The Ascension Machine by Rob Edwards is a scifi superhero adventure yarn aimed at young adults of all ages. It launches on 1st September 2020 and I am very excited. The story follows a teen grifter who accidentally cons his way into a superhero college. To his surprise, he finds a place he can belong, if only it wasn’t all based on a lie. His lies get more complicated as he tries to stay at the Academy until finally… well, that would be telling, right?
The students from the Metropolitan had joined a larger throng gathered at the base of the ramp. I set my shoulders and walked across to join them, concentrating on the scuffing sound my shoes made on the sand as I walked. The sky was there above me, waiting to claim me, but I wouldn’t let it take me. A railing flanked the ramp, and I placed myself beside it and held on. I hadn’t floated off the planet yet, but the gravity felt lighter than 1G standard, and I was taking no risks.
Seventhirtyfour forged through the crowd to join me, two other students followed in his wake. The Brontom beamed at me. “Thought we’d lost you there for a minute. Look who I’ve met! This is Pilvi and this is Dez, they just came in on the Fawcett, from out east. Pilvi scored top three percentile on the science section of the entrance exam, and Dez…”
“Didn’t,” said Dez. She was comically short next to the giant Brontom; I didn’t recognise her species, but she was reptilian, all angles and scales, her tail flicked constantly as she spoke. “I didn’t score well on any of the book stuff, but that’s okay, I’m going to be more of an action superhero, I expect.”
“Sounds like a plan,” I said.
Dez looked up and up at Seventhirtyfour. “You’re so lucky. Testing positive for psychic ability! You could have actual superpowers. All I can do is lightly swat things with my tail.”
“Just because you don’t know what kind of hero you will be, doesn’t mean you can’t be one,” said Pilvi. She was human, about my age, blond, with a quick smile. “We’re all here to learn; that’s what counts. They’ll find ways for all of us to be heroes, you’ll see.”
“She’s right Dez,” I chipped in “How does the advert go? ‘Phooey to that!'”
Seventhirtyfour laughed. “That was just like Captain Hawk! Hey, maybe you have super-mimicry.”
Ouch, that was a bit on the nose. Maybe turn that down a bit. “But joking aside Dez,” I repeated her name, committing it to memory. “Don’t tie yourself up into knots about it on day one. Unless that turns out to be your superpower.”
Pilvi nodded. “Quite right,” she said and flashed Dez a smile. “Hi, nice to meet you…?”
“Mirabor Gravane,” I lied. “But call me… Grey?”
“Oh, nice,” said Seventhirtyfour “That’s halfway to a code name already. You could be the Grey Ghost or the Grey Avenger?”
I laughed. “Hard pass on both of those. I’m further behind than Dez. I don’t even have a tail, and the only half-decent score I got in the entry exam was for Maths.”
“Ah, that solves it then,” said Pilvi “Enter: The Grey Accountant!”
Oh well, at least they weren’t talking about my mimicry skills now.
The Ascension Machine is out tomorrow but you can pre-order it right now!
A Bite of… Rob Edwards
How much of you is in your hero/villain?
That’s an interesting question for this book. Grey has the potential in him to be a superhero, he’s physically adept, brave, and smart. Modesty forbids me from drawing too much similarity between us on those qualities. Grey’s relationship with the truth is complicated and distant, while I am a terrible liar. But, for all that, Grey’s genesis comes from a D&D character I played a long time ago. The section of the book that takes place on Bantus is drawn from events that my character instigated in game. It all plays out differently in the book of course, but Grey and I have that one scheme in common, at least.
Is it important to include all shades of belief and sexual orientation in a book?
Oof, not going for the simple questions here. Look, I don’t know if I have a great answer to this. The book is tightly first person and we really only see the world through the lens of what interests Grey. He is straight and has no strong faith, but it doesn’t matter to him if you’re different. I don’t show different belief systems in the book because Grey would never think to ask anyone about theirs. Sexual orientation is slightly different. It does come up, a bit. Grey is straight, but his best friends Pilvi and Seventhirtyfour are not. Pilvi is gay, but we won’t meet her girlfriend until book 2 (spoilers!). Technically Seventhirtyfour is from a clone race without sex or gender; he identifies as male and loves everyone equally.
At the end of the day, the central ethos of the Justice Academy, and the book, is that everybody has the potential to be a hero, in the right place, at the right time. And that was the important thing for me to include.
Would you rather be James Bond or Batman?
Ah now this is more my speed. Batman. Without hesitation. But I’d be really bad at it.
It would kind of suck to be either of them, really. They both have pretty awful things happen to them on a regular basis. Sure they both get lots of fun toys to play with, and get to visit interesting places, but most of those places turn out to be dangerous, and I can’t imagine I’d enjoy getting shot at, or the amount of exercise I’d have to put in to be an international superspy or masked vigilante. There are more similarities than differences between the two. For me, I need people. I think of myself as an introvert, and I do tend to hide in the corner in large gatherings… but I need people and while both characters are typically considered loners, for Batman, that’s just not true. There’s Alfred, Dick, Jason, Tim, Stephanie, Damian, Duke, Barbara, Luke, Lucius, Jim, Selena, and, depending on continuing Carrie, Helena, Terry, and Harold. And that’s without getting into his teams or love interests. For Bond he has, what? Q, R, Q, M, M, M, Moneypenny and Felix. Sorry, I’ll take the Bat Family every time. For when I get shot on my first mission out and need people to bring me comics to read while I recover if nothing else.
Also, my book is about superheroes, and I’m a DC Comics fan, I couldn’t say James Bond.
Rob Edwards is a British born writer and podcaster, living in Finland. His podcast, StorycastRob, features readings from his short stories and excerpts from longer work. His work can also be found in the anthologies published by Inklings Press and Rivenstone Press. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and blog, or watch him on his YouTube channel and listen in on his podcast.