Charles Ingrid,
The Marked Man Omnibus
(DAW, 2002)

Charles Ingrid's The Marked Man Omnibus collects The Marked Man (1989) and its sequel The Last Recall (1991) into one fat engrossing volume.

Ingrid's apocalyptic vision of southern California after a combination of natural and manmade catastrophes wreak havoc and how the disasters are survived combines science fiction and fantasy into a gripping adventure.

Thomas Blade, the eponymous marked man, is a Lord Protector, which means he has psychic abilities that allow him to enforce order in the structures of the society of the Seven Counties. These people are under constant threat from the "nesters," who refuse to live within the rules of society, and their enemy in the desert, the "lizard people," led by Denethan, psychically powerful in his own right.

Psychic ability isn't the only trait that has developed; many bear the traces of the genetic engineering conducted to keep the human race viable. Blade is one of many with gills, relics of when humans returned to the sea to survive. In other cases, out-of-control DNA, sometimes spurred by viruses, has produced auxiliary limbs or eyes or even tails. Their hope is that two genetically "pure" youths will be the salvation of the human race.

But the young couple disappears and Blade suspects Denethan. Together with another protector, Lady Nolan, Blade tracks them down, only to find that things aren't quite what they seem.

The Last Recall picks up shortly after The Marked Man ends and brings back allies and enemies from the first book. In addition, there is a generation ship on its way back to Earth after 250 years, and the crew is unaware of the changes that have taken place. They begin to have their suspicions as they near the planet but can't even begin to foresee what they will find.

The strength of these books is primarily the wholly believable and mostly appealing characters that become vividly real to the reader. The plot is well paced, although there are some small nagging holes and gaps in the story and back-story. These are easily forgiven in the light of the overall plot.

My final surprise was to learn that not only is "Charles Ingrid" a pseudonym, it is one for an author who has written books under another pseudonym that I did not like at all. Perhaps it goes to show that not only that you can't judge a book by its cover -- and the cover of The Marked Man doesn't depict anything from the story -- but that you can't always judge a book by its author's name, either.

- Rambles
written by Donna Scanlon
published 21 June 2003

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