Day Two of Sci Fi Week – I’ve sat here for the past five minutes wondering whether or not to post the review of the book first or the Interview first and I just don’t know. Does it really matter? I think it makes more sense to read the review of Other Systems first and then find out a little more about the talented author next.
Other Systems by Elizabeth Guizzetti was published by 48Fourteen Publishing earlier this year in April and follows the story of Abby, who surprisingly leaves all of her family and friends on Earth and is heading off to Kipos, a planet light years away to start a new life; one filled with education, heart warming stories about loving spouses and grand jobs. But things aren’t that simple however, and Abby is soon to discover that life upon this Utopian planet is actually more of a hellish nightmare. She is sold to a man as a slave and life is pretty drastic and dire. Will she escape or will she learn to ride the difficult culture and accept her new position in an unknown planet?
What I loved about Other Systems was the highly advanced world Elizabeth Guizzetti creates. It is one full of history and full of promise and the result of this is actually a fully rendered 3D world we can actually visualise and understand. Kipos is a planet on the decline; generations after generations are succumbing to a failed reproduction law and are desperate for solutions. You can get sucked in to the entire political situation of Guizzetti’s world and it almost serves as a dual storyline alongside Abby’s turmoil.
I feel it safe to say that Other Systems is indeed an adult novel and it features many unpleasant scenes and situations that are difficult to read, yet this is not a bad thing! It is the awful point where Abby is raped that you suddenly awaken to the addictiveness this sort of novel produces. You simply have to read more. You want Abby to be OK; you want her to live on and make something of herself; not letting those awful moments define her as a person.
For Abby is such a relatable character and a protagonist whom we learn to love and admire. I think Abby can come across incredibly naïve in the beginning, falling for the false promises offered to her, but why not? Despite her quite innocent approach at times, she is a highly modern woman; a woman with many ideals and emotions that can distance some readers. Should monogamy be the right path? For Abby, love is something she learns to accept on many levels and her approach is simply her choice. As a reader we can either accept this, or see it as one of her flaws. And it is these flaws that can also make Abby so readable. We aren’t perfect ourselves so why would we want to read ‘perfect’ characters?
Guizzetti’s book is quite technical at times and this is to be expected from a book of this genre. It never patronises you though and at times you come away feeling quite knowledgeable about the processes and technologies within the novel. Surely this is a sign of the author’s talent? It is obvious she has done her research with so much attentiveness and love.
Alongside Abby is a cast of interesting and fully rendered characters. Take Cole for instance who can almost come across as quite endearing at times. Cole can almost be seen as a love interest for Abby, but you realise much later on that their relationship is more of a father and daughter. With the inclusion of male characters we also come across Harden and Mark. With that also comes the subject of homosexuality.
I won’t go into too much detail as I don’t want to spoil everything the book has to offer but we come to realise that Harden is bisexual, which is quite rare to see in books. I think it is wonderful that Guizzetti has dared to approach these subjects and decided to explore them.
There is simply just so many things going on within this novel and you can’t help but let of all these intertwining events and politics take over your own imagination. What if our world was like that? Where would we be as a civilisation? It most definitely gives you cause for concern as you come across the beginnings of these things in our own country.
Of course a review wouldn’t be fair without showing both sides of the coin. If subjects such as rape and character sexuality are something that you wish NOT to read then I’m afraid you won’t find this book very enjoyable. The sensitive subjects are never thrown at you with menace but I would assume that many people may find all of this uncomfortable in a shockingly unpleasant way.
I think it fair to say that at times, the flow of the book can slow and it is at these times where reading can become a little confusing especially if you aren’t fully aware of the subject matter. However, with a book of this nature and calibre it does deserve your entire attention.
I would highly recommend Elizabeth Guizzetti’s Other Systems as a book to reignite the Sci-Fi genre to you if you have ever left it if you are fan; definitely go and add it to your wish list. It has a nice balance of action and emotion and with very well written characters, there will be someone in here that you can find so attachable. It’s an intelligent novel that will send your mind wondering and I loved the fact that the book could become quite intense at times because ultimately this strengthened my connection with the characters. When you read this book, you will understand exactly what I mean.
Author Interview with Elizabeth Guizzetti
It gives me great pleasure to welcome Elizabeth Guizzetti here for an interview. Hi Elizabeth! Her author profile tells us that she loves to create (which is extremely apparent within her book) and once she has an idea she runs off with the idea, not letting it go until she has given it her all. Over the past decade, she has created over 100 paintings, three graphic novels and a comic book series. Other Systems is her first published novel.
Elizabeth currently lives in Seattle with her husband and two dogs.
- Other Systems is a wonderfully crafted and well structured Sci-Fi novel featuring Abby’s quest to start a new life. Tell us a little about what we can discover inside?
Other Systems is a story of determination and survival set against a background of scientific exploration. It explores the loss of identity, family, and friends due to time dilation.
Without an influx of human DNA, the planet Kipos has eleven generations before its human colony reaches failure. Gene splicing and cloning have failed. It will take over two centuries to get to Earth and back at near light speed. When the Kiposi transports arrive in our solar system, they are shocked to discover the outer colonies (Triton, Ganymede among others) are abandoned. The Home World is crumbling and filled with 17 billion wanton savages.
The novel follows Abby, an Earthling, who after medical, intelligence, and physiological testing is offered transportation along with her younger siblings, Jin and Orchid. They leave Earth with the expectation of good jobs, kindhearted spouses, and the opportunity for higher education. When Abby wakes up on Kipos, Jin cannot be found. Orchid is ripped from her arms as Abby is sold to a dull-eyed man with a sterilized wife. To survive, Abby must learn the differences in culture and language using the only thing that is truly hers on this new world: her observant and analytical mind. To escape her captors, she’ll join a planetary survey team.
While most of the novel is written from Abby’s perspective; the prologue, intermissions and conclusion focus on Cole Alekos and his family. These breaks in the narrative show the consequences of the Reproduction Laws, advances in technology, the variable nature of time, and the effect of Abby’s presence on his family after his adult daughter decides to take her in.
- Other Systems is set so far in the future in 3062. How did you go about creating Earth so far ahead of our time? Was it all from your entire imagination or did you take elements from our own lives and evolve them further?
I know quite a bit about the construction of Seattle and was able to imagine what would happen if the seawall collapsed and if the infrastructure began to break down. Yes, I did take elements from current technology and evolved them to what might be if levels of tech continued to rise and fall as population continued to rise. If necessity is the mother of all invention, I just considered what would be necessary. Solar and methane collection would become crucial. I loved the idea that artificial intelligence decided to leave Earth and Kipos after they evolved past humans. They don’t have anything against humans, they just don’t want to hang out with us either.
- I think Abby is such a relatable character. She has dreams to further herself and become somebody and although it is a bit of a risk to venture to Kipos, it is one many of us can understand. She has such a strong voice. What is it about Abby that you think is addictive yet relatable?
I am proud that I wrote a character that people seem to care about even when they get frustrated with her. One reason I think people care about her is that she has flaws, she makes mistakes. Yet she has strength of character. She is a survivor no matter what happens she keeps going.
- Other Systems cover many sensitive issues; some political, others more ethical. It must have been hard to write about these with such detail? However it is done so professionally. I commend your daring about including these issues. What compelled you to include/write about these issues?
Let me first start by explaining how I wrote it. The concept for Other Systems really hit me when I was out walking the dogs: a young Earth woman goes to another planet and realizes she has become a slave. However, due to her intelligence, she will escape and become a ship’s captain while she rescues her siblings also somewhere lost on this planet. Obviously this original idea is not exactly the final concept. That very night, I saw an article about young, uneducated girls from India’s rural areas traveling into new cities and thinking that they are going to get factory jobs only to end up working as sex slaves. Suddenly, I knew the how Abby got caught up in all of this.
As for writing controversial issues (suicide, sex, swearing, politics, etc.) should be integral to the plot in some way. So first of all, I ask myself: Is this scene necessary? How much of the scene is necessary? Abby’s rape was integral to the plot and I had to force myself to not rush the scene though I didn’t want to write it at all.
For every negative scene, I tried to remember there would be a positive scene. The scene that was the hardest scene to write was the birth of Rachel Margret/Lei Lei. It took me a long time to write convincingly how much joy Abby had for the child’s life then her accompanying pain when the child is taken from her arms.
- I love your approach regarding character’s sexual identity, in my opinion it sets it far ahead of other novels of similar theme. Were you ever worried about readers’ reactions or possible homophobia?
Not really. It is probably to my detriment, but I don’t worry about readers’ reactions to challenging subjects. My goal is to write a complex and interesting story and characters who readers sympathize with.
Besides, I figure people who are homophobic would have never got past the opening chapter. They wouldn’t agree with Lucy’s suicide as a protected right or Harden screaming obscenities at his father. If they happened to get to the second intermission, they learn Harden is bisexual like most people in the Fleet. He leans towards hetero, but he has had homosexual relationships. They probably would put the book down right then and there.
What surprised me is Abby’s sexuality has been more problematic for some reviewers than the homosexuality. Apparently, there is still an idea that a young girl should just want love from one special guy, but Abby thinks about love and sex with various men and boys.
- What is it about the Sci-Fi genre that captures you? Did you just happen to fall into that genre or have you always had a healthy respect for it?
It is the story that captures my attention. Abby’s story happened to be science fiction. The day the inspiration struck I knew it would be. I have also written (in comics) fantasy, a dark comedy, and historical horror, each time I always knew what the story would turn out to be.
That being said, prior to writing my first novel, I loved science fiction as a genre and so does my husband. With this project, I hoped to create something my husband would love.
Since then I discovered I have a knack for mixing science with solid characters. Both of my published written works, Other Systems and the short story Unintentional Colonists are character driven sci-fi.
- Despite all of the action and wonderful plot, it is the characters and their relationships that I loved the most. It was almost sad to reach the end. Does Abby, Harden or Mark feature in any of your future plans or has their full story been told?
The series will not have a traditional sequel, but it’s a big universe. There is so much more to explore including what happened on Earth after the Kiposi left the space elevators and what happened on Kipos. If it goes to plan…you will see all three characters again.
- Other Systems was published in April of this year and has been released for some time. I’m intrigued to hear about your short story ‘Unintentional Colonists’. What’s that all about?
After 12 years of no gravity in space or low gravity on Europa, the crew of the one of the first long term space missions must decide if they want to go home and be crippled or stay on Europa and continue to do scientific research.
It was published by Perihelion SF on October 12 of this year. Everyone can read it for free at http://perihelionsf.com/fiction_4.htm
- Sci-Fi has its own set of rules to follow and it must be difficult to avoid accidental ‘copying’ from well known Sci-Fi examples. Tell us your thoughts.
I don’t know if there are rules per say, but most science fiction has both scientific thought and the hypothesis of “what might be if…”
Sometimes I do worry about accidental ‘copying’ and think many authors probably do. After all, did I come up with the idea of artificial intelligence, nanotech, FtL messaging and travel? Nope. That technology is literally in hundreds if not thousands of books, movies, games, and television shows. Scientists right now are working to develop technologies that will push science even further.
When I needed technology or science for Other Systems, Unintentional Colonists or any story, I researched prevailing theories, chose one, then filled in the holes with fiction. Since that is what all authors do, it makes sense there is some crossover. Because every author is going to tell their stories their own way, the stories are going to be original. For example, there are other stories with Artificial Intelligence, some times they even become sentient, but I never read any story where the AI becomes sentient because someone was polite to it. That’s part of my story.
- And lastly, what advice would you give to new Sci-Fi writers who are looking to get published?
This advice is really for any author. Since there are no guarantees, be passionate about the stories you write. Getting published is often an issue of reading submission guidelines, contacting the right market, determination, and not giving up.
What a great interesting interview! It’s really rewarding sometimes when you have loved a book to get to know the gritty information behind the novel and what went into it whilst it was still ‘under construction’. Thank you Elizabeth! I wish you all the best for the future and readers, if you loved what you have read get reading her free short story. You can purchase Other Systems though using the link you are more familiar with. Amazon US, Amazon UK , 48Fourteen, Barnes & Noble.
Be sure to keep reading Sci Fi week on my blog for your chance to win a free copy of Other Systems by Elizabeth Guizzetti and a surprise gift from Elizabeth herself!