Saboteurs is the new novella from Ben Peek, author of The Children Trilogy (The Godless, Leviathan's Blood and The Eternal Kingdom). Ben popped by to answer five of our burning questions.
1. Your new novella, Saboteurs, serves as a prequel to The Children Trilogy - how does it connect to the events of that series?
Saboteurs is the story of a job not going quite right for Bueralan Le, the Captain of Dark, a group of saboteurs. When we first see Bueralan, he has been thrown overboard and navigated a leaking dinghy to the shoreline of a dead god. It is, as we would say, a bad start to the day.
The storyline that unfolds explores what Bueralan and his band of mercenaries did before they took the job at Mireea in The Godless and were dragged into a new god's war. It's all about tricks and bluffs and making the most of what you have when you have very little. Y'know, all that cool stuff saboteurs have been doing over the years when they destroy a bridge, poison a well, or upset a government. It really serves as a brief look at what it is that Bueralan did before the series, and shows the readers how capable, and how dangerous he is when he has nothing.
2. What inspired you to create a novella that explores some of the background to the trilogy?
I am a big fan of Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo and, for some reason, I thought that set up, of two rival gangs who control a town would be a great narrative to explore. Thus, Saboteurs was born, a kind of homage to Kurosawa's film, just with dead gods, black oceans, and no guns.
It was nice, also, to take a step out of the main events of the trilogy and explore another part of the world I've made, which is big, and bigger every time I stop to think about it. It's a bit embarrassing to admit that when I sat down to write the books, I created all these gods and countries that by and large, don't get used in the trilogy simply because the narrative never goes there. So, in Saboteurs, I got to go to the country of Gogair, which has a very strong economy built on the back of slavery. That allowed me to play into Bueralan's background a little, because the country he is from, Ooila, has a slave economy as well, one that the landed families use in very unpleasant ways. Readers of the trilogy will know just how that history weighs on Bueralan, especially in his relationship with Zean, his blood brother, the child his parents purchased when Bueralan was young to be a companion for him.
3. How does Bueralan Le evolve as a character from this story to the trilogy?
In Saboteurs he isn't as tired as he is at the start of The Godless. In the first book of the trilogy, when the reader meets Bueralan, he has just come off a job that has gone bad, and he has lost one of his long time members of Dark. When you meet Bueralan, it's a few years before he and the others ride into Mireea, and he is just a mercenary with a job.
What doesn't change, however, is Bueralan's sense of intelligence, of his belief that if he could just find an opening, he would be able to exploit it to his advantage. In many ways, he's the great survivor of my series, because he is always looking for a way to come out on top. Even after he finds himself in a cage, or in the presence of the Innocent, or the new god, Bueralan is always looking to survive, and to succeed. Of course, nothing is going his way in the trilogy, but then nothing is going his way in Saboteurs, either.
4. What's your favourite prequel or origin story in literature and why?
The one that comes immediately to mind is Barry Windsor Smith's Weapon X, an old comic that was, for a long time, the origin of Wolverine. To a degree it still is, I think, since it shows what happened to him in the Weapon X program, and how the adamantium was bonded to his skeleton. The art in it is brilliant, but the whole thing is just this moody, cool origin, and I kind of wish that they had just left that as the origin of Wolverine, instead doing what they did.
5. Can you give us any teasers for The Eternal Kingdom, book 3 in The Children Trilogy (coming this June)?
It's big and crazy and psychedelic.
It also tells you what happens when you die. After you read The Eternal Kingdom you will never wonder again.
It's the least I could do, really.