A sneak peek of the prologue from my first novel, ‘The Light Station’

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OK, so I’m working on a novel, called The Light Station. It’s set in the twenty-third and twenty-eighth centuries, and follows one Caesar Minnox, a lonely forty-something with a drinking problem and a house full of relics. In a nutshell, this is a story about sex, death and time travel – amongst other things.

We all know the importance of a strong start, so I’ve decided to share my prologue with you. I’d be delighted to hear what you think – whether it’s good, bad, or downright ugly.

 


SYNOPSIS

Caesar Minnox is a lost soul. Unable to find his place in a deteriorating twenty-third century society, he decides to embark on a life-changing journey and travels forward in time 600 years to the colony of Neo-London. At this point in the future, time-travel has become little more than a package holiday. It has been commercialised; tamed and domesticated. People visit to sample the inventive methods of intoxication, the exclusive health spas, or simply to say that they’ve done it. No real attention is paid to the world beyond their window.

Outside, the Sun is eagerly eating itself. As it morphs into a red giant, prompted by failing stores of helium, its radius expands and advances ever closer. Now, only a few protected colonies remain amongst otherwise disintegrated cities, generating their time-travel tourist trade whilst the planet awaits its inevitable fate.

Upon arrival in 2813, Caesar hopes to achieve the sense of belonging he has yearned for his whole life. Instead his sense of alienation is crystallised by his interactions with his fellow tourists. He finds himself drawn to a native scientist who confirms the existence of nomadic communities living outside of the colony’s boundaries. Though they are poverty-stricken and live devoid of all technology, Caesar develops romanticised notions of escaping to join these godless outlaws. He imagines himself being accepted by those learning to live in the dirt, and begins to wonder if his salvation lies beyond the colony’s glass perimeter…

Intent on escape, Caesar rushes into a nearby souvenir shop and buys a poorly thought-out survival kit before disappearing unnoticed into the night. What he finds out amongst the wastelands is far beyond anything he could ever have imagined and will change life as he knows it forever.

 


 

PROLOGUE

 

Dusk was falling on a damp, sticky autumn night; the first of many. Caesar surveyed the city from above with eyes the colour of a gathering storm. London was sprawled out beneath his sixtieth-floor apartment in all its glory, lights twinkling in greeting of the gathering crowds. Already he could hear the familiar night-time song – the buzz and thrum of distorted basslines, the crescendo of a siren’s wail, the guttural chug of rails and clattering heels-on-tile from deep within the Underground. The city rose out of the smog like a Valkyrie, fearless in the face of a sun that edged ever closer.

The days were always hot now. Even when it rained, the days were hot. The seasons had ceased to matter in that respect. Those who could took refuge inside, where the climate and air quality could be controlled. Those who couldn’t took measured breaths and hoped for thicker skins.

Caesar wouldn’t choose to be anywhere else though. The heat was everywhere, and besides, London was his city. The architecture spoke to him of ages past and battles won, and hiding in amongst the blocks and office buildings, he had found structures as old as digital memory. Caesar liked to think that they had stood watch over the years, as silent vigils of the city. Up close, London was all cramped streets and towering walls, drowning in smoke and dirt and crowds that shoved from every side. That didn’t matter. Not from up here. He could gaze down as if he were watching a television screen and could change the channel at any time. The people below him were nothing but a distant, thinking swarm – they could be anybody, anything. He liked it better that way.

It wasn’t that he hated them. He just didn’t know how to be a part of their world. The life he had been born into fit him poorly and he never seemed to grow into it, no matter how tall or wise he had gotten. His father used to joke that at some point during his childhood, the world had moved on and had chosen to leave him behind. He preferred his mother’s words – but then, he always had. During the years after she was gone, he had had to listen to his father unabated.

Not anymore though, he told himself, and never again.

He settled himself by the window, snuggled deep into his favourite chair and returned to his book. Paper was an expensive commodity nowadays, but books had been his guilty pleasure ever since he was a boy. The volume he was currently reading dated back centuries and was bound in luxurious, embossed leather. It was the only one left of its kind. A work of art, Caesar thought, even before you’ve opened it. He ran his fingers over the raised letters of the cover as he had done a thousand times before. This illustrated edition of Blake’s work was his favourite and held pride of place on a bookshelf which lined most of the room. The insurance for that alone had cost him thousands; printed material was now considered antique, as were most of his belongings. The majority of the furniture in the apartment was carved from solid wood, and the fabrics were hand-woven in the old way. Mock-ups of famous Impressionist paintings covered the walls. The surfaces were filled up by eclectic accessories, like the bust of One-Eyed Putin which sat poised in the hallway to greet him – half of it was kitsch, obsolete nonsense, but that didn’t matter to Caesar. That wasn’t the reason he had purchased these things. He collected them because this world no longer had a place for them. Their presence gave him a comfort he had never found in a crowd.

Though he had tried to make the technology in the space as unobtrusive as possible, its presence was inevitable. Most aspects of the home environment, from cooking and cleaning to monitoring and security measures, were fully automated. Furthermore, it seemed no one could get by in the twenty-third century without at least one reader and projector in every room.

Gods forbid I was to miss out on something, Caesar mused, it would turn to history before I knew about it. Seems I’m the only one left who cares about what’s past. He sighed. No-one cares about the facts, about the fear and death and sacrifice that’s come before us, about what’s made us who we are. All they care about is the present; the here and now. It’s all about e-tabloid headlines and bright lights, the Next Big Thing, and of course the fun, fun, fun. When did we become so shallow?

He spent many of his nights like this, alone and melancholic, pondering where the world had gone wrong. As an employee of the British Library, Caesar spent his days recording every last speck of cultural data deemed to have potential value for future generations. Given that nobody wrote books anymore, the definition of ‘value’ had been somewhat transformed: the last three months of his working life, for example, had been dedicated to documenting all the packaging, advertisements and examples of consumer feedback – including every comment or spin-off ever uploaded – for the controversial Japanese cereal, ‘Tii-To’ (famous in the mid-22nd Century for using topless schoolgirls to sell their merchandise). No wonder I’m so grumpy. The world’s gone bloody mad and I’m the only one who seems to have noticed.

As usual, that called for a drink. He shuffled into the gleaming marble kitchen, intent on topping up his glass. He found the bottle empty, but for a measly capful or so. Dammit, he cursed himself, I knew I’d forgotten something.

He had synthetics on tap within the apartment, of course, but Caesar had never really taken to any of the Government-approved intoxicants. They were clean, tasteless and ultimately unsatisfying. No, what he really wanted was the good stuff – a mature Scotch whisky or Russian vodka, perhaps, something with a real kick to it.

Big Ben rang out over the city, solemn and unflinching as ever. The eighth gong told him that he had time to get to Charlie’s before he closed up for the night.

He scooped up the bottle and peered through its eye. “One for the road?”

He shrugged and drained the last of it before slinging a coat around his shoulders and making his way out into the darkening streets of London.

 


 

 

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33 thoughts on “A sneak peek of the prologue from my first novel, ‘The Light Station’

  1. I have never been a great sci-fi fan, apart from Azimov and Bradbury, but reading your prologue stirred my interest again. It’s very readable, and I am already interested in your character Caeser, and I would definitely read more.
    ps. All writers are magpies? I like that. What do they collect – apart from other writers quotes?

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    • Thank you very much for saying so! 🙂

      And yes, I think of all writers as magpies – it is, of course, my opinion, but I think we’re united in the way we want to stand out from the crowd, let our voices be heard, and join the quest to find something to make our own. Magpies are the great communicators of the bird world – they have the most varied vocal range, and their calls (though admittedly not to our ears) are some of the most complex. Magpies are also famously the collectors of shiny trinkets, and I think that writers by nature do the same – whether that’s with quotes we like, with books, or with general information that might spark an idea in our work. Magpies also have the habit of knotting the bright trinkets they find together in their nests to make something else entirely, before putting them on display – another characteristic I think writers share. We’re all writing about the same world, but we can all find a different way of doing it, a way that’s uniquely ours, and we want to share it with everyone.

      It’s no coincidence that they are, by far, my favourite bird!

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  2. Just desire to say your article is as amazing.
    The clearness in your post is just great and i can assume
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  3. Your prologue reads more like a first chapter to me! It doesn’t hint from an unknown vantage point the way prologues tend to; it gives us all the introductory info we need and the linear movement of the story actually begins here — Caesar walks out the door and then we follow him to the bar in Chapter 1 — it doesn’t occupy a different time or place than the main story. Not that you should follow any set rules. It’s just that we seem to dive right in, here 🙂

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    • I see your point… I’ve tried to use the prologue to give the reader a sense of who Caesar is and what he’s like, before the action of the story begins. Like the deep breath before the plunge 🙂

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  4. A good point, schn00dles – the reason is that in the world I create, it’s just not possible to go back earlier than the present. Later on the novel I explain the method of time-travel, which makes the limitation clearer.

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  5. Amazing concepts. Great touches of the visual environment. Your writing carries this reader into the lands ahead of this time. I am intrigued. You’re an excellent writer. I am impressed by your control of language and usage. I do want to read this book. Look forward to it. 😎 jkm

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much for saying so! There are a few sneak peeks of the novel available on the blog, so feel free to check those out. It might be a little while before I get the book written – I’m a super-perfectionist when it comes to my fiction.

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  6. Your prologue is very very nicely written. I was immediately drawn to the world you created. I had the same feeling as another reader as to Caesar enjoying the past more but I read your reply. It’s really chapter 1 though, not a prologue. Already mentioned I saw.
    Would love to read more

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  7. Hi, the synopsis is really great, though why ‘neo-London’ why not ‘London’ or Landan. Oh, it’s probably a different place hmmm.

    You just have to take your prologue through the drafts and make it mouth-wateringly visual.. First paragraphs are a nitmare, 🙂

    PROLOGUE

    Dusk was falling (fell) on a damp, sticky (delete an adjective) autumn night; the first of many ( reader trips). Caesar surveyed the city from above (below him, stick with pov) with eyes the colour of a gathering storm (reader pauses, thinks, reads the line again, and thinks ‘what colour is that?’ no). London was (dead verb, try ‘lay’) sprawled out beneath his sixtieth-floor apartment (in all its glory) SHOW!!, (shop) lights twinkling (twinkled) in greeting of the gathering crowds. (Already, delete) he (listened to)could hear the familiar night-time song – the buzz and thrum of distorted basslines, the crescendo of a siren’s wail, the guttural chug of rails and clattering heels-on-tile from deep within the Underground (railway?) . The city rose out of the smog like a Valkyrie, fearless in the face of a (the?) sun that edged ever closer.

    I hope that gives you ideas, rather than pissing you off…I wouldn’t want to, it will be brilliant.

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  8. Thanks for following my blog which lead me to yours. I am intrigued by your story, and honestly thought your synopsis WAS the prologue. You’ve asked for suggestions, so here goes: Prologue is where the reader gets her bearings, and Chapter 1 is where the action begins. I resisted the idea of a prologue with my novel, but at the urging of my editor, I wrote one (much like my synopsis) and bang, the story starts in Chapter 1 without having to explain time, place, and a bit of back story. I now agree with her! Best wishes with your writing. E

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Wow, what an opening! Thank you for following WordBowlbyMsCharlieS.com (hope to see a word suggestion from you) and thank you for introducing me to your evocative, compelling writing. Very much look forward to reading more!

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    • Thank you very much, Ms Charlie! 🙂 I will definitely be contributing a word to your blog if you’ll have it, I absolutely love the idea!! 🙂 I’ll give it some thought and try and come up with a really good one…

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  10. An interesting start to a sure to be interesting book. I loved the mention of Valkyries, but then it is quite possible that I am biased because of Valkyrie Cain.

    I agree that a good prologue will draw anyone into a book. In fact, a strong start could mean the differance between someone reading it and someone putting it back. The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater has a very very interesting start:

    A secret is a strange thing.
    There are three kinds of secrets. One is the sort everyone knows about, the sort you need at least two people for. One to keep it. One to never know. The second is a harder kind of secret: one you keep from yourself. Every day,
    thousands of confessions are kept from their would-be confes- sors, none of these people knowing that their never-admitted secrets all boil down to the same three words: I am afraid.
    And then there is the third kind of secret, the most hidden kind. A secret no one knows about. Perhaps it was known once, but was taken to the grave. Or maybe it is a useless mystery, arcane and lonely, unfound because no one ever looked for it.
    Sometimes, some rare times, a secret stays undiscovered because it is something too big for the mind to hold. It is too strange, too vast, too terrifying to contemplate.
    All of us have secrets in our lives. We’re keepers or kept- from, players or played. Secrets and cockroaches — that’s what will be left at the end of it all.
    Ronan Lynch lived with every sort of secret.

    It is a very interesting book, and it was those words that pulled me right into it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi J.M.
    My comments are probably a bit late and others have offered enough for you to think about but………….. I deliberately didn’t read your synopsis…… I didn’t want to know too much. I wanted to see if you could hook me in right from the start…….. and you did.
    I’m not a huge fan of prologues but that doesn’t matter……. how you structure your novel is up to you…….. I just imagined that I had picked up your book in some old, dusty book shop that was constantly on the verge of going out of business….. I imagined that I had better check out your book now [even though I should be doing other things] because this shop might not be here when I next go by.
    I really dislike ‘criticising’ other writers work so I’m going to pretend that it is something I wrote, put aside, and came back to. If it were me I would leave out the first paragraph [I might be tempted to use some of the stuff in it at a later date].
    For me, it all starts with the second paragraph.
    I am honestly, not easy to please, but you managed to get me interested in your character and in the possibilities of his world, in a very short time…………. I’m impressed.
    When you publish I would like you to let me know.
    Terry

    Liked by 1 person

    • It certainly needs tinkering with, as it’s very early in the drafting process, but I’m really pleased that it has grabbed your interest! I’m hoping I’ll get chance to do more work on it through November, although I’m not sure when I’ll finish – I’m such a perfectionist when it comes to my fiction! I will certainly let you know once I’m done, though 🙂 Thanks very much for taking the time to comment! 🙂

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  12. Hi J.M.,
    Your comments about standing out from the crowd and seeking something to call our own stuck with me. That’s kinda why folks start blogs and write books and stories, isn’t it? You captured it well.
    And your synopsis has me intrigued–I always like wondering how the future will be–even if that future entails coping with something not-so-nice (like a degenerating Sun).
    Thanks for following me at Fiction and Copy Decoded.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re welcome, Ty @) It’s always nice to hear that my thoughts resonate with other people, so thanks for commenting. Hopefully, you will be seeing a lot more of my future world in November, as I’m hoping I’ll get some time to work on it then. 🙂

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