Today on The Tattooed Book Geek I am pleased to be bringing to you all a guest post courtesy of the author Jim Alexander from his recently released book the Light.
- Paperback: 342 pages
- Publisher: Planet Jimbot (11 Nov. 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 191645352X
- ISBN-13: 978-1916453524
- UK Amazon: print, ebook and Kobo. US Amazon: print, ebook, Kobo and Barnes & Noble
- Cover by Alex Ronald.
The Light is the new novel out now from Jim Alexander (Metal Hurlant Chronicles, Batman 80-Page Giant, Star Trek Manga).
The book explores a world where you wake up and know this is the day you die. How would such a world shape the way we think, our views on each other and society, how we conduct our personal and financial affairs; how we live and how we will die?
Last year I hardly left the house. The first half of the year saw me promoting my first novel GoodCopBadCop. I wanted to reach out individually to every contact I have on e-mail and social media. There were a lot of contacts I hadn’t been in touch with for years, decades even, and here I was informing them that 1) I was still alive (as were they I trusted) and 2) I had a book to plug. I wanted to demonstrate a more personal touch. At the time it was the right thing to do. It proved an interesting if terribly time-consuming exercise.
Second half of the year was spent getting my new novel out. Called the Light, the book explores a world where you wake up and know this is the day you die. How would such a world shape the way we think, our views on each other and society, how we conduct our personal and financial affairs; how we live and how we will die?
And here I am on the cusp of a new year–a new decade even–still confined to barracks with two very different novels to promote (one a twisty-turny crime story, the other a work of speculative fiction examining the changing nature of death).
I would imagine it’s the same for (at least) 95% of writers: the onus is on them to promote their own work. Your publisher might give you a leg up. A couple of hundred quid towards a launch night, access to some bookshops, but essentially it’s up to the writer to fly the flag, break down doors, and change hearts and minds.
I think on balance this is fair enough. If you’re not willing to stick your neck out, to put in the leg-work, then you can’t reasonably expect people to put their hands in their pockets and give up their well-earned money. I sometimes think writing the book is the easiest part of it. When writers embark on all the peripheral stuff, the promotional stuff, it’s all-encompassing. There’s no time to actually write anything, so hopefully you’ve already got that out of your system (at least for a couple of months). And this is where I find myself. I need to put myself and my babies out there. I need to look people in the eye (just the one) and hope the words that come out of my mouth perfectly crystallise and capture the essence of each book and not come out as incoherent nonsense. I hope people in turn will take a chance on one or both of them–and that this will prove to be a decision they will not have cause to regret. There will be no tears, unless they stub their foot or something, which I have no control over.
I live in Scotland, so am limiting my roving to chiefly north of the border. Also, I’m not planning on venturing out until the first buds of spring. The idea is that we all come out of hibernation together.
On March 6th, I’ll be appearing as part of Will Eisner Week, which is organised by Renfrewshire libraries. I’m treating this as the official launch of the Light and I’ll be joined by editor Kirsten Murray. We haven’t agreed the format yet, but I think we’ll possibly take turns to ask each other questions. My main question will be: What’s the best book you’ve ever worked on with the words ‘the’ and ‘Light’ in the title?
A week later, on the 14th, I’ll be spending the day at Asylum Book & Games in Aberdeen. I imagine I’ll be seated at a big wooden table near the back of the shop where I’ll make offers to people they cannot refuse and charge them £9.99 for the privilege. The week after, having ventured as far north as Aberdeen, I’ll find myself as far south as Carlisle (more specifically an event known as Megacon). I’m sure only Scots view Carlisle as a southern outpost, but there you go.
There are more dates over the course of the year taking me to Glasgow, Edinburgh and Paisley (again). I’m hoping for good memories. It’s also fitting in a way that I should take to the road because my book the Light alternates between events in East London and locations as diverse as Moscow, Washington DC, and the Falkland Islands. This is a novel which takes place all over the world.
From many viewpoints, we see how the nature of death has changed. How the sanity of the world was saved by the media spotlight falling on a grieving mother and her dying child. How the Church of the Last Day came to be, which allows people on their final day to do anything they want legal or otherwise–no matter what, the police do not interfere. We look at how war is rendered obsolete. How can nations send troops off to fight when they know in advance the ones who are going to die? We follow a NHS worker with the ghoulish job of identifying the patients who won’t survive the day and therefore freeing up hospital beds. We follow the President of the USA who spends his last day hunting a giant panda on a Scottish golf course.
And if none of that entices you, how about a short excerpt from the book:
In 1998, the spectre of death, like the elongated shadowy fingers of Nosferatu, stretched across the world in a way that was unprecedented. As much as three million worldwide died that day, beginning with the Polynesian kingdoms of Samoa and Kiribati, through to the very last time zone, Baker Island, set adrift of the outlying United States.
Forty days of death rolled into one. Five and a half million souls. The equivalent of the total population of Denmark or Paraguay.
It measured in the tens in Tonga, unusually high. A woman died of haemophilia. A man died of old age in his sleep. There was a case of accidental poisoning. On a global scale, not earth shattering, not illuminating, but without the first snowflakes there could never be an avalanche.
Both New Zealand and Australia had their own quintessential disasters in the shape of earthquake and plane crash respectively. Coming in, the first reports of people having lost the sensation of touch in their feet and hands. Death from natural causes was unnaturally high. There were several incidents of fatal dog attacks.
The same day; a new set of crises. In Japan, a spike in deaths due to stomach cancer; starvation in North Korea; malignant neoplasms in South Korea. Around the same time, truly upsetting news stories were emerging; an awareness in people that they were about to die. Financial soothsayers warned of runs on the banks; markets susceptible to collapse. On a global scale, anxiety and fear piled up on anxiety and fear.
When China woke up, all bets were off. It was at this point that commentator Al Baumann infamously remarked that ‘the 粪 had hit the fan’.
Infectious and parasitic diseases, rampant bird flu, an attempted military coup, purging of prison populations, diseases of the ear and mastoid process. Bodies piled up high on the sides of roads. Baumann would later go on to comment, which some found confusing at the time, ‘death does not do irony.’ But the more the phrase was repeated, by him and others besides, the more sense it began to make.
Circulatory diseases, natural disasters, stillbirths, acts of genocide, terrorism, fatal accidents, being struck by lightning. Nepal, India, Pakistan, Russia, Europe. Border conflicts, air pollution, endocrine, nutritional and metabolic diseases, complications during pregnancy, the extreme cold. South America, Canada, USA. Cancer of all kinds, respiratory diseases, victims of gun crime, skin disease, exposure to narcotics and hallucinogens, traffic accidents, hypothermia, snowslides. State-sponsored executions. A spate of fatal stab wounds to the neck.
It was a tidal wave. And yes, people died as a result of tidal waves. In terms of cause it wasn’t as if death had reinvented itself, but in terms of effect it was seismic. The usual instances of death applied, but to every forty instead of one. To this day, experts still collate data; constantly revisiting, endlessly revising; going back to the start of it all. A start with a time, location, and date, which was twelve midnight in Kiribati on the 7th January 1998.
‘That was the day,’ they’d say looking back and everyone knew what they meant by this. ‘That was the day.’
This is Alexander’s second novel after the award-winning GoodCopBadCop. Check out the five and four-star reviews on Goodreads.
More on the Light:
On a daily basis, people are required to take the Light; a device that ascertains whether this will be their last day. The story alternates between showcasing and building up this new world and telling the story of an ordinary person having to cope in extraordinary circumstances. We will see through his eyes a world so achingly similar to our own, but different in one shattering, all-pervasive way.
When approaching death, whether it’s dying in your sleep or experiencing your whole life flashing in front of your eyes, in the end it is no longer a case of floating towards the light. The Light wants to find you first.
GoodCopBadCop is available now at Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Etsy, and lots of other places.