Here’s the cover for the second book in my dystopian trilogy. The Children of Liberty picks up in the dystopian world of the Temple, right where The Liars leaves off.
I’m discovering that creating a world is much like creating a character. You start with parameters. As the story progresses, the world takes on a life of its own and “tells” the writer other parts. A character might suddenly say something about his/her past to another character, that you didn’t know before. . .in world building, a character suddenly says something about the world that you never knew before.
Example: In book two, Neri’s struggling with grief and rage. She considers how Reyism handles these things and tada. . .a ceremony I never knew of before! There it is, and of course that’s what they do. 7 billion people died of a plague created, basically through hate. Braedon Rey would naturally create a forgiveness ceremony to help people cope.
This is one of the best parts of writing.
First–Giveaway. On goodreads. I’m very late getting this up, and the giveaway is only going on for a few more hours. And if you’re late to the party, because I’m really late on the invitation, I will be doing one more in November. I promise I will post the details on my blog and facebook pages a week in advance this time!
And now on to my post.
So, for people who don’t know, I first started The Post Plague Trilogy after reading (and watching) The Hunger Games series so many times I could quote it. I really love that series, but you can only read something so many times before you have to try something new. Next up was Divergent, and then The Giver and finally The Maze Runner series. I was well into writing The Liars, book one in The PostPlague Trilogy, when I read the last two.
Still, I wasn’t quite sure what genre I was writing. I called it post apocalyptic for a long time, but it didn’t really seem right. I mean, yeah, there was an apocalypse–the plagues that take out the world, also known to the characters as The Plague Wars–but the book starts almost 300 years after that. It didn’t fit. Especially since I’d read books and watched shows that really do feel post apocalyptic–The Postman, Waterworld, Mad Max, The Omega Man (yes, I’m dating myself there) The Day of the Triffids and a lot more. So I looked at various categories for my most recent reads and discovered that what I’d really been reading was dystopian fiction.
Cool! In that dystopian is a really cool word. Since I was writing similarly to those other books, I stuck that description on my book and started to lump all the other books that inspired me into dystopian category. After that, I started searching dystopian fiction on Amazon (because I really, really like it) for books to read.
I bought some really fantastic books, but still. . .something was wrong. Dystopia is the opposite of utopia, right? And utopia is the ideal world. It’s the one mankind is striving for. Perfection though, really isn’t possible, and sometimes what we think is utopia has a whole lot of cracks in it, thus a dystopian government, a dystopian world. Not all of these books had any version of utopia at all, however, so are they truly dystopia?
The Maze Runner series is probably the most blatant in that regard. Sure, the world Thomas is first introduced to has a certain beauty to it, but that beauty quickly dies. Nobody tells the characters that it’s perfect, and none of the boys feels it is. You get more of a Lord of the Flies feeling, to be honest. Even that dies in the next two books of The Maze Runner series. The government, we learn, is working on creating a remedy for the mess that the world really is in (I’m trying not to give spoilers here) but nobody thinks it’s utopia. People are dying horribly, terrible stuff happened that destroyed much of the world. and there’s not a whole lot of hope. There’s no utopia, so there’s no dystopia. It’s actually post apocalyptic.
The Giver is definitely dystopia. Everybody believes their world is perfect and it is. Except for that whole no-real-emotion thing, and the lack of color thing and a hundred other problems. In The Giver people are happy all the time in that they don’t really know what happiness is.
Divergent? It doesn’t have quite the “We are happy, oh so happy!” feeling of The Giver, but there is a perfect test that puts people in perfect situations. Everything is wonderfully controlled. The apocalypse is referred to somewhat, and we know something terrible happened because they’re all living in the ruins of Chicago, but whatever happened is long since past. Most of the citizens in Divergent are content, but you see cracks pretty quickly in the Factionless and the fact that if you choose a different path than your family, you never really see them again. It is dystopia, but the demarcation isn’t quite as strong as in The Giver.
The Hunger Games. . .well it’s not post-apocalyptic. People aren’t trying to build a new world, or recover from the end of the old one. Sure, there was a war, but that’s 75 years prior, and before an apocalypse-type situation, which is hardly referred to at all in the series. For the main characters, Katniss, Peeta, Gale and Haymitch, it sure doesn’t feel like utopia. Considered, this way, The Hunger Games is more broadly science fiction. On the other hand, the people living in the Capitol do feel like they’re living in utopia, and the government tells them that they are happy and the government is incredibly benevolent (to be fair, it tells the districts that they’re happy too, but nobody is buying it there). However, even there we see cracks in later books, especially in the final book. So I guess dystopia is the correct genre from the Capitol’s point of view.
The Twilight Series comes up under dystopia on Amazon too. I won’t even start on that. So doesn’t Stephen King’s Under the Dome. I don’t know about the book, but I’ve been watching the series, and it is definitely not utopian, dystopian, or even post apocalyptic. The Stand however, definitely post-apocalyptic. (and one of my favorite books of all time!)
As for my book, The Liars, it is absolutely dystopian. The characters are told by the government that they are living in a virtual utopia, and that religion they all adhere to has perfected society; everybody is living the life that is most suited to them. There are tons of cracks in that scenario, though, and their world really is pretty terrible.
So there, that’s a clear definition. Will Amazon or anything else ever truly reflect that? Nope. Dystopian sells these days, so that’s what people will try to fit their books into. But I feel better saying it because I’m a writer. I like words, and definitions matter to me.
An excerpt from The Liars: (buy link)
Evan nods, then slowly rises. He shuffles the few feet to the barred door like a man forty or fifty years his senior. When he reaches me, he lifts his uninjured arm over his head and leans his forehead against the bars for support. And smiles. His face is battered and God only knows what’s wrong with the rest of him, but for all that, his smile sets butterflies loose in my stomach. He is still Evan, a grown-up version of the boy I knew before I left for Temple City. With his brown contact lenses removed, his one open eye is that same soft green, and his smile has the same sweet warmth that caught girls’ hearts and eased my teenage angst. I expect he’ll have it until the day he dies.
Which will be three days from now.
His uninjured eye runs over my blue jacquard gown, accented in gold, which I chose because it’s his favorite color. It’s a slow, quiet perusal, as if he’s trying to commit me to memory. When he’s done, his gaze rests on my face again. “You shouldn’t be here, Priestess.” In spite of the harshness of his voice, the same gentle lilt of those long-ago days rides in it.
“You saved my life.”
He lets out a dry, pained chuckle. “Yeah, see the good it did me?”
It’s my turn to wince. “They’ve accused you of being a dissident.”
“Which is why you shouldn’t be here.”
“You threw yourself on top of me. . . . ‘Thank you’ doesn’t seem like enough considering. . .” Considering that it guaranteed his capture.
“The debris would have killed you instead of that woman behind you.”
“Yes . . . but I don’t understand. When you planted that bomb, you meant to kill—” My husband. The Prophet. “People. You must have known I’d be nearby.”
He just stares at me. Agreeing with me is a confession. He doesn’t argue, though, and isn’t that a confession in itself?
He’s right; I should leave. I should never have come. I’m not making this better. Jarvis’s friends are arranging for a merciful end. That’s the best anybody can do for Evan. My spending time with a criminal, a dissident, will only look bad for me and get me killed too. Still, a thank-you followed by accusations, specifically accusations that have just forced him into making a not-confession confession, is hardly enough.
I run my eyes over his injured arm, over his battered and bruised face and the thin mattress on the bunk against the wall. It’s speckled with blood. Evan saved my life and then took a beating for it. Lord only knows what else they’ve done to him.
He could be dying right now, could be dead before the scheduled execution. Could he have escaped it all if he hadn’t saved me? Had escape ever been part of his plan? Or had he planted the bomb knowing his life would be forfeit anyway?
It doesn’t matter, any more than the reason he did it. What matters is that for a few minutes I am going to be the Emoter he knew years back, the one that may still exist behind my wall of lies. “I can at least get you medical treatment, something for the pain.”
His arm across the bar starts to tremble and he takes a breath. “Don’t bother, I’ve been worse.” He pauses. “Thank you for coming, Priestess.”
“I have to bother,” I say before he can turn away. I lower my voice to a whisper and pray that no one hears me. “You know I do.”
His one good eye flickers and that long ago sadness enters it, along with an all too familiar longing. Deeper, stronger than I remember. “No, you don’t. You shouldn’t be here,” he says again. He lowers his voice to a quivering whisper. “You’re in danger, Neri.”
Damn. His warning wasn’t just about the bomb. He has something more he needs to tell me, but he can’t. And now he’s used my real name and they’ll know he knows me, too.
But don’t they already? We’re from the same parish. We were in the same Sectioning. Surely those records are in the archives. Surely as soon as they learned his name, they examined his background. Discovered his mother’s subversion, maybe even wondered if he and I have maintained a secret connection through the years.
His eyelids start to droop. The tremble turns to shaking. As he loses his battle against unconsciousness and slides to the floor, I spastically press the call button and wonder if they think I am a dissident too.
Book One of the Trilogy is here. Available on Amazon.
Freedom is the first lie.
274 years have passed since hatred, greed and corruption created the plagues that took down civilization. Out of the chaos comes a new religion, Reyism, and an ideal government, the Temple. The Temple generously provides all citizens with daily injections of life-saving serum, and an ideal test to assign them to their ideal jobs. They have achieved utopia, or so the Prophet preaches.
It’s a lie.
Neri Symmes’ survival depends upon lies. She must lie to stay alive. She must lie to keep her sanity, because anyone who challenges the benevolence of the Temple, or her husband, the Prophet, risks savage punishment and execution. Then Neri discovers that two friends, one of them an old flame, are embroiled in a desperate scheme against the Temple. Joining them might mean true freedom, but it also means deceiving her sadistic husband, who has all the power–and all the serum–on his side.
Soon to be on other platforms.