Book Review: Mannigan – A Speck of Light by L. Ross Coulter

I generally like dystopian novels quite a bit, especially when they’re post-apocalyptic Earth, simply because I enjoy seeing how an author takes the world we know and makes it something unfamiliar. I was, as such, intrigued when approached to read Mannigan – A Speck of Light. Mostly, though, the book left me confused.

The book follows Will (no last name until 2/3ds of the way through the book, at which point it’s meaningless). He lives in a post nuclear war/ice age society where a few pockets of civilisation have been scraped out. At the start of the book, he is in prison (I think) for an unspecified charge, released, dying, then recruited by a group called Legion to be their saviour. He is gifted with the ability to heal and fight and agrees to help fulfil their manifest. Which is…something unspecified. Maybe helping people, but I’m not sure which people, and I’m not sure why. Will then goes on a journey to Devestation, a town outside the utopian boundaries, and there are various other groups, people, fights, and such that get in the way of him fulfilling his goal.

Honestly, I think the plot was intriguing, except I had no idea why any of this was happening. The book uses the style of worldbuilding that throws a reader into the deep end and lets them figure things out as they go. Which is perfectly fine, except that there are some severely important details left out that would clarify the book. Such as who Legion is and what they want, who the Kol/Malleus are and what they want, what exactly Will is trying to achieve, etc. The entire rest of the book becomes rather pointless without this information because the reader doesn’t know why Will is doing what he’s doing.

I also have read many books where the main character gains the ability to heal from basically anything (I’ve actually written a whole series like that). It can work really well, but it can also be a bit problematic because the stakes for the character cannot be physical. In this case, a lot of the situations Will enters in order to achieve his goal are physical, and they just don’t have any fear or punch to me because I knew he would heal and therefore didn’t care about his injuries. There were instances where Will had to deal with more metaphysical/emotional situations, but those felt incomplete because of the missing information as to why he was doing what he did.

I think the scenes with the Children of Light were the best of the book, because at least there, the motivations and interactions were very clear.

The prose for this book is grammatically correct, and I found very few spelling errors at all. However, the primary sentence structure, used for about 95% of the book, is an inverted form from the standard English sentence. For example, here is a sentence taken from the beginning of the book: “Down the stairs, and stretching on his tippy toes to reach the latch, he opened the door to them.”

It is not quite passive voice, but it very much is contrary to the expected subject + verb + object form. The majority of sentences in the book follow this form, where the dependent/subordinate clause is always first and then the independent clause appears. Often, the independent clause is unrelated to the subordinating clause, which makes for a very confusing reading experience. Linguistically, the book reads as passive voice even though the majority of the sentences aren’t passive. For this reason alone, I nearly DNF’d the book at 20%.

I will say that this book is obviously well thought out. The various cities and cultures are quite in depth and unique, and the world itself appears to be complex. I just wish that there weren’t so much missing information as to character motivations. 

Overall, I think that Mannigan – A Speck of Light has the potential to be a very good book, but in execution the missing information and the inverted sentence structure made it a confusing book to read and left me unsatisfied. A fair book.