For years I had wondered if I had the tenacity needed to complete a novel. The dissertation? That had been a good 130,000 words and I had finished it. How hard could it be? In early 2017, I published a trial chapter of something called „Charis Colony“ on the ricochet.com website. It met with enough interest to encourage me in my writerly ambitions, so I wrote another chapter. Then another. Then my „day job“ put me off any work on my novel hobby for quite a while. Then came a dearth of translating work, which I responded to by furiously sending out CVs to every agency I could find, submitting articles to magazines- articles which were even accepted for publication – and working away on what I was now calling Charis Colony: The Landing when there was no other work in the offing. Three and a half years later, after soliciting and getting very helpful feedback from test readers, I uploaded the final text to Kindle Direct Publishing.
So, what’s it about? Well, it’s about a doctor whose main professional duty is to enforce the dictates of a soft-totalitarian state in which the science of eugenics drives every medical decision from conception to frequently unnatural death. Here’s a sample from the first chapter:
Chapter One: Mr. Singh’s Death Sentence
Dr. Raj Mondal struggled to silence the mental echoes of a Wednesday morning consultation. They were still troubling him. He failed again and heard the voice of his patient cursing him. He realized that he had to escape the confines of the MedAdmin building and even the Landing beyond it. Once he had that realization, he wasted no time acting on it. He logged in to his department’s work schedule, checked the balance in his release time account—it was huge, over a month’s worth. He cross-referenced his own schedule against the schedules of his colleagues and found he would be superfluous over the weekend. He took his name off the duty list for Friday through Monday, checked the “personal well-being” box in the “reasons for request”, waited an irritatingly long minute for the system to respond, and unconsciously held his breath as he stared at the screen. When his requested release days finally all turned green, he smiled and exhaled. Then, Raj logged out of ContactNet, signed for his leave time on the register with a photostylus and stepped away from his standing desk. This simple action solved several of his problems by triggering his internal ‘go home from work’ routine, since it meant no last-minute calls or conversations with administrative personnel on the way out of the building. Off-duty was off-duty. He raced down the hall from his second-floor office, the gray and green walls, the color-coded markings of the floors that led patients to the departments they were referred to flashing by in a blur. Eyes locked ahead, he hastened past the omnipresent central data core interfaces, rushing by colleagues he curtly acknowledged on his way out. By the time he reached the outer door to the North Wing of MedAdmin at ground level in his section, he was almost running. He maintained that pace the whole way home, tearing through the environs of smart steel, the flexglass and organicrete that made up the Core district of Mondal’s Landing itself, hardly noticing the tastefully confined bursts of green and yellow plant life- small grassy bushes and leafy climbing plants.
That gives you the basic set-up: Our protagonist is a man with a troubled conscience who has reached the point of fleeing from the system he works. What had happened in Raj’s office? Why, this:
Raj was in part responsible for setting the criteria deciding who was allowed to breed with whom, who had children and who didn’t and ultimately, who was marked for exsanguination and harvesting. “Parting” as some called it, meant the removal of healthy organs for transplant or storage in the organ bank, at the age assigned based on the donor’s genetic fitness classification. Mr. Vindaran Singh, Raj’s Wednesday consult, fell into the last of these categories. Mr. Singh was his age. Raj had just turned 30. But since Singh was an EEL, a person whose genes carried an excess error load, he was required to register as a full-body organ donor at the age of 30. Counseling EELs like Singh was a responsibility that Raj hated and dreaded. It seemed easy enough, broken down to essentials: The GHB Officer tells the EEL, as he had told Mr. Singh, to register for what would be the EEL’s final civic duty. His own words, remembered, distrurbed him.
„You could still have many, many good months, maybe even five whole years before you’re called as donor, Mr. Singh.“ In spite of every effort to expunge the mental image, he still vividly recalled the look of fear and rage in Vindaran Singh’s eyes. „You will most likely be at least 33 before you’re asked to report to MedAdmin for processing. There’s no predicting when a need will be registered. Three years are lot of time for a man of 30. Make the best of the time you have and remember at the end your sacrifice for the colony will save lives. All you have to do now is register. I cannot do it for you. It is your civic duty. Your sacrifice will save the lives of your fellow citizens.“
By law the practiced words, with some variation for the individual case, had to be said. They had to be recited in the cool monotone meant to be soothing, in order to gauge the patient’s response. Was Singh going to be a flight risk? Did Raj need to contact Colonial Security? The answer to those two questions was likely “no”, but Singh’s response had been explosive.
“My sacrifice?” Mr. Singh had shouted. He started crying. Then began yelling even more loudly than before. “How can you say that knowing I have no choice and knowing what they will do to me when I report to MedAdmin? I could have years, but I could have two weeks. You don’t know and you could care less. You just turned me into a walking bag of spare parts, and with that impassive look on your face? You sentenced me to death, Dr. Mondal! Not anyone else. You! Who gave you the right? God? And how can you just sit there and look at me like that?”
Yes, how? How could he have said it? Who had given him the right? The GHB, of course. God? Surprising that had even used the word. It was a rarity at the Landing, heard usually in the context of Upper School history classes. Singh was a word-turner, though. Linguistic archaisms suited him.
That gives you, the reader, insight into the nature of his inner conflict, and the rest of the story, all 106,000 words of it, deal with the results of this conflict for him and Shirin, the woman he falls in love with. There is action, romance, political intrigue and an answer to the Fermi Paradox. The book also explores themes of agnosticism and faith, soft totalitarianism, eugenics, forced abortion and Christian eschatology. So far, everyone who has read it has enjoyed it, enthusiastically even, and I think you will too, if you’re reading this blog.
The book can be purchased for free here, Amazon.com : Charis Colony The Landing, if you have Kindle Unlimited, or for the bargain price of $4 as an e-book if you do not. It is also available as a paperback, and you know, paperbacks are better for your eyes and for your memory.
That’s all for now. This section of the page „The Writing Page“ will be updated periodically with pieces from new projects, current publications and so forth. Thank you for stopping in.