If you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you know I don’t tend to “endorse” books very often. I see so many books, both through my work as an editor and through my own personal reading, that it takes something special to be good enough for me to talk about it. But as you might have guessed from the title of this post, today I am going to tell you about one of my favorite books from this year. I’m also going to share a guest post from the author where he tells a bit more about his inspiration for the story.
(Disclaimer: I worked as the developmental editor on this book. This didn’t sway my recommendation, and even though I worked on it, I’ll be buying a copy now that it’s available for sale because I want to have this book to read again.)
I’m predisposed to like a book where people are fighting against long odds to save humanity. The high pressure, ticking clock, and gutsy underdog elements of those types of stories have always drawn me in. The Farthest City has all that, but I also invested immediately in the character of Sheemi. Her grief and her struggle to figure out what kind of person she wanted to be made her real to me.
Dan Swenson also has a beautiful writing voice and an uncanny ability with chapter endings. He ends each chapter in such a way that you can’t bear to not turn to the next chapter. The situations all the characters face are full of devastating choices and discoveries.
It was the kind of science fiction story that felt believable without bogging down in a lot of dry technical information.
And so now, without further delay, I’ll turn this blog over to Dan to tell you more about The Farthest City.
One soldier, Sergeant Sheemi Tanamal, experiencing unbearable loss, possessed by her anger, wants as much revenge as she can get before she dies in battle. An unexpected mission changes everything.
Citizen Kellen Beaudin, is a shy, sensitive artist with a different, but equally troubling past. Kellen’s origin is deeply intertwined with the machines, although he doesn’t understand how or why. He learns who he really is when his machine obsession takes him on an incredible journey.
Neither Kellen or Sheemi will ever be the same.
Sound interesting? I hope so!
I wrote The Farthest City over a four year period, including a critiquing process with folks at Critters.org, and ending with an intensive editing phase (developmental editor: Marcy Kennedy, copy editor: Chris Saylor). The result is, I hope, a compelling story with some thought provoking aspects and characters readers can root for.
I conceived the idea for The Farthest City by using the trusty “what if?” process. I often use that prompt to brainstorm story ideas. In this case, I was mulling over the trope of machines becoming sentient followed by a machine uprising. That theme has been repeated in books and film: I, Robot, the Terminator, the Matrix, and Battlestar Galactica to name a few. In these stories, machines represent our collective nightmare, a fear reinforced by technological and scientific authorities such as Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking.
Put simply, the machines get smart and kill us. Usually. But what if they saved us instead? The setting of The Farthest City is based on this unique premise: humanity destroyed itself in a third world war. Our species was resurrected by intelligent machines who raised a new generation of humans from frozen embryos using artificial wombs. Then the machines (“chines” in the book) depart into space, ceding Earth back to us. When aliens invade threatening a second human extinction, we need the machines’ help once again.
I also explore the concept of what machines might be like if they did become sentient in the future (don’t worry- I don’t think it will happen anytime soon). The challenge was how to make the machines as different and non-human as they would probably be, while still making them relatable as characters that can interact with humans in meaningful ways. Would they merge into a single near-omniscient, soulless entity, or develop as individuals with personalities, goals, and ideals?
I chose the latter concept, and from there, more questions arose. How would they live—in virtual worlds or using interchangeable bodies in the real world? How would they evolve? How would they live differently from biological beings? What would their vehicles and buildings look like? Would they even need buildings? Would they form friendships? Become depressed? All these questions are developed further in the book and lead to some interesting story developments I hope will entertain readers as much as they fascinated me.
Bio: Daniel P. Swenson lives in southern California with his wife, two children and two furry aliens with claws and whiskers. He does most of his writing on the train or in other odd, in-between moments. Comments and questions are welcome. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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