Written by: Paul Black
Published by: Novel Instincts
Reviewed by Ismael Manzano
When I’d first agreed to write reviews for G-POP.net, I’d done so, fully expecting never to review a sequel, mostly because I wanted to only showcase a different author each time. However, this posed a problem. I’d read so many great books that offered sequels, that I had to put aside my own desire to follow a favorite character or world in order to have time to read newer material. Well, those days are over. I’ve finally broken down.
I was introduced to the writings of Paul Black through an associate at G-POP.net, in the form of a novel called the Tels. Anyone who has read that review will know what I thought about that novel. So it should be no surprise to them that I chose to review the sequel, Soulware, as quickly as I could.
Soulware picks up about two years after the end of the first novel, following Jonathan Kortel—the world’s most powerful telepath—through his trials and tribulations as the newest and most illustrious Tel in the Agency—an underground organization of telepaths that influence and manipulate the world from the shadows. Jonathan has sacrificed everything for the Agency, in exchange for a place where he would be amongst equals, a place where he would fit in. But as time wears on, certain events have Jonathan questioning whether it was a fair trade after all.
Constantly monitored, plagued by skull-splitting migraines, and almost as out of place in the Tel world as he had been in the regular world, Jonathan Kortel was not the happiest member of the Agency. That is, until an old friend—Georgia—joins the Agency. No longer bound by obstacles, the two Tels engage in a tentative, but passionate relationship that is nurtured by their growing distrust of the Agency’s motives.
A cryptic message from another old acquaintance makes it very apparent that there is more to the Agency and Jonathan’s role in it than had been originally told to him. But it isn’t until Jonathan happens upon a secret rendezvous between a man he thought he knew and a woman from his past that he finally turns against the Agency. He’s convinced that they have done something to him, and he’s out to find out exactly what and for what purpose. To make matters worse, Jonathan is targeted for revenge for the death of the Rogue’s telepathic leader, Jacob Whitehorse.
With nothing to lose, Jonathan Kortel—the world’s most powerful Tel—is one disgruntled employee no one wants as an enemy. But is his superior ability enough to weed out the information he seeks while fending off Agency members with far more experience and training than him?
All in all, I thought Soulware was a brilliantly embroidered story, mixing science and fiction in a plausible and entertaining way. My only problem with the story was a small piece of exposition in the beginning to catch the reader up to speed. While I appreciate the twist at the end of that scene and agree that it reveals something of what the protagonist’s mindset was at the time, I felt it came off a little bit like a straight recap.
Other than that, I absolutely loved this book and am looking forward to see where the breadcrumbs Mr. Black left in this novel leads in the next installment. The author constructs a concise story with a pleasant-to-read prose and a well thought out plot that has a daring swerve at the end that had me skimming through the Tels to make sure I had not missed a vital clue—I hadn’t.
Being a sequel, there are parts of Soulware that will not have as much impact if you didn’t read the first book, despite the author’s claim that Soulware could be read as a standalone book. Since the Tels is equally engaging and fun to read, I suggest if you haven’t already picked up the Tels, do so now; and while you’re at it, buy Soulware as well, and when you’re done, keep your eyes open for the third installment of the series.