Original Version

Expanded & Re-Edited Version

First published back in August of 2011 and then rereleased in an extensively re-edited and expanded version in December of 2023, US author Dan Henk’s novel ‘The Black Seas Of Infinity’ was (as detailed at the end of the new version) actually originally intended to be a graphic novel.

The novel is an action-rich first-person dark sci-fi, taking the reader through a desperate journey across the US as our unnamed antihero attempts to make reality of his lifelong ambitions through the connection with alien, otherworldly technology.

The following in-depth review is of the 2023 re-edited and expanded edition.

DLS Synopsis:
When he was just a few years out of college, the government hired him, telling him they wanted to use his skillsets to build the next level of surveillance droids. However, it soon became apparent that what they really wanted him for was to investigate alien spacecraft that had crashed on the Earth.

Sure enough, he was soon put to dissecting alien technology, to try to unravel the mind-blowing mysteries that lay within. He was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where an entire alien ship had been brought in from Nevada. The ship was small and mostly intact and had clearly come from a larger mother ship.

Inside the main enclosure of the ship revealed five lifeless extra-terrestrial bodies. Deeper inside he found another alien body. This one with black enamel skin, long spindly hands, and transparent domes for eyes. It was unlike any alien he had seen before.

Laboratory tests on the being revealed the skin to be impenetrable. The whole thing impervious to harm. He was the first to realise what this thing really was. It wasn’t an alien body after all, but a suit. An indestructible suit.

He dedicated all his time to exploring this strange black alien suit. Trying to unlock its secrets. He was desperate to figure it out. Maybe not even how it worked, but at least how to use it. Enough to build another body for himself. However, after ten years of working on the project with no results to show for his hard work, the government suddenly pull the plug on him. He was being replaced on the project and transferred to Virginia to instead work on military surveillance drones again.

But he knew he couldn’t give up on the suit now. He’d invested too much of himself into it. He knew the suit offered the technology to grant him all his dreams. A body that wouldn’t age and decay. A chance to live an existence like no other.

It was a prospect, a possibility, he couldn’t let the government take away from him. Whatever the cost, he’d take back the suit, make it his own, and in doing so, leave behind his old human vessel. The military would be after him. His life would be changed forever. But he had to give it a shot. For him, the suit was his destiny.

What follows is one man’s venture into the unknown. A desperate journey across America as a reinvented being. A journey which will take this once human individual, through pits and perils, and to places far beyond his or anyone else’s comprehension…

DLS Review:
If you’ve come across Dan Henk’s work before then you’ve probably found he doesn’t work within the close confines of the tangible and the known. Instead, Henk’s an imagination-driven creator who prefers to explore the farthest reaches of the unknown and the strange, and the thought-provoking concepts that nestle therein.

This novel utterly incapsulates this unquestionable thirst for creative exploration. Its roots lay firmly embedded in the fluid terra forma of science-fiction, however, the vast physical and metaphorical expanses at which Henk takes the novel, particularly in the latter chapters, reach far beyond the usual science fiction imaginings.

The novel is in essence, split into three distinct parts. The first of these is setting the scene, laying the foundations, and the adrenaline-pumping mission of our antihero protagonist reclaiming the alien suit. After this, the following chunk of the tale takes us through our suited protagonist’s desperate plight across the breadth of the US, from New York to Mexico. The final section is where things are elevated into the farthest echelons of creative imagination and the limitless exploration achievable by stepping beyond our normal physical realms. I’ll leave the summary of that final section purposefully as vague as that, for want of not revealing too much to you.

Through this journey we bear witness to so much inner evolution within the story. Henk examines the human psyche, mankind’s inbuilt drives, fears, ingrained penchant for hostility, and the inner conflict from falling down the rabbit hole of ‘there’s no turning back now’.

In this novel we’re taken across huge stretches of the US, in a hard-trodden journey which we bare witness to every mile. Gas stations become the lifeblood of this venture. Providing the next link in the chain of this epic and desperate American road trip.

Our protagonist is alone in this journey. Unable to communicate. His human consciousness now embedded and an actual part of the suit. His flesh and blood body left behind, destroyed, and lost forever. And so gradually he starts to question whether he is now just a hollow shell that maybe thought he was still human? The empty roads and lack of any non-hostile human contact beginning to take its effect upon him. The isolation of his new uncivilised, backwoods existence, starting to feel like a prison to him.

However, Henk takes the complexity of the piece one step further. In a similar way to ‘The Day Of The Triffids’ (1951), the backdrop of the story is the culmination of two dramatic events. The first being this man’s reinvented existence, the second being what’s happening across the entirety of the US at the exact same time. You see, largely unbeknown to our narrator, in a twist of fate, the shit is also hitting the proverbial fan, with civil unrest escalating between states. This leads to eerily empty roads and an inevitable heightened sense of paranoia, messing with our protagonist’s mindset still further. I’ll again, leave it at that, not wanting to provide any spoilers on this aspect of the tale.

There’s also a fuck-tonne of Henk in the novel. We see it everywhere. The plight of the man, a representation and dark manifestation of the author’s own journey through life. The hardships and hellish curveballs flung his way. The solitude and persistence to keep fighting on. In particular, the emotionally charged chapter depicting the author’s own wife who was heart-wrenchingly killed in a hit-and-run. This chapter alone gets you in the back of your throat. Choaks you. Draws tears to the corners of your eyes.

To say the novel is an ambitious project is an understatement. Henk has constructed a novel with a backbone in sci-fi, but his sights always on exploration of the unconstrained unknown. The end result is something that feels more than a novel. Greater than a story. More human in its void of physical form.

If I was to sum the novel up in a short statement, it would be this journey into the limitless exploration of the unconstrained. What Henk has achieved here is breath-taking and mind-blowing. A read that becomes unforgettable once that last thought-provoking page has been turned. Imagination has never felt so unrestrained.

The novel runs for a total of 317 pages. 

© DLS Reviews


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