The Earth is pregnant: thriller novel EVEREST RISING by MD Kambic

When I first saw a draft of Matt Kambic’s thriller EVEREST RISING, the novelty of his premise–the Earth is pregnant–had me hooked. I guided Matt through a couple of rewrites, and then published his novel through ScienceThrillers Media. Kambic’s splendid story of science, speculative fiction, and mystical visionary themes has now won the Mountain and Adventure Fiction category of the New Zealand Mountain Film and Book Festival, as well as a Northern California Publishers and Authors book award.

Here, Kambic shares thoughts on the visionary elements of his science-tinged adventure novel.


Pregnant Thoughts on a Visionary Storyline
by M.D. Kambic, author of EVEREST RISING

It’s a long way from Pennsylvania to Mount Everest. I’m still on the road (a bit closer – now living in New Zealand) but don’t know if I’ll ever get there. It’s not unlike the journey from being born to understanding, or at least making peace with, the meaning of life.

I’m an American man married to a Kiwi woman, retired from Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA) in 2013. My first novel was published a few months ago. It’s called Everest Rising, and the plot is relatively straightforward – the Earth is pregnant.

The idea came from a few different places. I am always searching for the new storyline– a tale that hasn’t been told and an engaging core around which to build a compelling narrative. I want my characters to grapple with both the commonness of existence and the wonder sneaking in around the edges. This wonder serves as a catalyst for transforming the human experience; a transformation revealed through the senses, understood by the mind, and confirmed by the heart.

The ‘pregnant Earth’ construct allowed space for various themes to intermingle and for passionate conflicts to play out. There’s conflict concerning the Earth: a living, possibly sentient entity about to safeguard its existence against humankind’s wayward stewardship. There’s conflict among the characters, many of them scientists who must decide how to deal with an unprecedented, physics-defying chain of events. At its center, the story is about acceptance. Accepting how little we know, and in that unknowing choosing how to use our energies and where to direct our focus. Where can one find answers – or some version of a contented frame of mind that reconciles what we guess is true with what we realize will always be mystery.

My aims in writing Everest Rising were simple. To entertain, to nourish hope, and to encourage the acceptance of the unknowable. I would also add I believe this ‘unknowable’ is a positive, never a threat. It speaks to and requires a great reaching, that pulls and propels our mind and spirit up and out, higher and wider, away from the self and the ego.

It was wonderful to explore the musings of so many characters, trying to depict a cross-section of world views and personal ‘what is the meaning of life’ explorations, along with attempting to describe the prescient transformation made possible when individuals are graced with profound realizations.

In doing so, I could explore my own experiences, consider others I’ve been privileged to hear or read about, and maybe lament the dead ends I have stumbled into.

The following is a short overview of the significant characters in my story and a look at the arcs they travel.

James Von Kamburg

A scientist who understands the world is being undone by humankind’s indifference, James is also a man confused by his own heart. He is adrift in his marriage because he doesn’t want to bring children into the painful future on the horizon, allowing the tenets of commitment to his wife to be blurred by the attentions of another woman. Yet, he has a core of integrity as a backstop, and an important opening in the lockbox of his memory that speaks to something beyond what science, and his own senses, know as physical law.

(In the story, James relates a memory from his young adulthood about a celestial event witnessed that itself defied physics. This memory is from my own life, and reminds me that wherever I manage to get to in my ‘knowing’, some things will remain unexplainable.)

Maggie Von Kamburg

James’ spouse is an artist, who entered the profession after an initial foray into science during her university years. She desires a family, environmental Armageddon notwithstanding. More than anyone else in the story, Maggie has known frightening and exhilarating exhortations urging her to embrace a different level of consciousness, and in the end, she succumbs to the risk. On the other side are things both wonderful and terrifying.

Jared Griffon

Griffon is the antagonist, a man of money and power, and spiritual unconsciousness. He would see the world bend under the rule of science, and yet there are hints he might stumble into a more compassionate space.

Leslie Finch

Finch, Griffon’s paramour, is a woman driven to find professional success. Yet, her emotions lead her into dangerous terroritories. She has flashes of insight revealing that much of what she does and thinks is not in her best interests, but cannot find a path that will save her.

Maya Danheela

A Sherpani physician, Maya embodies hope and tenacity. She is a forthright, steadfast helpmate to her community and her friends. At odds with the western-intoxicated influences of an Everest located luxury lodge and its owners, she is drawn into the escalating crisis, and called upon to navigate with both her sharp psychological instincts and formidable physical prowess the astounding events at hand.

Abbot Gaia

A long-serving man of the Buddhist cloth, the Abbot finds the very basis of his spiritual and earthly existence under attack. His contract with a western firm means money for members of his order who live under oppressive rule, but the firm’s emerging defilement of the land faces him with a collision of doubt and faith. His world– the Earth, in upheaval– he must counsel from a place of great apprehension to help bring about a morally irreproachable, if uncertain, outcome.

These players are cast beside and against each other. The slow transforming of minds and mindsets bends the plot and drives the denouement. Mother Earth herself does not go without a voice.

To summarize, my novel is a stage where individuals must reconsider their hard-earned absolutes in the face of contradictory evidence. The unfolding events bring each character to a critical juncture that requires a new manner of thinking and, indeed, being.

Though the physical realm may bruise and bite, bringing even death, the greatest battles are fought in the mind and spirit, where compassion and grace and wonder stand their ground against selfishness and ego and absolutes. Everest Rising stages an animated tableau where this engagement is laid bare.

My life has known the strange trajectory that delivers one from existential conviction (via science and religion) to the place of uncertain yet greatly comforting hope and acceptance. I won’t ever know what I once thought I did, as far as where I arrived from and where I may end up. But I can accept and revel in the miracle of being at all, and warm to the nudges that our existence is blessed and ever-evolving.

My hope as the author is that readers will be philosophically moved by the revelations inside the hearts of the story’s players. And, maybe, recognize in their own lives the profound opportunities glimpsed when the soul, with its wider, searching consciousness, is given purchase on the multi-textured, wondrous pathway from Birth to the Beyond.


Photo credit: Jason Haselden

About the author

Matt Kambic is a writer and artist who hails originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He currently resides in Hamilton, New Zealand.

Visit Matt’s website at  mdkambic.com

To purchase a copy of Everest Rising, click here

This article first appeared on VisionaryFictionAlliance.com

Posted in Book Buzz, Books, Guest post | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

HONG KONG BLACK: new bioterror novel set in China

Last year, ScienceThrillers was pleased to introduce you to a new action-packed science and military thriller series written by the author team Alex Ryan (in real life, US Navy veterans Brian Andrews and Jeffrey Wilson ). I loved Beijing Red (read my review) and I’m sure I will love Hong Kong Black, book 2 in the Nick Foley series, when it’s released tomorrow!


Former Navy SEAL Nick Foley reluctantly agrees to help investigate when American CIA operative Peter Yu goes missing in China. But when Yu’s mutilated body washes up on a beach near Hong Kong, along with dozens of other victims, the case takes a macabre turn. Suddenly, Nick finds himself embroiled in another bio-terrorism investigation being conducted by China’s elite Snow Leopard counter-terrorism unit and the Chinese CDC, this time involving illegally harvested organs for an unknown and nefarious end.

But Nick’s investigation does not go unnoticed, and soon he finds a target on his back. After thwarting an attempt on his life, he is forced to go off the grid and enlist the help of beautiful CDC microbiologist Dr. Dazhong “Dash” Chen to help unmask his would be killer. On the run and looking for answers, their budding romance is tested at every turn.

With each step closer they take to unmasking the truth, Nick and Dash find themselves drawn deeper into a global conspiracy that began over two thousand years ago with the First Emperor of China and now threatens to upset the world order as they know it.

Posted in Books, New releases | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book review: SPECIMEN stories by Irina Kovalyova

ScienceThrillers.com book review of Specimen stories by Irina Kovalyova.

 

Publication date: March 2016
Category: Science-themed literary fiction / short stories

Summary (from the publisher):

Inspired by a wide range influences — including early-twentieth century Russian avant-gardists, British science fiction and dystopian novels, as well as contemporary American novelists — Specimen is a highly original collection of stories that explore the place where physical reality collides with our spiritual and emotional lives.

In “Mamochka,” nominated for the 2012 Journey Prize, an archivist at the Institute for Physics in Minsk, must come to terms with her daughter’s marriage to a Chinese man in Vancouver. In “Peptide P,” scientists study a disease of the heart that seems to affect children after they eat hotdogs. In “Side Effects,” a woman’s personality is altered by botox injections. In “Specimen” a teenage girl discovers that she was conceived using a sperm donor. In “The Big One,” a woman and her daughter find themselves trapped in the rubble of an underground parking garage after an earthquake. In “The Blood Keeper,” a novella, a young academic travels to North Korea to work on her dissertation and embarks on a dangerous affair.

ScienceThrillers review:

I write, publish, and review science-y thriller and suspense fiction. But I’m interested in any literature that has a science worldview or themes. Specimen is a wonderful example of this kind of book, sometimes called LabLit. Written by a working scientist who also holds an MFA degree, it’s a collection of short stories plus one novella all written by Dr. Kovalyova. The stories are literary, artsy, sometimes beautiful, sometimes weird, and always intriguing. While not all of the stories are heavily or obviously science-themed, they all have science aspects and certainly a scientist’s way of seeing things embedded in the text.

The collection has lots of variety, too. Kovalyova experiments with different story structures. In particular, science-y folks will love “Peptide P,” a work of short fiction told entirely in the format of a scientific journal article. It’s brilliant, original, and effective, and like all great short stories, throws a twist at the end. My second favorite story was “The Side Effects,” a love story and psychological/medical suspense tale told from the point of view of a psych patient.

The final thing I’ll mention is the stories also have a Russian/Eastern European influence. I’m not a literary scholar so I can’t give you much more detail, but it’s there in settings and tone.

If you like Specimen, you might enjoy: The Afflictions by Vikram Paralkar

Support ScienceThrillers.com and the book’s author: Click to buy Specimen from amazon.com

Posted in Books, Full reviews, New releases | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inventor contest for grades 1-6. Easy to enter by May 12

I just heard about a loosely STEM-themed contest for grades 1-6. Scholastic & USA Gold Pencils are encouraging innovation with an inventor contest. Kids submit a sketch or description of their invention by May 12.

“Six grand prizes of $500 each will be awarded to students with the best inventions in the following categories: Grades 1–2, grades 3–4 and grades 5–6. The teacher of each Grand Prize Student Winner will also receive a $100 gift card, plus a year’s supply of U.S.A. Gold® pencils and other school supplies valued at $400.

Teachers must submit entries on behalf of their students using the entry form and invention worksheet, which can be found at http://www.scholastic.com/usagold. The contest site also offers teachers grade-appropriate activities incorporating fun, topics and classroom exercises. Though the contest encourages student creativity, they will not be judged on artistic ability.

Contest is open to students in grades 1–6 who are enrolled in public schools, accredited private schools, or home schools.”

Posted in STEM contests & competitions for kids | Leave a comment

Book review: SCRATCH on writing and making money

As many followers of ScienceThrillers.com know, I run a very small, boutique independent publishing company that specializes in stories with science (ScienceThrillers Media). I’m also very involved in my local Sacramento writers’ community. Therefore when I heard about Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living edited by Manjula Martin, I immediately went to my library’s website to request a copy. In the publishing business, money is like an STD: some people definitely have it, but no one wants to talk about it. Writers have little or no idea how much income other writers actually earn from selling books. In this vacuum of ignorance, expectations inflate. No, you won’t earn much money even if you get a “big” advance (typically spread out over several years, and diminished by taxes and agent fees), nor even if your book makes a best seller list.

According to the cover, Scratch aspires “to confront the age-old question: How do creative people make money?” A highlighted quote claims, “Manjula Martin…has done more than perhaps anyone else to shed light on the financial nitty-gritty of the writing profession.”

Well, I don’t know what Manjula Martin has done in general, but I can tell you that in this particular book, the only light that was shed came from a flashlight in your dad’s glove compartment powered by a couple of five-year-old C cells.

In other words, the cover copy lied. In this collection of essays, there’s no financial nitty-gritty. Actual numbers are as rare as snow in July. Instead, the essayists tiptoe around pragmatic questions of money to instead navel-gaze about issues of privilege and class. Several of them explicitly repeat the problem this book was supposed to solve: they flatly refuse to discuss specific financial details.

Now, I understand why a person wants to keep her income information private. But then don’t write an essay for a book that purports to reveal data about income or advance money.

Part of the problem is the working writers chosen to contribute to this collection are pretty much all traditionally published writers of literary fiction. The Iowa-NYC-MFA crowd. None are scrappy indies of the kind who are sweeping the amazon Kindle bestseller lists. And almost none of them write genre fiction, which is where the money, such as it is in the novel-writing business, can be found. They share a proud disdain for money, acknowledging it as a necessary evil but definitely unclean. As you might expect, this makes it rather difficult to have an honest, open conversation about “the financial nitty-gritty of the writing profession.” These people write beautiful essays, I’ll give them that. But they’re not essays that are of any use–and that (I thought) was the point of this book.

Compounding my dissatisfaction, the essayists in general make some of the most titanically bad financial decisions that parts of the book could be re-issued as a cautionary tale in poor personal financial planning. I’d rather take medical advice from Huck Finn with his dead-cat-in-a-graveyard therapy than take financial advice from these folks. Is it because these people are creatives? Is it because they’re living in an MFA bubble? I don’t know. Plenty of indie writers have embraced the practical side of the writing business. The fact that many of the essayists are also Park Slope-dwelling millennials, a group not known for its get-up-and-go tenacity, does not help.

So unfortunately I will not be recommending Scratch to my fellow authors in Sacramento, nor will I give it to the authors I sign at ScienceThrillers Media. I’ll give them straight talk about the likelihood of very small royalty payments, and a copy of a book that they can actually use (Online Marketing for Busy Authors by Fauzia Burke for business, and Troubleshooting Your Novel by Steven James for craft).

 

Posted in Books, Full reviews, Publishing | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Bill Nye the Science Guy co-author new middle grade thriller series

This came to my inbox and I thought I would share…Bill Nye the Science Guy and author Gregory Mone are launching a new science-themed series for middle grade students, called “Jack and the Geniuses”. Click image to link to amazon.

Posted in Book Buzz | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Must-read microbiome stories: I CONTAIN MULTITUDES book review

ScienceThrillers.com book review of I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong

Publication date: August 2016
Category: Popular science

Summary (from the publisher):

A groundbreaking, wondrously informative, and vastly entertaining examination of the most significant revolution in biology since Darwin—a “microbe’s-eye view” of the world that reveals a marvelous, radically reconceived picture of life on earth.

Every animal, whether human, squid, or wasp, is home to millions of bacteria and other microbes. Ed Yong, whose humor is as evident as his erudition, prompts us to look at ourselves and our animal companions in a new light—less as individuals and more as the interconnected, interdependent multitudes we assuredly are.

The microbes in our bodies are part of our immune systems and protect us from disease. In the deep oceans, mysterious creatures without mouths or guts depend on microbes for all their energy. Bacteria provide squid with invisibility cloaks, help beetles to bring down forests, and allow worms to cause diseases that afflict millions of people.

Many people think of microbes as germs to be eradicated, but those that live with us—the microbiome—build our bodies, protect our health, shape our identities, and grant us incredible abilities. In this astonishing book, Ed Yong takes us on a grand tour through our microbial partners, and introduces us to the scientists on the front lines of discovery. It will change both our view of nature and our sense of where we belong in it.

ScienceThrillers review:

For once, the publisher’s summary does not overstate. I Contain Multitudes, written by one of my favorite science communicators, Ed Yong, IS astonishing and it DOES change the reader’s view of nature. Heck, I have taught microbiology at the college level and it STILL changed my way of seeing life on Earth.

The surprise, for me, was how this book covers not only the science of the human microbiome, but spreads its net more widely across all forms of life. This is a good thing, because Yong has a gift for choosing, organizing, and telling stories about microbiome science. I loved his stories about desert woodrats and creosote poison (microbes to the rescue!), about human breast milk as a fertilizer for “good” gut bacteria, and about the profound importance of the microbiome for insects. His collected tales range far and wide but weave together in a tribute to microbes and their underappreciated importance–nay, necessity–for life. He also brings in just enough description of the scientific method to make experiments comprehensible. And he avoids hype, telling a nuanced tale that includes wonder for what microbiome science might yield in the future with caution against overselling what we actually know now.

I Contain Multitudes is a splendid work of popular science. Accessible, entertaining, literate, and important, I highly recommend this book.


Hear Ed Yong discuss the book with Bill Gates on YouTube

To sample Ed Yong’s science journalism: articles for The Atlantic

Support ScienceThrillers.com and the book’s author: Click to buy I Contain Multitudes from amazon.com

If you enjoy I Contain Multitudes, you might like: Amoeba in the Room by Nicholas Money

Posted in Books, Full reviews, New releases | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Would you read this book?

My next, long-overdue science thriller novel The Han Agent will finally hit bookstores in August. I’ll be sharing more with you about the origin of this story, but for now I need your feedback. To prepare advance reader copies for reviewers, I need to write a compelling back cover summary.

If you flipped over a book and read this on the back, would you take the book home?

The Han Agent by Amy Rogers

In the 1930s, Japanese scientists sought a biological weapon to give them victory over their enemies.

The war ended. Their mission did not.

Japanese-American scientist Amika Nakamura won’t let rules stand in the way of her quest for scientific glory. When the ambitious young virologist defies a ban on the genetic manipulation of influenza (flu) viruses, she loses her university job and derails her career. Enter Hiroshi Naito, scion of a powerful old Japanese clan, who offers her a position doing vaccine research with his family’s pharmaceutical company.

A few months after moving to Tokyo, Amika eagerly accepts an invitation to accompany her rich, eligible boss on a short camping trip to a remote tropical island. No one warns her the Senkaku Islands are disputed territory. An attack on the island by Chinese protesters entangles her and Hiroshi in a high-profile geopolitical struggle. Applying her singular expertise with bird flu in a risky experiment may be the only way out. Little does she know that Japanese ultranationalists and a legacy of unpunished war crimes lurk in the shadows, manipulating people, politics, and science.

But DNA doesn’t lie. Amika uncovers a shocking truth: a deadly virus is about to put the “gene” in genocide.

That’s the 200-word version. Next is an abbreviated form (150 words). Which do you like better?

Japanese-American scientist Amika Nakamura won’t let rules stand in the way of her quest for scientific glory. When the ambitious young virologist defies a ban on the genetic manipulation of influenza, she loses her university job. Desperate to save her career, she accepts a position with a pharmaceutical company in Tokyo. Soon after, a trip with her boss to a disputed island entangles her in a high-profile geopolitical struggle with China. Applying her singular expertise with bird flu in a risky experiment may be the only way out. Little does she know that Japanese ultranationalists and a legacy of unpunished war crimes lurk in the shadows, manipulating people, politics, and science.

But DNA doesn’t lie. Amika uncovers a shocking truth: a deadly virus is about to put the “gene” in genocide.

Please leave a comment if you can suggest any improvements, or tell me what you like about this summary. If you would prefer to keep your suggestions private, email me.

Coming soon: First public reveal of the cover of The Han Agent!

Posted in Book Buzz | 9 Comments