So the good news first. The initial draft of this first New Messiah Axel Cain novel is done. The story-line held together as Axel Cain appears from the wilderness, speaking with the voice of Gaia (she’s the collective consciousness behind the biosphere, able to take tough decisions to sustain life). Including getting rid of us if needs be… Axel has been chosen to avoid a final tipping point for life on Earth, as Gaia decides whether to wipe the slate and start again without Homo sapiens. The first version (3 edits) is with with literary agent John Jarrold to review, and I’m already getting anxious.
Why? The main character Axel comes from a village in the plague lands used to test new viruses. His people are fighters, Axel and his brother Wakiza are able to defend themselves and kill if necessary. but should Axel be a pacifist? He faces some dangerous situations where a pacifist would not survive, and being overly passive could be frustrating for the reader.
On the other hand, I don’t want Axel to be a kick-ass character. Who do I imagine acting him, were this new Messiah novel a movie? Definitely not Tom Cruise (too old anyway). Not Jason Statham, much as I like him – too violent, you just want to fast-forward to the fight scenes. A young Keanu Reeves, maybe. Cameron Monaghan – possible. So I need to refocus the main character to make him more vulnerable, but not a wimp. Less Statham, more Monaghan.
Then there’s Heidi, the female lead. Heidi Vorn comes from the dynasty that owns the plague lands, but she and Axel are drawn to each other as she discovers the truth about her family. Heidi needs to change more through this, have a bigger personal journey, and I feel she’s too passive. Whilst she and Axel love each other, there needs to be more spark and more anger from her. There’s a falling-out but I need to make it stronger.
Getting the right balance
The narrative more of less keeps to the original idea, although some new characters appear and other favourites die unexpectedly. Which is why writing is fun, obviously. Earth is in real difficulty by 2070, with a mass extinction event well underway. AI has merged with Biotech, leading to viral wars as the two federations fight for the last resources. At the same time, I don’t want this to take over the story, which is as much about love as the fate of an entire planet. New Messiah Axel Cain is as much a victim as everyone else, as Gaia chooses him to be the final messenger. We don’t really get to know Axel enough, looking back. I need to define him separately from the Messiah.
Is the world of New Messiah Axel Cain realistic?
Is this view of the future realistic? Will the global population continue to soar whilst doomed to pursue capitalism? Because we know that will fail as long as natural resources are managed as capital and not income. Will AI develop to such a level that it can take over the design and manufacturing of bacteria and viruses? I think that’s very likely, with quantum developments. And think of the timescales – fifty years (ish) to 2070. Fifty years back, the year was 1970 and computers were in their infancy. No internet, no mobiles. People had Filofax and one phone in the house if they were lucky, or a payphone. Now technology is advancing exponentially, whilst global warming is going to substantially exceed what’s seen as the maximum. We will have a world where everything’s connected, AI makes decisions, and humans are the liability…
A recent paper on global climate change by the National Academy of Sciences should be a call to action for Sci Fi writers, because it predicts a mass migration of up to 3 billion people. That’s the population who will find themselves in a new Sahara around the world. And the more fortunate countries will not welcome them. Thomas Malthus (of horsemen of the apocalypse fame) fell out of favour when people had faith in economic development containing population growth, but now that looks like a vain hope.
So adding all this up, I’d say that the setting for New Messiah Axel Cain is entirely possible, with vaccine markets, new forms of terrorism and a global population desperate for a new future. The novel makes clear that politicians can’t solve problems on this scale, and which they have largely been responsible for. But how would a dying world react to someone claiming to speak with the voice of the planet? Should I accept the inevitable and crucify Axel, or allow him to live out his life with Heidi Vorn as the world tries to change?