Sphinx Daybreak
by Robert Wilfred Franson

Review by
Raymond J. Ford

  
225,000 words; 604 pages
Kindle; Apple Books; KDP Print: 2018

September 2020

  
Sphinx Daybreak - Lawrence Alma-Tadema cover painting Building a vast, dreamy world
right on top of the one we know

I remember reading The Shadow of the Ship by Robert Franson years ago and have dim but fond memories of trains, squeakers, and space travel on the Meadow. So it was with great excitement and anticipation that I ordered my copy of Sphinx Daybreak in paperback from Amazon. The book itself was notable with bright white paper, easy to read font and good bindings.

In this new novel, Franson has put together a unique masterpiece of fantasy sci-fi, building a vast, dreamy world right on top of the one we know. This gives him access to the whole of our literature and history, and Franson uses it skillfully. The literary references and vocabulary are daunting at times, and I confess to starting the book more than once because I found myself looking up words and such. I know it seems counterintuitive, but I think this is a big plus as it gives the reader the opportunity to reread and learn beyond just what the story offers. However I will suggest that the first read should be continuous to gain the gestalt or wholeness of it all.
  

Building on the author's description, this is a story of our better selves and the effort to preserve that. Early on we glimpse a "Luftmenschen" flag flying. It has four horizontal stripes which from the bottom up are - tan, blue, white, and blue. Tan for the ground of Troy, blue for sky, white for the Cloud Deck, and blue again for the infinite sky above. Luftmenschen translates into "People of the Air" and indeed we see this as our hero, Rheinallt expertly pilots his contragravity carpet through unseen byspatial folds flying between the downlands of earth and the great crystal cloud isles floating in Middle Air. These floating islands in the clouds are absolutely incredible. I daydream about them every time I look up to the sky — seriously …. Anyway, Rheinallt and his aircat friend from youth, Arahant, bring us on a grand adventure that involves the familiar along with the fantastic. We are introduced to an exotic cast of characters that propel the story forward so far as to reach to the stars.

There is no "magic" in this world — rather it is ancient technology that the men of the sky are trying to learn and control. They also have a learned human discipline of body/mind self control where a practitioner can master self cooling, heating, seeing, hearing, and even aging through what's called bloodswaying. That things have technical explanations pleases me as a reader because it makes it all the more plausible and realistic — a nice foundation for the Overflight series.

Along the way, Robert Franson deeply explores individual, societal, political and humanistic values of freedom - or its opposite. This book allows anyone to take away what their unique interests are. My focus was on the science and the stars, and this book delivers with aplomb. I was captivated, and I believe you will be too.

  

© 2020 Raymond J. Ford


  
Cover painting:
"A Coign of Vantage"
by Lawrence Alma-Tadema
1895

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