world in strobing white and the red and brown of commingled mud and blood.” These darkly poetic descriptions painted this book in broad strokes of disturbing imagery and unrelenting doom. As uncomfortable it is at times to read these passages, it is admirable at how far Fletcher drags the reader into this nightmare without quarter.

The philosophers say that, in this responsive reality, we are the authors of our own fate. Could there be a more damning curse? I look at the choices I have made and I see that I have carefully constructed my own failure.

Only two weeks have passed since we last left Bedeckt, Stehlen, and Wichtig at the finale of Beyond Redemption but much more time has passed in the real world above. The mad God Morgen has tightened his grip on his city-state kingdom, and his delusions for creating a “clean world” grow stronger. Morgen turns his gaze towards invading the southern land of Gottlos before his Reflection and his former advisor launch their coup to either kill or control him. Due to the events at the end of the last book, Morgen has unfinished business with Bedeckt, so he sets plans into motion that will free the God of his debt while also removing Stehlen and Wichtig from the playing field. The plot tends to twist and change every couple of chapters, as the actions of the insane are unpredictable, and the motivations of our characters often change on a whim. Nevertheless, they endure scenes of vengeance, torture, revenge, love, and doubt while heading for an inevitable confrontation with creatures who can shred the fabric of reality itself. 

While a large amount of Beyond Redemption had our 'heroes' travel together, The Mirror’s Truth separates them for the majority of the narrative. We spend a lot of time inside the heads of each of our main characters, and even though they are vile and reproachable human beings, they are so damn compelling to read about. The plot of this book is more of a straight line that the scattered journeys of Beyond Redemption and the renewed focus and singular mission both helps and hinders the story: we know where everyone is headed, for better or for worse, but there’s plenty of stomach-churning surprises along the way. Wichtig, in particular, has some memorable scenes where he might take blame or responsibility for his idiocy and poor choices. Perhaps not. It’s certainly fun to watch him struggle through these tests, as Fletcher can make even the most heinous of characters relatable. 

Talking has nothing to do with lying. I never lie. Or I always lie. I don’t know. I can’t decide. And if I don’t decide, I’m not lying.

The Mirror’s Truth solidifies Fletcher as one of the most extreme and interesting grimdark writers in the game. For those who enjoy long walks through hellish landscapes whilst reflecting on the nature of sanity and truth, you can do no better than spending some time in the world of Manifest Delusions.

9/10 For those who enjoy long walks through hellish landscapes whilst reflecting on the nature of sanity and truth... You can do no better than the world of Manifest Delusions

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