Charles Brian Orner


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Novel Synopsis

Science & Sorcery. Religion & Resurrection. Politics & Prognostication. Philosophy & Art.

The ancient disciplines are ancient for good reason. They persist in the world, hidden beneath the ordinary and the mundane. Powerful and prescient, they pass beneath perception but endure in epoch time. Precious few know of them, fewer still practice in them, and those who do endure lives of solitude and struggle. The old names—Alchemy, Astrology, Divination—have fallen out of use in favor of modern approximations—chemistry, physics, astronomy, statistics—but they are not merely science, and they are not forgiving.

Alex Clarke is one such man—a quiet, elderly Brit with a sardonic wit and a devastating secret. Alex serves as caretaker and guardian of the single most sought-after myth in all of human history—the fabled fountain of youth.

By day, Alex labors as the groundskeeper and gardener at the estate of Pennsylvania socialite Martha Mattson, set high in the hills of the Appalachian plateau, and site of the once-powerful, but now defunct Mattson Anthracite Mineworks. Unbeknownst to Martha, Alex’s extreme age and experience serve more than the ironweed and topiary—he practices in the ancient arts of Alchemy and the mystical pursuit of the Great Knowledge.

Alex is troubled by the larger forces at play in the ruthless lives of ordinary men, and he wonders if others like himself still exist elsewhere in the world, steeped in the ancient disciplines, and laboring against the chaotic forces of human ignorance and greed. He yearns for a forbidden confidant; a soft heart and sharp wit for plots and plans and commiseration. He pines for an assistant with whom he might share the burdens and wisdom of thirty generations of service and self-sacrifice. But the price of his longevity is loneliness, and Alex has grown weary of the work. It is sometimes brutal, and sometimes benevolent, but it is never inconsequential, and it is never dull. Alchemy is like that—but solitude is getting to be a real pain in places where the sun don’t shine.

The world changes one hot August morning as a hand-lettered scrap of parchment arrives unceremoniously in his mailbox. Three ornate letters—S O S—lead Alex, Martha, and her butler JJ on a death-defying journey of self-discovery, awakening, and truly excellent wine that Methuselah himself could never have foreseen. Celestial mechanics, Greek mythology, and coal mining culture conspire with wine, women, and song to disrupt the morning meditation, the politics of Pennsylvania, and the fate of the entire planet.

Sostenuto is a tale of discovery, deception, betrayal, and hope. Set in the mountainous coal regions of northern Pennsylvania, but encompassing the whole of recorded history and the far reaches of the Solar System, Sostenuto is unlike anything you've encountered before.

Praise for Sostenuto

"I absolutely hated it. Believe me."
— President Donald Trump
"I think what the President meant to say was that he would have hated it if he'd actually read it."
— Former Press Secretary Sean Spicer
"No, really. This book is full of alternative facts."
— Presidental Advisor Kellyanne Conway
"This quote is completely unauthorized and untrue."
— Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"Let me check my schedule. Let's about never? Is never good for you?
— Lorin Stein, Editor, The Paris Review