Today I am interviewing Adrian J. Walker, author of the new science-fiction novel, The Human Son.
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DJ: Hi Adrian! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Adrian J. Walker: Hi, DJ, thanks for having me! I’m a writer of speculative fiction, British, mid-forties, married with two kids, a dog and two cats. We’ve moved about quite a bit – London, Edinburgh, France, Houston – but we’ve settled in a beautiful part of Aberdeenshire, Scotland. The Human Son is my seventh book, and people might know me from my second, The End of the World Running Club.
I also sometimes work writing software, and I love running, forests, hills and guitars.
DJ: What is The Human Son about?
Adrian: The Human Son is set 500 years in the future on a utopian earth populated by the erta, a small population of beings genetically engineered by humans to fix climate change. Super-intelligent and free from the fears, desires and self-interests of their creators, the erta succeed, but only by first removing one crucial element from the equation — us.
The story is about how they decide whether or not to resurrect humanity, and this they do by experiment. To gather the data they need, a quiet and clinical atmospheric chemist named Ima (our hero) volunteers to raise a single human child as her own. And as every parent will know, this leads to unexpected results.
DJ: What were some of your influences for The Human Son?
Adrian: I read a lot of non-fiction in the months before I began writing. Sapiens and Homo Deus by Noah Yuval Harari, for example, gave me the idea for the erta – this kind of perfect development of humanity without all its flaws and with some interesting modifications. The Storms of my Grandchildren by James Hansen and Conscious by Annaka Harris also made an impact on me.
When I’m writing, a lot of my influence comes from music. My soundtrack during The Human Son was a rotation of tracks by artists like A Winged Victory for the Sullen, Eluvium, and Hammock – dark drones and expansive planes of sound to help me build the erta’s strange utopia.
Although that’s not to say the book is dark, by any stretch. There’s a lot of hope and humour in there, most of which comes from Ima’s ever-changing voice.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them?
Adrian: The book is narrated by Ima and directed at her child, Reed, as he grows from infant to adult. It’s part science journal, part a love letter, to him and to the human race.
Ima’s character is cold and clinical, to begin with, and like all erta she sees no purpose to artistic endeavour. For that reason she avoids all simile, metaphor and other forms of poetry in her writing; describing things only as they are, not what they are like. Things change, of course, as she progresses on her journey as a parent. She has much to learn about humans, as well as her own species, and this opens her eyes to new means of expression.
DJ: Aside from the main characters in the story, who is a favorite side character or a character with a smaller role in the story? Why?
Adrian: I loved writing the scenes with Ima’s neighbours, especially Magda. The erta live simply in small groups, and Ima’s fellow villagers are used to the peace and quiet of their coastal settlement. Since the erta do not procreate (they’re largely immortal) they’re ill prepared for the chaos a human infant brings to their world. Ima has some interesting run-ins with Magda, a busy-body who lives next door, and we start to see they’re maybe not so far removed from humans after all.
Benedikt was also an interesting character to write. He represents the darker side of the erta, a shadowy figure, and it is through him that Ima begins to learn the truth about her species.
I also really enjoyed writing the scene with Oonagh, the first erta, but I don’t want to give away too much about that.
DJ: What is the world and setting of The Human Son like?
Adrian: Imagine a perfectly balanced version of earth with all traces of human life removed. No cities, no bridges, no farms, no roads. The skies are clear and the forests are full — even the plastic has been dredged from the oceans and compacted into a ball which orbits the moon. The erta number just over 100,000, and live on the now balmy coast of Sweden. They exist in harmony with nature, living in mathematically-perfect wooden structures separated by perfectly formed tracks. They produce no waste and rarely farm, hunt, or fish, nourishing themselves instead with a form of algae grown in their sewage systems.
They govern themselves naturally, because they are all so in tune with what needs to be done that they rarely have to make any decisions. There is no patriarchy or matriarchy, no division of race or gender – you might say it’s a perfect world. Only one without us.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing The Human Son?
Adrian: Just writing as Ima. I connected with her instantly, and I don’t think I’ve ever had a more natural writing experience. It really did feel like she was running the show, and all I did was allow her emotions to develop bit by bit as Reed grows. I especially enjoyed her early stages when she avoids all simile and metaphor; that was an incredibly liberating way to write.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Adrian: I hope that rather than making people talk about “oh no, humanity is terrible” they ask “why do we fail so often when we’re capable of such amazing things?”
Also the subject of transhumanism is a fascinating one; the possibilities of what we might become in the future through technological advancements, so I hope that sparks some discussion too.
DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began writing The Human Son? Was there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish it? Or is there perhaps a certain theme to the story?
Adrian: The heart of The Human Son is a parent’s story, so outside of the utopian world-building that’s where most of my focus was. I prefer to ask questions in my books rather than dictate a message, and since much of the book is about guidance and care, I hope it makes people wonder what we might achieve as a species if we actually had some of that ourselves.
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from The Human Son that you can share with us?
Adrian: I’m quite pleased with the first lines of the book:
“You and I were born with a purpose. Mine was to save the world. Yours was to remind us why it needed saving in the first place.”
DJ: Now that The Human Son is released, what is next for you?
Adrian: I’ve almost finished my next book which, like The Human Son, is about a different form of intelligence to our own. This one’s set firmly in the present, though.
I’ve also been collaborating on a screenplay over the last year or so, and although I can’t say anything about that right now, it would be tremendously exciting if it came to something.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Adrian-J-Walker/e/B007BGKO84
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about The Human Son that we haven’t talked about yet?
Adrian: I had fun coming up with some of the technology that the erta use, in particular the quantum telescope. This employs quantum entanglement to gather light travelling from the earth many light years away, effectively allowing you to witness events from history. I became a little fixated on thinking about where and when I’d train my own telescope if I had one, as indeed does Ima.
DJ: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Adrian: Nothing to add apart from to say that the pandemic has made this a very strange time for everyone, and lots of people in the publishing industry are struggling. If you want to buy my books (thanks!) can I ask that you choose a good independent bookstore? There are loads who are still operating online and will send by post.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
Adrian:Thanks again for having me on, and for asking such interesting questions.
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***The Human Son is published by Solaris and is available TODAY!!!***
Buy the Book:
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About the Book:
A startling, emotional, beautiful (and at times funny) book – one that feels like the best sort of science fiction, a book that should be enjoyed widely, a book that speaks of what it is to be human, a parent, and a child.
It is 500 years in the future and Earth is no longer populated by humans.
The new guardians of Earth, the genetically engineered Erta, have reversed climate change. They are now faced with a dilemma; if they reintroduce the rebellious and violent Homo Sapiens, all of their work will be undone.
They decide to raise one final child; a sole human to help decide if humanity should again inherit the Earth.
But the quiet and clinical Ima finds that there is more to raising a human than she had expected; and there is more to humanity’s history than she has been told.
About the Author:
Adrian J Walker is an author of speculative fiction who writes about the end of the world, crippled hitmen and foul-mouthed dogs. His debut novel, THE END OF THE WORLD RUNNING CLUB, became an international bestseller and was featured on BBC Radio 2s Book Club, with Simon Mayo.