SPSFC 3 Quarterfinalist: Drones by R.J. Haze

After some of our judges read the first 15-20 percent of our 25 books and others read each one in full, Team ScienceFiction.news chose our six quarterfinalists for the third Self-Published Science Fiction Competition.

Four of those quarterfinalists have been announced on this blog in previous posts. The fifth can now be revealed as Drones by R. J. Haze.

The author begins the novel by treating their protagonist like he was Hans Gruber at Nakatomi Plaza:

The world rushes past in a blur. Glass and concrete buildings. Skybridges. People staring, pointing. Gone in a flash. The wind whips my breath away, makes it hard to suck down air. Below, I see the roads and cars and pedestrians all rushing up to meet me as quickly as terminal velocity. Hard to hear anything over the sounds of the wind and my own racing heartbeat, but I hear the alarm. My Personal Device reads my altitude and tells me it's time.

I pull the cord on my parachute and feel the rush as it catches on the air and tugs at me, slowing me down and pulling me upright. I start to drift, letting the chute and the wind take me where it will. The uncertainty is all part of the experience. Not true powerlessness, but then not everyone wants it pure.

James Garrick made the base jump not for thrills but for profit. His job is to experience extreme emotions so they can be harvested from his body and implanted in customers. There's good money in Emotional Transference, but he chose the field because he carries emotions too painful to bear.

A mark of a promising novel is to evoke empathy in the reader. When Garrick explains that by arrangement his harvester also takes away "anything I feel about Summer or Susan or Mars," those nine words establish a poignant connection to a character who wants to be described as emotionless.

Judge D. M. Barnham was "fully immersed" in the story at the 20 percent mark and eager to continue, noting in particular one impressive aspect of Haze's writing:

One thing that popped out straight away and impressed me is that this is written in first person present tense. That's pretty damn hard to pull off and I didn't even realise it at first. It's so naturally written it flows without me noticing and when I did notice I had a 'Wait a minute' moment and had to go back and consciously read the wording. I quite enjoy present tense but I've rarely seen it in novel format. So kudos to the writer.

The central conceit of the novel -- the accumulation and extraction of feelings -- becomes a playground for Haze to explore the inner life and trauma of poor Garrick. Even frequent sex with another fine young Drone is just a business arrangement to create feelings of companionship he wants to shed. "Contentment. Happiness," he thinks in a post-coital moment. "I don't deserve to feel those things, best I give them away as soon as possible."

Cover of R.J. Haze's science fiction novel Drones

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