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Once upon a time, more than a thousand years hence, on a distant world called ‘Tethys’, in the kingdom of Keaen...

** The first novel of Tethys ** More
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Words: 145,700
Language: English
ISBN: 9781301659210
About Till Noever

Short version

Till Noever: born last century in Germany; now a citizen of both Australia and New Zealand; resident in Brisbane, Australia. Married, with two adult daughters. Writes novels and screenplays, makes occasional movies and takes a lot of photos. Practices swordcraft derived from traditional Japanese sources.

Longer version

I was born in Germany into a family of visual artists; surrounded by books and with TV being either unavailable or actively discouraged. I read like it was going out of fashion by the time I was six, grew up on Grimm’s and Anderson’s fairy tales, Karl May’s adventures, American crime fiction, and German pulp sci-fi, especially the perennial ‘Perry Rhodan’ series. I also developed a very early preoccupation with the notion of mortality. Personal extinction, decided the pre-teen, is a very bad thing indeed. Quite a few decades later, I still believe this to be true.

After studying astronomy and physics for over a year, one day I said ‘enough’ and walked out in the middle of a lecture, to apply for an immigration visa to Australia—just about as antipodean to my former life as I could go. I spent some years traveling around Australia and some of South and Central America, before, years later, resuming my studies in Australia, and later New Zealand—but this time with a strong leaning toward the life- and cognitive sciences.

For over a decade I earned my living with programming, then gave software development away in the late 90s and converted myself into an editor, technical writer, organisational process developer, graphic designer and occasional video producer. After years in the UK, US, Japan and New Zealand, my wife and I had settled on a rural property north of Brisbane. No street lights there, and on some nights the stars seems to be everywhere. Doesn't compare to the sky in outback Australia, but it's getting close. But then one of our daughters, who lives in Brisbane, regaled us with a delightful granddaughter; so now we're living in suburbia again. Some things are more important than others.

I also resumed semi-professional photography. StilI, I continue to have a day-job, because trying to earn a living writing or with photography, or even with both, is a mug's game, except for those who make it big (or at least upper-medium). I wish I could follow my passions full-time, but we have to live with the cards we've been dealt; and the stories I tell may just not resonate with the current Zeitgeist, and I also apply what you might call 'artistic integrity' to my photography work. Tough luck for me, I guess, but I'm not going to tell different stories or take crap pictures just because they're going to get me more money. That's missing the point and sacrificing one's personal integrity. And I consider the latter to be without a price.

While photography has been with me since the early teens, writing ‘came’ to me in my very-early twenties; but it was unformed and embryonic at best. In particular, I didn't know then what I know now: That it isn't about 'writing' per se, but about telling stories. The change of languages from German to English held things up a bit, as might be expected. So, serious and other-than-crappy writing didn’t manage to get a decent foothold in my life until some years later. There was also a young family—which changed life-priorities. My family comes first—always. Never mind about all that I-want-to-fulfil-myself-and-be-an-artist bullshit. You've got to have your priorities right, or you're not worth a damn thing.

So things got delayed yet a bit more. Now, more than a dozen novels, stories and screenplays, as well as a feature-length movie, later, with my two daughters grown up, I’m still telling stories and taking great pictures. It's a good way to spend your life. In fact, I am addicted to it. Tried to give up writing once, for a couple of years. Didn't work. Couldn't detox myself and was getting a bit stupid. That's just the way it is. You think smoking is addictive? Try story-telling. I was a smoker once, quite a long time ago, but managed to kick that habit; so I know what I'm talking about. It's psychotherapy, pure and simple; without the need for a psychiatrist.

I don’t think I’m ‘inspired’; but I’ve found that I don’t have to be. I basically write what I would like to read: stories populated with characters I’d like to love or hate; dealing with the basic parameters of the human equation: love, hate, generosity, greed, loyalty, betrayal, hope, fear, life, death, sex, peace, war, violence, forgiveness, retribution, curiosity, misunderstanding, reconciliation, ambition, surrender, cowardice, courage, and whatever else happens to come along. Among all that, good people who are trying to find their way through the minefields of their existence, attempting to eke a meaning from it; while not-so-good people, for reasons perfectly valid to themselves, do their best to put obstacles in the good-folks’ way.

My main ‘literary’ influence is Jack Vance. His Lyonesse trilogy is, to me at least, the most enchanting fantasy ever written. Night Lamp, one of his three last novels, is pure magic. Past influences also include Heinlein, Clarke, Saberhagen, and Asimov. I think that the craft of ‘story’ is also exemplified by the, now rather unfashionable and highly un-PC, tales of Edgar Wallace. I admire the contemporary fantasies of Tim Powers and James P. Blaylock; enjoy well-crafted psychological crime fiction by the likes of Jeffery Deaver; the ascerbic and gritty South-Florida capers of Carl Hiassen and James Hall; as well as the giddy escapist sci-fi of Stephen Gould.

So, yes, my novels usually have romance, and it's not always tame. Meaning they're not for kids. R16, most of them. That's because I agree with WB Yeats, who wrote that “Sex and death are the only things that can interest a serious mind.”

I believe that good, engaging stories, written or cinematographic, convey the truth about the human condition and its complexities better than any learned, ‘popular’, or ‘spiritual’ non-fiction treatise ever could. They do this by the simple expedient of ‘entertain’ and ‘show-and-don’t-tell’. And the less pretentious they are, the better they work. The less the ‘message’ shows, the more readily the audience will listen to it, though they may not even be aware that they are listening. This is the applied art of persuasion and planting the seeds of change into minds.

The focus of my stories is on people, because stories about anything else are basically boring. Everything else is just background. Lurking inside these stories is usually a serious framework of ethical and everyday-life issues, questions, suggestions. In Keaen, its sequels in the Tethys series and its prequels, these include my views on history and human destiny and its manipulation by those who would aspire to do so, however beneficent their putative reasons; social versus personal obligations; weighing society’s taboos against personal feelings; coming of age, whether it be in one’s youth or later life; finding one’s destiny; finding meaning; struggling against ethical turpitude; having hope; and staying alive—for only then can there be hope. I'm also preoccupied with the ethical question as to whether the decisions we make in life should be considered as instances, or examples, of higher principles (or maybe ideals) in action; or whether principles are, at best, over-simplified descriptors of the infinite variety of the possible. (In other words, was Plato talking nonsense? I suspect this to be the case.) I have no definite answer to this either; but it troubles me that the vast majority of humanity appears to have no notion that the question might actually be significant to their lives as well.

Story-telling—as well as photography as a 'artistic' endeavor—requires, above all, a high standard of personal integrity. I completely agree with Harlan Ellison's dictum about taking your work seriously, not yourself. If you don't tell stories because you really want—possibly need!—to, do the world a favor and find something else to do. It took me decades to figure out that it's not about 'art', but just the simple, yet glorious, craft of telling stories to entertain people—and through this help them live their lives, because they can weave them into their lives and thus become stronger and more capable of coping with its vicissitudes.

Next to soldiering and prostitution, story-telling is probably one of the oldest and most venerable professions extant. We owe it reverence and integrity; instead of using it to seek glory, adulation and wealth. If we, by some great streak of good fortune, happen to find these along the way, so much the better. But let us never forget why we started doing it in the first place. The moment we do, we will lose our way and our sense of purpose.

More, entirely useless, information and personal commentary:

I love fairy tales. That's probably because I grew up with them: the real thing; pure Brothers Grimm, unadulterated by political correctness and cutesy sanitization. Maybe that's why I love Bill Willingham's comic series, Fables; which is like the Brothers Grimm's tales—and every other fable ever concocted, including and freely mixed in with others you wouldn't expect—on speed. I sense the presence of a kindred soul, who obviously loves these stories just as much as I do.


People: My wife and daughters. Period.

Movies (a list subject to being updated): Blade Runner (the original and also BR 2049), The Illusionist, Avatar, The Princess Bride, Stardust, The Next Three Days, The Adjustment Bureau, Hereafter, Silverlinings Playbook, Star Wars (Eps 4-6), the new Star Treks (the old ones, too, but they're dated), Arrival, Once Upon a Time in the West (best spaghetti western ever), Wonder Woman.

TV Series: Farscape, Firefly, Longmire, Orphan Black.

Writers: Jack Vance, Robert Heinlein. Both huge influences.

Rock Group: Foo Fighters.

Composers: Hans Zimmer, Jean Sibelius, Beethoven, Philip Glass, James Horner.

Pet Peeves:
• Any sentence starting with "But I was going to..." or something along those lines.
• People who refuse to take responsibility for their actions or who endlessly complain about the consequences of their choices.

Serious dislikes:
• Politicians. They, either by nature or by eventual adaptive necessity, are (or become) creatures of a lower order than your average human being. Exceptions are extremely rare. In fact, there may be more mutated chickens with teeth than trustworthy politicians.
• Religious and/or ideological zealots. Actually, I even have issues with religious and/or ideological moderates. And I most certainly have issues with OCD-suffering atheists, who seem to feel an unhealthy missionary urge to enlighten the benighted masses. (Sorry to burst your bubble, guys, but you know SFA about what *really* behind the universe and everything; just like everybody else. Isnt is that which makes life really, really interesting?) And, BTW, if I'm even remotely right about the 'multiverse' ontology I outlined in Tomorrow's Yesterdays then most extant philosophy and especially metaphysics is bunk.

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Review by: Damian Mallon on March 05, 2014 :
The fact that this was my second time reading Keaen is a good sign (I don’t have the time to reread books I don’t enjoy) and I was delighted to discover that this digital edition has been ‘significantly re-edited and revised from the first edition’ and contains an additional 4,000 words.
So, what is Keaen, what is it about and is it any good?
Keaen is a fantasy novel, the first book in the Tethys series, and has the task of introducing the world of Tethys alongside relating the journeys of the characters involved. Till’s writing style is easy to read. He utilises a mix of prose and character interactions to impart information about Tethys, avoiding overly long passages of back history that can sometime plague fantasy novels. The pacing of the information is well handled with a lot of information seeded early, avoiding a feeling that resolutions are a deus ex machine.
The characters are well rounded and each of them has a distinct ‘voice’. The way each character approaches and resolves situations is dictated by character, not environment; for the characters the environment is either a tool to utilise or an obstacle to overcome. Each of the main characters has their own arc, growing and developing as they encounter other characters and situations. By the end of the novel all of the main characters has significantly changed or grown in a satisfying way.
Along the way there are the dangerous creatures, practitioners of arcane arts, daring escapes and swordfights that one expects from a fantasy story. Till spreads these out amongst the various characters so you never get the feeling that this is the tale of one unfortunate protagonist who just keeps stumbling into every bad situation conceivable.
Keaen has an end and can be read as a standalone novel however Till drops hints about the bigger picture throughout. As the tale progresses the world and possibilities of Tethys are opened up to the characters as well as the reader. Inconsistencies in the world, some highlighted by the characters themselves, lead the reader to ponder what is going on ‘behind the scenes’. Hints of science fiction elements are noticeable and finishing Keaen leaves the reader intrigued as to what more is to be revealed throughout the Tethys series.
Keaen starts small and escalates at an appropriate pace. As more characters are introduced the story diverges into various strands and the wider world begins to be revealed. The plot strands converge at the end for a suitably dramatic conclusion. Keaen is rounded off with a dénouement you can happily walk away from, but tantalisingly leaves you wanting more.
So again; what is Keaen, what is it about and is it any good?
Keaen is a beginning; it begins the Tethys series and establishes the universe.
Keaen is about journeys; both character and physical.
And yes, Keaen is good.
(review of free book)

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