In many ways, Angels in the Mist is a classic tale. It follows a hero’s journey from their fledgling origins of weakness and self-doubt through the crucible of their story, which forges their growth. But this first installment in the Z-Tech Chronicles series quickly leaves the well-beaten path to explore a modern retelling of this classic, bringing modernity and relevance to a storytelling structure that, while tried and tested, can at times be seen to be showing the stress of time.
Let’s start with the protagonist. Ryan made the conscious decision for the main character, our hero, to be a woman. While not unheard of, this is still a relative rarity in the sci-fi and fantasy genres. What makes Ryan’s Anne Perrin different is what she is not.
The first temptation for many authors is to make a hero draped in a female veneer. It is natural for authors to write about what they know. Often male authors will tend to create a female in form only. They may appear as a woman, but their actions, demeanor, and thought are all decidedly masculine. Fortunately for readers, Ryan’s other passion is being a software engineer and technologist – meaning if he doesn’t feel comfortable with his level of expertise, he simply researches. That is exactly what he did for Anne – meaning he spent countless hours speaking with actual women to help develop Anne, her worldview, and reactions authentically to bring genuine femininity to the character.
More importantly, though, Ryan also elevates Anne beyond the classic position reserved for women in adventure stories. Anne is no mere damsel awaiting rescue at every turn. She is a dynamic character who, while having real vulnerabilities, is on a trajectory of growth and empowerment. If anything, her initial weaknesses and insecurities make her far more heroic than if she had started with none. After all, the hero that starts as a hero really has nothing to strive for and nowhere to evolve.
Incredible protagonist aside, Ryan further updates the classic hero’s journey by smoothly meshing multiple genres. Is Angels in the Mist an adventure, a mystery, a drama, a sci-fi story, a fantasy story, or a story about life in the vibrant technology-influenced San Francisco Bay Area? The answer is, yes. It is, in turn, all of the above and, at the same time, more than the sum of its parts for being so.
Angels in the Mist is set in the city the author calls home with his wife and two children. His familiarity with the city is readily noticeable in the vibrant, rich tapestry of words he weaves to transport readers into the heart of San Francisco. Ryan Southwick is also a well-regarded software engineer, having been a pioneer of Agile software development as well as one of its most vocal evangelists.
Ryan’s technology background helps him weave sci-fi elements organically into his work, allowing him to straddle multiple genres in this fantastical book. If you’ve ever wondered what our modern world would look like with a liberal dose of cyborgs, androids, vampires, and plasma guns – then put Angels in the Mist on your must-read list. Likewise, do so if you’ve been waiting for an adventure story with a strong, real female protagonist. In fact, the reasons for picking this book up are as varied as the qualities contained within its pages.
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