1. Story Statement: Alistair must find a way beyond the Seventh Ring of Reality, reach The Garden at its center, and prevent the Decay from devouring life itself.
2. Antagonistic Forces:
The opening chapter ends with Alistair badly wounded by the primary antagonist of the series, The Shadow. A mirthless, masked, marauder set in direct opposition to Alistair. Stalking the Wanderer in the hopes of making him suffer and eventually killing him before he reaches the Garden. But trapped in infinity like Alistair, he struggles with the decision to kill Al even when granted the perfect opportunity to do so. Out of fear of returning to infinite futility, he stays his hand.
However, the antagonist of the bulk of this book is Michael. The self-proclaimed last Mapper. As the last of an ancient creed of reality traversing geniuses, he grapples with the desire to finish his people’s misguided work and discover the fate of his once-proud race. Intelligent, prideful, and ruthless in both his ambition and skillful manipulation, he challenges Alistair’s view on what type of evil is truly necessary in order to accomplish their partially aligned goal of moving beyond the Seventh Ring. However, while Michael secretly pulls the strings of the entire City of Teles, he has also torn a hole in reality which threatens to destroy the entire city unless Alistair can stop him.
3. Breakout Titles:
The Wanderer, Book One: Echoes of Eternity
The Wanderer, Book One: A Necessary Evil
The Wanderer, Book One: The Price of Progress
The Gunslinger by Stephen King: I know we said not to use big authors, but this is genuinely both the book and series that aided me in finally finding the proper tone for The Wanderer and shares a very similar tone.
Blindsight by Peter Watts: While The Wanderer is slightly more fantasy than sci-fi, it’s Peter Watt’s writing style and ability to use character conversation and inner dialogue to explain challenging concepts in an anecdotal manner that I feel closely relates to the voice used by Alistair to ground readers in what could otherwise be a daunting and foreign reality.
The Vagrant by Peter Newman: Similar thematic ground and sense of traveling solitude. The challenge of maintaining individuality in the face of purpose. Likely similar readerships.
5. Hook Line:
A weary Wanderer burdened with great purpose agrees to aid a young girl in finding her mother, but when he uncovers the insidious plot of a mad sorcerer he must choose between his own destiny and the fate of an entire city.
6. Inner Conflict:
Alistair will face inner turmoil throughout the novel. Having traveled on his own for so long, wearing many different faces, and having come up against all manners of cruelty, he will struggle to trust others or put them before his own purpose.
He is also at his wit’s end; lost and wounded, he begins to fear that the cause isn’t worth fighting, and perhaps slipping into anonymity may be his only recourse. This inner conflict makes itself especially apparent in matters concerning the young girl, Sofia Brennan. He promises, out of sympathy and gratitude, to deliver her safely back to her mother. Feeling an affinity for the girl and empathy toward her struggle, he begins to fear that his affection for her is at odds with his primary purpose to get to the Garden no matter the cost. This results in him abandoning her before the start of Act 3. Only for him to eventually come to her aid, risking his life and even culminating in his willingness to face his Shadow and sacrifice himself to keep her safe. Finally realizing that aiding her was not straying from his path at all, but rather a reminder of the very reason he walks it.
All of this is without mentioning the ideological differences between Alistair and Michael and the temptation to become as depraved and malevolent as the pragmatic Mapper dares him to be. An ideological conflict which drives much of the second act.
The Free City of Teles is not the bastion of progressive liberty and unity it presents itself to be. Within its massive walls dwells one of the most corrupt and detestable cabals of aristocrats one can imagine. Everything from a sadistic Sheriff, megalomaniac Prime Minister, and of course the mad scientist Michael. Slowly gaining more power and allowing the Decay to poison their own citizens, they seek ultimate power and find it in the ability to transcend reality with Gate Technology. As fate would have it, Alistair arrives in the city only days before the conflict between the rebels- led by the spiteful but brave Vivien Porier -and the aristocracy comes to a head in an epic conclusion of fire and blood. While Alistair faces off against Michael to save Sofia, Vivien and the other rebels lay siege to the city.
Throughout Alistair and Vivien will verbally clash on what’s best for the City of Teles as he quickly realizes that while she is admirable, her focus is more vengeful than righteous. A friendship and mild romance bloom as a result of their shared struggles and willingness to challenge one another.
The settings and sub-settings change dramatically throughout allowing for a kinetic and jarring feeling to resemble the disorientation of Alistair’s psyche after years of traversing so many realities.
Opening Scene: We begin in a bar in a setting best compared to Victorian-era England. Rattling oil lanterns bob about in the thick mist, and horse-drawn carts clop along cobblestone. But by the end of chapter one, Alistair has fled through a portal leaving this world behind.
Countryside: He arrives in a barren forest which leads to an expanse of grasslands largely submerged beneath the floods of a vicious rainstorm. Here he meets the feral child, Sofia Brennan.
Market: A colorful bizarre outside the walls of the city where villagers trade goods and services. It will be the setting for the first major action set-piece. An explosive confrontation between the rebels and city guard ensues.
City of Teles: First seen through the eyes of secondary character Ira Edavane. The city is a technological marvel. In an era akin to that of ancient Rome, The City of Teles has managed to construct a public tram system, clockwork and steam fueled machinery, that allows the city to teem with life. Thanks to Michael’s otherworldly contributions, the city appears a metropolis completely out of its time. Opulent, marble-white, the city is a symbol both of technological advancement as well as political corruption, wealth stratification, and hubris.
The Old Sewers: Ancient ruins of the former city of Teles which the rebels have used as a haven that eventually matured into a city of its own. Even including some stolen technology from the city proper, the sewers serve to show the cost of Teles’ opulence.
The Catacombs: This is where Michael conducts his experiments and hides the many doomed souls afflicted with the Decay. It is also the site of the Gate he created which secretly threatens to destroy the city.
City of Portsmouth: The city that lies beyond the gate, which both Michael and Alistair cross through in Act Three. A seaside province that is rapidly destabilizing and threatening to implode into a black hole. As it is only actually the memory of a dead city being artificially sustained by Michael’s crude Gate Technology, the city itself is wickedly alive. The citizens within are reduced to violent mutated husks and the ocean swells hungrily devouring the cliffside as the sun rapidly dies overhead.