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Chaos surging is the first book by Brian Sherlock. It reminded me of X-men, so if you love those movies, you’ll likely enjoy this story. It has plenty of action, romance, an Oracle, and more complex characters. It’s a good start for a first novel, with a real cinematic vibe to it.
The story takes place in an alternate future with an alternate history. It’s the year 2047, and right at the beginning, there’s been a terrorist attack in Mexico City. The ones behind this are some extremist Novi – people with special powers. This doesn’t come out of nowhere; humans have targeted the Novi years back and even placed a lot of them in special camps. Cassey Lawal, the Oracle, was one of the key-players in freeing the Novi, and now she has to work hard against the extremist Novi to ensure there is peace. She sets Dylan Strammole, a Novus with the power to control water, to get close to Asher. They believe Asher is involved in the terrorist group, and so they work to stop them. It becomes a lot more complicated when Dylan finds he might like Asher more than he’s willing to admit.
Chaos surging starts really strong, right in the middle of the action. The story feels quite cinematic, which makes sense if you figure the inspiration of it was X-men (at least, I think it was). The story does fall flat at times when there’s more focus on the relationship between Dylan and Asher. I wasn’t a massive fan of their relationship, as it just seemed quite abusive. There’s also a lot of using drugs and drinking and doing dangerous stuff to be cool; that just isn’t my thing. But I know other people will love that about this story, so don’t let my taste turn you away from the story.
“Experience had taught Dylan that if he was forced to sleep out in the open, he was better off staying close to his element.“
The book follows different perspectives. One of these is Dylan. What to say about Dylan… I didn’t find him likable, which doesn’t have to be a problem. But I didn’t feel empathy for him either, which was a problem for me. When we meet Dylan, you kind of feel bad for him, but he acts like an asshole too quickly for me to care for him. So, while the story was good, I didn’t like reading it from Dylan’s perspective. After about a quarter in, some things happen that made me start to care more about him, but not enough to excuse some of the things he did later on. I would have liked it better to have some of those things happen in the beginning so that I could attach more to Dylan. I think that would’ve helped in making me understand some of his decisions later on in the story.
The other major character is Cassey. Her I liked; she’s trying to do the right things, trying to ensure peace between the Novi and humans. She cares about the ones she loves, she struggles with her leadership, and if her choices are the right ones. She was just a whole lot more relatable than Dylan.
“What you see here is a happy fella who likes cocaine and who isn’t entirely sure what’ll happen if he’s not happy and without cocaine – you get me?“
In terms of world-building, I think Brian did an excellent job. The Novi are fascinating with all their different abilities. Novi can be recognized by their eyes; they turn an electric blue when they are using their power. Novi can also create more abilities that revolve around their power by ‘crossing the Threshold.’ I’m still not totally sure what this is, but it involves feeling a strong emotion. Sometimes, Novi change their eye-color after crossing the threshold, or ‘they come into their eyes.’ Their eyes turn to a golden color, and these Novi are considered more dangerous. It’s all well-thought-out, and really interesting.
“Expecting the worst, can often lead to victory.“
I liked how the tension builds in Chaos surging, and that’s what kept me reading. I wanted to know more. Especially the beginning was excellent; it raised enough questions to make me want to continue reading, but not so much that it was confusing. I didn’t much care for all the character descriptions. It was just too many details on what they were wearing and what they looked like, in my opinion. Further, in the backstory, there often weren’t any dialogue tags, which made it harder to read. Other than that, the writing was decent, and the characters had a clear and distinctive voice.
There are occasionally some chapters from the perspective of others than Cassey and Dylan, but that didn’t add anything to the story for me. For some, I got why that choice was made, but for others, it didn’t make much sense to me. I would’ve liked it better if it’d been just Dylan and Cassey.
I feel Chaos surging is almost there from being a good book to a great book, with just some structural changes. If some things were moved a bit more to the beginning, I would have cared more about Dylan, and that would have made me more invested in his story. For me, emotional connections to a character are essential when reading a story, so it was a little bit disappointing not to have that with Dylan. I did feel more connected to Cassey and would’ve liked to see more of her. But in any case, the story itself was good, with interesting characters and world. So, if you love a book featuring the struggle between humans and people with powers, then you will want to read this one!