I’m still learning how to use this blog to self-promote. I may still be laboring under the idea that self-promotion is somehow noxious or offensive. I guess it’s all in the definitions. Self-aggrandizement, the exultation of self over others, is certainly offensive and even sinful. But if self-promotion is simply calling attention to the fact that you’ve done something, while leaving to others the judgment of how good or worthy that thing is, seems a different thing.
What might the future hold? Authors and poets mine that theme extensively, coming up with answers that range from the intriguing to the highly improbable. But for the most part, such authors place their foretold futures at some remove, a century or more in the future, often after a period of significant change. This facilitates suspension of disbelief, for the reader can allow that circumstances might be different then.
But what about the very near future? How might things look in, say, a generation? What conditions might we find in twenty or thirty years? This sounds like a simple matter, but I’ve found it a more difficult question to address. Conditions would be close to those found today, but not too close. The imagination can wader, but not far, for the world would not be very much changed (though considering how much it has changed in the past thirty years, it may be more changed than you’d think.) Yet imagining the near future provides a superb opportunity to examine the current choices a society is making and project where they might take us in very short order. Some of the great speculative fiction of the 20th century, such as 1984, Brave New World, and That Hideous Strength (in my opinion the greatest of them) all postulated a future that was within the lifespan of their readers.
This is a hard book to categorize. It’s a thriller, but it doesn’t involve police, military, or secretive government operatives (well…maybe a few). It isn’t set in an exotic locale like Vienna or Shanghai, but in nearly-rural eastern Michigan. Its protagonists are everyday people making what seem like everyday decisions – until those choices put them into desperate situations facing life-and-death choices. Above all, it is a tale that considers where some trends and choices being faced today may bring us in the very near future.
The two protagonists, Derek and Janice, are casual friends who encounter circumstances that take them on sharply divergent paths. Though an unusual encounter, Derek is drawn into a world rich with the love and belonging that his life has lacked – but the deeper he goes, the more he learns of the secrets that world hides, and the terrible reason for them. Janice, also lost and lonely, gets lured into a different world, one that at first seems glamorous, attractive, and compelling. Only as she’s drawn further in does she learn the real reason for this world, and the high price she must pay to belong.
Under the Watchful Sky follows the two as they walk their different paths, facing challenges and making choices. They encounter friends and enemies, people both wonderful and atrocious, until a series of calamities brings it all crashing down around them. Derek is forced to flee for his life, only to have to walk right back into danger to rescue Janice from the foes whose hands she had delivered herself into. Trapped by the cunning of their enemies, only a feat of towering heroism can free them.
Fortunately, there’s a hero right at hand.
Under the Watchful Sky is intended first to be a good tale, a solid example of the art of storytelling. I hope it achieved that goal, though if reviews and feedback are any indication, it is at least that. It is also intended to provoke thought, to help the reader look at life from a different perspective, without being preachy or engaging in sermonizing. In this sense, writing stories about the near future is easier, because you can use current-day situations and assumptions and project just a little bit so that people can see where their attitudes could easily lead them.
My publisher has billed the work as “dystopian”, though that is a little misleading, because that genre makes people think of works like The Hunger Games or Children of Men. Watchful Sky doesn’t reach that far in the future, or postulate such a radically changed culture, but it is intended to engage and entertain readers, as well as get them to think about things they perhaps haven’t considered before. I hope it will do well, because it is the first in a four (so far) book series, and if Watchful is reasonably successful, the others may be published.
"This is by far, the best 'Catholic' novel written since Michael O'Brien published FATHER ELIJAH 20 years ago. This is an absolute page turner, gripping the reader from beginning to end. Combine the intelligence of early Tom Clancy with the wit of Flannery O'Connor and the symbolism of Tolkien (there are Tolkien references throughout the book) and you'll come close to Roger Thomas. I was upset when I finished this, as I wanted to second in the series, NOW!" - Dr. Brad Birzer of Hillsdale College.