David Ramirez’s debut novel The Forever Watch was a lot of things: a dystopian murder mystery, a skiffy conspiracy thriller, a book about human rights and revolution, and an exploration of the emergence of artificial intelligence. The Forever Watch bit off more than it could chew, to be sure, but I admired its ambition, its ideas and its phenomenal finale. “If [Ramirez] can strike a better balance between quantity and quality in his next novel,” I concluded in my review, “it’s easy to see him taking pride of place alongside the greats of speculative storytelling today.”
Have I got news for you, previous me!
Last week, the Hodderscape blog let slip a bit about The Black Disc, complete with a synopsis of its story and another stunning cover by Raid71, aka Chris Thornley, to complement his work on The Forever Watch. As if that weren’t enough, I went one further, and annoyed a couple of supplementary comments out of the author.
But first, the blurb:
On the surface, seventeen-year-old Susan King is a normal girl with normal problems—studying for the SAT, getting a date for prom, and worrying about how she’s going to pay for college. Except she’s not really a normal girl at all, and her problems are far from normal. For one thing, Susan has a secret online life as an activist, using the internet to bring down corrupt corporations around the world. For another, Susan’s already a millionaire.
Until the day that everything changes: the day a black disc appears from nowhere and begins to orbit the planet. That same day, Susan—and millions of people around the globe—receive an incoherent chain email, full of lunatic predictions claiming to foretell the end of the world. Susan, and everyone else, ignores the email.
And then the predictions start coming true. But what can one girl do to stop the apocalypse?
From the sounds of it, Ramirez himself would have had a hard time answering that last till The Black Disc had been written. “I usually have a routine,” he told me:
A formal process where I set down my ideas in a sort of relational diagram that expands to an outline with a list of characters, locations and any special items or world mechanics, then going into implementation.
While I was writing The Forever Watch […] I always knew what was going to happen next.
Despite my best efforts, that is not what happened with The Black Disc.
Though I had a loose constellation of ideas about the most important events in the story, it kept getting away from me, and I never knew exactly what would happen next while I was writing it. This was a thrill, and source of frustration. It resulted in multiple discarded versions, pieces of which are probably going to get worked into the manuscript over the revision process. Up to the very last day I was writing the first draft, I was not sure what would happen next.
As regards that Raid71 cover, Ramirez wrote that it really expresses the essence of The Black Disc.
“It’s like my mind was read!” the acclaimed author replied when I asked what his involvement in its composition was—a not uncommon reaction to Raid71’s sharp graphic art, I gather.
The Black Disc is to be published by Hodder & Stoughton in early April in the UK, and I’m excited; I’m not even going to try to hide it.
Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative Scotsman, Strange Horizons, and Tor.com. He’s been known to tweet, twoo.