David Bruns learned his lesson well from his ongoing thriller writing days (minus his YA books), as every chapter is packed full with action. Almost too much for me, and I was feeling overwhelmed at times to keep track of all the adventures rained upon our heroes, Trent, Karma aka The Guardian ("Karma is a bitch" jokes are appropriate here) and Tuk-tuk, an eight year old boy-monk. An unusual boy with some unusual gifts and one who broke my heart. He is one of the sweetest characters in any of the Apocalypse Weird novels for sure.
Bruns is merciless with his characters, and does hardly give them any pause to breathe in some fresh air, take in the scenery of all those lovely places they visit (from Singapore to Malaysia to Thailand to the Himalayas), and challenges them constantly with more and more threats on their road to the mystical Shambala, the only place where they are really safe. He is not only merciless with his characters, but destroys the city-state of Singapore in a matter of minutes. Lives are lost in the millions, as an important part of the cleansing of the earth for evil, real evil to come to this world.
Trent, a self-made billionaire and CEO of an uber-successful video game company, is stranded in Singapore while trying to close a deal with the local government when martial law is declared and he, and friends/co-workers, are trapped with no way to go. Zombies! Why the dead have risen is unclear here, and especially why they are at this particular moment as agressive as much. Just the zombies are merely kindergardeners for what is to come. One moment lazily enjoying a sweet life of being wealthy and successful, the next thrown into the madness of a zombie uprising (and more), Trent´s life is nothing anymore what it once was.
General Naga, a minor character from E.E. Giorgi´s ´Immunity´, is the local villain. A drug lord, and the most evil of all men in the Golden Triangle, and a faithful devotee of He Who Will Come. As not to name it the ´Black Dragon´, since to name it is to give it power, and nobody wants to do that, right? General Naga and his army of foot soldiers are engaging Trent in a less than friendly manner, but General Naga is not the only one who Trent and his friends have to fear. Sea-monsters and tsunamis are as much out to capture him, as he is extremely valuable in the ever ongoing fight between good vs. evil. What Trent makes special, and why he was choosen to be The Seal Bearer ... some knots still needs to be tied to make sure.
Descriptions of the Black Hand weirdly enough reminded me of ISIS. Their whole demeanour, their flags, everything I have seen and am able to compare have a similar vibe to it. If coincidental or not, or if Bruns was indeed influenced in any way of their actions and painted the Black Hand deliberately that way based on what he may have observed himself via TV or the net, I cannot tell, and it is surely not my place to speculate about the origins of it. Take it as an off-description at best, misrepresentation at worst.
´The Seal Bearer´ is probably so far one of the oddest books in the Apocalypse Weird metaverse. Not that it twelve predecessors aren´t odd either (they are), but that is the most descriptive of all and explains a lot what so far was mostly hinted at. Which surprised me as the plans of the 88 and their foot soldiers, the Black Hand, are laid as open as never before. Which makes me think the End Game, and He Who Will Come, is way closer than I may have anticipated.
As the title already suggests, ´The Seal Bearer´, aka Trent, is surely one of the most important figures in the overall story line. A tattoo of a white dragon Trent wears on his chest is in fact more than only that, but a seal to another world. As usual Mike Corley´s beautiful cover already says very well what to expect from those characters, and who they are. It pays off to pay close attention to details as it captures the story marvelously.
While I am a huge fan of what Apocalypse Weird is, and looking forward to any and each new book, I am not fully convinced about what I have read. It is not so much the story or the characters, both are fascinating in their own rights, but that I am not much of a fan of the wild ride presented here, in the most general terms. It takes a lot to give in to the extremely fast paced action, and if there is a quiet moment in any of the chapters it is immediately destroyed with some big turn of events, a new threat hanging over their heads, a new evil to fight. Thriller fan that I am not ´The Seal Bearer´ is probably as much suited for any fan of Tom Clancy, military background inclusive, as it is for fans of The Walking Dead or any kind of apocalyptic novels. Zombies never die!
Bruns, however, writes with extreme clarity, and an fascinating eye for details of the city life of Singapore, or the nature Trent, Karma and Tuk-tuk are encountering on their way to Shambala. And I have to give him credit for making the most of the crackpot that is Dr. Midnite. While originally not one of Bruns´ own creations Dr. Midnite is as insane as always, and as I am convinced still the one to follow to understand fully what is going on in Apocalypse Weird.
(Full disclosure: I´ve received a free copy pre-publication of ´The Seal Bearer´ from the publisher, Wonderment).