I was a couple of chapters in when I laughed, and then wondered if I should. It immediately reminded me of my first exposure to the film Pulp Fiction; that first inadvertent burst of laughter when John Travolta’s gun accidentally fired in the car. I was aghast at myself. Was I supposed to laugh? The scene was so over the top. So too is this novel. What is its classification: comedy horror or horror comedy, or something else? Is it supposed to be a serious novel? I finished reading without deciding.
It’s set in the modern day and everything is familiar: the world, the way ordinary people live their lives and earn their living, the traumas we face. Even the incessant killing is a reflection of our gone-mad society. But there the similarities end.
From the cover, when I bought the book, I thought it was a sci-fi story. From the title, RENAISSANCE 2.0, I thought it was a nod to the 14th—16th century European Renaissance and the author was creating a second, 21st century, perhaps global, renaissance. And although I didn’t see any evidence of one in this book it no doubt becomes apparent in subsequent books in the series.
There is a definite sci-fi element with technologies that shatter life being created in back rooms and just as quickly being disposed of by mysterious forces; there’s a beserk drug culture; in fact it’s sheer mayhem from start to finish. Multiple characters make brief appearances never to return and it’s only well into the story that I realised there is a recurring character who, by the end, is identified as the protagonist who will be taking the series forward. He’s a detective with a wife who is becoming a man, which is forcing him into thinking he should become a woman. Yes, you read that right!
The author takes you deep into the psyches of his characters. There’s plenty of esoterica as he delves into psychology and philosophy. If you’re not interested in that you can skim without losing the plot.
I have no idea how the author will sustain this level of tortuous inventiveness over a series. As five volumes have already been published I don’t have to wait to find out.
This is an exceptional read. I was gobsmacked from very early on and didn’t pick my chin up until I’d finished reading.
It’s very different. Read it and see what you think.
SKY CITY is a coming-of-age story about 16 year old Arturo Basilides, a street-smart orphan with a sassy mouth and engaging personality living at the bottom level of society in a savagely-ruled post-apocalyptic world that has a lot of similarities to Earth. The story is told in first person point of view by Arturo, who lives with his sister and friends he considers to be family in a disused warehouse on the outer fringes of society in a post-apocalyptic world. It’s an unqualified attention-grabber!
By the book’s end it’s obvious Arturo’s been a pretty gutsy kid from the moment he entered the world. Set against a background of controlling overlords, gangsterish rebels and the uncaring upper-crust of society Arturo must find a way to keep his family safe while coming to terms with the important role he seems destined to play in the rebel movement. There is the added complication of his overwhelming but probably unrequited love for one of his inner circle.
I wonder if the author is planning more for Arturo, given there were several questions left unresolved. Or perhaps he has deliberately left some things for the reader to surmise.
I enjoyed this book immensely. The story and characters are nicely developed. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions, which are sharp to the point of drawing blood. And let’s not forget the completely natural dialogue—a talent beyond many authors but one that RD Hale has nailed.
Hale is an author to watch. He has a crystalline quality to his storytelling, the descriptions are sharp and the characterisation is subtle yet powerful.
It’s not often I read a book that requires my absolute undivided attention. This is one of them. The author’s voice is compelling, and exactly right for the telling of this cyberpunk saga.
SKY CITY: THE RISE OF AN ORPHAN. RD Hale’s debut novel. I’ve just finished reading this 492 page epic. Lots of labels have been attached to it by others: cyberpunk, biopunk, dystopian, sci-fi, manga, young adult, as well as a touch of fantasy. I agree with all of them, but add another one: coming of age.
There’s not much you can find out about RD on the internet, perhaps because he’s a private kind of person and likes to keep to himself, or perhaps he prefers to let his writing and characters talk for him. Whatever the reason, I aim to tease something from him today to make the day for his growing number of fans.
Alana: G’day RD, am I allowed to know what the R in RD stands for, or do you use the initials to maintain a certain mystique?
RD: The initials help to maintain a mystique and create the impression I’m smarter than I actually am! However, my friends call me Ricky (among other things!)
Alana: How about I help maintain the mystique and stick with RD then. Your bio says little is known about you other than tidbits, rumours and hearsay. I’m going to do my best to squeeze a bit of detail from you today because, let’s face it, you’ve got a lot of fans out there in book land. I think they’d like an inside peek. Your bio says you’re married and have one young child. I take it that’s fact, yes? As to your age, I’m hazarding a guess that you’re still wrinkle-free.
RD: I’m rapidly starting to accumulate grey hairs thanks in no part to my son, but I’m doing pretty well on the wrinkle side. However, I’m sure my second child will help contribute towards those when he/she arrives.
Alana: Oh, does that mean another baby is on the way? Are congratulations in order?
RD: The second boy is due in early April and already I am having sleepless nights!
Alana: There’s nothing like a new baby! You’ll look back on it as totally worth it. As you’re going for a second I guess you already know that though. Where in the UK do you call home?
RD: A lively place called Newcastle upon Tyne where beer is known as ‘breakfast’ and religion is called ‘football’.
Newcastle upon Tyne pics: Angel of the North, fireworks over the city, Tynemouth Priory.
Alana: Sounds like a tough place! Is it where you want to be, or is there somewhere you’d rather be if money were no object? Does the grittiness of SKY CITY stem from there or do I have completely the wrong impression of your home town?
RD: Medio city is a (greatly exaggerated) representation of the council estate where I grew up. Sky City represents the sights and sounds that were out of reach to a jobless, disenfranchised youth.
My home town has its qualities, but unemployment has been a problem for many. And then there is the perma-grey sky which only adds to the misery! I understand your part of the world is lit by a golden disc called “the sun”. We’ve never seen it!
Alana: Yes, we’re blessed here in Australia. It’s the best place on the planet. I was born in the UK but wouldn’t live anywhere else but here.
RD: Maybe one day we’ll get to move somewhere warm and cheerful like Australia.
Alana: You’d be very welcome. Let’s talk about your writing. It sounds as though the genre you write in is the one that’s always appealed to you. Is that right, and why?
RD: I’ve always liked sci-fi for many reasons, not least because once interstellar travel is invented I plan to become a space pirate! I spent my childhood preparing for this role by playing videogames, and now I fill the waiting time by writing books!
Sci-fi is a great tool for self-expression because you have more creative freedom than in other genres. The aspect that most appeals is the world building. With SKY CITY I wanted to create a microcosm of the world in which we live, where the problems are amplified so we can take a closer look at poverty, inequality and indoctrination. My aim was to give a voice to the voiceless and to challenge pre-conceived ideas.
Alana: I’d say you’ve well and truly succeeded in that. And Arturo Basilides, SKY CITY’s young hero you’ve built that world around; what brought about his creation? He’s an immensely charismatic character.
RD: He’s a combination of many factors; he has some of my traits but I was conscious about making him fit into his awful world. He had to be highly intelligent and physically adept for the rebellion to take an interest in him, but he also had to be reckless. He could not have emerged from his childhood untainted so he is a very flawed protagonist. I wanted to get away from the heroic stereotype and create a character who was complex and unpredictable.
Alana: You originally published the book as a series of six smaller books but have now removed them from sale. What’s the thinking behind that?
RD: The book was originally serialised on Wattpad and I wanted readers to experience the instalments as they were initially intended, but their removal from Amazon was ultimately a commercial decision. It was confusing my readership as Amazon kept listing the complete edition as part of the series. I didn’t want people to mistakenly purchase twice in the belief they were buying the latest instalment. Plus the complete edition has a reasonable price so there’s no need to break it up.
Alana: I commented in my review of SKY CITY that there are several aspects of the story that were unfinished. I speculated that more is to come of Arturo. Am I right? And if so, do you have a release date in mind? Perhaps you might also like to whet our appetite for where you will be taking Arturo and his mates in it.
RD: I have a couple of spin-offs in the works starring other characters which are available on Wattpad. Both are in their early stages so everything, including the titles may change.
The Formation of the Rebellion stars Leo Jardine and is a prequel explaining how the rebellion came to be. It’s intended to be hard sci-fi—darker and more complex than The Rise of an Orphan with a similar feel to Gibson’s Neuromancer.
The Sister of a Rebel Soldier stars Emmi Basilides and continues on from events at the end of The Rise of an Orphan. It’s intended to be a more accessible addition to the series. The rebellion really gets under way in this one and you’ll discover what the more interesting characters are capable of.
Alana: And Arturo?
RD: I haven’t started the next part of Arturo’s story just yet, but it’s definitely coming. I’ll likely serialise it on Wattpad and then release six instalments as one book on Amazon as I did with The Rise of an Orphan. I expect Arturo’s saga will become a trilogy at the very least.
Alana: What about after SKY CITY is completed, do you have any other stories in mind and are they in the same genre?
RD: I would love to write in another genre, maybe fantasy but I can’t see myself doing this for a long time!
Alana: RD, thank you so much for talking with me today. It’s been a real pleasure getting to know the writer behind the book.
Some time ago I read Nougat’s short story compilation Death on Facebook, Short Stories for the Digital Age and was impressed with the range of stories and the skill with which they were presented. One that caught my imagination was I will not leave you behind, the futuristic story of a 122 year old woman who is part of an elite program that keeps you young until you die. In GATEWAY TO FOREVER Nougat has taken that short story and woven its premise into a four-part series of short novels I enjoyed reading very much.
The over-arching theme is the approaching doom of Earth from climate change. The story is set 200 years into the future and what becomes apparent very quickly is that humankind never learned the lessons of what it would take to save the planet. Everyone, including big business, is still only concerned with the present and what they can get out of it for themselves. People are still divided into the have’s and have not’s, only now the have’s—called the OnePercenters—can afford to have old-age and illness permanently eliminated right up until death, whereas the have not’s—the 99PerCenters—continue to struggle as we struggle in this day and age.
The story and struggle is told through three characters who all aspire to be a OnePercenter, highlighting the fact that even in Earth’s extremis we’re still only concerned with what advantages we can garner for ourselves.
You can come away from reading this series feeling a great despair for where we’re heading. The alternatives that the author presents, that of leaving Earth to inhabit a new planet and starting again, or remaining and hoping Earth regenerates itself, are stark contrasts.
A thought-provoking, confronting read.
A point worth mentioning is that the cover art is one of Nougat’s own works. If you click on the link below to my interview with the author you will see more of her paintings.