Wednesday, July 15, 2020

"Scarlet Odyssey"

Debut author C. T. Rwizi was born in Zimbabwe, grew up in Swaziland, finished high school in Costa Rica, and got a BA in government at Dartmouth College in the United States. He currently lives in South Africa with his family, and enjoys playing video games, taking long runs, and spending way too much time lurking on Reddit. He is a self-professed lover of synthwave.

Rwizi applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Scarlet Odyssey, and reported the following: 
If you go to page 69 of Scarlet Odyssey, this is what you’ll find:
… most important member of the chief’s council of advisors. He is also quite intimidating, if only because he’s always frowning at something. The taller, darker man with him is Aba Akuri, his equally standoffish husband and lieutenant, and the third ranger is a young man Salo knows as Jaliso.

“An Umadi witch flew right past our defenses,” Aba D says. “Those creatures are her work.” He searches the surrounding forests with his coldly determined gaze. “We’ll handle her, though. You should get to shelter. Now.”

“Is she alone?” Salo asks. “Are there others?”

Aba D brushes past him without answering. “Get that child to safety, Salo. Don’t make me ask you again.”

“My name’s Monti,” Monti says a little petulantly. Aba D isn’t listening, though. He and his men are back to searching for something in the woods around them.

“She’s here somewhere,” he says. “I can feel it.”

Instead of running the rest of the way to the chief’s compound, Salo and Monti watch with morbid curiosity as the three rangers fan out into the woods, treading softly on their feet like skulking predators. They all stand rigid when the swarm of flies reappears above, moving through the air like no flies Salo has ever seen, like they’re of one mind. They hover in place for a wavering moment before they swirl into a funnel and swoop downward.

“Watch out!” Salo cries, but Jaliso doesn’t turn around in time to raise his shield. The swarm slams into his side with surprising force, knocking him back several yards. He hits the trunk of a tree with a crack so sickening Salo doubts he’ll ever get up again.

While Aba Akuri rushes to check on the fallen ranger, Aba D starts shouting at Salo and Monti to run, which they promptly do, but the swarm veers in their direction and drops right in front of them, reconstituting itself into a woman.
I think the test is moderately successful in giving readers a taste of the greater work. You won’t get a good sense of the entire plot or the themes addressed elsewhere, but the tone and writing style in this excerpt are representative of the rest of the book. We also get a glimpse into the nature of the magic that inhabits this world.

Interestingly, the page touches on one of the key conflicts the main character, Salo, must face in the book. It’s clear that some kind of attack on his settlement is underway, but he’s not being told to join in the defense, as would normally be expected for the chief’s first-born son, who by rights should be a ranger like the three other men we see on the page.

Instead, he’s being told to run to shelter with the child. This is an example of how he is often dismissed by his society—by his own uncle, in this case—for his failures to measure up to their expectations of what a young man in his position should be.

Being constantly subjected to such scorn means that Salo has internalized it to the point where he believes himself worthy of it, where his feelings of inadequacy have matured into a defeatist self-image he cannot escape. Unfortunately for him, things are about to get worse, a lot worse, and readers who go beyond this page will get to witness the fallout a little later in that same chapter.
Learn more about Scarlet Odyssey, and follow C. T. Rwizi on Twitter.

My Book, The Movie: Scarlet Odyssey.

Q&A with C. T. Rwizi.

--Marshal Zeringue