Wednesday, May 5, 2021

"The Godel Operation"

James Cambias has been nominated for the James Tiptree Jr. Award and the 2001 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Godel Operation, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Godel Operation comes just at the end of Chapter 5, in the middle of two conversations happening in parallel aboard a space station orbiting beyond Jupiter. In one dialog a young man named Zee is flirting with a young woman named Adya. While the two humans are talking they're being spied upon by Daslakh, the smart-alec robot narrator of the novel, and a killer whale cyborg spaceship named Pelagia. Daslakh is Zee's best friend, while Pelagia feels very protective of Adya. The two machines are analyzing the conversation of the humans and sniping at each other over a private channel. Meanwhile the vast artificial intellect called Summanus, which runs the station, is spying on them — or at least Daslakh assumes it is, and is paranoid about saying anything which might reveal secrets to Summanus.

A reader opening to Page 69 would see some aspects of The Godel Operation — there's intrigue, romantic comedy, and a complex setting full of different sorts of minds. The relationship between Adya and Zee is a major plot element, so the reader gets a good look at that.

However I do think Page 69 misses some of the novel's strengths. It doesn't really hint at the main plot of the story, which is the search for a mythical superweapon called the Godel Trigger. It doesn't give a good sense of the variety of weird settings the characters visit as they journey from Uranus to Jupiter and finally to Mars.

There's a lot of exciting action in The Godel Operation — falling out of spaceships, a heist, exploring an abandoned complex full of traps — and this section falls between those. A reader might conclude it's like a futuristic Jane Austen novel, whereas I was aiming for a mix of P.G. Wodehouse, Olaf Stapledon, and Iain M. Banks. The book also includes four flashbacks to older incidents involving the Godel Trigger, thousands of years earlier in the history of the Solar System. Each of those has a different tone, and of course this page doesn't show any of that.

Overall I think a reader opening to Page 69 of The Godel Operation would see that it's a fun, lighthearted book, but would miss all the parts I really sweated over. I hope that page would be enough to keep that reader going through the end of the chapter, and the start of Chapter 6 will really grab hold.
Visit James L. Cambias's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Godel Operation.

Q&A with James L. Cambias.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

"The Summer of Lost and Found"

Mary Alice Monroe is the New York Times bestselling author of 27 books, including her new novel, The Summer of Lost and Found.

More than 7.5 million copies of her books have been published worldwide, and she’s earned numerous accolades and awards, including induction into the South Carolina Academy of Authors’ Hall of Fame.

Monroe applied the Page 69 Test to The Summer of Lost and Found, and reported the following:
On page 69 the 6-year-old girl, Hope, discovers a paper airplane in a notch in a back yard tree. It was sent to her --along with a small tin box filled with candy. She is mesmerized by the mysterious man in the carriage house who is quarantined and cannot come out. Unfolding the airplane, she finds a poem by A.A. Milne and hands it to her aunt Linnea to read it to her.

I’m amazed; this is a scene that points to a major theme and symbol in the novel. Though it doesn’t give a sense of the major characters in the novel, I’d say the test works.

The novel takes place in the summer of 2020, a time when we all were sheltering in place. Through the ups and downs of the turbulent year of the pandemic, we discovered the amazing wonders in our own back yard. This scene reveals this as a child discovers the wonder of a surprise hidden in a tree, à la Boo Radley. The paper airplanes are also a major symbol in the novel pointing to serendipity and the whims of fate and are at the head of every chapter. The paper airplanes are also the way the two lovers first communicate during shutdown. I don’t know if the reader would have caught all that from one page, but definitely all the major pointers were on page 69! There was even a line at the top bringing up an older character’s struggle with Alzheimer's! That’s a lot of information on one single page!
Visit Mary Alice Monroe's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 2, 2021

"Girl, 11"

Amy Suiter Clarke is a writer and communications specialist. Originally from a small town in Minnesota, she completed an undergraduate in theater in the Twin Cities. She then moved to London and earned an MFA in Creative Writing with Publishing at Kingston University. She currently works for a university library in Melbourne, Australia.

Clarke applied the Page 69 Test to Girl, 11, her debut novel, and reported the following:
Girl, 11 is a story told through a mix of prose and podcast transcripts. Page 69 is partway through a podcast transcript where the main character, Elle, is interviewing the mother of a victim in the serial killer cold case she’s investigating. While it might be confusing to readers to get dropped in halfway through a transcript, I think it gives a great flavor of the novel and offers enough context that the reader could understand what the scene is about.

Here’s an excerpt:
All he did for weeks after was ask for his sister. For the first month or so, I couldn’t stop worrying about how upset he was, how devastated that she wasn’t coming home. Then, when he finally accepted it, I became terrified he would forget her entirely. Somehow, that broke my heart just as much. I had to make sure he remembered his sister, how much she loved him. So yes, we talked about her. We made sure he knew she didn’t leave him on purpose.

ELLE:

You took care of your son, even when no one could have blamed you for falling apart about your daughter.

BONNIE:

Of course. We couldn’t stop being parents.

ELLE:

I can’t imagine the decision to speak to me was an easy one. I want you to know I’m really grateful for it. You’re the first parent who’s talked to me about their child, and even though I completely understand why no one else was able to, it’s invaluable to hear from you.
While I do love this part of the novel, and this interview in particular, I think page 69 probably isn’t the absolute best place for a browser to drop in. However, I also don’t think it’s half bad! From this, you get an idea of Elle and her interview style, you understand she’s investigating crimes against children, and you know that part of the book is told in transcript form.

One thing this page lacks is mention of the Countdown Killer, who’s the primary antagonist of the novel and the focus of Elle’s current investigation. Girl, 11 is about Elle’s obsessive chase after this notorious serial killer, whose victims were each a year younger than the last, before he abruptly stopped with an eleven-year-old victim. When she begins to publish episodes covering his case, a listener tries to tip her off about his identity, only to wind up dead before he can convey the message. Within days, a new girl is kidnapped, leading Elle to fear she has brought the killer out of hiding.

All in all, I think the page 69 test isn’t a perfect fit for my book, but it could inspire some readers to pick up their copy of Girl, 11.
Visit Amy Suiter Clarke's website.

--Marshal Zeringue