Martuk… the Holy is a debut novel from author Jonathan Winn. It’s an epic work of deep, dark fiction which follows a character’s descent into immortality.
The first thing that caught my attention was that Martuk… the Holy is laden with masterful descriptions that manage to capture the emotional experiences of characters and places. Writers should read Martuk… the Holy for a primer on how to write luscious, vivid descriptions that don’t rely on a boring list of analytical details.
There is a price for this level of description – it makes the story unfold slowly, like watching a beautiful film in slow-motion. This may not go over with some readers, especially those with short attention spans.
I found it distracting that almost every chapter references skin and touching in some way. People simply don’t contact each other this often. I’ve seen less skin and intimate contact in porno movies. Despite the overabundance of intimacy, there is very little actual sex in the book, apart from the disturbing rape of a minor and an awkward homosexual encounter with an unnamed guard.
Martuk… the POV
For the most part, the story is told from first-person point-of-view. This works well with the level of description, and enhances the feeling of Martuk telling his story TO YOU. Being inside Martuk’s head definitely makes for an immersive reading experience.
Theme and Plot
The main character Martuk is immortal, and his story covers vast sections of time. The story is told from the main character as he remembers it from the present day. The story jumps around in time/location and it is sometimes difficult to tell where/when we are until you get a few pages in. With some patience, the overall story eventually gels into place, and we are able to piece together the story of Martuk from his upbringing in a geographically-vague wilderness tribe, through his indoctrination to immortality, his later interactions with Jesus, and finally leading into the modern age.
Characters in Martuk… the Holy come and go, which is an interesting facet of immortality, well-shown through example. In fact, we don’t learn the names of many characters in the story. Instead of an overarching antagonist there are several smaller ones. In the end, Martuk is the only constant.
Likewise, the many interesting ideas and challenges in Martuk… the Holy come and go, replaced with other interesting ideas and challenges in the next time-period. The only overarching conflict would be Martuk coming to terms with his own immortal nature. Since Martuk is immortal, his inner conflict can’t really be “resolved” only changed for any given moment, a fact which left the ending a bit hollow for me. Martuk doesn’t have an overall cause, and therefore I felt his immortality was squandered. I would have preferred to have more closure or completion at the end. In that sense, Martuk… the Holy is more of a character study than a story. Johnathan Winn plans to expand on Martuk with a series of stories, some of which are already available.
One of the things that initially interested me about Martuk… the Holy is the subject matter. There are Demons and Angels at work here, philosophical battles going on alongside the physical ones. Internal conflict alongside the external. And good and evil are slippery labels. There is a study in comparative religion here that readers will have to watch for – it’s less obvious than the descriptions and exposition, and something each reader should experience for themselves.
Parts of the book deal with Jesus and his disciples. Aspects of the Jesus mythos are changed and/or called into question. Undoubtedly there will be those who wish to burn any copies of Martuk they come across, but that will be difficult and expensive, considering that Martuk… the Holy is only available in electronic formats.
I found this to be a compelling, alternative take on the Jesus mythos, and a brave undertaking by the author. Some people don’t want their vampires to sparkle. Some people don’t want The Force reduced to midi-chlorians. And some people are going to balk when Jesus is portrayed as a charismatic, metrosexual, douchebag. Those taken in by the promises made by the cover (see below) will be the most upset.
Book Cover and Title
The unique and searchable title (including ellipsis) is a direct quote from early in the book as the hero ponders what you should call him – what title fits him best. After reading the book, we realize that “..the Holy” is some kind of self-deprecating humor, although readers won’t figure this out till later in the story. Therefore the title will mean more to those who have already read the story than it will to those seeing the book for the first time.
The cover keeps changing. I’ve seen three different versions so far, but all of them indicate religious content, and this is reinforced by the word “Holy” in the title. These observations are accurate, but also misleading. Those who enjoy religious fiction may be drawn to this book because of the cover/title, but I believe that many of them will be disappointed if not upset when they read about this version of the Jesus story. As I like to say, if you are secure in your views, then you won’t be offended.
Martuk… the Summary Review
If you’re looking for an immersive character study in immortality, an alternative retelling of the life and times of Jesus, and a writer’s primer on description (especially physical contact), you should check out Martuk… the Holy by Jonathan Winn.
Martuk… the Holy(Affiliate Link – Thanks for your support!)