Friday, June 7, 2013

Blood Numbers, Dean Frank Lappi

This week I read Blood Numbers, book II in the Aleph Null Chronicles, written by indie author Dean Frank Lappi. The Aleph Null Chronicles has to be the most unique fantasy series ever written. The first book is the reissued novel, Black Numbers.

Sid is the Aleph Null, his power of Black Numbers awakened, but he cannot yet manipulate those numbers. He journeys with his friends Crowdal, Melinda, Mrs. Wessmank, Maelon and Writhgarth to a faraway land that may hold the key to his powers. Along the way he meets a powerful woman who awakens his first feelings of true love, but who may also be the one destined to destroy him.

Sid is pursued by evil forces from all directions. His former childhood friend, Tris, now rules the Oblate and commands a power of numbers equal to, if not greater than his own. He also controls the seductive yet violent Korpor, and together they are weaving a plot to capture Sid and take control of his Black Numbers.

Sid is also hunted by a sadistic and violent warlord and his death squad who has his own plans for Sid. But worst of all, a forgotten and ancient evil has been unintentionally freed from its millennia-long prison, a nightmarish being that has one purpose...

To destroy the wielder of Black Numbers

I read Black Numbers when it was first published and I was gobsmacked. The writing is beautiful, the plot is devious and seductive, the characters are deep and fully formed. Blood Numbers follows and delivers the same raw emotions with a punch just as elegantly delivered.

These books are in many ways a traditional fantasy, in that they are peopled by both humans and non-humans, magic is involved, and setting is a beautifully detailed place that could never exist.  But Lappi crosses the line into horror without losing the any of the qualities that I love in an epic fantasy.  We have a true Good versus Evil plot, a completely believable system of magic, incredibly frightening creatures and a plot that doesn’t stop.

I want to say at the outset that in this series, magic is expressed both sexually and through mathematics. This is a series where sexuality is central to the expression of the magic, and it is at times explicit. This tale is not always nice, at times it is brutal. This is not erotica; this is a tale with uncomfortable plot twists, but plot twists a true fan of horror will not be able turn away from. These books are not for the faint of heart, or for those who shy away from explicit and at times, violent sex. Yet the sex is not for prurient purposes. Lappi’s magic is created by melding high mathematics (the sort that explain the universe) and that most powerful of human drives, sex.

The central protagonist, Sid (Sidoro) grew up with a hard, uncaring father.  Sid's father taught him how to use mathematics, believing with all his heart that Sid was the Aleph Null—a prophesied wielder of the Black Numbers who will rule The Oblate. It is central to the plot that for the Oblate to control Sid, they would have to control his sexuality and the Korpor is central to the Oblate. Sid's violent and frightening encounters with the Korpor are the stuff of nightmares.  To top that off, many people want to see Sid dead, because of what he is, and how he threatens their position and power.

Tris, the man Sid always thought was his friend rules the Oblate and controls the Korpor, and is now pursuing him, intent on killing him. Fortunately for Sid, he attracts friends who are willing to risk their lives to protect him. Sid inspires great loyalty in his friends. Crowdal, Mrs. Wessmank, Writhgarth, Crowdal and Maelon are each uniquely individual and have their own stories. All the characters are wonderful in this series, but Crowdal is bold, witty and, dare I say it? Sexy in his own right. Indeed, all of Lappi's characters are clearly visualized and compelling.

It is a dark series, and there are some very disturbing moments, but it is also an amazing journey into those most basic of human emotions--friendship, love, loyalty, lust for power, and boundless ambition. For Sid, there is danger in falling in love. For me as reader, this was an unparalleled adventure.
The author has said in an editorial disclaimer, “The mathematics in this series were intentionally described without going into any mathematical depth. I wrote it this way because I wanted the math to be conceptual as a way to explain magic, for it to be more visually spectacular than mathematically precise.”  I have to say that this makes it MUCH more enjoyable for me, as I am most decidedly NOT a mathematician.

As with the first book in the series, Lappi has created another tale that makes you both afraid to turn the page, and terrified not to.  You want to see what will happen next. When I reached the final page, I couldn't get this book out of my mind.  I could never have predicted this ending—and now I must have the next book!


Alison DeLuca said...

Such a well-written review for a wonderful book. I'm in the middle of it right now!

Dean Lappi said...

Connie, you are so amazing, thank you for such a wonderful review of my book! Your review is thoughtful, in-depth, and so very well written.
I can't begin to say how such a nice review makes me feel as a writer. It is nice to know that you enjoyed the books!
Thank you so very much, Connie!
Kindest regards,

Shaun Allan said...

I read the first book and loved it. Can't wait for this.

Connie J Jasperson said...

Dean - it is my pleasure!