Our friends at FSG Originals are publishing Warren Ellis’s new novel Normal in four weekly digital installments. The third installment was released this past Tuesday and is available wherever e-books are sold. Each week, Tor.com will host a discussion between Warren and a new writer about that week’s episode. This week, it’s Geoff Manaugh, author of BLDGBLOG and A Burglar’s Guide to the City.
Normal, of course, is not a normal novel. Warren Ellis, already widely known for cracking open genres, characters, and storylines to find other, more aggressive, and stranger things within, has set his eyes on something rather calmer. Or so it seems.
Strangers, forced to adapt to one another in a confined setting, a research complex built to function more like a convalescent home, rapidly realize that fate has taken them somewhere much harder to fathom than the world they’ve left behind. It is a small circle of voices—a string quartet of often bleak, and certainly very raw, personalities, leading each other both into and out of disharmony.
Normal drops us off at an elusive psychological research institute, tucked away in an experimental forest near the Oregon coast, where the insects—and the buildings themselves—are not what they seem. Limiting my focus to part three of the novel, I asked Warren about setting, human agency, and the book’s satirical take on cities of the near-future.