Friday, June 22, 2012

Friday Flash Review: Slipstream

For my second Friday Flash Review, I have Michael Offutt's debut novel, Slipstream. And I'm lucky enough to have Michael stop by and share a few thoughts as well.

Goodreads Description of Slipstream...

Jordan Pendragon is crazy good at fixing situations that have gone bad. It's a talent prized by his high school ice hockey team. However, when a car accident puts Jordan in the hospital, he wakes up with more than just an amazing slapshot in his toolbox. Jordan can manipulate space-time and in just a few weeks, he'll depend on it to save his life.

My Humble Opinion...

Michael Offutt’s debut novel, Slipstream, is unlike anything I’ve read. It is a sci-fi mystery, adventure with a teenage protagonist, Jordan Pendragon. The book gets its title from the physical phenomenon of the same name, which Offutt uses as an extraordinary ability to manipulate space-time, giving it to Jordon to discover and learn to harness.

The story begins on Earth, where Jordon, a high school hockey star with an aptitude for physics, learns of his ability with the slipstream. He meets a young British man, Kolin, who is from an alternate Earth, called Avalon. Avalon is a dystopian nightmare of megacities separated by vast wastelands, an insane artificial intelligence who claimed the role of God, and societies obsessed with beauty, youth, drugs, and violence. It’s like a gothic, futuristic Rome meets Las Vegas, which I love so much. The megacities are plagued by technologically enhanced versions of vampires, ghosts, and succubi. I find these surgical modifications quite interesting, a cool adaptation of these common creatures of the night.    

Once in Avalon, Jordan and his twin sister, Kathy, have to help a team of eclectic characters to free the imprisoned half of the AI in order to get home. There are many twists and turns along their adventure and I don’t want to slip up and drop any spoilers. But Offutt kept me guessing as the unlikely heroes battle corrupt and surgically enhanced people, mythologically based creatures, and insane super machines. The multiple fight scenes are intense and really propel the story forward. The creation of Avalon is described with in-depth quantum mechanics and technological explanations, which I found interesting—sometimes slightly over my head—but I feel the length of the explanations slowed down the story at times.

Overall, I very much enjoyed the unique story and descriptive dystopian world of Avalon paralleling our own. Even though the adventure revolves around a teenage protagonist, Slipstream is not classified as YA, which I agree with because it has some graphic scenes and language. Slipstream is the first novel in the A Crisis of Two Worlds Series, and I’m looking forward to Offutt’s next installment. 

A few minutes with Michael...

Thanks so much for joining me today! I very much appreciate you taking a few minutes out of your busy day to talk with me.

Where did your inspiration for Slipstream come from?
I don't really know actually. I just had this idea one day that I wanted to try writing a book again. I have several failed novels that just sit in drawers or in dead computer files. I knew the story I wanted to tell was going to be big. And I have all of these plans in my head of things I want to do and gadgets that I want to use in later books. I wrote a pretty detailed outline. Then I started world-building. I knew from the get go that I wanted my protag to be a hot young hockey player because I enjoy watching hockey on television. But I needed a story that wasn't about sports because I didn't want to write about sports. I just wanted that to be a facet of his personality (the same as him being gay--it's just one facet) and a means to progress the plot. I think I had the whole "show don't tell" mantra in the back of my head so wanted to establish that my protag was athletic without just saying "he's athletic" so being great in a sport was one way to do that. Then I had to decide if I was going to write in first person or third person. That's where the biggest inspirations came from. I turned to the works of great sci-fi authors like Frank Herbert, William Gibson, and Robert A. Heinlein. They all wrote in third person omniscient. So that's what I wanted to do. And I'm most comfortable with that style. I struggled with the whole YA label because I know that YA authors tend to write in first person. I knew that if my book got branded as YA, as soon as a girl picked it up and saw the first line and realized it was third person, that it was probably going to get a pass. So I really tried to impress upon people it was a sci-fi novel first (which has more acceptance of third person omniscient even if the hard sci-fi audience is one of the most snooty genres to write for).
Slipstream has quite the eclectic cast. How did you build and develop your characters?
I knew I wanted Jordan to be smart and that I wanted to use a lot of quantum mechanics because I find quantum mechanics and astrophysics to be fascinating stuff. Making him gay was just because I'm gay and well...write what you know, right? I made Kolin an English assassin because quite frankly, my D&D days taught me that assassins were pretty sexy, and I'm a sucker for an English accent. If you don't think assassins always look sexy, you need to pay attention to some ninja movies or look at the demon hunter in Diablo III. Just way sexier than the barbarian and far more interesting to me. And James Bond can be considered sexy, don't you think? And it's not too far to label Bond as an assassin. He has a license to kill after all. I needed Kathy because I have this whole clever thing that's going to happen in book 3 that has to do with the whole Excalibur legend and the Lady of the Lake. Plus I thought that the story I have for Jordan was too big for just himself. Dylan grew out of a desire to have a quirky paranormal character that could do weird stuff because he has a spirit cat as a companion. And Meteora and Chewy were both based off of World of Warcraft characters that I loved playing with in my guild. Meteora was the best shadow priest I have ever seen and Chewy is one heck of a warlock. Chewy consequently is played by Tomeka (one of my best friends) and a black woman in real life as well as in game. So it wasn't much of a stretch to make sure I had a major character that was black, smart, and beautiful.
What is you’re writing process like? Do you have a routine? Daily/weekly/monthly goals?
When I do write, it becomes almost an obsession. I stay up late, get up early, and work so hard that I actually don't like the feeling it leaves me with. So I actually go for months at a time without writing anything except blog posts because I know when I start my story, I won't want to do anything else, and that's unhealthy. It's really weird to explain, but it's almost like I feel I have to get the story out of me in order to get any sleep. And then I drive myself crazy obsessing over words and edits. I don't plan on writing anymore until the winter. I feel it's okay to be unhealthy in the winter because it's cold outside and there isn't much to do.
Would you like to share anything about what you’re working on next?
I'll be working on the third book in the series. The second book is in the hands of a great editor who will take the rest of the year to pore over it. Then DDP will probably look at publishing it sometime next year or maybe 2014 depending on how backed up they are. I know that it will be called "Caledfwlch" which is the Welsh name for "Excalibur". The second book is called "Oculus".  In case you were wondering, there's Arthurian allegory going on in Slipstream, and it's completely intentional. Since you read it, I'll go ahead and tell you that "Caldefwlch" is the only weapon that has the possibility of killing the Horcus because it isn't from Earth. I'm going with the whole "Forged by God" thing that people talk about when they discuss the sword of legend. I'm going to update it's not going to be some crusty medieval weapon. Jordan will be able to transform it into anything in the Slipstream field--that includes shiny snowboards!
  Do you have any advice for writers dreaming of becoming published?
Network with other writers through a blog. Stop being alone. Writers can help you with advice and by being supportive and with reviews. You want to have friends in the industry who've got your back when the Amazon trolls start rolling in with their one star reviews. It helps to have that padding from twenty or so bloggers who have read your work and given you fair reviews before some jerk cruises in and says "I never read this book but noticed all the four and five star reviews so made a one star one to call attention to it." And trust me...this does happen for real.
Thank you again, Michael! It has been a real pleasure sharing this post with you. Below are links to Michael's blog, Goodreads, and Twitter, and a link to get Slipstream for yourself. Thank you for reading. I'll do my best to stop by your blogs this weekend, and I'll be right back here first thing on Monday. Have a wonderful weekend!

Michael Offutt!/MichaelOffutt

Michael Offutt is a writer of science-fiction books. Depending on when you catch him, he may also be an aspiring writer of epic fantasy, young adult fiction, or a daily non-sequitur. He has one brother, no pets, and a few roots that keep his tree of life sufficiently watered.
Mr. Offutt's mother is a four-foot tall Japanese woman and his father is a six-foot tall white man from Texas with a thick southern drawl. She loves city life and sushi. He loves small towns with run-down pick-up trucks and fried chicken.

When he asked his mother how they got together, she happily responded that when she was working in the United States Air Force back in the '50's, she used her spare time as an office clerk at the Air Force Base to look over personnel records for a husband. He remarks that peculiar behavior like this must have been how people met each other prior to the influence of Facebook and Twitter. It puzzles him whenever he thinks about it, so he chooses instead to just love his stalker mother who speaks quite fondly of the family to the fictional people that live in the basement.


  1. Wow great review, Michael. And an even better interview.

    Michael Offutt's debut is rocking the net, huh? So glad you had a chance to read it. It's on my TBR list!

    Have a great weekend!

  2. Great interview/review! I'm reading it right now and even though I'm still in the first half of the book, it's great so far. (sorry I'm a slow reader) I'm hoping to get it finished while on vacation. (:

  3. Characters inspired by video games - I don't feel so odd for having characters inspired by a TV show now! Good stuff, Michaels.

  4. Thanks for the review, Michael. You are awesome.

  5. Hey, guys! This was awesome. I believe we take inspiration wherever we can find it - even if it's from dust bunnies under the refrigerator.

    Happy Weekend to both of you.

  6. Wow, super review and interview, Michael & Michael! M. Offutt, if you'd like, I can purchase and offer Slipstream as a prize for one of my monthly fiction contests in the future. :) Let me know!

  7. @Candilynn Fite: Ooh that would be great. You are so supportive :)

  8. All great advice! Mr. Offutt is one of the most passionate bloggers and writers around. :-)

  9. Great review. Avalon sounds like a nightmare, but it makes for an awesome setting. I also enjoyed learning more about Michael and his writing process.

  10. Mina, it's time to move it up the list. :)

    Elise, it's awesome that you're already reading it.

    Alex, fun stuff. Thanks!

    Michael, thanks so much for agreeing to do the interview. :)

    Carol, those dust bunnies can be entire universes.

    Candilynn, thanks so much! :)

    Dalya, he is, and I was privileged to have him on here. :)

    Heather, Thanks! :)

    Medeia, it's such a great setting. I wish I had thought of it!

  11. All the best to Michael and his gorgeous jewelled spider covered novel!! Love his "stop being alone!" rallying call! Yay!! Take care

  12. Great interview!

    I like the titles of the upcoming books.

  13. Kitty, I usually don't like spiders, but his is pretty cool!

    Eagle, Thanks. :)

  14. I'm hoping to finish Slipstream tonight. It is such an amazing story with a great scientific basis for the fantastical elements. Love it.

  15. Ciara, thanks for the added shout-out! :)


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