Walter Rhein’s “The Reader of Acheron (The Slaves of Erafor)” is an excellent introduction into a post-apocalyptic/dystopian fantasy work of intriguing characters and page-turning plot.
Rhein reveals his world through the perspective of two main characters, who are both more alike than they know. Kikkan is a slave, who has known nothing but a slave’s life. In Rhein’s world, slaves are fed an addictive, mind-numbing drug called Bliss. Kikkan, however, has been kept off the drug because while it makes slaves passive, it also weakens them and rots their mind. Quillion, on the other hand, is a professional soldier, trapped in a world of soldiering and a hierarchy so oppressive that he’s not much better off than Kikkan. Abused by his superior officer, he and his friend Cole must flee into the wilderness to save their lives, and seek their destiny.
Rhein does an excellent job developing the story and the characters, but it’s the background of his world where he really hits the home run. This is a place where reading, and books, are prohibited, sought out, and destroyed. It’s a fascinating, fantasy riff on “Fahrenheit 451” that he makes his own. The flow of his writing is very smooth, and the dialogue flows logically throughout. When Kikkan finds himself confronted with the choice of starving to death or attacking a carriage, he reasons out his choices before arriving at a decision.
In “The Reader of Acheron (The Slaves of Erafor)”, Rhein brings to life the physical and mental struggle of characters thrust into a world they didn’t create, hungering for knowledge to make lives better, and matched by a mysterious hierarchy that seeks only ignorance and slavery. As Kikkan, Quillion and Cole battle their way through the obstacles, the reader will find themselves drawn into the adventure, and hungry for more.