This week, we're welcoming one of Strange Chemistry's newest authors, Christian Schoon, to Team Tynga's Reviews. His debut novel, ZENN SCARLETT, has just been released and Christian is joining us today to talk about what life is like on a dystopian Mars. It's great insight into the setting of his novel and I think it'll really inspire you to give ZENN SCARLETT a try.
Life on a Dystopian Mars
My heroine, Zenn, lives on a future Mars where things aren’t going so well. And the dystopian nature of the colonies on Mars has a fairly significant impact on everything that Zenn goes through during the novel.
So, why isn’t Mars a place of sleek, ultra-modern skyscrapers, vast, shiny domes and zippy monorails carrying outrageously fashionable elites with peculiar hair-styles hither and yon on happy, hedonistic trips to the teen-gladiatorial games over at the Olympus Mons hyper-arena? Glad you asked.
Several decades ago, the Earth cut off all communication and trade with Mars and the other dozen or so inhabited planets of the Local Systems Accord. This had to do with a gnarly virus that burned through Earth’s population and really did a number on the planet. The Earthers blamed aliens and their animals. So, they kicked them all off-world. Mars still deals with aliens, though, so they also stopped all contact with their former colonies on the Red Planet.
Zenn lives in the Ciscan Cloister Exovet Clinic and training facility, where she’s studying to be an exoveterinarian specializing in large, dangerous alien animals. The Cloister does have some more or less modern, sci-fi-y equipment (sedation field generators for remotely sedating animals, advanced surgical devices, etc.), but due to the Rift with Earth, a lot of this stuff is breaking down, wearing out or having its software go buggy. There are no spare parts, no replacements, no upgrades available. So, Zenn and the others at the Cloister have to make do, patch, repair and generally scrape by as best they can.
The dystopian hammer has fallen hardest, however, on the colonists outside the cloister’s thick, mud-brick walls. They don’t use domes for habitation on this Mars; instead, they have tech that allows them to seal off large expanses of the vast Martian canyon systems, then pump the sealed canyons full of breathable atmosphere, and then build towns on and farm the canyon floor. But the bary-gen generators that once protected the canyons are beginning to go off line. So, the atmosphere and warmth in that portion of canyon leaks out, and the colonists have to quickly abandon their farms or villages and take whatever they can carry and move to the large towns where the bary-gens are still holding the cold, airless, outside Martian “atmosphere” at bay. Naturally, this means Mars is losing its farmable land bit by bit, and food is beginning to be hard to come by.
The whole look of the colonies is also being changed by the Rift, or trade embargo with Earth. There are some older, original buildings that were made from gorgeous, cut Martian sandstone and other rocks. But lately, any new structures, or repairs to old ones, must be built from scavenged materials, old metal sheeting, shipping containers and crates. Now, basically, you have shanty towns full of refugees growing up like a fungus around the remaining cities.
And this is the world that Zenn finds herself in, as she attempts adapt to and survive the tribulations of her environment, while at the same time managing to get through her novice year of exoveterinary school. Of course, she also faces an array of other challenges, from the academic to the romantic to the alien-medical, but all of these are impacted by the fact that Mars is sinking fast into a dystopian hole… and there’s no bottom in sight.
Thanks so much for visiting us again, Christian! I'm looking forward to the rest of your tour!
Here's the scoop on ZENN SCARLETT:
Zenn Scarlett is a bright, determined, occasionally a-little-too-smart-for-her-own-good 17-year-old girl training hard to become an exoveterinarian. That means she’s specializing in the treatment of exotic alien life forms, mostly large and generally dangerous. Her novice year of training at the Ciscan Cloister Exovet Clinic on Mars will find her working with alien patients from whalehounds the size of a hay barn to a baby Kiran Sunkiller, a colossal floating creature that will grow up to carry a whole sky-city on its back.
But after a series of inexplicable animal escapes from the school and other near-disasters, the Cloister is in real danger of being shut down by a group of alien-hating officials. If that happens, Zenn knows only too well the grim fate awaiting the creatures she loves.
Now, she must unravel the baffling events plaguing her school, before someone is hurt or killed, before everything she cares about is ripped away from her and her family forever. To solve this mystery – and live to tell about it – Zenn will have to put her new exovet skills to work in ways she never imagined, and in the process learn just how powerful compassion and empathy can be.
Born in the American Midwest, Christian started his writing career in earnest as an in-house writer at the Walt Disney Company in Burbank, California. He then became a freelance writer working for various film, home video and animation studios in Los Angeles. After moving from LA to a farmstead in Iowa several years ago, he continues to freelance and also now helps re-hab wildlife and foster abused/neglected horses. He acquired his amateur-vet knowledge, and much of his inspiration for the Zenn Scarlett series of novels, as he learned about - and received an education from - these remarkable animals.