by Andrew Gates
Reviewed by SA
I have a special treat for you today! There’s a new book about to hit the shelves, and I just can’t wait to tell you about it. Iris is the science fiction novel you’ve been waiting for without knowing it: with the scope of Game of Thrones, and the feel of Asimov, it’s destined to become your new SciFi addiction.
The Surface was just ancient history…
Year 200, Atlantic Federation Calendar. It has been two full centuries since the surface of the Earth was destroyed and humanity retreated to the bottom of the ocean. No one is old enough to remember the world outside the station they now call home. Life is peaceful in this artificial world. There is no war. Crime is low. But questions are raised once an experimental submarine is attacked during a routine test mission. The enemy is unknown. There are no leads. For the first time in generations, a long isolated city will have to confront what may lurk above the surface.
This multiple POV novel is the perfect simmering science fiction thriller. Its character driven plot is brilliantly executed: the novel reads differently depending on who you follow, and who you want to believe. For some, the Atlantic station is corrupt and full of government cover-ups. For others, it’s just home. Good and evil depends entirely on who’s talking.
The worldbuilding here is remarkable. You begin to really imagine what life is like in this secluded base on the bottom of the ocean floor. At moments, it was claustrophobic, while at others it is a world of endless possibilities. The author fantastically shows us different lives down in the station, and through them we live this new, odd life.
But what if no-one knew the truth? A mystery simmers below the surface. What has attacked the sub? Is the Atlantic Federation good or corrupt? And where are the other stations that are supposedly down here with them?
I have to say, I love a good mystery. This novel is a killer thriller and the ending had me begging for more. So many questions left unanswered!
Luckily, some questions we might get answers for: I had the great privilege of interviewing author Andrew Gates about his upcoming release, and his plans for the sequels.
An Interview with Andrew Gates
Readcommendations: Let’s start at the very beginning. Your novel is incredibly unique, combining some great SciFi concepts with exciting new ideas. Where did the concept for IRIS come from?
Andrew Gates: Great question! I haven’t actually gone into this yet with anyone.
The idea originally came to me when I was in middle school, if you can believe it. Back then the story was called Atlantis. A lot of it was the same. The main character was named Iris. She was a teacher. She lived in an underwater city in the future. The story only got to be like 8 pages or so. It didn’t really go that far. For years the idea was dormant.
In my senior year of college, I learned an interesting piece of trivia. Apparently, in ancient cultures all across the world, no matter where you are, the last color to get a word was always blue. You could be in ancient Egypt, Aztec, China, wherever. The last color to get a word was always blue. It’s the color that appears the least in nature, and even though it’s in the sky, ancient people would see the sky as nothing. The sky was like the absence of color. In fact, there are studies where they’ve found these isolated tribes in modern day and they’ve shown these tribes the color blue and asked them what it looks like and these isolated people don’t see it as anything different than green. But once these isolated people are told it’s blue, suddenly they can see it as its own color. So essentially, researchers have discovered that cultures can’t seem to identify colors until they have a word for it. I thought this was really interesting.
So I took this piece of trivia and I thought, what if in the future, our technology might move forward, but our general understanding of the world goes backwards? What better way to illustrate that than an advanced underwater city where nobody can identify the color blue? So then I started remembering this old story from middle school that never got off the ground and started to revisit this concept, only with the focus shifting. The color blue isn’t mentioned throughout the book, save for the final chapter. That’s why the series title is The Color of Water and Sky. It’s really all about the color blue, but not overtly so.
R: It’s such a dense novel, with so much going on! Can you describe the book in one sentence?
AG: Oh boy. It’s hard to do that without providing any spoilers. There’s an underwater city in the future and the people who live there think they’re safe, but now they may not be.
R: Coffee, or tea?
R: There seems to be an eternal struggle between “Traditional” publishing and then self publishing. How did you decide to self publish?
AG: I did a lot of research on that. My biggest hesitancy with trying to find an agent and publicist was that I would have to make a lot of edits. From what I could tell, it’s easier to keep the story the way I want it if I self-publish. I didn’t want a whole lot of people telling me how to change my story. I wanted it to be mine.
R: With a lot of different perspectives in the novel, there’s bound to be some favorites and least favorites. Who’s your favorite character from Iris, and why?
AG: Either Tracey or Sanja. Tracey is a paranoid anarchist. He’s a drunkard, blue collar guy. Sanja, on the other hand, prides herself on being part of the elite, where she feels in control. And interestingly, even though they’re enemies, they’re so similar. I think that’s the coolest thing about writing these characters. They’re so similar yet they think they’re so different. Anytime someone compares one of them to the other, they get so offended. Tracey is obsessed with anarchy and rebellion and Sanja is obsessed with totalitarianism and order. On paper, they might not seem the same, but they really are. They’re both skeptical of things that they shouldn’t be. They’re both worried about everything. And they can’t stand not being in control of the situation.
R: They were my favorite too. They’re incredibly complex characters, and the chifts in perspective make them such complicated people. But I’m getting off topic! What are your plans for the series?
AG: For a long time, I did not have an answer for this question. It’s only within the last few days actually that I have an answer. Everything I’m about to say is tentative and might completely change, but right now here is my plan: This part is kind of spoilery, so look away and skip to the next question if that’s your thing.
My original plan, back when I was just starting to write Iris, was to have four books. Iris was going to be the series name, not the book name. I was going to do four names that are single-syllable words starting with S. It would have been Iris: Sea, Stone, Sky and Space. But obviously that’s not what I decided to do. I abandoned that idea pretty quickly. I didn’t know how many books it was going to be after that idea, but within the last few days, I think I’ve settled back on four again. The tentative names are Iris, Kholvaria, Veznek and Hive. The scope of the story gets bigger and bigger with each book. It starts off very small and tight. The whole first book is in this small contained city. But as the series goes on, it’s going to get more and more expansive until we have an enormous world to play in.
R: That ending though… The second I put it down, I wanted more. So tell us, what can we expect from the sequel?
AG: You can expect the sequel to be a bit shorter and faster paced. Most of the questions you’re left with at the end of the first book are answered pretty quickly in the second book. Those that aren’t answered early on will be answered in book 3. The scope of the story opens up a lot and we see that there’s a pretty big conflict happening globally that the Atlantic Federation has been wholly unaware of. You can expect a lot of characters to return, even some you may have believed dead. We will also get a brand new perspective character, who I’m guessing might become my new favorite.
R: I hope we won’t have to wait long for the next book?
AG: It took me about two years to write Iris and another several months to do editing, promotional stuff, proofs, art and so forth. I expect the next book will take considerably less time.
Are you excited yet? Check out the official page for ore information, as well as the release date. If you’re a fan of hardcore science fiction, then you’re going to love The Color of Water and Sky!