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- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
Picture this: it's about four centuries from now and the world has undergone some cataclysmic wars. All things being equal, wars end or calm down for a few years and people pick up the pieces. This time around only four great nation-states arise, under the leadership of a Warlord as old boundaries shift (Eur/Africa) to form new entities. This time around, though, most people are unpaid serfs or part of the elite. There's little or no cross-over or in-between.
One area holds out, not joining any of the Warlord empires that ended up being created, was the Free City.
They believed in their little independent-free nation state and the Warlords, also saw the need for a free nation, one with no agenda, other than freedom and truth, as opposed to their personal holding as Warlords. This type of nation can solve crimes the Warlords can't as its free detectives and policemen have no agendas and are trusted. This way Free Cith police are frequently called in everywhere to get a case solved.
With the rise of the "Free City" -- actually Ireland -- as a democracy you find its citizens and police are universally trusted everywhere to be, at least, impartial. The Warlords don't realize that the Free Cities is also usually the center of activity against tyrants.
Among those who pick up the pieces after the particularly brutal war are Free City Police Inspector Second Class Ryo Trop and his cohorts in the Free City Police and Inquisitor's Offices. Set in Ireland, they don't agree to become part of one of the four great feudal states that have risen on the ashes of the nations beaten in the wars. Now in states founded by the Warlords, who emerged as the winners of this war, we find a brutalized society. It's very much like the post-cataclysmic/noir period that brought us "Bladerunner" 40 years ago.
Though not really stated outright, the four Warlords and their lackeys know they need a Free City whose Agents can go anywhere and investigate anything that needs investigation. One edict, 343, gives Ryo and the other agents the right to use whatever force is necessary to get a job done.
That's about as far as I am going to go out on a limb with spoilers because once you start reading "Torn From On High," you won't want to find out any information before you read it in the book. It's where you would decide that you'll just have to find out what's going one and who is doing what to whom and when by yourself.
This is S.F. Chapman's second book in "The Free City" series. It is a continuation of the first book with the addition of characters. (At this stage in their careers, many authors usually tend to start to go minimalist, just dwelling on a couple of new areas in a second or third book in a series as they don't want to seem as if they are trying too hard. Trust me, when a writer reaches that stage of career, it shows. If their editing teams are solid they will have the time to fix their writing issues. Most good writers do have a couple of foul tips in their early career, it is inevitable.
It's an unfortunate truth that not everyone is meant to be an author. Oh, they will eagerly indicate they are working for themselves now, but if you look at an early draft usually you will see is that, unless he or she has a great editor, the writer may want to consider a career in the food industry. It is as if the entire nation identifies itself by its career choice and no other qualities, so the old "writing ploy" is a winner for many.
Okay, you know what I am going to say next: like a fish swimming against the tide, every little while a new author appears for our reading pleasure. S.F. Chapman -- the author of the "Free City" series -- is a natural who has huge natural writing talent. It was as if he was born to help us deal with a few minutes of escape every day so easily you just want more (I want his next book, boss) as he seems to be a naturally born writer.
In the space of about eight years, Chapman has written nine books, including the "Free City" series, each one showing his growth as a writer who will be with us for a long time to come. I wish he had made the switch years ago because I would have found a new favorite science fiction author then and I wouldn't have had to wait.
Chapman's style is easy and conversational and very, very addictive. You pick up one of his books, "Torn From On High," for example, and you begin leafing through it, finding a lot of good reading. Just to make sure you are making the right decision you look at the notes and you look at the first page and you are hooked.
Chapman lifts you up and carries you very subtly into the dark side of post-apocalyptic police work where you meet Ryo's little foster child Dilma, who was rescued by Ryo and some others, from a world that exploits children. As you move forward in the book, you realize that the 57-year-old Trop, police inspector second class is the best investigator that Chief Inspector Helga Smith has working for her.
Ryo's tired and wants to spend time with his foster daughter Dilma but he also needs a nanny -- who is located quite quickly and is Sabra -- because Helga wants to keep Ryo working. She even creates the job of Inspector First Class. Of course, being a man who wants to see justice upheld and lawbreakers given their due, takes the job, but it doesn't stop him from grumbling, of course.
If you have read this far in the book Chapman has you, and you don't even know it. You begin to care for all of the good guys, some of whom are clones, and you care for them, too. It took me roughly five or six pages and I found that I wanted to meet Ryo and see what his office looked like and watch him practice his trade, being an expert detective. That's why he was born and grew up.
Chapman has you caring for Dilma quickly. Like Ryo, she seems real and so does her nanny. Trust me when I tell you they are integral parts of the story and I am going to let you find out just how good a writer Chapman is. He's a natural writer. His characters seem like they really exist full developed when you first meet them.
The classic definition of good writing is simple: You ask yourself "does this work make me suspend my value and/or belief system?" If the answer is yes, you have a winning author and book. It surely does for "Torn From On High." It's a great read for a rainy weekend or if you are on vacation by the lake and are just waiting for the bass to bite. This is the book that will fill the "empty minutes" with something very special.