No Gods, No Monsters, by Cadwell Turnbull

I’m not sure if this book counts as a novel or linked stories. Each chapter(?) jumps across characters, settings, and years. The cast is large. There are recurring characters, but it takes a while to establish who the protagonists are and who they’re facing off against. So much new information is introduced that I had to slow down as I read it so that I could remember everything. However, I am sure that “Convergence” is a good name for Cadwell Turnbull’s series—at least if the first volume, No Gods, No Monsters is anything to go by. The more I read, the more I could see the narrative arranging the characters like pieces on a chessboard. Big things are coming in future volumes.

This very unusual book starts off with a sadly all too frequent occurrence. Laina’s brother (they are Black) is killed by police. We don’t get to the unusual part until a few pages later, when Laina receives a digital video of the entire event. The video reveals that the police weren’t shooting at her brother; they thought they were shooting at a gigantic, monstrous dog or wolf. It’s only after the “creature” dies that it transforms into the body of a naked man. The police freak out. And when Laina releases the video to the media, more people freak out. And then when a pack of werewolves are filmed staging a protest, the whole world freaks out.

After the werewolf protest, No Gods, No Monsters kicks into high gear. It becomes a whirl of secret societies, creatures I’ve never heard of before, possible gods, alternate dimensions, and who knows what else. This maelstrom is connected by characters crashing into each other. At least, at first. I started to notice themes emerge about truth and reality. The video Laina released is almost immediately edited to remove her brother’s transformation by parties unknown. Some viewers are able to convince themselves that the new version is the only version and that monsters don’t exist. Viewers who can’t accept the revision of their reality, but are left without actual evidence that the universe is stranger than we realized, are trapped in doubt. Later, when we meet a physicist who challenges the standard theory of quantum physics. His questions and dialogue with other characters make us question reality in the same way that all those viewers questioned their reality. That fact that this ontology is grafted onto a completely gripping piece of fantasy makes this book catnip for me.

The only downside to No Gods, No Monsters is that I have to wait for the next entries in the Convergence series.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss for review consideration.

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