Rating: 4 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

 

New Life in Autumn is the second story in the Autumn series by author Michael G. Williams. New Life picks up seamlessly where the first story, A Fall in Autumn, ends and I would suggest readers read these back to back. 

Being an Artisanal Human left detective Valerius Bakhoum as purely human as it left him vulnerable. And, ultimately, it was his very human body that succumbed to pancreatic cancer before he hit forty. As Valerius lay dying, his last client and occasional lover offered Valerius his one chance at surviving: transfer his mind into an expertly crafted humanoid android and become one of the most ancient and most revered beings: a golem.

Valerius took that chance.

With a new mechanical body that will never age, never grow tired, and never get sick, and all of eternity stretching out before him, Valerius decides to champion a cause. After all, the golems in all the legends are famous for their wisdom, their good deeds, and their uncanny ability to help all the human-kinds, from Artisanal Humans to Human-Animal Hybrids to Pluses and Upgrades. It is also the perfect opportunity for Valerius to continue to work as detective on the one case he is desperate to solve: what happened to kids who went missing in the flying city of Autumn? His detective work has him hunting down familiar friends in new places. Friends like Frankie, who works in the Cisterns deep under Autumn’s surface where all the wastewater is collected and treated. Not only does Frankie have some interesting information regarding strange debris in the Cisterns, she leads Valerius straight to the Cradle of New Lives, where a cult is up to something.

The more Valerius digs, the more he finds his search for answers about the missing kids keeps leading him back to his old, human life. And he knows it has to be more than coincidence that keeps tying his human life to his current case. It will take Valerius all he has as a detective to get his ducks in a row, get justice for the missing kids of Autumn, and make enough noise to enough people that nothing so heinous will easily happen again.

As I said, this book is the second in a closely linked series and I recommend reading them in order, ideally back to back. First, for that wonderful transition from book one to book two. And second, so all the details about Valerius’ human life are fresh. I believe this may help readers appreciate the whole arc, especially as it relates to Valerius as he was as an Artisanal Human and as he is as a golem. Honestly, I don’t think I could be more tickled with how these two books tie together. A Fall in Autumn ends with a terrifically hopeful cliffhanger; New Life begins with the delightfully unexpected, awkward reality of a human being transferred from the mortal coil to a mechanical one.

I thought the story had an interesting flow. The first few chapters highlight how strange it is for Valerius to be in his new body and that he has Alejandro to ask for guidance. (Alejandro was the last client Valerius took on as a human detective in the first book and the one who offered to transfer Valerius into a golem. He plays a small part in this book, mostly as a repository for golem-related information.) Throughout the rest of the story, Valerius continues to get acquainted with what it’s like to have become a golem. There are external phenomena, like how reverently nearly everyone treats him. There are internal phenomena, like having a pain-free body at last or that his synthetic skin can actually feel sensations or that he no longer can eat/drink and doesn’t need to breathe. More intriguing is the fact that the previous inhabitant of the golem body Valerius now occupies left behind memories. These memories both help and hinder Valerius at various points and raised the specter of how long Valerius would be Valerius. Valerius himself mulls that over a time or three in the book, but this existential dilemma eventually starts to settle firmly on one side.

All of that is to say, the book starts the reader off all awonder at Valerius’ transformation. I didn’t even realize we’d slipped back into a classic detective-pounding-the-pavement until much later in the book. And I was well in the thick of things before I started to feel like the plot of New Life was mirroring that of A Fall. Specifically, that this is a creative detective story. What I like about how Williams builds the story is that there is clue after clue, event after event, that all involve the same places or characters or both. It felt like there was a continuous stream of information all building towards…something. On the surface, I understood this was all just Valerius’ effort to understand what was happening to orphaned kids living on the streets of Autumn. Deeper down (and for me, this occurred during the denouement), everything Valerius discovered actually uncovers a lot about what happened to him when he was human. I think that aspect of the story was so understated, but now I cannot get it out of my head. It seemed like such a bittersweet thing to me as a reader, even if there was precious little golem Valerius had to say about it.

Finally, I think it’s worth mentioning that there really aren’t any romance threads in the story. Valerius is gay and has had lovers in the past, including Alejandro and Fiono (both of whom play bit parts in the story). There is no real spice or intimacy, just a few mentions of Valerius realizing how much he loved one or another of his partners. It was fun that it was Valerius’ sexual prowess that ultimately gave him a big clue in what was happening on Autumn. But overall, there really is very little intimacy. At best, Valerius gets a chance to clear the air with an old-flame-turned-enemy.

Overall, I thought New Life in Autumn was a great detective story. Williams focuses less on building a world and more time letting Valerius explore it like only a golem can. I liked how Valerius seems extremely clever and has an insatiable appetite for information, clues, and facts. To me, these three rarely seemed to have anything more than tenuous connections. But Valerius is able to piece them all together, constantly thinking and reworking his theories until he uncovers the truth. If you like detective stories, or if you liked the first book in this series, I think you’ll find a lot to enjoy in New Life in Autumn.

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