I initially became aware of the phenomenal writer Cadwell Turnbull after hearing his short story, Jump, on the LeVar Burton Reads podcast. No Gods, No Monsters is his second novel, and it is safe to say he is establishing himself as a SFF writer to watch. In this rich novel, we are drawn into a world where monsters are real, where people genuinely possess supernatural powers, and inevitably, there are dark forces at work.
When Laina’s brother, Lincoln, is found dead and naked in the street, shot by a police officer, it opens her eyes to a side of her brother, and a side of reality, beyond her comprehension. Monsters are real, and Lincoln was one of them. With her partner, Ridley, and a few other allies, Laina traverses this disruption to the norm, as well as trying to juggle jobs, families, and all the other everyday nonsense we all have to deal with.
But that’s just part of the story. There are a handful of beguiling characters, secret societies, mystical entities, and disembodied voices to explore. The relaxed, almost conversational tone of Turnbull’s writing makes it effortless to go along with the fantastical plot. His character development is extraordinary; there are lots of players in this novel, and each is so well-established that it is (mostly) easy to follow along. I loved the switches between multiple narrators and perspectives, and seeing them come together in a devastating finale.
I love how the LGBTQ community is widely represented in this novel without serving as a plot point. I had to check some of my own prejudices about human (and monster) relationships a couple of times, which is fantastic. And I haven’t even touched on the parallels that can be drawn between the oppression of the monsters, and the BLM movement. It seems a little redundant for me to say “what I think Turnbull is doing here…” I’ll let the work speak for itself.
The world Cadwell has so deftly created is one not so detached from reality. A group of “outsiders” rise up, provoking an initial restrained outrage from spectators, and then an eventual attention outage. I am delighted to learn this is the first in The Convergence Saga series, and I hope this book finds its rightful audience in lovers of SFF, and damn good genre fiction. Can I dream of a high-budget screen adaptation? Yes, I can.
No Gods, No Monsters is out now, from Blackstone.