It hardly seems possible but it’s a year since my novel, We Are Saul, hit the virtual shelves.
The idea was based on an idea I had for a short story, which I called My Shadow and Me.
And a song that I first heard in the early eighties by Pat Benatar, called My Clone Sleeps Alone.
The original short story was about a paralysed man who had a robotic avatar that lived his life for him.
Here’s part of it.
It hit me, just like the lorry had done. Bones mended, spines did not. Panic set in. “What are you telling me?” I shouted. “That I’m paralysed, that I’ll always be like this?”
“You will. I’m sorry,” he said. “We can’t fix you, with the medical technology we have at the moment. In time, who knows? But, if you’re interested, I have a research project that might give your life a new purpose.”
That was three years ago. Now, thanks to Tendral and his project, my life is almost back to normal.
I’ll tell you more about the project as the story goes on. It’ll make more sense that way. On the day when my story really begins, I woke feeling rough. I was seeing double, and not the blurry double vision that was generally beer and fatigue induced. Oh no, this was double vision in full HD. I could see the bed stretching away towards my feet, at the same time as I watched my previously paralysed hands making coffee, filling the jug, adding grounds to the filter basket. But this wasn’t a dream, or even a wish. This was the project in action.
“Can you turn your eyes off, Saul?” I called out and the coffee machine vanished. “Sorry, Saul. I didn’t know you were awake,” Saul’s voice floated back into the bedroom.
If you hadn’t worked it out, through the wonders of science, I live a full life through Saul. Even though my body doesn’t do anything except keep my brain alive, thanks to Saul I’m as active as any man, with a full range of senses and experiences. I live through him, as a part of Tendral’s project. My brain is connected to Saul’s, he’s what Tendral calls an autonomous artificial person, complete in every detail (yes, including that one) and I’m his test pilot.
How is it done? I have no idea. It’s complicated, I get that much. Tendral tried to tell me, lost me after, it’s like this. As long as it works, I don’t care.
With me driving his actions and reactions, Saul goes out, drinks beer, chases the ladies and does everything a normal person does. Everything I used to do. And I mean everything.
My brain registers it all, I feel every touch, every sensation. Wind on my face, soft lips kissing me, the taste of food. It’s as if I was Saul and it was happening to me. It’s all part of the official aim of the project. Creating fully immersive lives for those who have had them taken away, or never had them in the first place. There’s a plan, a reason for what I’m doing. Giving me a life is just a perk, a side effect. More about that later too.
The scary thing is that nobody can tell that Saul is artificial, whatever he’s doing. It’s all completely realistic. Tendral is a genius, if only what he had achieved didn’t need to be a secret. Saul might be under my control but I can’t use him to tell anyone the truth. I tried once, I (well Saul, on my behalf) had drunk too much beer and was trying to impress. I discovered that there’s a part of Saul’s core programming that overrode my attempts and prevented me from sharing the news. Tendral was annoyed about it and threatened to take me off the project, I learned my lesson and didn’t try again.
When he’s not out, living my life, we have an intimate relationship. Saul cares for me, washing, turning me and doing my physio. He’s trained to check and administer my meds and keep my food bag topped up, plus he quietly and competently does all the other things a paralysed man needs attending to. I live in the spare bedroom of our flat, behind a door that can be locked if Saul’s entertaining on my behalf and I need to be invisible. Like an embarrassing relative. What our guest doesn’t know is that I might be out of sight but I’m never out of mind.
The full implication of Saul being a part of the world, where the project was leading, it was all starting to become clearer to me, with every day that passed.
As was my part in it. Just when I was starting to wonder if I should have got myself involved in the first place, I met Alys.
That idea set me wondering and for NaNoWriMo 2021, I set out to explore where it all might lead.
I had written just under seventy-thousand words by November 26th, at which point I sent the story to my editor.
On Dec 6th, I got it back, with this message,
So, where to begin? It’s amazing, it’s actually remarkable. It had tones of Source Code, but without the baffling time-hopping. Obviously, there are things to address, but nothing major.
Encouraged by this, I sorted out the issues and added a few words. Then I sent it out to my beta readers.
They loved it.
The book was published on June 1st 2022.
Here are some of the initial review comments.
“A truly captivating story that will stay with you long after you’ve closed the book. Phenomenal!”
“The author has created such an extraordinary read in this book & is to be commended on his imaginative storyline & novel idea.”
“We Are Saul is absorbing and suspenseful Sci-Fi reading, written by a true visionary of what may come.”
When Saul is paralysed in an accident, he thinks it’s the end of his life. In fact, it’s just the beginning.
While trying to come to terms with his injuries, the mysterious Dr Tendral offers him a way to make a difference. All he has to do is join his project. There are no other details until he agrees, he’s either in or out.
What choice does he have?
Agreeing is just the beginning. Saul undergoes drastic surgery, only then is the full depth of the project revealed.
Or is it?
As time goes on and he learns more about Tendral’s scheme, Saul’s new life becomes increasingly difficult.
In the end, he has to abandon everything as he learns the truth.
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