Larry Ketchersid,
Dusk Before the Dawn
(Infinity, 2006)

This novel is the first novel in the Enlightenment Cycle and is the author's debut work.

According to the astronomically-based predictions of the ancient Mayans, everything goes in cycles, and mankind is reaching the end of one of the big cycles, thus an enormous change, of some kind, can be expected. Well, it certainly happens in this story! A megalomaniacal nanotechnologist, Dr. Gerard Tooney, has decided that someone needs to hit the "reset" button on humankind, and he is just the man to do it. His mathematical models predict that civilization is about to self-destruct and might just take the entire biosphere with it.

Tooney tries to avert this cataclysm by unleashing nanobots (cell-sized robots) in the world's water supply that will render everyone unconscious, indefinitely. Of course, Tooney has an antidote or "anti-bot," ready for himself and a few choice others. He plans to keep everyone unconscious long enough to let the environment do some healing, and he hopes everyone will see things differently once they've been reawakened. Of course, anyone driving in a car or flying in a plane at the time of the unleashing might die from the results of sudden unconsciousness, but Tooney is willing to pay that price.

Meanwhile, Julius, a Guatemalan villager of Mayan ancestry, has studied the wisdom of his ancestors and is unaffected by the nanobots, as are a small but significant portion of the Earth's human population -- much to Tooney's surprise. Julius recruits several people to help him find out what happened, and what can be done to counter it. His group includes Carlos, a fellow villager; David Privett, brother of one of Tooney's unwilling assistants; Dr. Janet Grayson, another nanotechnologist; Master Yang, a martial arts instructor; and Joseph, one of Yang's students. At the same time, one of Tooney's henchmen is about to attempt a coup so he can reawaken everyone to a world designed to meet his own unscrupulous goals.

Julius and his cohort collide with Tooney just as the doctor is dealing with the attempt to usurp his power, and unusual, uneasy alliances result.

What did I like about this book? A lot. It includes some interesting debates over environmental issues, and much information about the philosophy behind Asian religions and martial arts. The book moves at a fast pace and has plenty of action. I also found many of the characters (Julius, Carlos, David, Janet, Joseph) to be ones with whom I could identify, at least in the beginning.


1. This work may be more novella than novel. The book is just 204 pages long and has fairly big margins, a fairly big font size and a blank line between each paragraph. However, there are some great novella-length books out there, such as John Steinbeck's Of Mice & Men, Richard Bach's Jonathan Livingston Seagull and my favorite book, Jay Nussbaum's Blue Road to Atlantis.

2. While Julius is initially portrayed as a good guy, as is Yang, they both morph into characters who, while not as controlling as Tooney, sound very much like him. Meanwhile, Tooney morphs from a cold-blooded megalomaniac into a character who was simply mistaken in his predictions and does not have to be held accountable for the tremendous cost, in lives, of his experiment.

3. The story makes big jumps, leaving the reader temporarily confused. The author then remedies this by having one character give another an update on the situation. This device sometimes looks like just that: a device. The character being updated sometimes should have no need of an update.

4. There are several instances wherein a character, usually Julius or Yang, explains something to another character, but this explanation often feels like an opportunity for the author to make a statement about his beliefs instead of an integral and necessary part of the story. Many authors use their books to convey statements about their beliefs. This has been done beautifully in some books, like Of Mice & Men and Blue Road to Atlantis. Other times, such an injection of belief-statements into a story can almost destroy an otherwise great book, like Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. In Dusk Before the Dawn, the lessons tend to impede the flow of the story and make one character sound all-knowing and another seem very naive.

5. Editing! There are a lot more errors in this book than one usually finds in a published work. The errors are seldom real typos, but often are errors like using "they" where "the" is intended, or having the word "though" appear twice in a sentence, where one appearance would suffice.

The bottom line? Dusk Before the Dawn has an interesting premise, giving promise that Larry Ketchersid could be a very good author and that the series started by this book might evolve into something quite remarkable, but some improvement is definitely needed.

by Chris McCallister
2 December 2006

Buy it from