Interview with John M. Green, author of The Tao Deception

Today we welcome Sydney based author John M. Green to the Boomerang Books blog.

Welcome to the blog John. What can you tell us about your new book The Tao Deception? It’s an eco-political thriller, but what’s it about?the-tao-deception
Thanks Tracey. In The Tao Deception, a rogue Chinese elite – The Ten Brothers – conspire with the Hermit Kingdom, North Korea, to use spine-chilling technology to wipe out the West. Why? They’re committed to cutting dead the rampant global consumerism that’s turning China into the world’s waste dump and destroying the planet. Also, they’re bent on backing China away from its modern “path to prosperity”, U-turning it to its simpler, pre-industrial, rural roots.

Tori Swyft, ex-CIA spy, Aussie surfer and now global corporate wunderkind, is visiting China, working on a mega-merger between Chinese and European tech companies. She unearths the plot and, risking her life, is in a race against the clock to stop it.

What was your inspiration for the main character Tori Swyft?
What inspired Tori Swyft was a glaring literary deficit … the dearth of women as thriller heroes … the lack of female James Bonds. So I decided to create one.

So I’m especially thrilled that you’ve name Tori as ‘THE female James Bond’ in your review over at Carpe Librum.

Like James Bond, Tori’s young, tough and sexy, constantly finding herself in pickles most of us couldn’t possibly extricate ourselves from. But there’s more to Tori than that. This feisty, strong-willed woman carries a PhD in nuclear engineering and a Harvard MBA. People trifle with Tori Swyft at their own risk.

What inspired the threat in The Tao Deception?
On top of writing thrillers, I’m on the board of a global insurance company. Three years ago, when discussing the Top Ten emerging risks for the insurance world, a risk I’d never heard of jumped out at me and grabbed me by the throat.

I won’t say what it is – spoiler alert! – but it’s what The Ten Brothers in The Tao Deception are conspiring to unleash on the world. Experts disagree on how likely this risk is in real life. But if it did happen, the outcome would be catastrophic … a US Congressional Committee says that 200 million Americans would die within 12 months … from starvation, disease and societal collapse.future-crimes

What are you reading at the moment?
I’m juggling four books right now, three as research for my next Tori Swyft novel:
1. Eric Siblin’s The Cello Suites, about J.S. Bach and Catalonian cellist, Pablo Casals
2. Marc Goodman’s Future Crimes – Inside the Digital Underground
3. George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia
4. Clive James’ Gate of Lilacs – A verse commentary on Proust – for its sheer delight (but also for Tori – see below)

What books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelves at home?
How about a 1st edition of J.D. Salinger’s Nine Stories, his second and arguably scarcest book? A slim volume, it’s heavily annotated by a notable mid-20th century American editor, critic and author, Maxwell Geismar. His notes give a fascinating glimpse into the mind and working methods of a major literary identity.

In the margins of one story, Geismar’s blue biro scratches this out: ‘This hero is better than Holden Caulfield of Rye … This is really the best story! … Most authentic … Good? … So far.’

john-m-green-nov-16
Author John M. Green

What book have you always meant to read but never got around to?
Like Tori Swyft – who’s always trying to read this one at the beach – it’s Marcel Proust’s À la Recherche du Temps Perdu. A journalist once asked Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam if he’d ever read it, and he answered, ‘I’ve glanced at it extensively.’ That’s my approach too.

That’s hilarious, I must remember that phrase (I’ve glanced at it extensively). In your bio, I noticed that you sit on the Council of the National Library of Australia. What does that involve?
It’s been one of the most exciting boards I’ve had the privilege to sit on. Sadly for me, my term just expired. The NLA is a haven for Australia’s heritage. Two of the most exciting NLA projects I got to contribute to, in a small way, are Trove – the NLA’s astonishing on-line research resource which many authors use extensively – and the massive project to digitise the Library, to make it accessible on-line to all Australians, no matter where they live.

What’s next? Will Tori Swyft be back?
Tori Swyft is definitely on her way back, taking readers to Barcelona, Spain. She’s already four chapters into her next thriller, and the crisis she’s up against has got me sweating about how she’s going to survive.

Anything else you’d like to add?born-to-run
As well as Tori Swyft, I also adore a lead character from an earlier novel Born to Run, my US President Isabel Diaz – the first woman to ‘really’ to win the White House. Isabel had a cameo in my first Tori Swyft novel, The Trusted, and gets a far bigger role in The Tao Deception.

But I’m going to let you into a secret … while writing The Tao Deception, I recalled how much you raved about Isabel’s deaf stepson, Davey, when you reviewed Born to Run way back in 2011. Remembering that prompted me to bring Davey back in The Tao Deception. And I’m glad because he adds a crucial dimension to the story.  So thank you, Tracey! Davey’s return is down to you!

Wow, that’s amazing, what a thrill! I love it when authors listen to feedback from readers and to know I had a part in bringing Davey back is so exciting. Thanks John for sharing your secret and for joining us here on the Boomerang Books blog.

Click here to buy The Tao Deception.

What Is It? Fables & Parables For All Readers

Today I thought I’d take a closer look at the differences between fables and parables and come up with some recommendations for readers of all ages who enjoy a little learning with their leisure.

A fable is: a short story that conveys a moral to the reader, typically with animals as characters.

A parable is: a short story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson.

FablesThe Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly

The first fable that comes to mind is the story of the hare and the tortoise who race each other. Everyone knows this one, the race seems unfair in the beginning because the hare is so fast, but he becomes smug knowing he’s going to win and takes a break to rest. Meanwhile, the slower tortoise continues to plod along and cruises past for the win. The moral of this fable is: slow and steady wins the race. If you want to teach your young ones this lesson, then check out The Tortoise and the Hare by Gerald Rose or Tortoise Vs Hare the Rematch by Preston Rutt and illustrated by Ben Redlich.

Most iconic of all is the collection of fables collated by the slave and storyteller Aesop in ancient Greece, of course it’s Aesop’s Fables. Check out this hardback edition of Aesop’s Fables illustrated by Ernest Griset, it contains more than 300 stories bound to please.Watership Down by Richard Adams

For YA and adult readers looking for a good fable to read, there’s: The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-mi HwangCharlotte’s Web by E.B. WhiteWatership Down by Richard Adams and of course Animal Farm by George Orwell.

Parables
Recently I read The Pearl by John Steinbeck, which started me off thinking about parables and fables in the first place, and is about greed. Having said that, the first parable that comes to mind for me is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. This book that has sold millions of copies all around the world, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it a few years ago.

Those looking for religious principles in their reading would do well to check out The Shack by William P. Young, it’s a real life-changing read. The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason is a collection of parables set in ancient Babylon based around financial wisdom and how to achieve wealth and financial independence.The Richest Man in Babylon by George-S.-Clason

A parable that’s on my TBR list is A Christmas Carol by none other than Charles Dickens. Even though I already know what the parable is, I still think it’d be nice to read it in the lead up to Christmas this year.

So, what’s your favourite fable or parable? Have any of them changed the way you think about the world? I’d love to know, so tell us in the comments below.

Review – Wool and Shift

9780099580485Wool

“Is seeing always believing?”

There are so many things to love about this book. It shares nothing in common with The Hungers Games, The Passage or The Matrix ( the first film not the dodgy sequels) but if you liked those stories you will go absolutely nuts for this book like I did.

“You’ve felt it, right? That we could be anywhere, living a lie?”

Originally self published as a short story that grew into five eBooks it is now available as one eBook together and will be published in December in paperback. I read an advanced print copy that had each part as a separate volume and I wish they were publishing the print book this way because having five distinct parts I think is essential to the overall reading experience of this extremely impressive novel.

“Something had happened. A great and powerful thing had fallen out of alignment.”

Part One is only 48 pages but it is more than enough to blow your mind. We meet Holston who is a Sheriff and is waiting in a holding cell to die. Holston lives in a gigantic underground silo which is over 130 stories deep. The outside world is full of toxic air and wastelands. The silo is organized and supplied so that people do not need to go outside. They have food and water and the population is kept in check. A couple cannot have a child until someone else dies and a lottery is held. There is a Mayor, a Sheriff and the laws of The Pact. If a law is broken the punishment is ‘The Cleaning’. ‘The Cleaning’ involves going outside in a specially designed suit and cleaning a gigantic lens which allows the inhabitants to view the outside world. It also involves certain death. Holston is waiting in a holding cell to do ‘The Cleaning’. A task he has volunteered for.

“A project to pull the wool back from everyone’s eyes. A favour to the next fool who slipped up or dared to hope aloud”

Holston is the catalyst. His actions set everything in motion. A new Sheriff must be found. As the next four parts unfold we learn more about life in the silo and how each level is divided up in order for everybody to survive. You also begin to piece together a bigger picture and a more complex world that will astonish you and leave you gasping for air as you read. What at first seems to be a great lie is in fact something else all together and discovering the truth is more dangerous that anyone can possibly imagine.

“This is how the uprising begins”

This is a story bursting with imagination and ideas. Thought-provoking seems an understatement. Howey does what all great speculative fiction should, he creates a world seemingly removed from our own, in an apocalyptic future, and slowly peels the differences away. There is a lot of hype around this book. This is one of those rare occasions where not only does the book live up to the hype, it exceeds it.

“It is not beyond us to kill to keep secrets.”

Buy the book here…

9781780891224Shift

Like Wool, which was originally published as five eBooks, Shift was originally published as three eBooks and is now available in one volume. Shift is the follow-up to Wool but it is actually the prequel. Set in Silo 1 it tells the story of how the silos came into being and why. The book is split into three shifts, each spaced decades apart, as we follow the work of Silo 1 monitoring the other silos as well as managing their own silo population.

Shift is as mind-blowing as Wool, maybe more so. I am totally amazed that the world Howey has created, which is so confined within a Silo, can have so many stories and is bursting with so many ideas. Howey slowly marries up the stories of Wool and Shift perfectly and leaves you itching to read the conclusion, Dust. The wool is well and truly lifted from our eyes but what this means for the survivors in the Silos is far from clear and I cannot wait to find out.

Buy the book here…

He Had Me At Four Legs Good, Two Legs Bad

Animal FarmThere were two books that I was required to read at school that stood out for me (and yes, goodie two shoes that I am I actually read them instead of cheating and watching the films instead).

The first (and I’m thinking both this one and the one that follows will be on many others’ top-two lists) was Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird. The second was George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the genius fable that used a farmyard and its animals—most notably pigs—to illustrate complex concepts of politics, socialism, hypocrisy, and the absolute corruption of absolute power.

I’d never much understood how a fable could be so powerful—Aesop’s tales had interested me, but not in the same, axis-shifting comprehension-of-the-world way as this book. Nor did I have any clue who Orwell was. He might be a household name and literary great whose surname has been turned into an adjective (Orwellian) to describe a dystopian world, but to me as a schoolgirl he was just another author whose book was on the reading list.

Lack of this knowledge aside, it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with him. He had me at ‘four legs good, two legs bad’, ‘two legs good, four legs bad’, ‘all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others’, and a few phrases in between.

1984I just heard that Animal Farm the play will be performed at the Queensland Performing Arts Complex in August. It inspired me to both book tickets and to brush up on my Animal Farm trivia. It also inspired me to investigate Orwell further.

He wrote, I realised, two of the most outstanding books I’ve ever read—the aforementioned Animal Farm and 1984—and yet I know very little about the man behind the words.

What I quickly realised was that not only had he penned two masterpieces in a lifetime (which is two more than most people do, and he not only did this, but did so in fewer words than many of his counterparts), he was absolutely prolific in his writing. And all this in less than 50 years of life all up. Sheesh.

It was through this internet and Wikipedia trivia trawling that I stumbled across Why I Write. Part of the Penguin Great Ideas series, which also includes the writing of Marx, Darwin, Nietzsche, Freud, and Woolf, it comprises some of his essays.

Reading the book, I marvelled at Orwell’s extraordinary ability to excise key, confounding issues, and to frame them in a manner that’s at once accessible, logical, and that highlights their absurdity and/or horror. And he does so in ways that make Why I Writethem memorable. I realised is that Orwell had me at many terms and statements, not least:

  • such terms as ‘newspeak’, ‘thought police’, ‘prolefeed’, ‘doublethink’, and ‘big brother’ (the all-seeing state, not the TV show)
  • the statement that ‘Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind’
  • the introductory sentence to an essay about war: ‘As I write, highly civilised human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me’
  • and, this, an excerpt from one of his early poems:

I dreamed I dwelt in marble halls,

And woke to find it true;

I wasn’t born for an age like this;

Was Smith? Was Jones? Were you?

 

Random literary quotes

Last time it was first sentences. This time, I’m quoting memorable bits from anywhere within a book or short story. These are just the quotes that have come to mind while putting together this post. Given the vagaries of my memory, there are bound to be other bits I should have quoted… but hey… with my memory the way it is, consider yourselves lucky to be getting this!

As with my last post, I’m listing the sources at the end of the post so you can all play guess that quote.

1.

As Yone had predicted, it was deserted — tourism was a thing of the past, along with parliaments and television chat shows, universities and churches, human disorder and human freedom.

2.

The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.

3.

He looked at her as though seeing her for the first time, and kissed her as if they were not yet married.

4.

Teddy and Vern slowly became just two more faces in the halls or in 3.30 detention. We nodded and said hi. That was all. It happens. Friends come in and out of your life like busboys in a restaurant, did you ever notice that?

5.

In the space it took to read the few dozen words, Danny learned two crucial things, vital to learn at any age but so powerful to have at fourteen: that you always had to grant unlimited possibility, and that happy endings were as fleeting as you let them be.

6.

She was a lovely lady, with a romantic mind and such a sweet mocking mouth. Her romantic mind was like the tiny boxes, one within the other, that come from the puzzling East, however many you discover there is always one more; and her sweet mocking mouth had one kiss on it that Wendy could never get, though there it was, perfectly conspicuous in the right-hand corner.

7.

All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others

8.

The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

9.

I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! Yes, it was this! One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture — a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees — very gradually — I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.

10.

I’ve been on quite a trip, though I don’t have much to show for it — a book of Rolling Stones’ lyrics, some coins with Arabic writing on them, a headscarf with crocheted fans around the edge. I’ve learned how to say “bread” and “water” in eight different languages and I can swear in Dutch.

11.

Fa’red was not the sort of wizard who muttered arcane spells over foul-smelling cauldrons in dark cellars. Although he was a very inventive man, his ideas far exceeded his ability to carry them out personally. As such, he had learned to delegate work.

12.

‘You asked me once,’ said O’Brien, ‘what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world.’

13.

“And as their lips met, everything changed.”

Got a favourite quote? Leave a comment and share.

And tune in next time to find out about Celapene Press.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Here are the books:

1. When the Tripods Came, John Christopher, 1988.

2. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Dauglas Adams, 1979.

3. “Add a Dash of Pity”, Peter Ustinov, from Add a Dash of Pity and Other Short Stories, 1958.

4. “The Body”, Stephen King, from Different Seasons, 1982.

5. “The Saltimbanques”, Terry Dowling, from Blackwater Days, 2000.

6. Peter Pan, JM Barrie, 1911.

7. Animal Farm, George Orwell, 1945.

8. Animal Farm, George Orwell, 1945.

9. “The Tell-Tale Heart”, Edgar Allan Poe, 1843.

10. Sugar Sugar, Carole Wilkinson, 2010.

11. Drangonfang, Paul Collins, 2004.

12. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell, 1949.

13. Gamers’ Quest, George Ivanoff, 2009. — Yeah, yeah! I know! Shameless plug. 🙂

Beg, Borrow, Or Steal (But Mostly Only From Family)

Fahrenheit 451It’s dangerous to allow family members to spend any length of time in my room, because any visit invariably leads to the same thing: a casual perusal of my bookshelf followed by an indignant ‘Hey! That’s my book!’

Indeed, I’ve earned something of a reputation among my family for only buying them books I want to read, reading the books before I hand them over, and then feigning innocence when they notice their books on my bookshelf later on. They christened me ‘The Book Burglar’ long before Markus Zusak’s novel of a similar name was penned, but I refuse to apologise for my voracious book appetite and my love of looking after books.

It should be noted that the only people I steal from are my immediate family and that it’s technically not stealing if I paid for the book in the first place. Besides, I’m pretty sure that book thieving runs in the family. Case in point: Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. I’ve heard that the book’s a classic, a must-read up there with Orwell’s Animal Farm and Huxley’s Brave New World, but I wouldn’t know. My brand, spanking new copy disappeared from my bookshelf before I’d even cracked the spine.

Two years since it disappeared, it’s become something of a bone of contention with my brother (AKA Prime Suspect #1), with the issue raising its ugly head around gift-giving birthdays and Christmas. Ever the peacemaker, my mother maintains that the book’s just slipped down behind something and will turn up. My sister considers it book thief karma. My brother staunchly maintains his innocence (some would say too staunchly). And my insomniac father tries to stay out of it—I’ve awoken at least twice in the wee hours of the morning in recent times to see him sifting through my bookshelf for reading material to consume the hours he can’t sleep. He knows that he’s Prime Suspect #2.

Whether or not I ever get to read Fahrenheit 451 remains to be seen (I refuse to purchase the same book twice and there’s currently no one in my family game to buy it lest they be accused of the crime), but I maintain that book thieving is genetic and if I’m guilty of book theft, so too are my guilty-until-proven-otherwise Fahrenheit 451-thieving family.

But surely I’m not alone in this passion for books? Surely there are others so passionate about books and reading they’re prepared to beg, borrow, or steal (from family members only) to satiate their reading appetite? C’mon. Which books have you commandeered for your bookshelf? Which books have been commandeered from yours? And do you know the whereabouts of my Fahrenheit 451?