A synopsis might tell you what a book is about but it never tells you of tone, texture, stance, perspective or whether it is any good. I once read the synopsis of I Lucifer by Glen Duncan. The synopsis was good but never did it explain just how entertaining the book was going to be. The Devil gets a second chance by god to redeem himself, however there is a clause in the deal. Lucifer must live for some time in the body of a human being…a sad loser of a human being at that. The book turned out to be funny, profound and clever. It also did the remarkable thing of seeing the world from the devils eyes which was quite something. Best first person book I ever read in all honesty and actually managed to persuade the reader to empathise with Lucifer…But does he not aim to deceive and manipulate?
The synopsis for Version is fair play. It tells you about a man named Ologun and that he is sent to prison for heinous crimes etc etc gets frozen and wakes up many years later. Other characters are mentioned and off we go. Perhaps it sounds like a messed up Buck Rogers or the same old yarn of yesteryear. Maybe in parts it is. What I hope it is not is simple or too easy. I will post the chapter now and then type about it after….
Version chapter one
Edited & published by Karen Perkins http://www.lionheartgalleries.co.uk/
Technical editor John Goodfellow. @yorkbassman. Twitter.
First published in Great Britain in 2014 by
Copyright © Craig Jenkins 2014
This book is copyright under the Berne Convention
No reproduction without permission
All rights reserved.
The right of Craig Jenkins to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead or events is entirely coincidental.
Cover Design by Gareth Hughes @thebatteryhuman twitter
Edited and Formatted by LionheART Publishing House
Forests and acres of farmland stretched for thousands of square miles where barren desert land had once stood. A powerful armoured truck, silver in colour, sped through the heavy downpour as its quad-light system created strong beams to perforate the dark.
The road leading the way had thick irrigation pipes either side which could be mistaken for safety barriers. Regardless of climate change they continued to pump water down from the Mediterranean Sea, through distillation centres and into the Murton Dam complex.
A sudden fork in the road caused the truck to career to the right, sliding in deep pools of water as it went. It continued up its new path along an increasing gradient until the forest canopy either side receded where the enormous face of the dam wall came into view. The vehicle sped on.
Gavin gripped the steering controls and pushed harder as the storm gathered force. Fork lightning lit the sky as a gale picked up and thrashed the vehicle.
The truck slid around precariously as it tore along the narrow road spiralling around the circumference of the dam’s outer wall. The passage was steep and awash with flowing water across its surface where branches and all manner of debris impeded the vehicle’s progress. There was no time to slow for this. Reckless driving in such conditions increased the chance of sliding into the forest canopy below. No mistakes. The fear and tension built within him as he approached the top of the artificial channel that rose a thousand metres above the parklands below.
He peered through the continuous flow of water which obscured his vision as it flowed thickly down the windscreen. Wipers vacuuming away water struggled with the workload, making it hard for him to see the reservoir on the other side of security barriers as he approached the summit.
The vehicle entered the visitors’ parking area and slid to a halt in a shallow layer of pooled water on the smooth concrete surface. It was fortunate that he knew the area well from his days in retirement wandering this marvel of engineering. He used to bring his only son, Ologun, on weekend fishing trips here; today he’d be faced with the boy’s stupidity and penchant for misadventure.
The man checked his watch to confirm how long the journey had taken. Ologun’s friend had called twenty minutes ago, and under normal circumstances and with any other person in such trouble it would be too late. All he needed to do was find his son, then let him do his thing. His main fear was that he wouldn’t be able to find his body and there was no way he could risk calling for help.
He had just retired from his commission as Admiral from the Ishima Misceri Corporation and could still summon a fleet of aircraft from Cairo’s IMC station outpost to scour the reservoir’s deep waters; ready to carry out the rescue with total efficiency. Can’t get them involved!
The com box on the vehicle’s dashboard blinked: ‘Gavin, are you there? Mr Jowett, it’s the Sahara Park Authorities. Come in, over.’
Gavin ignored the comms and reached into the back seat of his transport to grab a long cylindrical object. He removed its casing to reveal a telescope with thermal-imaging assisted motion detectors. Exiting the vehicle he fought the weather to peer through the scope and saw the digitally enhanced version of the reservoir. His vision was immediately drawn towards the flickering motion of large fish which lit up in a red-orange colour beneath the navy representation of the water. The digiscope displayed readings of all solid objects by measuring and identifying them. Driftwood, fish and large clumps of vegetation flashed up on the screen’s recognition grid. Shit! He’d spotted three crocodiles swimming near the dam’s anterior wall. He lowered the device for a moment in order to take a deep breath and surveyed the expanse of water presented before him. He felt his body slouch a little and became overwhelmed by the magnitude of the place. It had never occurred to him on previous visits that he would stand at this very same place and in such different circumstances which would seem utterly nightmarish and no longer a sight-seeker’s dream attraction.
He banished the moment and continued to scour the area. If Ologun had drowned, his body would have been caught by one of the outlet filter channels which acted as overflow conduits to the dam’s external face. At least they would stop his journey, ending it before the thousand-foot drop to the main river below. He continued the search by following the dam wall the full length around and underneath the water’s surface. His fingers quickly pressed the small selection of buttons on the digiscope, fluent in operating its components. Still nothing: most shapes revealed under the water remained that of plant life or the odd dead carcass of some poor animal swept here from the network of reservoirs located further north. The crocodiles had no doubt come here to hunt for the rotting flesh and would soon find Ologun.
Gavin’s grip tightened on the scope as it centred on the shape of a human body. He activated a function on the apparatus which scanned for height and weight. As feared, Ologun had become trapped in one of the dam’s filter outlet portals twelve feet under the forceful torrent. That’s definitely him! Gavin rushed to the boot of his vehicle for a rope before he ran blindly through the rain across the circumference of the dam wall. The path across the top of the dam was flat and wide with partition walls for safety either side. A layer of water, ankle deep, covered the path and was unable to drain away properly in the tempest. He breathed heavily, gasping as this temporary stream slowed his efforts. He knew he was physically fit but this storm seemed focused and unusual.
Eight hundred yards later, Gavin finally reached the juncture where he had seen Ologun. He fumbled with drenched fingers and tied the rope to a nearby safety railing and then to himself. He took many deep breaths before leaning backwards, believing this to be his last few moments in the world of the living. He had to retrieve his son’s body at any cost; even his own life was a fair price to pay. Just get on with it!
The inside face of the dam was slippery underfoot as he made his descent down thick algae which hung in a furry formation all the way to the water’s surface. The mist from moving water mixed with heavy rain left Gavin feeling smothered. His son lay directly below him deep under the dark water, stuck within a tremendous level of suction inside the filter tunnel.
He plunged down into the torrent, immediately feeling his body tiring. He wasn’t sure he could withstand the reservoir’s deadly might. To hell with it! Gavin took what he considered to be his last deep breath and vanished under the surface.
This is the first of three prologues which were all written early on in the process. In hind sight I may have done it differently now for compared to later material or even later chapters, to me it seems quite standard, but you have to start somewhere. This still has all the elements hinted at throughout this Universe. Sahara Rain forests? You only have to look at Israel and their irrigation programmes to see that the next steps for sustainability is through fantastical engineering. But that’s just tech and background noise. There were times in the novel and here in this first chapter where I jut didn’t want to tell the reader anything about the characters and very much on purpose. I discussed this several times with the editor Karen Perkins regarding this aspect and in the end I let some things in (note that as the author you know everything about your characters but do not necessarily haver to blast it across the page in one go!) So with the Gavin Jowett background check shunted in there and later on with the chapter Son of Blame, there are moments where I wonder retrospectively whether or not I should have been more sparing with background info. Maybe for some it is not enough, for others too much of the same old blah. Either way some of us could re-write forever and never let it go and there comes a time when you simply have to…
For those who sit down and wonder where they might begin, just try to remember this. If you dreamt the whole story or some of the story then you can begin. If you’re like me and just listen to the right music then you will have played the film trailer over and over in your head long before you touched the keypad.There are a number of ways to start.
1. You could start with dialogue. Dialogue is notoriously difficult and needs time to master…I have to say that even I have a long way to go even now. The main reasons for this is that it is only natural to get bogged down in exposition. People are always talking about the where’s and the why’s and the how’s and it becomes evident that we might have forgotten to add the chit chat…But many authors are good at this and I give them thorough kudos as a skill due the fact that too many of us are driving for that next scene to describe and more actions to begin. Of course I am referring to action genre specific…Other genres are all about the dialogue which is why I probably need to read a Jane Austin Novel or something perhaps.
2. Action. This doesn’t mean blowing things up or shooting anyone in the first minute of the book. But momentum and shorter sentences that describe movement and the goings on in the scene. This is where in chronological order you can throw information down on the run. ‘He ran down the corridor of the train, reached into the inside pocket of his jacket and grimaced at the pain in his shoulder caused by an old injury’
I just made that up, but even I’m wondering why he is running and where he got the injury. Basically you can hint at things on the run but decide where this prelude to other back stories is going to be dropped because in a pace driven piece you don’t want to be telling someone that the shoulder injury was caused when the man fell down the toilet after a drunken night out because he got that new job in sales and marketing… Omit, save and wait for a better time that has a better context of setting that does not slow down the proceedings in the pace driven now.
3. The general setting. In Iain Banks novels or lets say Use of Weapons the opening chapter begins with two men in a castle type building keeping an eye on the events of a war zone taking place over the horizon. As the scene unfolds the two men say hardly anything to each other and the main character observes his surroundings in detail. The other man is in a drunken state anyway so there is no need for much to be said. To some the scene would be interesting and to others maybe a bit perplexing for there doesn’t appear to be any reason for this kind of opening perhaps. Along this short passage however we do get a glimpse into the thinking world of the lead protagonist who is obviously a soldier of some kind that appears to be quite pragmatic about his predicament. What is important is that the scene is set with the sights and smells, the decorations on the wall, the furniture and what the man thinks about it all in passing.
In the second chapter of Version Launch we get a similar thing. A person who in fact you never see again in the book is considering and thinking about a special mission to launch space craft from around the moons orbit. She is just a cog in the machine of things to come, an individual who is unknowingly complicit in the reasons for certain things happening in the future. It was noted that due to this story line taking place many years before the first chapter and coming in as second chapter was odd. But choices are made and there had to be an example of some action versus a more deep and quiet part of the story that sets up the rest of the book. Having said all this, I wrote the thing from scratch three times. This might not show and I might expect someone to review and say ‘he should have done it a forth of fifth’ Got there first, sorry. In fact when I read it now I could still re-write whole chapters because as people we change and by the sequel my idea of what is good structure and writing has changed. One of the most difficult thing to do is find tone and texture in writing…its what makes the difference between something readable and something readers might find utter rubbish. Similes and metaphors are toned down and many things are played straight and dark. The characters on the other hand are a bit more light hearted much of the way. They are meant to be human after all and who doesn’t take the piss or act a bit crazy when the chips are down..
What I did aim for with Murton Dam is momentum and mystery. Let his son do his thing? What the hell does that mean? Or does anyone care at this point. There were times when I considered dropping all three first chapters for they are very different and has to be said are worlds apart in terms of time and location in the narrative. The three do remain out of four prologues in fact (one was deleted and remains in the file of an old laptop) as in fact they all make sense later on down the line whereby the puzzle that is Version comes together. It was also noted that for one or two readers there were more penny’s dropping by the second read, while for others they just liked a bit of technology, guns & action. So in this first chapter you get a glimpse of some of the technology and realise that it is just the same but with bits added. Indeed the hardware in Version is not so fantastical and contrived on totally plausible technology based on today’s developments in order to, lets just say ground things and keep it away from phasers or laser swords..This is not a galaxy far far away…but something in this book might be…
As a blog writer I tend to bounce about a bit in order not to write a million words of in-depth madness. If you have any questions or comments regarding this then by all means you are welcome. Just remember you don’t even have to be nice about things either!