Written by: Paul Black
Published by: Novel Instincts
Reviewed by Ismael Manzano
I agreed to review the science fiction novel, The Tels by Paul Black, as a favor to my coworkers who were swamped with their own projects. I had expected the handoff to come attached with a few snickers from my coworkers, heralding a big waste of time for me. I was truly amazed by how wrong I was. Not only did I enjoy the book, I almost feel guilty that I got to review it instead of them.
The Tels follows Jonathan Kortel, a bioprogrammer, chef and owner of a trendy restaurant that boasts to have the finest in both biofood and ‘old fashioned,’ cooked food. Needless to say, the story is set over a century in the future, a future where the ‘Biolution’ has changed the shape of every aspect of life; almost everything is programmed and flexible in some way, from artificial intelligence to bioprogrammed food to drugs to clothing programmed to change shapes, everything has been effected by this new wave of science.
Jonathan is content with his life in ‘Kitchen Kortel.’ He has friends, a budding reputation, money, and he is doing what he loves to do. All that changes however when two men from a secret ‘Agency’ stroll into his restaurant one day after a failed recruiting mission. James McCarris and his unnamed partner, are both Tels—telekinetics—who immediately recognize Jonathan for who he truly is. One of them. After a few secret tests to confirm their suspicions, the two Tels learn something truly disturbing; Jonathan is not only a telekinetic, he could possibly be the most powerful Tel ever conceived of. Now they must make contact with him and bring him in to the Agency, no matter what.
Three things complicate their plans. The first is a girl named Tamara—stripper, mother, godsend. In an unlikely meeting, Jonathan falls for the blond beauty and falls hard, leaving little more for anything else. The second is a rival ‘Agency’ with a grudge to settle with James’ partner and who will stop at nothing to use this newest and most powerful Tel to do it. The third problem is that Jonathan has no idea what he is. He suspects something is different about him, he knows that strange things sometimes happens around him, but he could never have fathomed the power that he had always held or the depths to which that power can go if he learns to break through the wall of denial.
Three problems and only one path to choose. Can Jonathan decide for himself who to trust, which side to join and if he can hold on to what matters most in his life, before the choices are made for him?
The Tels is yet another book I’ve reviewed that has left me baffled as to why this work has not made it to the mainstream already. Novel Instincts, although not a typical subsidiary publisher, is still a subsidiary publisher, and I can not understand why it was necessary for Paul Black to go this route, unless he never attempted to go the old fashion route in the first place.
The book is the kind of science fiction that I like to read, not weighed down with technical jargon that the average person can not understand. Most technical things in the novel are explained through the character’s point of view, as a chef or a stripper or an agent would understand them. In short, they can work the stuff, but that doesn’t mean they can build the stuff or recite its specs from memory—I really hate when books do that.
The prose is light and catchy, but did not fail to bring the emotional hammer down when necessary. It’s a character-driven piece that was worth every second I’d spent on it. And if The Tels is the type of quality Novel Instincts demands rather than the exception, I might suggest to those aspiring writers to check out their website and see if they’re for you. In the meantime, get your hands on a copy of The Tels. I can’t speak for the sequel Soulware yet, but if it’s as good as the first, I’d buy it.