Template opens with an exciting scene as the protagonist, Conn, a skilled swordsman, successfully defends himself from three opponents. You’d think this would turn into another action/adventure SF novel but Template instead drifts into mystery and philosophy as our protagonist suddenly finds himself with various choices when he previously had none.
Conn is likable enough at the start although later on we discover that his paradigms are alien. This becomes a recurring theme as Matthew Hughes presents planets and races with varying ethics, which enables him to insert philosophical discourse in a way that flows naturally with the story.
The language is easy to get into and quite functional. The text isn’t too long but what Hughes lacks in density, he makes up for with his pacing and depth.
Where Template really shines is the way it draws you in through the mystery and the drama. It piques the reader’s curiosity and sense of wonder rather than using the immediacy of “what happens next” to keep the reader going. For a protagonist whose main asset is his combat skills, there’s little action to be found here (although the few action scenes are remarkable) and the narrative is instead propelled by the characterization and plot.
Template reminds me of Isaac Asimov’s FOUNDATION and ROBOT series. The story is tight, it appeals to my intellectual curiosity rather than adrenaline, and much is conveyed through dialogue and introspection. With this novel, I can easily imagine Hughes to be the modern successor of Asimov.
Template is an enjoyable read that goes beyond the premise of an adventure or mystery. It features a refined writing style that’s both easy and engaging to the reader.
FanLit thanks Charles Tan from Bibliophile Stalker for contributing this guest review.
The Archonate — (1994-2013) Science fantasy set in the same universe. Publisher: In the Penultimate Age of the Archonate, callow young fop Filidor Vesh is perfectly content to spend his days in the pursuit of shallow amusements, until he is summoned by a wizened old dwarf in need of a voluntary good deed — deliver a parcel to his uncle, the all-powerful and original 98th Archon, sole ruler of the world. So begins Filidor’s reluctant odyssey through peculiar provinces peopled with odious denizens, including such road killers as mutant rodents, alien ants and a vengeful thamaturge. Now in terra incognito, his narrow conception of life shaken to the extreme, Filidor will strive to say and do the right things… and grow up in the process.
The Tales of Henghis Hapthorn
Other books in the Archonate universe