• Book Review: 'The Shaker of Worlds' by Karl A.D. Brown


    Karl A.D. Brown fuses elements of Constantine, Terminator, Stephen King's Dark Tower series, and Dante's Inferno to create a horrifying story set between Earth and the Purgatory in his supernatural thriller The Shaker of Worlds. The novel tells the rip-roaring story of Margret Stewart's telekinetic family being hunted by the secret government agency known as the Gray Department and a relentless assassin following orders from a demonic talking cat; and it's up to the Purgatory gunslinger Oliver to save them from the cruel forces of evil.

    Brown meticulously crafts his plots well from the start: Stewart family runs away from their pursuers after their father, Matthew Stewart, tragically dies. Even the dark side of telekinesis are unleashed, ensuing shocking supernatural violence that escalates the tension as they're being chased by dystopian enforcers that made me wonder what's so special about them. Then in the same chapter, we are introduced to Jurgis, a witch-hunter who's described as a "vengeful knight doing God's work" but he's following orders from a devilish shapeshifting cat that wants him to kill Margret and her family because the prophetic writings say that they'll have a child who will be "The Shaker of Worlds", the "chosen one" who's the key to battles beyond the government's nefarious schemes. The way Brown weaves these plots from the first chapter alone, hooked me to the heart of the novel's conflict: the battle between good vs. evil (though the "good" and "evil" sides are questionable at this point).

    The mystery of the family's significance is quickly revealed as Brown's omniscient narrator spills the background details of most of the key players in the first act, leaving little room for wonder and suspense, often diverting the focus of the present story away, slowing down the pace throughout the exposition but somehow still manages to make a clear path for various characters that would, at some point, converge. The narrator knows too much about the characters, and I wished some details could have been revealed through dialogues, which are minimal in this novel, by the way. Brown often states the obvious; for instance, when the narrator reminds us that she misses her dead husband and she still loves him.

    When the Purgatory gunslinger Oliver comes to defend the family, things become more exciting as the noble guardian takes them across dimensions and informs them about the warring kingdoms between the East and the West. Seeing the Stewart children use their powers as "benders" and "feelers" are spectacular. Their "talents" don't just allow them to communicate mentally, but read people's emotions in proximity as well. They're vulnerability against deadly forces make them more engaging. You can sense their importance even though the reason isn't elaborated much. The bloody scenes of telekinesis are as explicit as Mortal Kombat fatalities, and add to the spectacle of the intense climax. The most exciting part of the novel is how the conflicts arise in several worlds, creating multi-layered tension like Inception.

    The Shaker of Worlds is ultimately about the battle of good vs. evil, but also how those sides are clearly defined. The conflict is more complex than a chessboard's opposition: There are enemies from different sides, and their pursuits would make you wonder about their outcomes as much as the Stewarts' struggle for survival. There are Christian themes that reminds us of the Biblical conflict between God and Lucifer; Brown even includes several quotes
    —some are Biblical verses that resonates the theme sod the chapter ahead. If you enjoy supernatural thrillers like Constantine and plots similar to the Terminator, your world will probably be shaken by Brown's dark fantasy.
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