One of the first authors I met (with a publisher other than my own), after signing my contract and trying to establish a presence on social media, joins me today. By the time I met him, Joshua David Bellin had gotten a good start on his Facebook and Twitter accounts, and he had recently created his blog, The YA Guy, where he reviews and promotes other young adult books, as well as his own. I pre-ordered his book, Survival Colony 9, and anxiously awaited its release–though, I did wait a little extra time so I could get an autographed copy. I read it as soon as it came, enjoyed it, wanted to have Joshua join me here . . . but I got busy. So, after a several month delay, here he is, the author of Survival Colony 9, Joshua David Bellin. Read on after the interview for a review of his book. But I admit, I’m not comfortable writing reviews, so it will lack the eloquence with which Joshua writes his reviews.
Ok. I want to get this out of the way right off. We all know you’re a huge King Kong fan. I didn’t notice any references to the giant ape in Survival Colony 9, but I may have missed something. Of all the sequels, remakes, guest appearances, parodies, and references, which is your favorite of the great ape’s RE-appearances?
Well, we can rule out the ’76 version immediately. The Peter Jackson remake isn’t horrible, except it’s about two hours too long and relies too heavily on CG effects. I’m going to go with another Willis O’Brien vehicle, the original Mighty Joe Young. Even better stop-motion (thanks to O’Brien’s assistant, Ray Harryhausen in his first feature film), and thought the plot and acting are on the weak side, it was nice to see a giant monster film that ends happily for the giant monster!
I intended to insert a clip from How I Met Your Mother here. There’s a scene where a monkey climbs a model of the Empire State Building and they throw paper airplanes at it, but I couldn’t find it.
On to your book. I know authors don’t like to speculate which actors should play characters in their books. The best reason I’ve heard for this is they don’t want the reader to have a presupposition for what a character looks like. After all, when you first read Lord or the Rings, did Frodo look anything like Elijah Wood? (Yet for me, Gandalf did look a lot like Ian McKellen.) So I won’t put you on the spot here, but what do you think of *whispers name of a top billed action star* as Laman?
I think he’d be great in the role of Laman! Impressive presence, very authoritative, but with an edge of something dangerous or unbalanced. For the same reason, I think [cough, cough] would be just as awesome.
A few aspects of this book reminded me of The Walking Dead. We’ll skip the obvious world in ruin stuff. Laman, as a leader, reminded me a lot of Rick. Laman had a bit more of a grip on his sanity, but he grew up in his world, Rick grew up before the world ended. This could be hard to adjust to. Both had a son under their wing, and both sought a permanent shelter. (Of course, I think we, as people, want a permanent shelter. If not, we’d have never started building houses.) Can you expand on some similarities/differences you see?
You’re not the first person to make a Walking Dead connection with my book, but I have to admit: I’ve never seen the show. (Or that’s not entirely true—I watched the first episode simply to see if it was as similar to my book as people were saying, but I didn’t like it.) In general, I’m not a huge fan of zombies. I feel like they’ve been done to death, and with very little originality to the story line. They’re undead cannibals who turn their victims into other undead cannibals and destroy the world in the process. Been there, done that.
The reason I made the connection (and I can’t speak for the show, I’ve only seen an episode or two), is the comics really aren’t about zombies. Sure, they exist, and when it’s time for a character to get killed off, they can always get bitten, but the stories are about the people learning to live in a new world. It’s character driven more than any other Zombie medium I’ve seen. It could be a world taken over by mutant lions and have the same result. (Hum, a world taken over by mutant lions.) Anyway, In Survival Colony 9, the Skaldi made them live in constant fear, but the book was really about the characters.
I also intended to compare the Skaldi to the byrus in Stephen King’s Dreamcathcer, but I forgot.
In one scene, Laman makes everyone give up the items they carry that aren’t absolutely necessary. In our world, so full of hoarders there’s even a TV show about it, how hard do you think it would be for people to give up sentimental items in the event of the apocalypse?
I think it would be nearly impossible. Though I personally feel we in the western world care far too much about material possessions—this is an ongoing dispute with my wife and kids, by the way—there’s no denying that this stuff defines us. So if the world were to collapse, and on top of that (as in my novel) memory were to fade to the extent that people have practically no reference points to the past, I think the importance of material stuff would be greatly magnified. Which is one thing that makes Laman a problematic leader—he doesn’t understand this. But as readers will discover, he has his own reasons for not understanding.
I always like to ask authors about characters they like or dislike. I did not like Yov. Who are some of your favorites/least favorites?
I actually like Yov, because he’s such a smart-mouth jerk he got some of the best lines in the book! But leaving him aside, I love Aleka and Petra, two of the strong women in the colony, and Korah, because she’s so much more complex than I’d originally planned. She was one of those characters who took on a life of her own and refused to be limited by my first intentions. If I had to choose a character I don’t like—which is hard, because in this book I very much wanted there not to be simple heroes and villains, so I got to know all my characters too well to hate them—I’d say it’s Araz. I get where he’s coming from, but I simply can’t condone some of the things he does.
You’re the second person in a row I mentioned the character I liked least, and the author pointed out that the character is smart-mouthed. Interesting. What does that say about me? Maybe I don’t like characters too similar to myself.
All right, enough about Survival Colony 9. As you wrote in the book, “Life isn’t about looking back. It’s about looking ahead.” What can you tell us about Skaldi City? I assume it will also be about Querry. What’s next for him? Do you know an approximate release date?
I don’t have a release date yet, alas. But you’ll know as soon as I do (as will the rest of the Twittersphere). SKALDI CITY picks up right where SURVIVAL COLONY 9 leaves off, but it takes Querry and the others into very different territory, revealing much more of the world, as well as much more of his personal history. I think readers will be surprised by what they discover. And they’ll also meet a new character who is, hands down, my favorite in the series. So it’s something to be on the lookout for!
I look forward to it. I’d pre-order a copy now if I could. On to the review.
Querry Genn can’t remember who his is, or how he got to Survival Colony 9, but he needs to remember to save himself . . . and possibly the human race. In a world destroyed by war, the remaining people formed survival colonies, but harsh climates, including lack of food and water, aren’t the only threats in this post-apocalyptic world. They also have to contend with the Skaldi. No one knows what these monsters look like. No one has seen them and lived to tell. You see, they possess a human host and mimic them perfectly. They could be anyone, even me.
Joshua David Bellin creates a completely plausible dystopian world. When the Skaldi attack, and Survival Colony 9 has to pack up and run, you’re there. When they find a place to set up camp, possibly for a long-term, you feel their relief. And you share in their losses when members of Survival Colony 9 fail to survive the Skaldi.
My only complaint is the book left me wanting more. Sorry for the vagueness, but I’m not actually sure what ‘more’ I wanted from it. I may have wanted more interaction between Querry and Laman. Or perhaps I wanted more information about Querry or the Skaldi. If that’s the case, I guess it’s a compliment not a complaint. In which case, I should get my ‘more’ in Skaldi City.