Today, Kimberly Unger walks us through the genesis and premise of her latest novel, The Extractionist.
Underground hacker Eliza McKay is one of the best in the virtual space where people create personas that can interact as data.
Back when I first conceptualized The Extractionist, VR had been through a couple of failed generations already and Google’s Cardboard hadn’t seen the light of day. At the time I’d been thinking much more along the lines of Star Trek’s holodeck with some of Gibson’s style and Nylund’s metaphoric spaces mixed in for good measure. So, of course McKay had to be a “hacker” of some stripe, although as we learn that’s rooted in a fundamental inability to respect locks rather than a desire to good or harm.
When rich or important people get stuck in the Swim — for reasons that are sleazy, illegal, or merely unlucky — it’s McKay’s job to extract them. And McKay’s job just got a lot more dangerous.
I am a fan of heroes who have been knocked off their pedestal. In Eliza’s case, she’s lost her ability to do what she loves the most (programming for nanotech) and has fetched up in an adjacent industry just sort of marking time until she can figure out how to get back where she thinks she belongs. The thing is, though, you can never go back. Even if the hero is able to get back to where they used to be, the journey’s changed them, it’s never going to be quite the same.
While on an assignment in Singapore, McKay is flagged by an investigative outfit led by Ellie Brighton. Brighton desperately needs her corporate superior extracted from the Swim. The brute-force hacking tactics of Brighton’s tech Rose have already failed. The executive’s personality remains trapped and fragmented; if left for much longer, he won’t survive.
This book starts in Singapore, and it also *started* in Singapore, I wrote the first draft of the very first chapter while traveling for business. Despite having spent a year with her friend Saiid’s family, you’ll notice that McKay still very much views herself as a tourist.
But the job is turning out to be more dangerous than McKay initially thought: her house is broken into, her target is surprisingly reluctant to be extracted, and something is menacing her informational AI sprite, Spike. Something big.
Because, let’s face it, the job is always a bit larger and hairier than expected, that’s what makes it worth the read!
Kimberly Unger’s The Extractionist is due to be published by Tachyon Publications in North America and in the UK, on July 12th.