Cover design by Oleg Volk

 

The future of humanity rests in his hands

Ė but is he still human?

Englishman Matthew Johnson suffers massive burns in a mysterious explosion and fire at his home. Recovering after months in hospital, he is greatly changed: his skin and hair have been replaced by reptilian scales, and he has acquired an acute sensitivity to other people's nervous systems, plus the ability to affect them. After initially spending time using his new ability to cure patients of nervous diseases, he is drawn into the dangerous world of counter-terrorism with tragic results.  On restarting his life, he discovers the startling truth about his transformation Ė which includes parallel worlds, non-human societies and a threat to the existence of human civilisation. Only he can avert disaster, but time is running out.

 


 

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Introduction:


Revised 1 January 2014

 

This novel was written in an entirely different way from my previous work, The Foresight War. That was carefully planned and structured to match the actual cycle of events in World War 2. With Scales, I started with the tag-end of a dream; that reptilian scales had begun to grow across my arm. Half-awake, I wondered how other people would react to that, especially if it was accompanied by some non-human abilities. My imagination played with this idea on and off for a long time before I decided to write a novel about it.

 

This time I planned nothing: I just started to write and let the ideas flow and carry the story along. The book effectively wrote itself, each scene following naturally out of the previous ones, until I reached an impasse when the main character reached New York. I had no idea where the story should go next, so I shelved it for a year. At that time, I had not worked out any explanation for the character's transformation. Inspiration struck again after reading some more science fiction and I decided to make use of the parallel worlds or multiverse concept both for the rest of the plot and to provide the explanation. This time I did think most of the rest of the story through before I started writing, but it still veered off in various unexpected directions before reaching its conclusion. Interestingly, when I looked back through the first part of the book, I found that I only needed to add or amend a few paragraphs to make it conform with the later part.

 

Since self-publishing has worked out very well for me with The Foresight War, I unhesitatingly took the same route with Scales. However, it did not turn out to be a commercial success. I spent some time pondering this and realised that it was much less suited to the self-publishing route, for reasons I explore in more detail here. Accordingly, I decided about a year ago that, rather than let all that work go to waste, I would make the electronic version available on-line free of charge (see the link to the download page above). Altogether, there have been some 2,700 hits on my download page, which is satisfying. I must confess that as a novel I prefer Scales to The Foresight War, which was more of a technical exercise to explore some ideas about an alternative Second World War. However, there's no point in arguing with the market...

 

A couple of responses to comments made more than once in the reviews listed below: one is that the book is fairly heavy in driving home the message about the major self-inflicted problems humanity faces today. That wasn't my intention in writing the book, that's just the way it turned out. However, I can't say that I feel very apologetic about it: those problems not only become central to the book's plot as it develops, they are real and I care about them. Another comment is that the saurians (from S1, that is: not the lot from S2!) are just too good to be true. That would certainly be a valid criticism if I were describing a human civilisation. However, the saurians are not only non-human, their civilisation has lasted for 200,000 years, they have no material worries, they have had complete control of their genetic makeup plus full telepathy for thousands of years, they live to be 800, and in order to control their population, births are so rare that children get a huge amount of attention lavished on their upbringing. Taking all of that into account, I think it not unreasonable that they should turn out rather well.

 

Scales has garnered only a small fraction of the reviews of The Foresight War, but these show the same range between those who really like the book and those who hate it. Fortunately, the former are very much in the majority. I post below all reviews, good and bad, for your information. For copyright reasons, only extracts from the reviews are included here. Follow the links  to read the full reviews.


Update: The original publishing company closed down, and I have been "taken over" by another self-publishing firm, but I need to do some work before once more offering the book, this time in a range of ebook formats.  I also have it in mind (once I have the time) to revised the story to address some of the criticisms. I have accordingly withdrawn the free ebook offer, but in the meantime second-hand paperbacks can be purchased on amazon.com and amazon.co.uk. Watch this space, but don't hold your breath!

 


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Reviews

 

Updated 30 October 2010


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From Chimeradave on his blog (October 2010)

 

Most likely you havenít read this book because you didnít know it existed. The novel was published through Authors Online LTD a British company formed in 1997 which publishes novels online and can also now print novels on demand.

Before I say anymore, I have to be honest here, I know the author of this novel through cyberspace. Tony and I have both been active posters at Yahooís Classic Science Fiction Message Board for many years. So, I will admit that I might have some bias. But those who know me and/or those who have read some of my reviews, know that Iím not one that minces words or lets authors off easy.

So you know I am being completely honest when I say that ďScalesĒ is such a great Science Fiction novel it deserved a Hugo Award nomination.

Iím sure those who havenít read the book are sort of checking out mentally or thinking to themselves, ďthis guy is a really good friend.Ē But those who have read the novel understand why it is worthy of such high praise.


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From PHN on the Military Guns & Ammunition site (December 2009)

 

I finished Scales just an hour ago, and liked it. I had read The Foresight War with great interest; it was a historical novel which resonated with my fascination with Second World War history and technology. In contrast, Scales contains interesting scientific and technological concepts, but the exploration of these elements of the story is secondary to the exploration of the character of the hero.

 

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From Max Popenker (by email)

 

Yesterday I finished an e-copy of the "Scales" on my handheld PC. In short - very, very well done! Good plot, good characters - I liked it much, and saved it on the flash card for re-reading.

 

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From Karen Burnham on the Spiral Galaxy Reviews site (February 2008)

 

The different phases that Cade's story goes through makes this feel like a fix-up of several short stories, and the story may have worked better were it structured that way. I can certainly see a story series derived from this book doing great in the pages of Analog magazine. Williams' style fits theirs perfectly: the attention to detail, the solid attempt at sf explanations, the rather stilted dialog, the action and problem-solving parts of the plot and Williams' smooth, transparent prose style. He even shares editor Stan Schmidt's political concern with overpopulation. Williams extrapolates how today's society would deal with a phenomenon like Cade very well: the press, the media, the religious zealots, the UN, etc. It's only at the end that he falls into some traps of heavy-handedness and stereotypical characterization. This is an enjoyable read, especially if you don't look too far beneath the surface. It fits in well with the super-hero/thriller plots common to both sf and comic books, and can easily be enjoyed on that level.

 

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From Nathan Brazil on the SF Site (December 2007)

 

(A brief extract from a Featured Review):

 

Narrated in the first person, the very readable story suggests inspiration from Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger In A Strange Land, the TV series Sliders, David Icke and a smattering of Harry Turtledove's Worldwar novels. I found it entertaining throughout, and finished keen to read more.

 

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From Adam Shardlow on the publisher's website (24 November 2007)

 

The novel skips along at a good pace and though the premise sounds ridiculous, Matt's character appears sincere, if somewhat vague. The last third of the novel concerns Matt's trip to meet the Saurians. It feels as if this part was merely added to increase the page count, leaving the fate of Earth unresolved and novel lacking a conclusive end.
 

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From Luciano on my discussion forum HERE (10 October 2007)

 

I did like the approach to a narrative book that is closed and complete in itself. It's a welcome way to tell a tale, in respect to the trilogies of trilogies so loved in these days.

And it's a book that one can like to read more than once.


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From Laura Stamps on the 'Book Reviews and Discussions' site HERE (27 July 2007)

 

If youíve been searching for a science fiction novel with a touch of fantasy and the pace of a thriller, look no more. SCALES is the story of Matt Johnson, a man whose home mysteriously explodes one evening. Engulfed in flames, Johnson is rushed to the hospital, his entire body badly burned. When he recovers against all odds, doctors discover his skin is now covered with a fine layer of scales, which change color according to his moods.

Thus begins one manís journey to discover not only what happened to him but also what he has become...

 

In an effort to adjust to his startling new appearance, Matt changes his name to Cade, and soon realizes he has also acquired the ability to heal certain diseases. Cadeís quest leads him from one mission to the next, from healer to world diplomat to harbinger. I canít say too much, because there are so many twists and turns in this ingenious plot I donít want to spoil any of the surprises. However, this is such an original and unusual story I wouldnít be surprised if a filmmaker snapped it up one day. Hollywood, are you listening?
 

This well-written novel was a pleasure to read, and I look forward to enjoying future efforts from this incredibly talented novelist. Highly recommended.
 

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Reader reviews from amazon.co.uk

 

Average Customer Review (3 reviews):


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A peep into a future, 24 Aug 2008
Reviewer Geoff Nelder (Chester, UK)
 

The first person narrative is strong because the protagonist, Cade, has a fully developed character in which he has definite opinions on the environment, social and political issues that beset our world today. He also has ideas on how to resolve those issues and is not slow to see how contact with the parallel, different multiverse Earth, with their superior technology and quasi-telepathic abilities could and must be used to rescue his home planet. His new `other dimension' friends are too naÔve in their trust in communicating with other Earths but Cade is able to demonstrate how, sadly, it is necessary to use force to defend a way of life.
 

Cade isn't the only character that is well-crafted in Scales. He has women friends, and secret service type contacts that come over well. A good touch is his brother, who initially is quite different in character to Cade, but as the novel unfolds the points of common interest intersect more. There is a lot of information imparted in this novel. This is to be expected as it like a manual of what to do to avoid an eco-disaster on this planet in the context of a very readable novel. Cade too felt that he'd become a kind of tool to rescue humans and a well-written passage has him saying that he had `become a package, a commodity.' This doesn't mean that he doesn't enjoy his function and the reader can feel engaged with his exuberance of his discoveries, even though some are desperately dangerous.
 

For any reader thirsting for another take on what might have happened to our planet if the asteroid that wiped out dinosaurs 65 million years ago, missed the Earth, then Scales will give them an enjoyable read and nourish geopolitical alternatives.
 

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Would have made a great trilogy, 12 Oct 2007
Reviewer True Percula (Exeter UK)

I did enjoy this book a lot, the author clearly has great ideas.

I think putting all the ideas into one book meant that it was too rushed, it would have made a great trilogy.
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An interesting idea..................., 16 Jun 2007

 

Reviewer T. Walker (Bedfordshire, UK)

 

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and had considerable difficulty putting it down. I'm waiting for a couple of weeks until I've forgotten some of the detail and I can re-read it. I suspect it will give me as much pleasure as the first time around.
 

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Reader reviews from amazon.com

 

Average Customer Review (2 reviews):


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A fast-paced sci-fi adventure!, April 12, 2007

 

Reviewer: K. Trout "Kaye"  (Pagosa Springs, CO USA)

 

It's a fast-paced read by a knowledgeable writer, and I enjoyed Williams's style of writing. If you like science fiction which deals with contemporary problems, you may also enjoy this book.

 

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Interesting plot, but not much else, April 5, 2007

 

Reviewer: Andrea Johnson (for Multiverse Reviews)
 

This could have been an interesting book. The plot is interesting and has some creative twists. I do wish Williams had spent more time focusing on what he wanted to tell his readers than on writing a 200 page meandering essay on everything that's wrong with modern culture and some vague ideas on how to fix it.
 

[Author's comment: Oh dear! Oh well, you can't please everybody. Ms Johnson obviously didn't like the book (her privilege) although I have to say that I'm baffled by some of the specific criticisms in her review; a few of them made me wonder just how carefully she had read it...]

 

 


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