Nathan Brazil and Marva Chang

Human remnants at the Well of Souls

By William Wetherall

First posted 6 January 2006
Last updated 10 January 2006

Wu Julee and Nathan Brazil
flee swarms of XXX
1977 Del Rey original of Midnight
Mavra Chang with whip and tail
2003 Baen reissue of Exiles
Mavra Chang restored to form
2003 Baen reissue of Quest
In this final volume of
Watchers at the Well triology,
Nathan Brazil saves Mavra Chang
from gang of drug smugglers

Jack L. Chalker
Midnight at the Well of Souls [Well of Souls 1]
New York: Del Rey, 1977
360 pages, paperback

Jack L. Chalker
Exiles at the Well of Souls [Well of Souls 2]
New York: Baen, 2003 (1978)
403 pages, paperback

Jack L. Chalker
Quest for the Well of Souls [Well of Souls 3]
New York: Baen, 2003 (1978)
352 pages, paperback

Jack L. Chalker
Gods of the Well of Souls [A Well World Novel]
New York: Del Rey, 1994
356 pages, paperback

From blurb on back cover of origina Del Rey edition of Midnight at the Well of Souls.

Entered by a thousand unsuspected gateways -- built by a race lost in the clouds of time -- the planet its dwellers called the Well World turned beings of every kind into something else. There spacefarer Nathan Brazil found himself companioned by a batman, an amorous female centaur and a mermaid -- all once as human as he.

Yet Nathan Brazil's metamorphosis was more terrifying than any of those . . . and his memory was coming back, bringing with it the secret of the Well World.

For at the heart of the bizarre planet lay the goal of every being that had ever lived -- and Nathan Brazil and his comrades were . . . lucky? . . . enough to find it!

Jack Chalker's "Midnight at the Well of Souls" is a science fiction adventure tale that one could describe as an ambitious epic, yet written with an often whimsical sense of fun. The novel is full of colorful characters, weird locales, and imaginatively conceived alien species.

The story's hero is freighter captain Nathan Brazil, a human male who is noted to be a maverick and a loner in "an age of extreme conformity." While carrying a motley collection of passengers on his ship, Brazil answers a distress call. Soon he finds himself on the Well World, a bizarre planet divided up into hundreds of biospheres and home to hundreds of different civilizations. Oh, and each newcomer to the planet can expect to find him- or herself transformed into a different species! "Midnight" charts the odyssey of Brazil, his allies, and his enemies across this strange and wondrous world as they seek the answer to an ancient mystery.

"Midnight" is a novel of ideas as well as a fun and exciting adventure; Chalker deals with such issues as history, drug addiction, crime, social organization, literacy, and more as the story unfolds. Chalker cleverly delves into the life cycles and sexual behaviors of the various Well World species, which include intelligent plants, a centaur-like race, and many more. The motif of transformation, including gender-changing, is intriguingly handled throughout the story.

Chalker makes reference to "Alice in Wonderland" at one point in the book, but the book, curiously, reminds me more of L. Frank Baum's classic Oz tales. And Chalker's vision of science, civilization, and history reminds me a bit of a less horrific, more light-hearted H.P. Lovecraft. Overall, a lot of fun, and written in a very engaging prose style. If you like this book, try "Lord Valentine's Castle," by Robert Silverberg.

To be continued.