Risen, the first book of MT Miller’s Nameless Chronicle, is a bloody appetiser that will convince you pretty quickly whether you have the stomach for further courses. If you make it through the opening chapter unscathed, in which our nameless “hero” is birthed from the soil and immediately sets about defending himself against a horde of literally faceless adversaries in unflinching graphic detail, you can handle anything.
“Besides language and the art of killing, I seem to be a blank slate.”
As Nameless embarks on his uncertain journey, Miller employs tried-and-tested amnesia to leave his protagonist as clueless and disoriented as we are. Bits and pieces will be filled in along the way as we meet some of the colourful characters who populate this nightmare near-future, but it’s Nameless himself who remains the biggest enigma. Who is he? Why and how was he raised from the dead? And why does he enjoy killing so much?
This is a gleefully violent book that’s not for the squeamish, but the considerable darkness is balanced by equally black humour. Characters frequently take time out in the midst of deadly peril to make wisecracks about the absurdity of their situation, and while that may spoil the atmosphere if you’re trying to immerse yourself in the horror of it all (not advised), it helps greatly towards achieving the book’s ultimate purpose: to entertain.
This is straight-up dystopian fantasy, not a cautionary tale or serious literature to unpick. More Mad Max than The Road, with a comedy amputee sidekick, cyberpunk nun and hillbilly cannibals thrown in for good measure. What it resembles most of all is a video game, as our stock warrior character tears through legions of identical enemies and picks up advice from NPCs before taking on this book’s boss: the big, bad Boneslinger.
Lightweight, crude and a little depraved? Sure, but I’m hungry to see what Act II has in store.