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JACK L. CHALKER (1944-2005) was born in Baltimore, Maryland. While still in high school, he began writing for the amateur science fiction press, and in 1960 he launched the Hugo-nominated amateur magazine Mirage. A year later he founded Mirage Press, which grew into a major specialty publisher of nonfiction and reference books on science fiction and fantasy. His first novel, A Jungle of Stars, was published in 1976, and he became a full-time novelist two years later with the major popular success of Midnight at the Well of Souls. He was also a noted speaker on science fiction and fantasy at numerous colleges and universities and at the Smithsonian Institute. His awards include the Daedalus Award (1983), the Gold Medal of the West Coast Review of Books (1984), Skylark Award (1980), the Hamilton-Brackett Memorial Award (1979). He was a nominee for the John W. Campbell Award twice and for the Hugo Award twice. He was posthumously awarded the Phoenix Award of the Southern Fandom Confederation (2005).
--This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.
A continuation of the story started in Midnight at the Well of Souls, Exiles is the first of a two part subset within the five book series, and is paired with its own sequel, Quest for the Well of Souls; together they are called "The War of the Well World".
This story begins with a new character as the focal point of the story. Mavra Chang. Mavra is a sort of freelance thief, and she's been hired to steal something (or so she thinks).
It turns out that a physicist laboring away at his own vision of cosmology rediscovers the basics of the technology of the universe's parent race, the ancients who created The Well World (see my review under Midnight at the Well of Souls). Unfortunately, one of his underlings decides to take the awesome power for his own, and with it, blackmail the interstellar community. The underling invites an assortment of powerful people to a demonstration of the technology, and into this comes Mavra Chang. She's been sent by a third party who does not wish to get too close to what appears to be a trap.
Something goes wrong, though, and the entire experiment (computer and reality generator built into an asteriod) winds up accidentally connecting itself to The Well World computer, and teleports itself and all aboard to The Well. What's worse, it cannot disengage the computer link at all. Faced with eventual starvation, the passengers disembark in a pair of shuttles, bound for the surface of The Well World.
And when they land, suddenly, since the creation of the modern universe, there is now a way for those living on The Well to leave (The Well has a variety of programming built in that prevents the natives from ever building on their own any machine or system that might escape the gravity of The Well itself).Read more ›
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Prospective readers should note two facts off the bat: first, this is the second Well World novel after Midnight at the Well of Souls, which tells the story of Nathan Brazil, space freighter pilot and possibly oldest man alive and his adventures with a disparate group on the eponymous planet, really a giant supercomputer that stabilizes the universe and that is covered in over 1500 hex-shaped biospheres, each with a different dominant life-form. You can easily read this book without having read "Midnight" as it is not a direct sequel, but the revelations in that book do impact this and subsequent books, so it is best to go in order. Second, this ends on a cliff-hanger more or less; the following book Quest for the Well of Souls is really the second half of this long novel.
And it is IMO the best of the original Well World novels, in large part because of Jack Chalker's best character in the series, Mavra Chang. An orphaned woman who becomes by turns a prostitute, a first mate on a smuggler's ship, and then a smuggler herself, Chang is a typical Chalker resourceful, cynical protaganist - but there is just something a little special about her. She's a little more passionate and crazy than Nathan Brazil, Serge Ortega or most of his other main characters, and this makes what happens to her in the course of these two books all the more moving, and gives the books a bit more emotional resonance than most of Chalker's work.Read more ›
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Read "Midnight At The Well Or Souls" First. This series is excellent. a sort of fantasy SciFi. You will love or hate all of the characters. There were no useless characters and no parts of the story that need to be read rapidly to get to something more interesting. I have read the series twice and am buying it for my Kindle so that I may read it again since my paperbacks have fallen apart.
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Jack L. Chalker's "Exiles at the Well of Souls" is the second book in his seven volume "Well World Saga." It's also the first book of a two book sub-series introducing Mavra Chang. And, even though the rating shows up here as 4 stars out of 5, I'm really rating it at 3-1/2 stars out of 5. Now for a few details: first, the book is pure Chalker and reads very much like the first book in the series. So, if you liked that book, you'll probably like this one. Second, unlike the first book in the series, this book is NOT stand-alone: it requires "Quest for the Well of Souls" to reach completion. But, this two-book sub-series could be read even before "Midnight at the Well of Souls" since the prerequisite knowledge is adequately re-hashed in the books (you'd still be better of reading them in order, though). And finally, I'm dropping the book a half-star because its very "Chalkerness" is also a weakness: if you've read enough Chalker (and I have), you know exactly how this book is going to play out the moment you start reading it. But, still, if you like Chalker and if you liked "Midnight at the Well of Souls," I'd definitely recommend you read this.
The books in Jack L. Chalker's "Well World Saga" are: