Staring into the night sky, an inhabitant of the planet Jeroun sees a glittering string of objects stretching before the moon. The Needle, in all actuality a collection of iron spheres large enough to affect the tides, is the god Adrash's ultimatum to the people on the planet below:
Prove yourselves worthy, or be destroyed.
Vedas is a member of the Black Suits, an order of men and women who show their opposition to Adrash by staging battles in the streets. Having witnessed the death of a child in his care, knowing himself to be responsible, he sets off on a journey across Knoori, the planet's one inhabitable continent. His destination: the decennial fighting tournament in Danoor.
Traveling with him are Churls, a mercenary haunted by the ghost of her daughter, and Berun, a constructed man possessed by the soul of his creator. Both come to understand what Vedas's victory in Danoor will mean: an all-out religious war. Battling their own inner demons, they are in no place to convince Vedas to turn back from his fate.
Unbeknownst to these three travelers, the powerful outbound mages (astronauts who use alchemy to reach orbit) Ebn and Pol are engaging in actions that will call te god Adrash's wrath down upon the world...
Combining the mythic inventiveness of science fiction authors Roger Zelazny and Samuel R. Delany, the dark weirdness of China Mieville. and the epic scope of George R. R. Martin, No Return is a standalone novel that mixes genres in an evocatively fluid manner.
Words of Praise
"A visionary, violent, sexually charged, mystical novel -- No Return challenges classification. Clearly, Zachary Jernigan has no respect for genre confines. His tale of gods hanging in the sky and a “constructed man” with glowing blue coals for his eyes and a motley band of fighters navigating a harsh landscape peopled by savage creatures and religious zealots… Well, it’s pure genius. Here’s hoping it’s just the first of many such works from this guy." - David Anthony Durham, Campbell Award-winning author of the Acacia Trilogy
"Zachary Jernigan's genre-defying epic raises the bar for literary speculative fiction. It has the sweep of Frank Herbert's Dune and the intoxicatingly strange grandeur of Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun, with a decadent, beautifully rendered vision all its own. One of the most impressive debuts of recent years." - Elizabeth Hand, Nebula and World Fantasy Award-winning author of Available Dark and Radiant Days
"Be careful picking this one up, because once you join with the adventurers in this strange and stunning debut novel, there will be no going back to familiar precincts of heroic fantasy. Zachary Jernigan starts at the very edge of the map and plunges deep into uncharted territory. Mages in space, do-it-yourself gods, merciless killers in love and a mechanical warrior with a heart of bronze await your reading pleasure. For thinking readers who like swashbuckling with an edge, No Return delivers." - James Patrick Kelly, winner of the Hugo, Nebula and Locus Awards
"No Return is a rich, diverse, inventive fantasy, in a style that reminds me in some ways of Tanith Lee's Tales from the Flat Earth books. Zachary Jernigan has created a stunningly original world and I can't wait to see where he takes it next." - Martha Wells, author of The Books of the Raksura
"Jernigan's fiction is luminous and hallucinatory with its world-building, while still grounding readers into strong characters fully human. He scribes the future as an alien landscape with only just enough familiarity to unsettle us from our familiar, comfortable tropes. I highly recommend this gorgeous debut novel to all fans of strange fiction." - J. M. McDermott, author of the Dogsland Trilogy
"No Return will take each and every preconception you have about fantasy literature and punch it in the face." - Ross E. Lockhart, author of Chick Bassist