Doctor Clam, I believe I owed you a review!
Misfortune (The Rainier Fields Series Book 1) follows the adventures of the itinerant fantasist Rainier Fields, who first appears as a homeless tinkerer making small robots from scrap to get by. An unfortunate run-in with the local authorities leads to Fields making the acquaintance of an emphatically young woman named Mercery Pockles. Fields discovers, by way of never-fully-explained precognitive abilities, that Mercery has a mysterious and potent destiny, and determines to ensure that it will come out in her favour.
Told in episodic flashbacks, sometimes in interviews with other characters in the narrative and some from the perspective of many years after the events of the story, Misfortune is an unusual story. Fields is a self-admitted cypher, a fantasist running away from both a miserable childhood and a self-sabotaging personality, both in the literal sense of being a wanderer and by creating a personal backstory of heroic adventures and noble deeds off in space.
The reality he is escaping is rather more grubby and sad, and yet Fields is for the most part an optimist whose determination to live up to his own fantasy is somewhat admirable. He decides that his alter ego would do everything in his power to rescue Mercery from her plight, and so he goes to extraordinary lengths to do so. And yet he’s a rather uncomfortable character to live with; a middle aged man, his relationship with Mercery is barely platonic and borderline obsessive. When Mercery’s wellbeing is not at stake, he is often passive and uninquisitive, and there are parts of the story that plumb the depths of his psychology at the cost of forward momentum.
The story itself is a series of increasingly unfortunate events that bounce Fields, Mercery and a cast of supporting characters up against weird aliens, sinister conspiracies and cruel experiments. The main characters suffer through a cycle of escapes, separations, captures, torture of one sort or another and fresh escapes, all revealing more about their dark pasts, their strange sort-of-magic-sort-of-psychic powers and their odd relationships as they draw closer to Mercery’s great and terrible destiny.
Misfortune has the feel of a small, human struggle told against the backdrop of an epic adventure that could emerge at any moment. The stakes never move far beyond the personal fortunes of Fields and Mercery – Fields frequently displays a lack of interest in the wider universe in his narrative – and yet the sense that great events are in motion is constant. I certainly look forward to the further adventures of Rainier Fields, in the hopes that future stories might pull the camera back and show us more of the strange setting.