08.05.2018 / Titan Books / Science Fiction / Paperback / 624pp / 978-1785655630
About Roger Levy
Roger Levy is a British science fiction writer. He is the author of Reckless Sleep, Dark Heavens and Icarus, published by Gollancz. He works as a dentist when not writing fiction, and was described as the ‘heir to Philip K. Dick’ by Strange Horizons. Here is Roger Levy’s Goodreads page.
About The Rig
On a desert planet, two boys meet, sparking a friendship that will change human society forever.
On the windswept world of Bleak, a string of murders lead a writer to a story with unbelievable ramifications.
One man survives the vicious attacks, but is left with a morbid fascination with death; the perfect candidate for the perilous job of working on a rig.
Welcome to the System. Here the concept of a god has been abandoned, and a new faith pervades: AfterLife, a social media platform that allows subscribers a chance at resurrection, based on the votes of other users.
So many Lives, forever interlinked, and one structure at the centre of it all: the rig.
Thank you Roger for taking some time to answer a few questions about your latest novel The Rig. Could you give us your own personal overview of what we should expect in within?
It takes place in a future where humanity has left Earth behind and settled in a harsh solar system. The Rig is a double narrative, alternating between a mystery commencing with Bale, a paxer – a cop – chasing down a spree-killer, and a first-person narrative charting the rise of a solar-system-wide criminal organisation called the Whisper. One of the main characters is a writer, Razer, who works for an all-encompassing social media-type organisation called AfterLife, although she turns out to be more resourceful than the usual writer. Well, than me! Other characters include the two troubled childhood friends who run the Whisper, and a character who has a fixation with suicide.
You can expect to be made to think, as the narrative develops. It’s big book.
What was your initial inspiration for The Rig?
There were a number of things coming together, but the first scene was one in the Chute, which is a sort of extreme thrillride, and the first idea was of an extreme social media organisation. A friend of mine who’s an oil industry geologist gave me ideas concerning oil rigs at sea and what can go wrong out there. And everything can go wrong.
Can you give us a few details about some of the interesting concepts and ideas that you explore within your novel?
The idea of AfterLife came from wondering where social media might eventually go (though I confess that Cambridge Analytica’s take on that blindsided me) and what it might be used for (ditto).
I’ve always been interested in faith, though I have none myself, and what positive things it provides for those who do have it. I went from there to imagining a universe where people largely don’t have any religious faith, and where they might otherwise find the benefits of it. What I came up with in AfterLife was not only this, but also the idea of each of us being a small part of the god-function that judges and rewards us; we are the god who looks over us.
The Rig is also about why people write, and read, and why we need narrative and mystery in our lives. Like all books, it’s writers (me, Razer) working out their thoughts, and in this case it’s the problem of memory and our faith in it, and how we construct mysteries and forgotten events into story – in my case, being attacked on the street and thinking I’d remembered it, and later seeing CCTV that proved my ‘memory’ wrong. All we have are memories, after all, and if they are false, what do we have, and how do we respond?
Is there a particular element or character in The Rig that you especially enjoyed writing about?
What I truly enjoy writing is dialogue. I read a lot of noir fiction, and I love the style. The conversations between Razer and Bale were great fun to write, but my favourite characters were the humechs Beata and Lode, whom I tried to make both doleful and sinister. Pairs of characters are always stimulating. Pellonhorc and Alef would be nothing without each other. I immersed myself in creating the Chute and the scenes in it. They were so visual, it was like simply describing what I was seeing.
What sort of challenges did you face when writing about a new afterlife/belief system?
The issue was how we would be able to judge each other. In order to do that, our lives and memories need to be stored and made available. That isn’t a new sf concept. My solution is an organic memory storage device, inserted at birth, developing as the brain develops. With quantum computing and brain-machine interfaces and implants already more than merely conceivable, it isn’t impossible. However, the real challenge and my solution to it were issues I can’t describe without spoilers, I’m afraid.
Had you always planned to become a SFF author?
My first, never published book was a sprawling fantasy novel, and I wrote it as an escape from boredom. While it nearly came to publication at the time, I’m glad I gave up on it. There are writers in that field like the fabulous Joe Abercrombie of whom I am in awe, and I’m much happier applauding from the side. Then when Reckless Sleep was picked up, I discovered that I could put almost any idea into an sf novel. SF suits me well; all ideas and no tedious research. Internal logic and consistency are the only tracks you need to stay on, and I enjoy the challenge and rigour of that.
Are there any authors that influence your writing even at this point in your career?
Always, and too many to name. Raymond Chandler is especially there.
How long did it take you to plan and write The Rig?
The gap between my last one, Icarus, and The Rig, was about ten years. For some of that time I wasn’t writing, since it encompassed the aftermath of being attacked. Also, I have a day job – I’m a dentist working in the NHS in north London – which is very involving.
Can you tell us in five words what being an author/writer means to you?
Dissatisfaction, fulfilment, silence, pleasure, relief.
Did you take the time to celebrate finishing your novel?
An artist described their paintings as never finished but abandoned, and I feel a little like that about my work. But if finished is seeing the first hard copy, then I may have had an extra coffee. I’ll celebrate if the book is understood and does okay.
Have you got a hobby/activity you do to wind down from all the writing?
Prowling round secondhand bookshops, photography (mainly B&W, I’m pretty colourblind), listening to jazz.
Finally, have you read a book/article recently that you would personally recommend to the readers of this post?
Suttree by Cormac McCarthy. He writes like no-one else. It isn’t easy to read, but it’s worth it. And there’s a description of a fart that’s funnier than anything I’ve read for a very long time. And thanks for the questions
Thank you for stopping by to check out my Q&A with Roger Levy, author of the SF epic The Rig. I haven’t had the chance to read it yet as it is quite a hefty chunk of a book but I am excited to make time for it in the future. I really like the sound of the ideas that RL explores in this novel combining social media with the afterlife. The multiple storylines sound compelling and I look forward to immersing myself in SF very soon. Thank you to Roger for taking the time to answer these questions. Pick up a copy of The Rig and let me know what you think.