Would you go to a planet that has never known war, hunger, or even a single murder?
This daring new novel explores the difficulties of space travel, planetary colonization, and the loss of friends, family, and identity due to time dilation and the distance between stars.
Humans established a utopian colony on Kipos, an Earth-like planet orbiting a Sol twin. Unfortunately, the birth rate continues to plummet and without an influx of human DNA, Kipos has eleven generations before it reaches failure. With Earth over ninety light-years away, time is short.
On the over-crowded Earth, many see opportunity in Kipos’s need. After medical, intelligence, and physiological testing, Abby and her younger siblings, Jin and Orchid, are offered transportation. Along with 750,000 other strong young immigrants, they leave the safety of their family with the expectation of good jobs and the opportunity for higher education.
While these second-generation colonists travel to the new planet in stasis, the Kiposi, terrified that Earthlings will taint their paradise, pass a series of indenture and adoption laws in order to assimilate the savages.
When Abby wakes up on Kipos, Jin cannot be found. Orchid is ripped from her arms as Abby is sold to a dull-eyed man with a sterilized wife. Indentured to breed, she is drugged and systematically coerced. To survive, Abby learns the differences in culture and language using the only thing that is truly hers on this new world: her analytical mind. Haunted by the agony of her loss, but determined to make a better life for herself, she joins a planetary survey team where she will discover yet another way of life.
Review 4 of 5 Stars
The difference between a good book and a mediocre or awful book is the amount of time that seems to be involved. A great book will fly by until you find yourself at the last page not wanting to read the last paragraph because it will be over. Last week I read one that I had to struggle to finish. Fortunately, a good book much like a cold beer on a hot summer day will find you at the end of it surprised that you are already done and that’s how this book was. I will freely admit that Other Systems isn’t a love it so much I’ll read it over and over yearly book; however it is a good book that covers some disturbing subjects.
I received a request to read this book and participate in a blog tour for it, but to be clear I don’t receive any compensation for anything I write here. Since I found it to be a good read I’m going to give the lady her due and hook the links up on the right in my links list so you fine people can find it without too much trouble.
As far as I’m concerned what’s listed in the official synopsis doesn’t quite give the flavor of the book. In my opinion what the synopsis describes is the actual build up for where the story really begins, the background if you will. For me the action part of the story really began at the last line of the synopsis where she joins the planetary survey team.
I have no idea at this point why the author chose to begin this story in quite the way she did, but maybe we’ll find out. As part of the blog tour there will also be a Q&A section following the review when I publish it on July 6th as part of the tour, but I haven’t done that part yet. Today is June 19th and I’m writing while it is fresh. Today, having just finished the book I have no idea why she went the way she did with the story, but in the end I would have to say it worked out fine. It is not only a story about awakening to a similar yet divergent culture where it seems things have gone terribly wrong, but a coming of age story for Abby who becomes an explorer of both the universe and who she wants to be. It’s a story about how families are not only born, but made from the friends we collect and keep throughout the journey of life.
Some of the beginning is pretty dark. That it is dark didn’t bother me at all. As it turned out to be partially a story about coming of age and acceptance that was done pretty well while out exploring alien landscapes and a different culture, in some ways I kind of think it is a shame that it’s not a book I would be able to share with too young of an audience due to some of the subject matter. Nevertheless, it was a good read. I truly enjoyed the story of Abby’s rise out of servitude and adventurous explorations to strange new planets with the survey team. It flowed smoothly and the story kept my interest enough to leave me wondering about it when I wasn’t reading. The characters had depth and were believable. If you’re looking for a good story and have a bit of free time you might want to give it a try.
TJ: I really enjoyed reading Other Systems. Thank you for agreeing to do a Q&A session to go along with the book review. I saw in your bio that prior to being an author you were an artist with tons of paintings who did some work on graphic novels and a comic book series. What made you decide to go more to the printed format as opposed to graphic novels and comics?
Elizabeth: I still do artwork and comics. I did the illustrations and cover design for Other Systems. The 4th episode in the comic book series Out for Souls&Cookies comes out in October of this year. (It’s going to be the Christmas Special, because every comic about demon dogs needs a Christmas Special.) My next graphic novel Unintentional Colonists will be coming out in Spring 2015. It is another hard science fiction story dealing with emotional themes so fans of Other Systems probably will really like it.
The reason why Other Systems is a written novel versus a graphic novel is when the story hit me, I saw the vision of a written novel in my head. As soon as I know a story, I know what it is going to be.
TJ: The beginning of Other Systems is pretty dark and Abby has to deal with some pretty horrific things being done to her. This is definitely not a young adult book, but in many ways this books seems to be a coming of age story for Abby. What made you decide on the path you chose and does it concern you that at least some of the beginning of the book may not be appropriate for mid to late teens who might really relate to the story?
Elizabeth: Kind of, but teenagers rarely care about adult themes and content. Parents do. In fact, my mom has complained about the adult content in Other Systems, specifically Cole and Harden’s swearing.
While there is a coming of age aspect to Abby’s story, that doesn’t (and in my opinion shouldn’t) automatically classify it as Young Adult. Plenty of New Adult Market and Adult Science Fiction Novels have coming of age plots and subplots. Abby’s story has “good” messages about education, self-actualization and safe sex, however the major themes were always about slavery, dehumanization based on fear, and finding freedom.
There are other reasons: Abby is a young protagonist, but she is surrounded by smart adults. There are no heroes in this series. There are just decisions by people who justify whatever they do for good or ill. I allowed the horrors of rape and slavery to be part of the story.
Other contributing “adult” factors are the unabashed scientific terminology, the length of the novel, pacing and finally the ensemble cast of humans just trying to get by.
TJ: I was really interested in the artificial intelligence aspect of this story, but not much was brought to light overall. Do you plan to explore that subject more in later stories?
Elizabeth: Yes. In Book 2: The Light Side of the Moon, there is another AI character named Vasili. His character will further the overarching storyline for the all the AI characters over the course of the four planned books. You will meet one more android named, Conner, in Book 3 and Rover comes back as well.
TJ: I was fascinated by the explorations of the survey ship and the various things the crew found. Are you planning more adventures for this crew?
Elizabeth: Definitely. Though The Light Side of the Moon follows what happened to those who stayed behind on Earth. Book 3 (Still Untitled) will return to Kipos and the fleet. I don’t want to give too many hints, but Harden plans to try to create a stable Einstein-Rosen Bridge are moving forward.
TJ: Is there anything specific that you would like to share with readers regarding your inspiration for writing Other Systems?
Elizabeth: I knew I wanted to write a science fiction story that my smart friends were not just shaking their head at. Something that moved beyond a disaster.
The concept for Other Systems really hit me when I was out walking the dogs. A young Earth woman goes to another planet for a job and realizes she has become a slave. That very night, I saw an article about young, uneducated girls from India’s rural areas traveling into cities with the expectation that they are going to get factory jobs only to end up working as sex slaves. Suddenly, I knew the how Abby got caught up in all of this.
I wrote the scene where Abby and Orchid get separated first, as it is the first pivot scene in the book. Though obviously it was edited for copy, it remained largely unchanged. I also wrote the scene in which Abby escapes the DePauls which went through major changes both in my own drafts and with the editors from 48Fourteen.
TJ: Since this is your first published book can you share with us a little bit about your experience writing this book and any pitfalls you fell into?
Elizabeth: I am a bit of a loose planner. If I know a pivot scene such as the ones I talked about above, I’ll write them first. Then I create a relaxed outline. I write a scene/chapter a day until the story is told. This process takes me about a month. Then I go back and rewrite it and make sure everything fits. One of the biggest surprises that came up during the drafting process is Mark who screamed, “I would never do this!” and changed his whole subplot which changed the whole course of the novel.
I wrote seven drafts before I started sending it out to publishers and agents. I got 16 rejections. After 48Fourteen agreed to publish, there were big and small changes during the editing process. The editor was concerned Abby has no love interest and yet is a sexual character. At 17-19, she does what almost everyone does at that age: she thinks about love and sex. In this aspect of the book, I refused to budge to “market expectations.” Was that a pitfall? I don’t know. I do know my gut told me to not bend on this point.
However, please don’t think I am the type of author that refuses to listen. The editors also told me I needed to darken the beginning. So it didn’t start as innocently. The last scene I wrote before publication was actually the first scene in the book. I originally just referred to Lucy’s suicide as the driving factor in Harden’s research. Now it sets the tone. Readers know the book will be dark. It will deal seriously with family and reproductive freedom before anyone every meets Abby.
As for other pitfalls, honestly I’m extremely proud of my first novel. I learned so much from the process that I don’t really look at any “failures” necessarily as bad. They were learning experiences. I do wish I had begun targeted marketing sooner. Though there are a few scenes that need to be tightened, I won’t make the same mistake with The Light Side of the Moon. I’ll be up to making new and better mistakes with my second novel 🙂
TJ: Thank you for taking time out of your day to answer my questions and I look forward to seeing more of your work.
Elizabeth: Thank you for having me.
For more information about this author go to http://elizabethguizzetti.com/