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MORI: The Lost Ones Volume 1

by Michael Seagard

Miles "Mori" Morhart -- a well-funded, fairly successful yet unsatisfied, 40-something-year old family man from Texas -- implodes his life, liquidating his assets, abandoning his wife and daughter, and completely disconnects, "retiring early" in Los Angeles, California to drink until he dies. Literally drowning in guilt, sorrow, and all of the darkness that comes with his particular life choices, Mori spends the better part of a year continuously drunk and/or high on weed and completely alone, that is until a disembodied voice begins visiting with multiple warnings: First, it warns of a "tear in his psycho-spiritual membrane" that without fixing via "Divine Illumination" will lead to an endless spiritual schizophrenic-like hell; Second, the voice urgently inquires after a disappeared and endangered woman and her daughter who Mori might unwittingly have information about.

Rattled by the dire situations presented and simultaneously questioning his sanity, Mori takes a chance and confides in his neighbor, Sofie. Then, "the lines begin to converge." Mori, Sofie, and a few curiously interconnected and open-minded individuals find more and more bizarre synchronicities in their lives validating the voice's warnings as they investigate previously unnoticed layers of reality in the hopes of answering their greatest life questions, of solving the mystery surrounding the disappeared women, and of finding a spirit-saving redemption for Mori. But, the deeper they dig, the darker their world becomes and the more they realize that they've attracted the attention of someone - or something - malicious.

The majority of MORI is set in Los Angeles. I personally have only been a handful of short times to LA, so I can't really speak to the accuracy of its depiction. Michael Seagard does live there, though, and on his website (https://thelostonesbooks.com/), he has plenty of extras including a virtual map where one can see exactly where the events supposedly played out (I don't think it's entirely necessary, but it was fun to explore the differences in what I imagined and what he based it on after finishing the book.) I will say, that the bizarre, often trippy nature of the city feels very authentic and plays well into the blending of a gritty urban world and magical realism. It works very well in my opinion.

The cast is very complicated and unusual, adding to the general ambiance of the book. Each character is three dimensional with often intense backstories and clear, confident, and consistently humane personalities in the present story. There's so much chaos, and yet pretty much every action and reaction seems very understandable and believable to me. Much like Mori, I as a reader very openly accepted the truths of these eclectic people and therefore, endured their supernatural craziness alongside them. Even the drunk, high, textbook unreliable narrator I felt compelled to believe through to the end.

Plotwise, choosing my favorite section of the book is really hard; There are too many moments that speak so well about the characters and how they have shaped their journey that I appreciate. I don't think there was really a "worst section" in this book. The unfolding conflicts and character journeys were fantastically entertaining while also tightly knitted and easy to follow. I will say that while I understand the format of the logbook and trust that the gaps will be filled in future volumes (this is the first of a seven volume series to come...), I am disappointed that it comes to a screeching halt leaving more questions posed than answered, but I'm keeping an open mind. The book was crafted so deliberately that I can only imagine the sudden cut-off as intentional. Hopefully, come the next installation or when we're able to look at the entire series as one epic, it will be but another step towards "Divine Illumination".

Honestly, this entire book surprised me. The publisher's description of this book is accurate, yes, but it only scratches the surface. My attempt to explain doesn't do much better. Normally, I'd be skeptical of a novel written by a drunk druggy deadbeat in such an eloquent writing style, but somehow it works (maybe because Mori is actually a highly intelligent individual under the layers of grime, maybe because I just appreciate good writing, maybe both?) As for the content, I am equally as impressed with the magical realism elements. Magical realism is NOT an easy writing style to accomplish. There is a nuance that many writers miss, pushing their story over the line into fantasy. Seagard was able to strike the balance between reality and not-reality while still weaving all of the related plotlines into a seamless narrative that is followable, entertaining, and even including underlying commentary.

This book will stay with me, not because of its little profound bombs throughout or because of its excellent craftsmanship or because of my desire to know what happens, but because of the fact that all of it happened all wrapped up in a single debut novel. It brings me great joy to find new, interesting authors with sharp minds and unusual perspectives writing their truths through modern fiction. In a world that's becoming more and more focused on quantity and speed than quality and care, it's uplifting knowing that the craft of writing lives on and flourishes through these individuals, regardless of public opinion. I will be keeping my eye out for more of Seagard's work in the future.

A note: This is NOT meant for children, and though I don't believe in limiting people's reading based on age at all and I hardly ever include warnings like this, I caution that anyone without a certain level of life experiences will digest this story in the same way as those otherwise. Aside from vocabulary -- which the internet or a good old fashioned dictionary can assist with -- this isn't a particularly difficult or even dense book to read. Yes, there is a lot of information and commentary and plot interwoven throughout, but it is also coming from the unlikely source of an open-minded, inebriated man who has abandoned his need to understand every little detail as well as his will to live. Processing the underlying commentary and plot and understanding why the characters act and think the ways they do when facing very heavy adult issues is where the challenge lies. Because of this, I think that a good majority of casual readers will decide that the book isn't "good", as they may not have that deeper knowledge. I've already seen it in a handful of reviews. If you as a reader are prepared to internalize a lot of what's given, then you will see the astounding complexity. In short, though I say by all means read it, because it's wonderful, I'd keep in mind that it will hit deeper the more life experiences that you have under your belt.

That being said, whether you are looking for something similar to read before or after reading MORI, I highly recommend The Un-Noticables by Robert Brockway. It’s a gritty urban fantasy with a skeptical view of the slightly horrific, slightly fantastical aspects of reality that we so often overlook. It also has strong ties with spiritual presences, bordering on but not quite committing to religious belief systems and the unseen energies of the world around us. Also, The OA on Netflix is a tv show with a similar premise, where a group of individuals taking a leap of faith to find previously unseen dimensional rifts, though their antagonists are painfully human.

HAWKSHAWS: The Lost Ones Volume 2

by Michael Seagard

Publication Date: Fall 2024

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