Sci-fi aficionados often define good sci-fi/fantasy as that which is immersive, expansive, and, most of all, believable. To less casual readers of the genre, this can seem an oxymoron. At its core, is not sci-fi and fantasy a form of escapism? But the answer, like the genre itself, is more nuanced than a binary choice.
Good sci-fi and fantasy allow readers to transport from the familiar to a world of the fantastic. But great sci-fi and fantasy make us forget that transition has even happened. The best authors guide us on journeys that transcend the mundane world around us while simultaneously coaxing us into believing in their existence – at least until we finish our journey.
A major tool to accomplish this is the methodical use of internal consistency. Authors carefully lay out their world and its metaphysics and ensure the stories play out within the confines of whatever rules by which those worlds are constructed. A more subtle, and difficult tool, is to mesh these supernatural worlds so closely with the ones we live in, they may make us question whether what we’re reading is not, in fact, really possible.
Angels in the Mist, by Ryan Southwick, is one such book that resides in the latter category. The first book in the Z-Tech Chronicles, Southwick’s Angels in the Mist, is so enmeshed in the modern world it brings an authenticity to the story that will make you forget you’re reading fiction at times. The book takes place amidst the tech scene of modern San Francisco with an unwavering dedication to capturing the true vibe and culture that modern technology has helped craft in the region.
What makes this book so real and distinctive is how closely Southwick is familiar with his material. Having long lived in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and two children, Southwick will truly make you feel you are within this unique American city. From the genuine feel of the downtown to the very real corner restaurants he describes, their authenticity is unquestioned and natural. That’s because they really exist.
Likewise, the tech feel of Angels in the Mist is equally genuine, and for very much the same reasons. Southwick is not just an author, but a seasoned technologist and professional. Having crafted software platforms for everything from personalized gene therapy to being a pioneer in emerging Agile software development, Southwick writes from true and accurate experience, making for unparalleled storytelling.
It is admittedly unusual to categorize a story as speculative fiction. Speculative fiction, by definition, is a broad, overarching categorization. It’s like a Venn diagram of where fiction falls in relation to fantasy, reality, and sci-fi. Yet, in this Angels in the Mist is rather unique. Exactly where would a story that accurately describes life in modern San Francisco for a very real protagonist in a story of acceptance, tolerance, and growth that just happens to have cyborgs and vampires in it fit?
Critics may argue what genre this story best fits within, but what is inarguable is the depth of characters and dedication to authenticity that Southwick brings to bear in this novel. Perhaps the only thing that makes the story better is knowing it is only the first installment of a series for readers that will consistently want more. Welcome to the Z-Tech Chronicles.