In a post-apocalyptic future we see a world where Vampires truly do exist. They previously lived in shadows and in secrecy. Then came an uprising and a war known as the Great Onslaught, where humanity came close to becoming wiped out. Then the Vampires, who chose to become known as Eternals, actually built for themselves a peaceful and socially thriving community, while humans lived in caves as part of primitive tribal communities. Then one of the humans, Jonas, chooses to join a group of elite “moles” and infiltrate the Eternal society. Utilizing medication they manage to pass themselves off as Eternals, all the while spying on them in the hopes of finding a weakness that humans can exploit and eliminate them off the face of the Earth. These spies, also known as Transients, have gone through great efforts to masquerade as one of the Eternals, and Jonas has done his job too well. Not only has fully integrated with Eternal society, he has also managed to fall in love with another Eternal. He doesn’t view them as the savages that tried to wipe out humans during their war. Instead he sees a people that are actually better caretakers of the Earth than humans were. In the end, when an opportunity presents itself to wipe out all Eternals, he betrays his own kind so that this present society of Eternals may continue to live. Jonas then leaves, along with his Eternal lover Anna, goes into exile. Thus ends book 1 of “Immortal Wake” titled Transient.
When book 2 begins the Transient program is essentially dead. Humans still exist and the Eternals society continues to thrive in perfect harmonious balance with Earth, until a mysterious man comes forward and begins killing Eternals in a most violent manner. His actions cause panic among the Eternals in Seattle, and even after an Eternal detective named Korovin captures him, they find themselves blocked, as he will only speak to Jonas. The traitor. Korovin reaches out to Jonas, who reluctantly agrees to come out of hiding to confront this man, whom he later realizes is someone he is acquainted with. What he discovers about this “Axeman” is that he is a fanatic with an agenda that could forever alter the future for both humans and Eternals.
I’ll be the first to admit that I am not the biggest fan of post-apocalyptic stories. Perhaps this has to do with my own psychological makeup and the things in my head that make me tick. I also admit that I can be very self-delusional in hoping that the best and noble parts of humanity would eventually rise to the surface and bring about a well-earned Utopia. So when I first read Transient I saw this dystopian science fiction world filled with another group of people, the Eternals, who perhaps might be able to bring about that Utopia that I firmly believed in.
With Thursday Midnight author Zachry Wheeler has altered his approach in his story telling, and instead of presenting us a book with massive world building (as done in Transient), he now gives us a story that is heavily plot driven to the point where it starts to feel like a runaway train. His characters of Jonas, Korovin, Jemison (Korovin’s assistant/partner), and even Anna (Jonas’ girlfriend/partner), continually push to find a better way for humans and Eternals to co-exist peacefully, despite the violent and fanatical idealism that the Axeman is operating under. Even when the action slows down the characters movements maintain that energy from one heart-stopping chapter into the next. By the time the Axeman’s true agenda is fully revealed all I can say is that my knuckles were white from gripping my kindle too tightly, and the ending was probably the most shocking form of storytelling I have ever read.
Once again, I’m no fan of post-apocalyptic stories, but I did go into this book with a sense of hope given how Transient ended. However there are layers in what Wheeler is sharing here. With an initial reading it can be viewed purely at its most basic, meaning this is an all out thriller regarding a maniac whose apparent goal is to wipe out all Eternals. However when you start to get into the last third it becomes necessary to read in between the lines. Wheeler isn’t just giving us an action-adventure story; rather he’s giving us some ideas to look at, which sadly I cannot fully list here without giving away the ending of this book. However one element that can be mentioned is the character arc. Jonas’ arc goes through some remarkable changes from the beginning of Transient all the way through to the ending of Thursday Midnight. His is not the typical hero’s journey. When I started this book I did so with the idea that he might become some sort of savior for all people of Earth. What ends up happening is about as far away from that idea as one could possibly imagine. I will admit that I had a very difficult time when I finished reading it. I have never read anything quite so shocking in my entire life, and it actually left me in a rather bad headspace (which is not a fun place to be when struggling with depression as I do, but that’s a conversation for another time). In no way does that take anything away from the power of this story. Thursday Midnight is quite simply one of the most compelling and intelligent science fiction books to come along in a very long time. Some stories are very plot driven that takes readers on an incredible ride, while others contain themes and ideas that are meant to spark the human intellect and generate conversation about life, society, and what it means to be human and alive. Wheeler here has done something amazing in giving us a book that does both.
Thursday Midnight absolutely wrecked me, and I freely admit that from an emotional perspective it is not the kind of book that would be my first choice to read. Nonetheless, it is a brilliant piece of science fiction literature, and the fact that it did wreck me speaks to its efficacy. Thursday Midnight is a dystopian masterpiece.
Thursday Midnight will be released on July 1 in both paperback and Kindle, and it can be pre-ordered for $0.99 for a limited time here.