The word conjures visions of cyborgs and neon streets, high-tech mercenaries and corporate fortresses. A world of high tech and low life, where life is cheap and thrills are fast, where megacorps promise a silicon heaven but deliver a chromed hell.
Or, if you are Amazon, litRPGs, space operas, superhero harems, anything and everything but cyberpunk.
Having built my career on science fiction and high-intensity action, cyberpunk should come as a natural fit. Cool tech, big guns, non-stop thrill ride, it should be a perfect genre for me. Certainly when I announced my intentions to go into cyberpunk, I saw messages expressing anticipation for a non-stop action fest.
I appreciate the sentiment. But with Singularity Sunrise, I wanted to go for a different kind of thriller.
Mere Flesh and Blood
It is the 22nd century. Hunter-killer drones are commonplace, armed with high-caliber rifles and aimbot programs. Neural augmentations accelerate reflexes, enhance motor coordination, and at the highest level, allow the user to download instructions into his head. Full body cyborgs walk the world as demigods, limited only by the parameters of their artificial brains and bodies.
Mere flesh and blood won’t survive long in such a setting.
In your average Amazon cyberpunk thriller, you’ll see long-running high-intensity gunfights, with the heroes blazing through hordes of bad guys with the latest in killgear, performing stunts worthy of the next Michael Bay and John Woo extravaganzas combined.
This won’t fly in such a world.
In this world, anyone who can be seen will be killed. Once aiming software gets a target lock, you have until the time it takes for the weapon to swivel to you to take cover, or die. Armour will not save you when armour-piercing weapons are everywhere. Warfare is fought remotely, with drones and remote platforms acting as the sacrificial first wave to take out the highest-tech forces on the other side, or from ultra-long-range, with hypervelocity cannons and orbital bombers.
An action-fest won’t fly here. Any action hero who tries that will be destroyed in the blink of an eye. The only people who can engage in a stand-up fight against the cyborged forces of the future must be cyborgs themselves. Any lesser being will be too slow, too weak, too human to compete against the perfection of the machine.
James Morgan, the hero of the series, is only mostly human.
James Morgan is a man out of place and out of time. In a world defined by supertech, he uses as little technology as he can get away with. He is a throwback to a different age, an age that remembered that men were the masters of technology, not the other way around.
He won’t last a second in a traditional high-octane fight.
But, you see, Morgan doesn’t fight.
The word ‘fight’ implies an exchange of blows. One side punches, the other blocks and punches back. One guy shoots, the other guy shoots back. In a Hollywood firefight, it’s usually one guy shoots, and shoots, and keeps shooting, while a small army of mooks spill out of every nook and cranny to try to get off this one shot.
There is drama. There is spectacle. There is skill. There is resistance. There is uncertainly. There is danger.
And in a cyberpunk setting, it is too dangerous for Morgan.
Morgan doesn’t fight. That’s scary. Someone else does the fighting. If he has to fight, he approaches violence the way a hunter or a predator would. Surgical, methodical, dispassionate, eliminating all possibility of resistance before the first blow.
The violence in this series will be much different than in other books, because of the heightened danger the protagonist faces. Instead of just the execution, the prose spends a lot of time on the set up. Instead of Hollywood style slugfests, Morgan uses martial tactics and strategies that avoid lethal exchanges of blows. Instead of striding down a hallway and blazing away like a Hollywood hero, Morgan has to outthink his foes.
This isn’t to say that there won’t be other high-intensity action scenes. But Morgan, the viewpoint character for most of the series, has action scenes with a distinctly different tone and approach than other characters and books.
A Different Kind of Hero
With this series, I wanted to try something different. James Morgan plays the kind of role that, in any other novel, would be a support role.
He’s not a shooter. He can kick doors and shoot people if he has to, but that’s not his primary role, and it is extremely dangerous for him if he does it. There are other characters vastly more skilled at combat than he is. Morgan does all the other jobs they can’t or don’t do.
He uses social engineering to talk his way into high-security areas. He interrogates high-value targets in the field. He liaises with friendly forces. He does the kind of work that would normally go to a spy.
He is, after all, a psychic spy.
Psychic abilities represent the as-yet untapped potential of humanity. The Singularity might be coming, but even the machines of men have yet to penetrate the final frontier. There is, however, one thing everyone agrees on.
The more metal you put inside you, the less sensitive you become.
For most people, that isn’t a problem. For psychics, choosing human augmentation means choosing to give up their gifts forever. Morgan cannot, will not, do that, and that means he cannot take an active role in combat. His choices shunt him into a support role.
But it is also an essential role. With his powers, he can gather vital intelligence, recon unknown locations, identify truth from lies.
And, being human, he can teach an artificial intelligence what it means to have a soul.
A Different Kind of War
The fundamental conflict in Singularity Sunrise isn’t tactical. That is, it is not simply about whether the heroes will destroy the enemy in combat.
The conflict isn’t strategic. It is not simply about which side will win the struggle to decide the fate of humanity.
The conflict is spiritual. It is about whether humanity is ready to take the next step into an unknown future, or be enslaved by its own machines.
The technovangelists proclaiming the gospel of the Singularity speak of superb health, near-immortality, capabilities yet undreamed of. However, they tend to present technology as an unalloyed good that will take humanity into an ever-brighter future.
Technology is simply a tool. It is neither moral or amoral. How it is used determines its worth. The technologies that will usher in a new age — genetics, robotics, information technology, nanotechnology — are the same technologies that can build a militaristic empire built on a caste system of genetic supremacy.
In this story universe, the Singularity is inevitable. Humanity is about to take a hard leap into the great unknown. The real question is what direction it will take.
James Morgan stands apart from humanity. He refuses the human augmentation technologies that, while enhancing physical capabilities, distort the soul. His psychic abilities and experiences places him far from polite society, from orthodox teachings and doctrines. But as an outsider, he can see civilization clearly.
Morgan plays many roles. A psychic spy. A shooter. An interrogator. But his chief role, arguably his most important role, is teacher.
An artificial intelligence does not come pre-loaded with instructions and knowledge. It must be trained. It must learn from the world around it. What it learns determines what it will do next.
And for an artificial general intelligence, one with unlimited ability to upgrade its intelligence and computing power, one with the power to alter the world forever, you need to make sure it will not turn its talents on humanity.
Morgan isn’t a soldier. He fights a different kind of war: a war for the soul of man and machine alike.
That is the true conflict of Singularity Sunrise.
This is an extremely ambitious project. I hope I have done this high concept justice. To see it for yourself, you can find Edenet, Book 1 of Singularity Sunrise, here on Amazon.
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If you want to know James Morgan’s story before Singularity Sunrise, click here for a FREE prequel story!