Sworld: The Chronicles of Malick Book Review
Sworld: The Chronicles of Malick by William Harris follows Malick and the crew of the Pioneer. A multispecies crew on a long journey to a distant world, they crash land on a planet previously thought inhospitable to life called Sworld. On Sworld, they encounter creatures both strange and familiar, multiple sentient species, and scientific mysteries that verge on fantasy. Rather than taming Sworld and remaking it into their image, the Pioneer crew just try to make a home for themselves among the natives.
I say that Sworld is about the crew of the Pioneer. It would be more accurate to say it is about Malick. It is part of The Chronicles of Malick series, after all. Malick is the captain of the Pioneer. Although he does belong to one of the three species that make up his crew, he is a different lifeform unto himself. Revealing his secrets gradually throughout the story, Malick is an enigma. Through flashbacks in dreams, we learn about his past. Through action sequences, we learn about his superhuman abilities. The flashbacks adequately explain Malick’s superpowers, such as near-infinite speed, super strength, and telepathy, at least as well as any comic book hero. Sworld is, at least in part, a superhero story.
While they exist purely as a compliment to Malick, Harris introduces multiple interesting species. Three species comprise the crew of the Pioneer. The Oberyns and Imps are your standard humanoids, like watching a television show. They are different enough that it is obvious they are aliens but still basically human. Harris ups the ante on alien design with the Redulins. While they initially had a physical form, a catastrophe on their planet forced them to take extreme measures to survive. They exist digitally now. Used to having a hive mind where they are all networked, Malick has agreed to help the Redulins rediscover their individuality.
On Sworld, Harris introduces us to three more species. Native to the planet, they are all younger civilizations. Each species represents a different trial for Malick. He must put himself and his crew in danger to help protect the native people of Sworld and help them advance their goals without overly influencing their culture. His goal is not to dominate but to help them reach a peaceful coexistence. Along the way, Malick explores and develops his superhuman traits.
Like many adventure stories, Sworld follows a familiar and straightforward template. It begins with an introduction, which explains why the adventure takes place. This is followed by unique and escalating trials ending with a grand trial that unites all disparate acts into a cohesive story. The book ends with a new mystery that sets up the next book in the series.
Sworld is not a perfect story. I’m sure many readers will find fault with the dialogue, which can sometimes come off as a bit stiff as if no one is speaking their native language. The only issue that brought me out of the story was the attitudes of the Pioneer crew. They crash land on a planet that no one intended to visit or even knew was habitable for a start, but everyone was immediately on board with making it their new home. Malick also is caught continuously lying to them and exhibiting powers that would scare most people. The crew members, especially those closest to Malick, should have challenged him more often. Instead, they go along with everything. Even someone does get upset with Malick, they quickly mend the situation without much discussion. Some interpersonal conflict would lend the story a realism it currently lacks.
Overall, William Harris did an excellent job with this novel. Sworld melds a superhero origin story with hints of Herculean tasks with a classic sci-fi adventure story. Harris makes these genres feel like they belong together. The worldbuilding is genuinely top-notch. Sworld is an expansive science fiction adventure, and we’ve only seen less than 1/8th of it so far!