Fellow writer and ALLi member Jule Owen’s debut novel, THE BOY WHO FELL FROM THE SKY is out today! So without further ado, here is Jule Owen to tell you all about her debut novel, Cli-Fi fic, and The House Next Door trilogy. Stay tuned at the end of the interview for an exclusive excerpt of THE BOY WHO FELL FROM THE SKY.
Mathew Erlang’s future is coming to get him.
The world is falling apart in 2055. Another flood has devastated London and it’s the eve of the First Space War. With the city locked down, sixteen-year-old Mathew Erlang is confined to his house with only his cat, his robot and his holographic dragons for company.
Desperate for a distraction from the chaos around him, Mathew becomes fascinated by his peculiar and reclusive neighbor, August Lestrange. Mathew begins to investigate Mr. Lestrange, turning to the virtual world of the Nexus and Blackweb for answers. But as he digs deeper, Mathew realizes that Mr. Lestrange doesn’t seem quite human.
When Mathew accidentally finds himself trapped in Lestrange’s house, he opens a door and falls four hundred years into the future—a week before the end of the world. Unwittingly, he starts to destabilise the course of human history.
A 1984 for a new generation, The Boy Who Fell from the Sky delves into a future where climate change and technology have transformed the world. It is the first book in The House Next Door trilogy, a young adult dystopian science fiction action adventure. Mathew’s story continues in Silverwood.
Click to download The Boy Who Fell from the Sky here
The Boy Who Fell from the Sky is the first book in the young adult dystopian science fiction action adventure the House Next Door trilogy. Mathew’s story continues in Silverwood.
When Mathew Erlang’s mother, Hoshi, becomes seriously ill, he’ll do anything he can to save her. He knows his future self would too.
Breaking into the house next door, the one belonging to his peculiar neighbour, August Lestrange, he activates his holographic games room, which doubles as a time machine, to hack into his own future. Alone in an England afflicted by extreme weather, biological warfare and civil war, Mathew needs to find his older self before Lestrange catches up with him and takes him back to his own time.
You can download Silverwood, the sequel to The Boy Who Fell from the Sky HERE
Interview with Author
What made you want to write YA time travel fiction?
I love books like the Hunger Games and Divergent. I also love books like Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking and Chuck Wendig’s Heartland Trilogy. They are all exciting, deeply engaging dystopian action adventure series. They all make you stop and think. So I wanted to write something similar. But I’ve been reading about futurology and climate change for years and they have seeped into my subconscious. I liked the idea of exploring possible futures based on the non-fiction I’d be reading. To do that I needed Mathew Erlang, my main character, to be able to jump forward into the future to see how things turn out.
Why specifically write teen dystopia? Why not write for adults?
I’m not sure I am specifically writing just for teens. I read a lot of young adult fiction and I’m certainly not a teen! But when I built the world and the much bigger story that Mathew’s tale exists in, he happened to turn out to be a teenaged boy at the beginning of his series.
You describe your books at cli-fi. What does that mean?
Cli-fi means climate change fiction. It’s a spin on sci-fi, of course, but it’s a type of dystopian science fiction or speculative fiction that specifically deals with the impact of climate change on the people of the future.
Why did you want to write about climate change?
It’s the big issue of our times and the biggest challenge we’ve faced as a civilisation. There’s a huge scientific consensus about the fact that climate change is man made and that it is likely to massively disrupt our lives in the future, but lots of people don’t believe in it. I read an article a while ago in The New Scientist (which is my favourite magazine) saying that the climate change lobby needs more artists and writers to go and spread the message. Frighteningly, young people, who are likely to suffer the most in the future, are particularly not engaging with the issue.
When will the next one in the series be out?
The Boy Who Fell from the Sky is part of the House Next Door trilogy, a series of three dystopian science fiction novels. Silverwood, which is the next is the series is already available. The third and final part, The Moon at Noon will be out in December 2015. Look out for the box-set in early 2016.
So is there a bigger story beyond Mathew’s then?
Oh yes. There’s much bigger story and more books to come! You need to find out more about the Lamplighter, the Kind and understand more about who Mr. Lestrange really is.
An exclusive excerpt from The Boy Who Fell from the Sky
The House Next Door Series — by Jule Owen
At first he spins. The sky and the trees below spin too, and his stomach lurches. Then he is parallel to the horizon, arms and legs spread-eagled like a skydiver. The air pushes at his limbs. He extends and flexes his fingers, lifts his head and looks across the treetops at the breath-taking scale of the forest, the unbroken canopy of green stretching into the misty horizon and cloud-covered mountains in the distance. The assault on his senses and instincts is overwhelming. Beauty, joy, exhilaration, and terror all at once. The ground is pulling him towards it at an alarming rate.
I’m going to die, he thinks. Then, This isn’t real. This is not real.
As the trees rush towards him, as he nears the ground, he passes close to the side of a rocky cliff face, pounding white water throttling down, and he is like a stone in the waterfall. The spray soaks him to the skin. Fighting fear, he dares glance below. There is a lake where the falling water gathers: a blue pool, pale at the edges, shading to sapphire in the centre.
I hope it’s deep, he thinks as he breaks the surface, feet first.
He plunges until the water finally catches hold of him like firm hands, and he is slowed, for moments on end, still and hanging, suspended in chains of bubbles escaping to the surface. It is dark and cold. Visibility is limited to a few feet ahead. Staring into the darkness, he half-expects a monster of the deep to snatch him in its jaws or tentacles. Without even realising it, he is clawing his way towards the air, his arms reaching around and down, the pressure of the water helping him, forcing him towards the world. Light refracts on the surface, glistening and dancing.
Breaking through to his own element, he takes great gulps of air, his chest shuddering painfully, his arms thrashing. His head goes under and he swallows water; he emerges coughing and choking and thrashes some more, plunging under, panicking, until some strange, calm voice in his head tells him to stop, to be still, to lie back in the water, to trust, to get control of his breath.
Then he is suspended on the top of the sapphire pool, arms and legs outstretched like he is skydiving in reverse now, floating, waiting for his heart and the blood pulsing in his ears to quieten. The sky is a cloudless blue above him. There is a curtain of green in the corners of his eyes.
The sun is hot and already burning, but the water has chilled him, and he enjoys the sensation of his skin and his bones thawing. The water laps his ears with the wet, round, unknowable sounds of the lake. Bobbing in and out of the sounds of the forest, there’s a wall of noise, of birdsong and the calls of strange animals, and he tunes in to the clamour and distinguishes whistles, clicks, buzzings, individual songs, and angry cries.
Turning his head, scanning, he spies a bank of smooth rock and swims towards it. The water is much shallower at the edges, and he is able to stand and wade onto dry land. He sits on one of the rocks and takes off his boots, drains them of water, and sets them and his socks aside to dry, flattening the sodden wool against the hot stone.
He gazes at the waterfall and the empty air above it.
There is no door. Nothing.
He has literally fallen to this place from the sky.
This must be a game, or a virtual reality world. Admittedly, it would be the most sophisticated one ever invented. It is so real. He taps the rocks with his knuckles – it hurts. It genuinely hurts. The sensation of falling, of hitting the water, of swimming, of almost drowning – well, it was remarkable. His throat is still sore from choking.
Still, this is the most obvious explanation: He has logged into Mr Lestrange’s Darkroom, which happens to be playing the most remarkable virtual world ever made.
Now all he has to do is to find a way to leave.
There is no possibility of going back the way he has come. But there is no rush. It is a lovely spot, with the sunlight pouring in, the rocks hot under his skin, the sound of the birds, and the roar of the waterfall. Lying back, he closes his eyes and dozes off.
And wakes with a start.
Something disturbing – life-threatening, even – has pulled him from his dreams. But when he sits and looks around, nothing has changed except the position of the sun in the sky, which is now much farther to the east and casting longer shadows. It is still hot, and the air still sings with birds and insects.
Discomfort registers in his brain. His arms and feet are red: burnt. Stupid, he thinks. And he wonders again at the advanced nature of this world, making him believe he is sunburnt. Virtual world or not, his skin hurts like hell, his head is sore, and he is parched. The water in the lake, he supposes, is fresh. Wading a little into the shallows, he bends and takes a couple of tentative sips, cupping the water to his mouth with his palms. It tastes good, and he gulps more.
He ponders what he should do next. Where to start to search for the door? Remembering his view of the canopy of the forest – it stretches forever. The door might be anywhere. Or maybe Mr Lestrange will come home from wherever he has gone to and pull the plug on the game, take the skullcap off his head. That’s the most likely scenario. In which case, he should make the most of this enormous playground.
If this is a VR world, he thinks, then there should be a map. He calls his Lenz to try the Nexus and sees a list of available networks. They are all in a strange alphabet. He tries one and is prompted for a password, and a warning message flashes. He closes it and tries the Blackweb. It is not there. He doesn’t understand.
I’m really on my own.
Wading back to the shore, he sits to pull on his boots. They are dry outside but still damp on the inside. There’s no choice but to put them on. His feet are swollen from the sunburn, and it hurts to pull his socks and boots onto his feet. Cursing, he ties his laces.
All around the perimeter of the lake is an unbroken wall of creeping, thriving green, with no obvious way through the jungle. He needs something to beat a path in front of him. He finds a long pole, wide enough to be substantial but thin enough to grip, breaks some smaller branches off and tests the weight of it in his hand. It’s good.
The lake empties into a small river, which he decides to follow. It’s bound to lead to people, to the coast or something else.
It’s easier going than he imagined, although he has to veer away from the stream to walk around trees and bushes. His feet chafe in his wet boots. The pain from the sunburn on his feet and arms is persistent. It’s humid.
He stops to drink again from the stream. The water pooling in his hand has bits floating in it. He swills his hand and tries again, this time scooping closer to the top where it runs faster. It tastes fine. If this was real, if he was in Elgol, hiking into the wild mountains surrounding the community, he would never be so bold, but he needs to drink. His clothes are soaked with his own sweat.
His ears are assaulted by the sounds of life all around him, but he sees only an occasional flicker of movement of birds in the trees above. Flies swarm about his face, attracted by the salt on his skin, and beyond the path he is beating for himself he is aware of small life, insects cutting leaves, crawling amongst the humus of the forest floor, gathering dying and decaying things for their food. He tries to block them from his mind.
The light is dimming, and he starts to reflect on what he will do at night for warmth and light. Although he certainly doesn’t need the heat, a fire would give him light and keep animals away.
The filtered greenish sunlight in the forest suddenly curdles yellow, electricity charges the air and there is a crack of lightning and then thunder, rumbling under the ground towards him. Another round of the same and a large raindrop breaks on his nose, then another on his hand, his arm, his neck, his head.
He’s experienced a lot of rainstorms in London, but this rain comes in drops so large they hurt. As the storm gains momentum, it is like whole buckets of water are being thrown over him.
Water rolls off the green, shiny leaves all around him onto the ground in rivulets and streams.
Drenched anyway by his own sweat, the rain cools him and plasters sodden cotton to his skin. Carrying on, he tries to ignore it, but drops pound on his head – it’s hard on his scalp, like a persistent finger prodding him.
Eventually, he stops and searches around for somewhere to shelter. He gets under a plant with large, long leaves, but the rain comes through as the branches bow with the force of the water. He grabs a leaf and twists and yanks to snap it off – then breaks off another and another and props them against the trunk of a tree, managing to build a makeshift shelter, like a half-tepee. He just fits inside if he crouches into a ball, his knees drawn to his chin. It is not totally dry, but at least it keeps the pounding off his skull. Then he sits and waits, staring at his boots, worrying about his feet and grateful for the opportunity to rest. When he’s still, they don’t hurt as much.
In his peripheral vision, he catches something moving on a leaf, near his face. Something slow. The hair on the back of his neck stands. Without moving his head, he turns his eyes.
There is a spider, the size of his hand, walking across a leaf hanging beside him. It stops. It is waiting, watching, smelling, or whatever deadly jungle spiders do. He doesn’t dare move. He doesn’t dare breathe. Then, as silently as it arrived, it moves off into the undergrowth. He lets go of the breath he was holding.
The rain eases, then stops, and he crawls from his shelter. It’s getting dark. The forest is dripping.
Even if I knew how, he thinks, I’ll never make a fire in this dampness.
Less exuberantly, he starts to walk again, thinking it’s best to keep moving. The stream becomes a river.
Then he hears the noise from his dream. He remembers it now: a primal, horrifying sound, a deep, guttural growl. Angry. No – beyond angry – amoral. . . . More than anything it sounds hungry.
Stopping dead in his tracks, he surveys around. Nothing. But he knows now for sure, something in the forest is watching him. He strains to detect movement, the crack of a twig, the sound of branches or leaves brushing against a body. His ears pulse with the sound of his treacherous heart, louder than the birds and the insects. Sweat drips off his nose as he stares into the forest. Leaves bob as rainwater drips from higher branches.
It’s getting dark, and he doesn’t want to be walking in the forest when this growling creature might come at him from anywhere.
He is standing beside a tall tree. Long, thick, sinuous vines hang from its branches. He grabs one and uses it to pull himself up, his feet walking up the side of the trunk, wincing with pain. The vine rope slips in his hand, the muscles in his shoulders and arms burn, his arms aren’t strong enough.
Why didn’t he spend more time playing in the holovision gym?
He loses his grip and falls. Trying again, he finds footholds between branches and in knotholes, grits his teeth, and wraps the vine partially around his arm to gain leverage. After a few falls, he climbs the tree, swearing all the way. Twenty feet up, there’s a gap between the branches big enough for him to fit in if he scrunches into a ball.
He’s breathing heavily; the dripping forest pelts him with drops of rain still running off leaves and branches. At first he ignores it. He rests his head on his hands, his knees drawn up to his chest, and closes his eyes. The drips are less frequent but they are large and hard. Every time he starts to feel himself drifting off to sleep, one breaks on his head or his face. After a long hour, he is wide awake staring at the sodden wood of the tree. He doesn’t want to have to climb down from the tree again.
I’ll never sleep like this. I have to find a way to cover myself.
Grabbing the vines, he lowers himself from the tree and collects the same kind of leaves he used earlier to shelter himself from the rain.
He finds some long strips of supple bark to tie the leaves into a bundle and climbs again, slightly more adept this time. Once he arrives and secures his seat by wedging a leg to push his body back against the trunk, he hauls his parcel after him and unties it. He lays half of the long leaves in the fork of the trunk that is acting as his bed. The rest he wedges between branches above him, making a rough kind of roof.
It’s pitch dark now, and he tries to get comfortable. All around, plants and animals slither and move. He listens for a long time, his eyes open, staring into the creeping blackness.
What is this place? It can’t be real, can it?
The same question churns over and over in his mind. It muddles and twists and blurs.
Finally, miraculously, he falls asleep.