This latest novel from John Frank Marshall opens in a future world fighting over ever-shrinking resources. New age messiah Axel Cain is born in Isoland – a vast, circular expanse of darkness, desert, storms and suffering. Isoland was created for research by biotech industries. Separated from the rest of the world (the ‘Outside’) by an insurmountable wall, test subjects are either convicts or captured from the villages scattered among the enclosed mountains. Axel Cain becomes one of the taken, but his gifts will eventually transform the world whilst endangering his life. This illustration by talented artist Greg De Wode seemed to symbolize Axel Cain for me, a man destined to free the world from imprisonment by materialism and growth.
The Vorn Dynasty rules over Homested, the biotech farm at the centre of Isoland. Rebellious Heidi Vorn is the seventeen-year-old daughter of oligarch Maxim Vorn. She learns of a new age messiah who is uniting the Isoland tribes with golden words and magical deeds. Known as the Messiah, the boy appears to have other strange qualities, including resistance to the sickness controlling Isoland rebel forces. Preparing for leadership, Heidi travels with Maxim’s troops to capture the boy for research. Tragedy follows as many die, leaving Heidi deeply troubled.
Axel grows into a resourceful and charismatic young man as three years pass. Forced to survive in the brutal conditions of Homested, his powers are growing. Heidi remains fascinated by him, but Axel blames her for his suffering and the death of his family. At the same time he can’t stop thinking about her.
Maxim is both curious and fearful of the new age messiah, and develops a strange relationship with him whilst trying to discover his secrets. Maxim tries to break Axel in every way he can, but nothing can silence the Messiah. Amica Bright, leader of the scientists also falls for the mesmeric Axel, but her love is cruel and his rejection of her turns love to hatred. In return, he tries to teach Maxim the truth of life, but the words and actions fall on deaf ears.
In the Outside, the fight for remaining resources and viable habitats has led to war between the two confederations. Abandoning her family and her past, Heidi Vorn has joined a radical organisation with a new Internet channel ‘TheTruth’. Exploiting revolutionary quantum hyperchaos tech, TheTruth is able to piggy-back on existing networks to reach a global audience. TheTruth bases its blueprint for global survival on a book written a century earlier – Small is Beautiful – a Study of Economics as if People Mattered, written by E. F. Schumacher. Heidi is sent to London, where TheTruth is based. England is still an independent country, benefiting from its position as the world financial centre following the drowning of New York.
Maxim is given orders to find a new solution and turns to Axel, but his growing powers already divine what is intended and he escapes from Isoland. The threat of Cain falling into enemy hands is too great a risk and death squads are sent in pursuit, led by Amica, who has seized power from Maxim.
Heidi wants to recruit Axel Cain to work for TheTruth, but cannot find him. As she continues her investigations, she begins to realise that TheTruth is not all it seems, and no one can be trusted. The new age messiah somehow travels to London as he searches for Heidi. The centre of global finance, London is the last free city in the world, and the only place where the truth can still be spoken. However, even that is an illusion.
The new age messiah revealed
Axel Cain finds a world being destroyed by greed and it is not long before many are following the new messiah. Everyone is talking about the mysterious stranger and the magic of his words. Heidi sees an advertisement for a television interview and attends, watching from the audience. He is asked if he is Christ reborn. Axel knows nothing of such things, but he does know that the interviewer’s daughter lies in a coma, and tells her the child will recover. Soon after, the child awakens. Axel also warns that danger is close, but they do not believe him.
At the end of the interview, a bomb explodes and kills many. Heidi escapes with Axel and persuades him to hide with her. During that time, she realises that she loves him, and begs him to stay with her. Axel cannot remain in hiding and leaves Heidi. He is able to cure children where others have failed, and his teachings are being listened to around the world. Soon, vast numbers of people are demanding change and sharing all that they have. Axel is a threat to the world order. More governments want to understand the source of his power, and Heidi cannot find a way to see him. It becomes clear to her that TheTruth has its own agenda, and Axel alone can save the world from itself.
Axel Cain travels to the Amazon, determined to save the last few indigenous peoples, and to persuade world leaders how much they need to change. Heidi’s father makes contact with her, asking her to help save Axel. She joins with Amica’s squad and travels with them, but learns their true intent too late. Amica plans to execute the new age messiah as he gives a world address, broadcasting from within the burning forest. Heidi has one chance to save the man she loves, if she can persuade him to abandon his cause.