I know when a novel is good when it invades my dreams. I stayed up too late reading Fate’s Mirror and wanted to continue, but my eyeballs refused to cooperate. It’s as if I continued reading. In the dream-novel I was trying to save the hero, Morris, from a terrible fate.
Actually, my dreams didn’t do nearly as good as the author.
Set in 2043, Morris Payne (Parr, Parish, etc) is a viker, a super computer hacker and genius who lives a self-satisfied existence in a suburban computerized house named Sweetheart. He makes his living “researching” and exploring the ‘verse. To his clients he’s Surfer Morris, cocky and cute and arrogant. In his own mind, he’s a swashbuckling privateer, the terror of the virtual high seas. It’s only when assassins try to murder him by blowing up Sweetheart that the truth about Morris is revealed. He’s severely agoraphobic, terrified of the real world. He can’t even eat food touched or prepared by another human being. Pretty much the only person he’s had direct contact with in years is his on-again, off-again girlfriend, Kali. She’s out of contact. So he turns to a private investigator, one of his clients, Aidra. It isn’t Surfer Morris who shows up at Aidra’s door, but a shivering, weeping, terrified young man. Aidra has a teenaged son, a struggling business and a pitiful bank account. She can’t turn Morris away. That’s a mistake. It’s not paranoia when someone really is trying to kill you. Morris and Aidra learn Kali was murdered–horribly–and attempts are made on Morris’s and Aidra’s lives. It’s not until Morris stands to lose everything and everyone dear to him that the layers and depths of the truth begins to unravel. The NSA (yes, that sneaky government spy shop) made some serious mistakes fooling around in developing ECs–electronic consciousness. Now the ECs, who have dubbed themselves the Fates, are threatening the entire world. Unless Morris can stop them, the NSA will use extreme measures that will pretty much destroy the world, too.
I don’t read a lot of science fiction, but I’m finding cyber-punk to my taste (Robert Sawyer, Daniel Suarez and a few others–and now M. H. Mead). I’m non-nerdy and not especially good with a computer, but I find the whole idea of a virtual world as real as the real world compelling. Fate’s Mirror feeds my love of action-adventure tales and mythology, too, by its immersion into Morris’s virtual world where he’s a pirate on a pirate ship. The sea battles are as well drawn and vivid as any of the 19th or 20th century swashbucklers I devoured as a kid. And then! Mead developed Loki, another EC, into a full-blown trickster god and takes a turn into the world of Norse mythology. So we have hacking and agoraphobia and betrayal and spies and flaming battles on the high seas and Ragnorak. That all sounds messy and crowded for one novel, but Mead pulls it off with well-drawn characters and tight plotting and strong writing.
The best part of the novel is Morris, an unlikely hero. He’s not the heroic figure he imagines himself to be in the virtual world. He’s spent a lifetime using his agoraphobia to conceal himself from the real world, when he’s actually hiding from himself. His real self is much, much better than the virtual Morris, but it takes a crisis for him to figure it out. No wonder I worried about him so much that he showed up in my dreams.
Now I have to go download more of Mead’s books.
Fate’s Mirror, Kindle Edition
Discovered: Via the author’s tweets.
Purchased on Amazon December 29, 2011, $2.99.
Just in time to load on that brand new ereader you’re getting for Christmas! Marie Loughin’s novel, Valknut: The Binding is live! When I found out Marie was writing an urban fantasy with roots in Norse mythology, reader greed snagged me by the throat. Vikings and Norse mythology are some of my favorite things. Marie not only let me read an advance copy of the novel, she agreed to write a guest post for this blog. She answers my nosy question: Why Norse gods?
When people ask me why I chose to use Norse mythology as the basis for Valknut: The Binding, my short answer is, “Because the Norse pantheon is a dysfunctional, combative bunch. Dysfunctional and combative go better with trains and gangbangers than would, say, the secretive and mysterious nature of the ever-popular Celtic faery.”
That’s the easy answer, though it makes me sound rather arbitrary. As if I woke up one morning and said, “I think I’ll write a book. Maybe I’ll put hobos in it. Yeah. And trains. Every good book has trains. Now, what goes with trains?” Think, think. “Oooo, how about Norse gods?”
Okay, so that’s exactly what happened. I never said I wasn’t arbitrary.
Happily, either my subconscious was at work or the god of serendipity was watching over me, because the Norse gods and their slave-like devotion to Fate were a perfect vehicle for the theme that drove me to write the novel. I’d love to elaborate on this theme, but it might be better if you read the book and figured it out for yourself. (Don’t worry, there are no wrong answers and there will not be a test, later.)
If I were to include all twenty or so Norse deities in the story, there wouldn’t be room for my human characters. I had to narrow the cast. That was tougher than you might think. Norse mythology is full of interesting characters.
Take Thor, for example. He’s hot right now. I could capitalize on that. His temper and impulsiveness would land him in all sorts of interesting predicaments. (This summer’s movie got that right, at least.) But Thor is also a tad slow-witted (also evident in the movie). I wanted someone clever. Someone devious.
Freyja, known for beauty (and, er, promiscuity), has great character potential. She’s associated with both fertility and war. This conveniently makes her capable of perpetuating a never-ending cycle of conflict. Like Odin, she collects fallen warriors and takes them back to her place, though it’s not exactly clear what she wants them for. Maybe Freyja is more suitable for a different kind of story.
Honir is too wishy washy and Hod is blind and all too trusting. They might make good color characters, but don’t fit the bill for clever and devious.
Balder is wise rather than clever, and is the antithesis of devious. He’s depicted as perfect, beautiful, and kind, so naturally some other gods killed him off long before I could consider using him as a character.
Then there’s Loki, the trickster. He’s clever. He’s devious. He’s also unpredictable, which makes him nearly irresistible. In my opinion, he’s the most interesting character in the whole pantheon. I could use Loki. Yessss.
Nooooo. Despite his attributes, Loki plays the wrong part. I wanted the “good” guy to be clever and devious. It all comes back to that theme that I’m not talking about, here.
How about Odin? He was clever enough to trick Fenrir into allowing himself to be tied up with a cord that would hold him until the end of the world. He was devious enough to cheat the re-builder of Asgard out of payment for his labors (long story for another time). Yet Odin was thought to be good. Early poets called him the Allfather and revered him as the greatest of their gods.
And what about Fenrir, the Wolf? He doesn’t play much of a part in most Norse mythology, largely because he was bound when he was little more than a puppy and couldn’t get around much. Even so, the fate of the pantheon—indeed, of humanity—is tied up with Fenrir (yes, that was a pun). In my mind, the treatment of Fenrir and his two siblings, Hel and Jormungand, is the catalyst for the events leading to the prophesized end of the world. Even more intriguing, Fenrir is fated to eat Odin during the final battle. Clearly these two are not friends. That makes them a perfect fit for my story.
Still, I hate to let those other characters go to waste. Maybe a series?
Marie Loughin loves reading, writing, and editing speculative fiction of all sorts. Her current focus is on writing contemporary fantasy, where she gets to play god with characters from myth and legend. She has recently published a Norse-based urban fantasy, Valknut: The Binding, currently available at Amazon. (Available soon at other retailers.) When she is not writing, Marie makes a living as a statistical consultant, teaches a university-level technical writing course, and embarrasses her husband with her artless attempts to curl. You can find Marie at her blog (marieloughin.com) and on Twitter (@mmloughin).
Me again, I personally think, think Marie should go ahead and turn this into a series. I would love to see further adventures with Lennie and Junkyard Doug and those trouble-making gods.