I wish I knew Mark Wallace Maguire‘s secret. A family man, he also holds down a demanding job as director of communications for our church.
And yet, superhumanly, it seems, he is not only the author of eight books of fiction and nonfiction … but he also manages to spend time interacting with readers and encouraging new authors at many local book events.
As a soon-to-be-published first-time author, I am grateful for the encouragement Mark Wallace has offered me over the last few years.
And so I say with chagrin that it took me a long time to pick up even one of his books. (We met just after the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020.)
The good news is that I recently finished reading one Maguire volume and enjoyed it thoroughly. No surprise, really, because I’ve known Mark Wallace long enough to know he’s good at just about every challenge he accepts.
Alexandria Rising is a great read.
Published in 2016, Alexandria Rising is Book 1 in a trilogy called The Alexandria Rising Chronicles.
It’s an action-packed adventure about a young Atlanta journalist, Rand O’Neal, whose everyday world of deadlines, hangovers and yesterday’s reheated coffee is upended by the death of his patrician grandfather, a pillar of Atlanta’s academic establishment.
What if there were no Monet?
Enter one malicious Mark Venator, who is willing to pay $200,000 for the mysterious box Rand finds in his grandfather’s possessions.
Decorated with intricate symbols that bear no relation to the O’Neal family crest, the box contains an ancient map and instructions for Rand to destroy it.
Thus begins Rand’s search to uncover his grandfather’s secret.
Rand flees to Ireland in a futile move to throw Venator off course, then finds himself in a clandestine Austrian mountain retreat run by a mysterious Organization (with a capital O) that holds the world’s future in its hands.
Here, Mark Wallace catapults his story from the confines of reality to a world that is equal parts high-stakes thriller and science fiction/fantasy.
The Austrian mountain retreat is a sort of upended Shangri-La from James Hilton’s classic novel Lost Horizon, only this is no paradise. It’s hell … and Rand must escape, perish or wrestle the most prized possessions from the Organization’s hands.
Mark Wallace’s imagination takes flight.
How can you not like a book that has readers entertaining the notion that an Organization possesses scrolls that survived the burning of the Alexandria library in the 3rd century BC?
What if there were no Mozart?
Other treasures are in the Organization’s hands, too, including stones from the Slendoc Meridian.
In Mark Wallace’s narrative, stories from the lost Atlantis define the Meridian as a line of supernatural geological formations beneath the earth’s surface that serve as inspiration for the world’s greatest creative achievements: smartphones in Silicon Valley, music in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, the Impressionist movement in France and those plays and sonnets by a British guy named William Shakespeare.
The Organization owns many of the Meridian’s glowing stones. And is looking to confiscate more.
The reason? To control not the world’s fuel energy sources but its sources of creative energy … the energy that inspires artists, writers, musicians, inventors, physicians and other creative souls to do what they do.
Suddenly, the book’s clever but puzzling prologue set in London, where Will Shakespeare is struggling to complete the manuscript of Hamlet while clutching a stone in his fist, makes beautiful sense.
A vivid picture.
Mark Wallace’s story carries us along as we learn the enormity of the challenge Rand faces.
There’s intrigue and intriguing characters. A bit of romance. And life-and-death struggles for power at the Austrian outpost a la a really good James Bond flick.
Often using verbs to lead short, punchy sentences, Mark Wallace knows how to punctuate his prose for maximum effect. He is a master of both the chase scene and the fight scene.
There’s also relevance.
The premise that one Organization controls the world’s fountainhead of creativity is a scary one … and the most interesting aspect of Alexandria Rising to me. Especially in today’s world, when book banning is the order of the day, Mark Wallace’s plot doesn’t seem so “out there” after all.
Who gets to choose the creative works we have access to?
Or the things that inspire us?
Don’t they belong to all of us?
No drag queen story hours?
In Alexandria Rising, Mark Wallace bravely tackles these fascinating what if? questions. It is just plain fun to watch him examine the possibilities in this well-crafted piece of fiction.
Says the villain of the piece: “Real power is not in conquering land or shaping politics–though we do have a hand in that as well–but in true change … Our powers are far more reaching than you realize.”
What if “they” controlled everything we create?
Near the end of the book, we learn how wide the Organization’s reach is … stretching far beyond the outpost in Austria. As one ally tells Rand: “There are more. On every continent. And they never relent.”
Hence, the stage is set for Book 2 and more battles between good and evil in this remarkable work by Mark Wallace Maguire, whose talent doesn’t seem to relent, either.
He does have a new book in the works: #9, if I’m counting correctly.
So, next time I’m at church, I intend to visit Mark Wallace’s office.
I won’t be surprised if there is a Slendoc Meridian stone somewhere on his desk.
Note: The photo above from Mark Wallace’s website pictures the three books in the series before the covers were redesigned recently.
Other credits: Monet’s San Giorgio Maggiore at Dusk from https://www.claude-monet.com/san-giorgio-maggiore-at-dusk.jsp.; Mozart image by Free-Mobi Klingeltöne from Pixabay; Shakespeare image by Freepik; drag queen story hour photo from The Seattle Times.