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On Swift Wings: The Travails of Cygnus

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Despite our vast knowledge of the world, still no atlas or globe is complete. Not every island has been mapped. A young man takes to the skies on Flight 1726 on a day unlike every other, little anticipating the experiences that for him lay in wait.

After surviving a plane crash in the ocean, Cygnus is marooned on an unknown island populated by a contemptuous race of horses that enslaves a tribe of feral humans. Then a draconian decision leads to subsequent encounters with the immortals of Loogenage, the magicians of Glubdubdrib, the anti-intellectuals of Balnibarbi, the giants of Brobadingog, and the tiny emulous nations of Blafusecho, Sinrovia, and Lilliput. His diverse experiences gift him with enlightenment and culminate in a heart-wrenching conclusion.

Based on the world of Gulliver's Travels created by Jonathan Swift three hundred years ago, On Swift Wings is a modern satire that lampoons contemporary life and dogma in the same sardonic style as the original Swift masterpiece. Swathed in stunningly painted worlds, it is a study of current society that contains within it both the truth and the hope we so desperately need.

386 pages, Kindle Edition

First published July 1, 2019

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About the author

Brett M. Wiens

1 book14 followers
Brett Wiens was born in Calgary, Canada in 1981. He has a bachelor's degree in Geography and a masters degree in Geographic Information Systems. He has won awards for his anti-racism poem, "Just One Little Rock."

His writing is inspired by a keen interest in geography and languages. In grade school he gained fluency in French and then in University studied Spanish and Latin. After school he learned some American Sign Language and Italian and is working on learning Mandarin while working on his second novel.

His first novel, On Swift Wings, a modern re-imagination of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels was released on July 1, 2019, 293 years after the original. Early reviews of the book have been positive, saying that it is a challenging, but rewarding read. The book was conceived while reading Gulliver's Travels to his first child in the crib as a baby.

His second novel is currently in development.

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Displaying 1 - 7 of 7 reviews
October 13, 2020
On Swift Wings was a perfect read for this travel restricted adventurer. As 2020 found us on lock down, I took the opportunity to experience something other than my traditional genre of novel and I was not disappointed. Following the unlucky travels of Cygnus the reader will be transported to many far away and isolated lands. My favourite being part 3 and Glubdubdrib.

In the forward Cygnus states, “we are all products of our environment and upbringing”. I found this to be crucial to the story. His ability to learn and adapt to (and in) his surroundings on top of his natural survival instinct is inspiring. Each island Cygnus visited left me with a new appreciation of home.

With everything happening in today’s global chaos I found the experiences more relevant. The politics, economics, culture and language described would welcome many excellent debates and conversations at your monthly book club and even a school curriculum reading list.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for adventure and inspiration.

I feel the need to mention that while Gulliver’s Travels and Jonathan Swift has been mentioned in other reviews please do not feel that it is a prerequisite to enjoy this novel!
2 reviews
July 9, 2021
A fun, yet thought-provoking read!


I will admit that while this isn’t usually what I go for in books, I thoroughly enjoyed it. My favourite part of any novel is being able to bring the story to life in my head and Wiens makes it so easy to do so with his use of such descriptive and vivid language. He writes in such a fantastical and engaging way. This book is the definition of being a kid again.

I enjoyed the lightheartedness of the story, a young man who encounters such magical and mystical lands, but within his discoveries of each island, there is so much more to be reflected on (if you so choose to) as it relates to the history of the human race.

My favourite part would have to be part 3, the main character goes through so many misinterpreted historical events and how history is really just one big game of telephone!

The only reason why it doesn’t get 5 stars is because I think the main character’s story gets lost after the introduction. I love being able to relate to the main character and live vicariously through them while reading. I wish we got to know more about his head space and his motivations throughout his journeys. Was there an overarching personal conflict that he was going through? What did he discover internally/emotionally in all the islands he visited?
Profile Image for E.
159 reviews2 followers
April 5, 2020
Try as I might I couldn’t get into this book. Maybe it is my frame of mind, or just not my time to read it. “On Swift Wings” is a story of a solo man surviving a plane crash. He finds himself on an island whose inhabitants remind me of "Animal Farm" and a bit of "Gulliver’s Travels". It is a society in which animals are the superior race and humans their slaves. Cygnus the main character - the crash survivor, demonstrates his higher intellect to the rulers of the island. He learns to communicate and relates the story of his race of humans and how they deal with each other. The concept of lying astounds the leaders, since no such concept or act exists in their world. This is as far as I got into the story. I must say the notion of trying to explain humans to another race (alien?) is interesting. Maybe it is the right time for you to read this story. Give it a chance. You might learn something about us humans.
Profile Image for Corrine Cassels.
162 reviews5 followers
January 14, 2020
What a fun read. It's been a while since I read satire, but this book made me remember why I love it so much. Written like a futuristic Gulliver's Travels, this book takes a satirical look at our evolutionary-stagnant political system. The book reads like an adventure story as well, so it could be entirely possible to ignore the satire or even miss it if that's more your cup of tea. The scenes and characters are descriptively written, and there are enough meat and potatoes in the book to get swept up in the story, however, i found the subtle satirical comments and observations incredibly smartly written. Overall a really satisfying read.
Profile Image for Reader Views.
2,125 reviews72 followers
January 6, 2020
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (12/19)

“On Swift Wings: The Travails of Cygnus,” is a stunning satirical debut novel by Brett M. Wiens.

The story begins with the protagonist, Cygnus, finding himself stranded on an island after he is in a plane crash. This island is ruled by horses with a high level of sentience. They are the masters of feral humans. After he escapes this place, he repeatedly finds himself ending up on different islands. Each place has something interesting for him to observe about the ways of the people. None of these lands are recorded on our maps. Cygnus must overcome obstacles in each place in order to find his way home. His observations of the people and their treatment of him makes for a very interesting story.

“On Swift Wings: The Travails of Cygnus,” is written as a modern-day Gulliver’s Travels. The author does an exceptional job of rewriting the political satire through the eyes of Cygnus, a man who finds himself following in similar steps of Gulliver. Set almost three hundred years in the future, the islands that Cygnus travels are like those of Gulliver. Even more so in that the places he journeys to are set in about the same time frame as those of Gulliver. The creative difference is that Cygnus is used to living with modern technology and the islands that he travels to have none. Despite this, the people and the politics are very similar. This indicates that we have not evolved very much since the 1700s!

Cygnus observes and is often forced to react to the limited minds that he encounters. Whether they be feral horses, little people, or giants, each group of characters has flaws. Most of the limitations are brought about by an unwillingness and lack of interest in looking at the world outside their narrow worlds. This results in assumptions being made, and people being stuck in mediocrity or even a failing system because they fear change. His journey makes for a compelling read. Readers will see that this is a multilayered tale. They can just sit back and enjoy this adventurous journey, or they can delve deeper and observe the issues presented that relate to politics, economics, sociology and philosophy. I enjoyed being able to do both. The author does a fantastic job of using descriptive detail to bring the characters and places to life.

I think that “On Swift Wings: The Travails of Cygnus,” by Brett M. Wiens would be a great selection for readers’ groups and even required reading for a class. Interesting discussions are guaranteed to follow. I look forward to reading future works by this talented author.
Profile Image for Nicole.
273 reviews21 followers
February 3, 2020
This was an unusual story! Cygnus, our narrator, survives a plane crash and lands in a remote, unknown island filled with unusual creatures. It's satire, apparently, but I actually didn't get the satire part (this could be because I have never read Gulliver's Travels). This felt like an adventure tale to me with a narrator filled with some dry wit. I thought this was adventurous, fun, and extremely unusual. I also loved the brief summary of what the chapter would include at the beginning. I definitely recommend this unusual book!
59 reviews3 followers
January 19, 2020
To be completely honest, I did not read through the entire blurb before purchasing this book. I downloaded it to my Kindle, and upon opening it, my little reading machine automatically forwarded me to the preface. So I was actually a few chapters into part one before I realized that this was a retelling of 'Gulliver's Travels'. (It was kind of amusing, really. Of course, I went back once I realized that I had been automatically fast forwarded into the text.)
I feel that retellings have to be done well in order to merit the act of telling a story over again. Particularly classics; if there isn't anything new to add why bother, and at the same time readers and fans of the originals want enough of the core story to be present and characters to be at least somewhat recognizable.
I think that this adaptation was done well.
My favorite bit was Part 3 into Part 4, with the introduction of sorcerers and teleportation through the fabric of time. Science fiction elements being introduced into what is a classic satire/fantasy story is an interesting twist. This too is something that has been done before, but takes a certain amount of cleverness to pull off. I think that in this case it was successfully handled.
Displaying 1 - 7 of 7 reviews

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