The Featherlight Transmission

by Sludge Thompkins

Warning This fiction contains:
  • Gore
  • Profanity

In the ancient desert metropolis of Wellspring City, magic is dead, and technology reigns supreme. Baulric Featherlight, one of thousands of street mages for hire, is summoned by the City Watch to assist with a particularly grisly murder - the deed was done by a rogue mage, and the fanatical Dynamic Brotherhood will have every arcanist in the city pay for it. The killer continues carving a line of death throughout all twenty sectors of the city, and anti-magic sentiment begins to rise. Will Featherlight's singular skills be enough to hunt down this elusive killer? Or will fear and old hatreds finally tear Wellspring City apart?

(Cover art by the inestimable UncertaintyCrossing. You can find more of his enchanting works here.)

hi! im the guy that wrote this story. i hope you like reading it. im bad at elevator pitches ^ and honestly, it's a little misleading. it's really just a detective noir with a few extras. if you like detective stories, this is a good one. it's got robots and magic and stuff too. have fun!

(obligatory extra note: im an internet busker who subsists on the generosity of readers like you. if you haven't done your good deed for the day and you think my work is worth paying for, why not tip some spare change into my hat? i'd be awful appreciative ♥)

[premium game of the year DLC edition edit: if you've read the whole thing for free and want to buy a copy for yourself, this dang ol' story is available for purchase on amazon now. it's not super special, but showing your support by buying it would make writing new ones a lot easier. thanks a million billion for reading either way ♥]

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  • Pages :
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Sludge Thompkins

Sludge Thompkins

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Table of Contents
Chapter Name Release Date
CHAPTER ONE - Rise and Shine ago
CHAPTER TWO - A Requiem for a Sandwich ago
CHAPTER THREE - Baulric's Inferno ago
CHAPTER FOUR - A Study in Ozone ago
CHAPTER FIVE - The Tiny Steel Giant ago
CHAPTER SIX - Side Street Riptide ago
CHAPTER SEVEN - In the Dark ago
CHAPTER EIGHT - Lost and Found ago
CHAPTER NINE - Thunderhand ago
CHAPTER TEN - To Heal and Grow ago
CHAPTER ELEVEN - Pure Hatred, Followed by Cheap Ale ago
CHAPTER TWELVE - The Door in the Earth ago
CHAPTER THIRTEEN - The Librarian ago
CHAPTER FOURTEEN - The Princess ago
CHAPTER FIFTEEN - A Living Demigod Gives Me a Bunch of Free Stuff Because I'm an Idiot ago
CHAPTER SIXTEEN - Words Cannot Express How Much I Hate Telepathy ago
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN - Hearing Things ago
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN - The Stone Cast Long Ago ago
CHAPTER NINETEEN - The Grand Vizier of the Enfuckening ago
CHAPTER TWENTY - Call Waiting, Bell Ringing, Man Asking ago
CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE - The Stubborn Little Flame ago
CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO - A Golem and a Mutant Cyborg Wizard Sit Still For Twenty-Four Hours ago
CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE - The Octopus Will Be Your Opponent ago
CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR - The Murderer ago
CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE - Daring Is the Present Tense of Stupidity ago
CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX - Verdigris Ultimatum ago
CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN - Down Comes the Rain ago

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IrateRapScallion
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TL;DR – This story is criminally underappreciated on this site.  Though it bites off more than it can chew and has some editing issues in a few spots, it is so unique and flavorful that it is easily one of the best fictions posted here.  Read it!  Give it ratings and follows and favorites!  Maybe then the author will make more!

 

The Featherlight Transmission is what happens when you turn the Imagination dial up to 11, then keep twisting it harder until it snaps off.  It is a wonder of worldbuilding, a marvel of narration, a masterclass in dialogue, and a prime example of the folly of biting off more than you can chew.  I'll get to that last part later.

STYLE: Sometimes I'll watch a movie or play a game which have clear, obvious flaws, but I'll love them anyway because of their sense of style is just so astounding (looking at you, No More Heroes).  TFT has this level of style, the kind where I would give it a 17/5 if RR would let me.  This story is just overflowing with great ideas.  The use of vitae as a way of describing a person and their character is just brilliant, providing the author with a way of encapsulating the feel of a person without having to keep talking about hair color or eyes or whatnot.  Other stylistic touches, like commentary about lollipop flavors setting the mood, show just how much thought and skill went into writing this excellent work.

The story is a noir first-person detective story, and it has all the bells and whistles you'd want and expect from this sort of thing.  It has the tortured metaphors.  It has the detailed descriptions of the world, filtered and skewed through the viewpoint of a sardonic, cynical, weary man who has been through some shit and decided he's tired of everything.  It has the off-handed internal asides, the sarcastic one-liners, and the witty dialogue that makes this a top-class detective-style story.  It's fantastic.

GRAMMAR: I found a few typos as I went, but nothing worth complaining about given the standards of RoyalRoad.

CHARACTER: As the entire story is an internal monologue, meaning every single thing is tinted through the lens of the main character's perspective and personality, the entire story hinges on the quality of this one character.  It's great news, then, that I can report that the character of Baulric Featherlight is an absolute joy to read.  The way he views the world around him, and the way that the world views him in return, given that he is the combination of two separately hated subgroups, kept me engaged throughout.

There are some other characters too that are pretty good, though maybe only one or two really get enough time to grow into something more than Baulric's interpretation of them.  A few characters later on felt a little weaker to me.

STORY: I'm going to separate this into two subsections – Worldbuilding and Plot.

Worldbuilding: This might be the most realized world I've read on RR.  It's astounding, the level of detail the author managed to come up with (even with that Imagination dial snapped off).  Every section of the world of Wellspring City feels like it has a distinct culture and flavor, with well-known sayings and long, detailed histories.  Mystery and wonder abound, sometimes too much (but again I'll get to that in bit).  Wellspring City is large and complex, but the world feels like it makes sense.  It's all explained well and nothing I can think of feels entirely out of place.  In a story like this, the world/city is in many ways a character of its own, and this one is sublime.

Plot: Here, sadly, is where things fall apart a little.  Throughout this story, many mysteries and characters are presented to the reader, but precious few are actually answered, leading to a palpable sense of letdown.  The author's imagination runs a little too wild, perhaps, as they throw plot thread after plot thread at the reader, only to wrap up a small fraction of them.  It's possible that more of these would be resolved in a second installment, but even if that were the case, the way they are presented, not fleshed out, and then ignored just makes it feel like the author shoved in every idea they could think of and then couldn't find a way to turn them all into a coherent plot.  Many of them could be cut from this book (and then perhaps introduced in a sequel) and the work would be dramatically improved.  Remember, kids, foreshadowing that never turns into anything is just broken promises!  A few of these items, just off the top of my head, include:

Delpo Dellweather – shows up in a single conversation, is presented as a mysterious weirdo, then doesn't figure into the plot at all until the very end when he comes out of nowhere to save the day for some reason

Kaiamora Stonecutter – serves no real purpose in the story except perhaps to be a red herring with the water murder

Nine's ancient origins – right at the end, author drops on us that the robot we thought was made by the current evil science people was actually made much earlier, then never goes into anything about that.

Rocky – Rocky is basically a plot device.  You don't get to see it fight, you don't get to see it do much of anything other than move the plot forward and be mysteriously linked to the Wellwardens (who also are talking about but never once actually show up in the story).

Electrofuck – honestly I don't think there's much of a justification for this character.  He seems to serve as a means to an end, the driving force to push Baulric to doing his investigation.  But he doesn’t figure into the actually plot in any way that couldn't be replaced with something simpler.  He's an unseen force, then the Librarian gives Baulric a doodad, then Baulric gives it to Electrofuck, and... that's it.

Electrofuck's dad – literally no purpose in the story for this guy.

Baulric's magic – Baulric needs to learn to use his magic!  He's gotta experiment and maybe read this tome by this other life mage!  And he's gonna!  After the story is over, maybe!

The mysterious internal voice – somebody's talking to Baulric and being all creepy about it but nothing really comes from it at all.  Maybe related to these sudden violent urges that he gets, which also kind of come out of nowhere and have little impact on anything.

Marmalade – I didn't notice the first mention of Marmalade, in chapter 5, until I went back looking for it after it being mentioned out of nowhere in the Library chapter.  Marmalade is mentioned several times in the story, without explanation.  It seems to be featured in a pair of chapters (the original 5 and 6) that were cut from the story for submission to a magazine (yes I went googling).  I found the original chapter 5 (you can't hide from me or archive sites) but haven't read it because it doesn't have anything to do with the plot whatsoever.  An editing mistake, but a very jarring one.

The ending is the worst part, by far.  It feels rushed, like a TV show that had 3 more seasons planned but the writers just learned they have half a season left before the show is cancelled and they have to cram everything they can into the last few episodes.  Another review states that Baulric gets "caught up in a grand conspiracy", but when all is said and done,

the conspiracy is decidedly not "grand" in any way.  It's actually really basic and kind of boring.

A lot of my complaints stem from this ending, because the way it comes about makes this all feel like the author just got tired and wanted to stop.  That's why the unresolved mysteries hurt so much.  If there were resolutions in a follow-up story, then many of them would still feel kinda not great, but definitely much better than how it is now.  But the way the ending happens lends a tremendous sense of the author just kind of running out of juice.  It saddens me.

ANYWAY!  The fact that this story is in my top 3 stories on the entire site, given the myriad issues I've mentioned, speaks to its quality perhaps better than anything else I can say.  That something like this goes almost entirely unnoticed while generic litrpg story 19385439 gets a million views says a lot about this place.  Read this story!  It's highly entertaining and its highs overwhelm its lows.  You will not regret it.

Nelsyv
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
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Delightful narrator, detailed worldbuilding, exciting plot

Reviewed at: CHAPTER SIX - Riptide

I've read ahead up to chapter 29 where it's released elsewhere. I can confidently say that this is one of my favorite current serials on the whole internet: every time I see that a chapter has dropped, I feel the need to inject a bit more Baulric Featherlight directly into my veins.

Grammar, mechanics, style: as good or better than professionally published work. Easy to read.

Characters: my oh my. Absolutely S-tier, top shelf. Baulric, the 1st person PoV, is one of the best narrating characters I've ever come across in all of fiction. Seriously. As much charm as Handsome Jack, as hilarious at wordplay as Terry Pratchett, and all of that consistently so, he makes every sentence of the work an absolute delight to read. Even if the plot were boring (it's not; see below), he'd make reading it worthwhile anyways.

Plot: engaging and twisty, without getting too full of itself. Nicely layers and foreshadows as it goes, but it never feels over engaged. Totally solid and exciting all the way through, as all good detective stories should be (so far, at least).

Worldbuilding: absolutely standout. The City is wonderfully detailed, and the fantasy!cyberpunk setting is incredibly creative and unique. Yet another way that OP has totally knocked this one out of the park.

Bottom line? READ IT ALREADY!

UncertaintyCrossing
Overall
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Amazingly well crafted detective story with a magic twist done right.

Reviewed at: CHAPTER EIGHTEEN - The Stone Cast Long Ago

I had the pleasure of working with Sludge to make the cover of his book, so I've also read ahead/have been following this story for a little bit now, but similar to the other review I can also say this is one of my most favorite stories I've read in a long time. It got me to sit down and read and held my attention the entire way through, which given my scatterbrained mind is a real testament to Sludge's writing skills. 

The entire story is told from the first person perspective of our main character Baulric Featherlight. Baulric is an absolutely charming individual, full of wit and humor, that makes a detective case actually interesting to listen to. The mix of his interjections with bias worldview and magic sight give the grim world of Wellspring City a vibrant splash of color. 

All the characters Baulric comes across, whether it be fellow mages or some city pedestrian, are fully fleshed out and full of life. Each one is completely unique and the relationships Baulric has with them feel real. If I had to pick one thing to praise Sludge on, it would be his worldbuilding through characters and character interaction. 

Even with that said, the entire world of Wellspring has been thought out in immense detail. From the logos of each group to what ID cards look like to Baulric's impressive boxer collection, each small nuance has been covered in detail, and I'm always excited to see these little things further developed in each chapter. 

Grammar wise this story is easy to sit down and read. Clean, through, you don't get tired out reading it. It also paints a vivid picture of the world and its inhabitants in your head, which as an artist is something I cannot get enough of, and is another one of my highest praises towards Sludge and his work. 

In short, this is a wonderfully well crafted story, and the amount of love the author has put into each and every little thing really shines through. So yeah, you need to sit down and read it right now lmao, you're in for a wonderful treat. 

Wolpertinger
Overall

One of the best stories I've read on RR, all the better for finishing a book, even if there is going to be a sequel.

Featherlight is a gritty, muddy, but ultimately hopeful urban fantasy set in a fictional universe that is the distant high tech future of a more typical fantasy universe, but has a strong Dresden Files vibe anyway.

Humanity had enough of dragons, elves, wizards, and immortal necromancer kings ruling over them in bloody dictatorships and killed off all the nonhuman species in a bloody purge with guns and technology. Now, hundreds of years later, a transhuman cult of technology has its fingers in every government and has made being a mage borderline illegal,  subject to registration, summary imprisonment, human experimentation, or execution, depending on how dangerous they consider you.

The main character is a biomancer, a life mage, that due to it's rarity and the illegality of most magical knowledge, doesn't know how to do much more than heal and strengthen himself. However, due to his power, he was forced to allow himself to be experimented on, and is now a mutated, cybernetic monster that can only live because he's constantly healing himself. 

He now works as a mercenary/private eye to pay the bills, due to his very rare magic, immense strength, and cybernetic enhancements making him uniquely useful even as he dances on the edge of poverty due to his status as two separate hated minorities at once as a mutant and mage.

Needless to say, a series of murders gets him caught up in a grand conspiracy.

Very interesting world and setting, can't wait for the sequel. Highly recommended.

Nevynxa
Overall
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Grammar
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Masterful Worldbuilding and Development.

Reviewed at: CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN - Down Comes the Rain

TL;DR Extremely wonderfully written, with a loveable vibrant world full of amazing characters and technologies.

 

Let me start by stating that I am a heavy reader. almost 24/7 I have at least 1 book on me, and in my days I've gotten through a LOT of books. With that said, this is one of my very first reads on RR, but boi does it bring a lot to the table.

In all my experience as a reader, I've rarely RARELY found a story as wonderful as The Featherlight Transmission has been.

I'm a heavy visualizer, when I read I see the story play as a little movie in my head, Featherlight Transmission has been one of the most vibrant and easy to see stories I've ever read. The worldbuilding is worked so wonderfully into the story, and the narration is so enjoyable that even that Infodump was extremely enjoyable to read. (well, I like infodumps in general, so maybe my opinion on the infodump is void) 

The characters are extremely lifelike and well developed, and I love them all, even the villains (we love to hate), so much so that one of my personal favs just so happens to basically be a rock.

Featherlight is also the best narrator we could ever ask for, with his humor and character, even in the face of a bad situation, almost always getting worse. 

After digesting the ending, of course, it felt a tiny bit anti-climactic, but hey, maybe we deserve some anti-climax at the end of this rollercoaster into hell!

 

With all that, I cannot WAIT to jump back into the world of Featherlight, whether it's re-reading Featherlight Transmission in a few months (or longer), or awaiting the likely sequel.

ROUNDERHOUSE
Overall
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Story
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Character

If someone told me this work was over 400 pages long, I'd call them a liar. It flows like water, something not exactly common for detective stories - largely due to the sheer charm that our fair protagonist, the titular Baulric Featherlight, oozes and secretes. He's one of the most interesting, engaging, and most important, fun characters or narrators I've had the pleasure of reading. Between the first-person framing and the way Baulric makes even the most mundane stakeouts and investigations interesting, The Featherlight Transmission plants itself as one of the best, most entertaining stories in the genre - it's simply fun to read.

This doesn't even mention the incredible imagination at play in the story - the world presented to us radiates creativity by crossing together classic fantasy trops with the very beginnings of a properly cyberpunk world. It's like seeing the Sprawl, smached down in the center of what was once Middle-earth. Even the shadowy antagonists, the Brotherhood, show a level of complexity that's not all that common in these stories.

TLDR: Do yourself a favor and read it already. You'll be knee-deep before you realize it and the only times you won't enjoy it are when you have to set it down.

parmesan
Overall

Very enjoyable read so far, happy to have found such a good detective novel on here. Would definitely recommend if you're looking for that sort of thing; the classic great dialogue, some lifelike characters, and a unique setting. Fifty words is tough hurdle and I've run out of padding. Give it a read! 

Guy Echo
Overall

This is one of my favorite books I've read in the past year. I know very few authors who do characterization so well, who create a protagonist that you just enjoy being inside their head. Sludge is a master at this, and furthermore at creating a fantastic yet grounded space for said protagonist to explore. My highest reccomendation, absolutely worth your time.