This is for all the readers who truly liked the story of the first novel.
The Man Who Loved Alien Landscapes has a straight-forward linear plot. It begins with a hook, sets up the motivation and conflict, builds to a crisis, accelerates to a brief interlude and then a bigger second crisis, followed by more build-up, bigger developments, more crises, then the really big crisis, falling action, and conclusion. A tried-and-true dependable plot structure, the standard for most stories.
In a Suspect Universe plays with that a little.First of all, it’s in three parts. It begins with a confrontation and builds to a crisis at the end of Part I. But then Part II goes back in time, shifts point of view, and shows what happened before the events that led up to the confrontation at the beginning of the book. We follow that story in a typically accelerating linear structure that leads to a bigger crisis at the end of Part II. Then Part III jumps ahead and we pick up the story from the end of Part I. And from there we develop, migrate, skip and scurry (time and space get a little unusual) to the last big crisis, then falling action, and conclusion. (I really liked the ending, by the way.)
So, it’s different, and I want loyal fans of The Man Who Loved Alien Landscapes to know this. But I promise that this other format (it’s not really experimental, just the only way to tell the story) is both satisfying and in many ways more interesting than the original. I’ll return to typical straight-forward sequences when I get to the sequels (more about that in the next blog), but I think the unique structure here makes this book a stronger stand-alone novel, special for both its subject matter and its way of telling the story.
That structure allows the author to give you more about the main character and the events in the first book than a standard “sequel” could. It’s a revelation of a buried past, a “prequel,” and thus it provides a picture of Mykol Ranglen that he probably would never share (as the beginning of the book indicates, he’s never told this story). And all that he refuses to divulge here will become essential to the later and real sequels, hinting that the Mykol Ranglen story is more complex than what the first book ever suggested. So this book is crucial for the development of the whole series.
And, I confess, it’s very special to me. I’ve had the idea for it for a long time, long before I wrote the first book. So I was thrilled to tell it finally, and even more thrilled to make my main character a part of it.
The story permitted me to take Ranglen to places he had never been before, to have him deal with emotions that the standard mystery-plot, the structure for the first novel, could not let me show. Ranglen experiences here quite a range of feelings—hope, despair, longing, regret, desire, heartbreak, guilt, tragedy, and a final reconciling serenity. He becomes what he is in the course of this story, the Ranglen we know from the first book.
But we also get suggestions on what he will become. So this story prepares him for the rest of his story.
And, as we learn from this book, his story has surprisingly deep and serpentine roots.
Ultimately, as said in the previous blog, I wanted the readers to feel they were getting a very privileged and private view of their hero. The three-part structure allowed me to do that, to make the book a series of revelations, the unveiling of secrets, all seen through a very private observation port (both himself, and someone outside of him). Providing that exposure required a narrative that was non-linear and not always in Ranglen’s point of view. It resembled the solving of a 3D puzzle instead of the running of a 2D quest.
All this discussion, of course, is no substitute for the book itself, and I think that all I’ve stated above will be obvious once the book is read. It’s hard to talk about the arrangements of plot until the story is completed.
So come back after reading it and we’ll talk about the structure more.