On Swift Wings: The Travails of Cygnus by Brett M. Wiens is an epic adventure based upon Gulliver’s Travels. A plane crash leaves Cygnus stranded in the ocean and he washes ashore on an island where he discovers a race of horses that have enslaved humans. After four years spent living amongst them, he finds himself once again out on the ocean and drifts along to a remarkable island that turns fantasy into reality when he discovers a kingdom where there are those born with immortality. From there, Cygnus travels with a companion to a place where he encounters vast armies, a radiant queen, and magic. Once he leaves the island of necromancy, he discovers a place that despises intelligence and where the people look upon him with ill will. Once again lost at sea, he’s rescued by a vessel that takes him on one of his greatest adventures, which begins once he’s taken back home.
The story is broken into five parts with each one exploring a different location and the people he meets there that leave an impact on his life. Wiens explores each society in a rich depth that provides reflections of our own society blended with various insights and wonderings. He makes a friend while imprisoned who takes him to a village where everyone is curious and where he acts in the role of a teacher, explaining concepts from math to literature to technology. His emotional place shifts as he goes from location to location which helps him experience a sober pragmatism, varying degrees of freedom, a thirst for knowledge, and a deep understanding. Each part feels like a separate story with each offering a new understanding or insight which works together for a larger commentary on society. The tone is satirical and reflective as Cygnus recounts his travels, often talking directly to the reader as he shares his thoughts and experiences. The style and voice reflect that of the classic on which the story is based – intelligent writing that evokes commentary and conversation. On Swift Wings is a satirical work that delivers a fascinating tale as Wiens breathes new life into the world of Gulliver’s Travels through Cygnus’s adventures.