Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

an extra sonnet titled Day Moon (Tomorrow's Edge Book 1) by Brett Armstrong

"Reading Day Moon by Brett Armstrong was like looking into our future. Never mind that the story was set in 2039, the characters reveal the same passions of love, distrust and longing for God's guidance when their lives were in jeopardy as the same way we acknowledge the trust we look for in today's world." - Brice, Goodreads


Published: March 2017

In A.D. 2039, a prodigious seventeen year old, Elliott, is assigned to work on a global soft-ware initiative his deceased grandfather helped found.

Project Alexandria is intended to provide the entire world secure and equal access to all accumulated human knowledge. All forms of print are destroyed in good faith, to ensure everyone has equal footing, and Elliott knows he must soon part with his final treasure: a book of Shakespeare’s complete works gifted him by his grandfather. Before it is destroyed, Elliott notices something is amiss with the book, or rather Project Alexandria. The two do not match, including an extra sonnet titled “Day Moon”.

When Elliott investigates, he uncovers far more than he bargained for. There are sinister forces backing Project Alexandria who have no intention of using it for its public purpose. Elliott soon finds himself on the run from federal authorities and facing betrayals and deceit from those closest to him. Following clues left by his grandfather, with agents close at hand, Elliott desperately hopes to find a way to stop Project Alexandria.
All of history past and yet to be depend on it.

A Ride with a View

They say, “Write what you know,” and having spent years earning two engineering degrees, I know a few things about computers and computer systems. I also have spent most of my life writing so the elements of story-telling and weaving a tale are pretty familiar to me as well. One of the cooler parts of writing a sci-fi novel set in the near-future is getting to put new things into the world of the story that are just beginning to emerge now. In particular I really enjoyed figuring out how normal travel would take place in a world like Day Moon’s and apply some of the concepts I learned in school to how they function and by ascribing meaning to these developments I’m able to draw on a bit of both disciplines I’ve studied.

Before I start, for those of you who are computer savvy, forgive me if this is a bit rudimentary and for those who aren't feel free to ask questions. A key lesson I learned in my studies about modern technology is that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,”1 and until you learn how things work it is like that for even those comfortable with computers. But I assure you, they are very much reasoned out, some of it resolving down to common sense approaches. 

The first element of travel I addressed for Day Moon’s futuristic world was automation. Self-driving cars are a quickly rising and controversial topic. Right now there are a handful of test and concept cars out there on the roads each day proving to some that cars could be driving themselves to a home near you or conversely inciting fear of horrific accidents. Even when individual self-driving cars become accepted, having a highway full of independently acting cars will be quite a different world. Add into that the danger of a remote hack of a vehicle or vehicles and the danger is multiplied. A key compromise in Day Moon’s world, with its already over-emphatic restrictions on how computerized devices are used, is the way in which automated cars are used. Rather than individually autonomous vehicles, all the vehicles are connected through a special network to a centralized system. A network of controlled cars makes use of a few principles already present in the computer world. The centralized system on local (city), regional (county), state, and national levels manage cars within each tier’s boundaries. The network hand off is based on the way in which cell phone towers do soft handoffs as you move from one tower’s signal range to another. Basically communicating with two towers for a time before the tower you are approaching takes over. It also takes advantage of the design inherent in computer operating systems. Operating systems are phenomenal at managing individual processes (cars) and guiding them to completion of their activities (trips). They are great for scheduled tasks, which is essentially what most of our lives consist of. We go to work each day at generally consistent times. Come home at roughly the same time. Have scheduled practices, attend movies or other events with scheduled times. Whenever one steps into a car in Day Moon, a destination is set, or synced with a home-based calendar, and the task is added to the relevant road tier’s scheduler, which places the car into the flow of traffic. 

Operating systems are also excellent at assigning priority levels to tasks and handling aberrant or emergent tasks. Termed interrupts, they signal to the operating system a few special cases for processing are taking place. One is when a regularly scheduled task that is time sensitive, which could correlate to political motorcade, parade, or funeral. It could also be unexpected but critical tasks, like clearing the way for ambulances, fire trucks, and police cars. There’s even significant conceptualization for how to handle cars that are away from home versus parked in the driveway for the evening. Computers have layers of memory based on how likely data is to be needed at a given time. Data in one of the levels of the Central Processing Unit’s (CPU) cache are most likely to be used soon (those at short term parking locales, like restaurants or movie theaters) and so are kept on the fastest access memory. The next layer is Random Access Memory (RAM) where things are stored that aren’t of immediate concern but were or will be needed fairly soon (parking for work, conferences, visiting someone in the hospital). The last layer is the hard disk where things are generally stored and are pulled from to the RAM and cache as needed (parked at home for the night). 

Each car has individual sensors that keep each vehicle in the lines while letting the central system do the heavy lifting of navigation, speed calculation, and other services like streaming music and movies or displaying news feeds for the idle passengers within the car. A system like this takes significant computing power, but with advances in machine learning, quantum computing, and other areas of system design, it shouldn’t be infeasible in reality.

Another key innovation is the use of mag-lev technology on cars. Many people are familiar with Japan’s bullet trains that are levitated off a track and propelled by magnetic force. The cars in Day Moon use a kind of scaled down and modified version of that same concept. Mag-lev cars wouldn’t have as much energy consumption as combustion cars or even electric cars now, because the friction loss from wheels on the road is removed. The tradeoff is cars would only be usable where mag-lev track is laid, but it would boost speeds tremendously, would remove the need for fueling stations (mag-lev induction charging of the motor would suffice for that while on the road), and mean less road repair needs as no wear from cars on the road would take place. 

I mentioned that some story-telling would be highlighted in this post and for those waiting for it, thank you for sticking with me. All of this seems like cool technology and sounds great, but you might have picked up on two keywords that got tossed out in the description of how the cars are automated and the way they get from here to there. They’re scheduled and come with tradeoffs. Schedules are wonderful things, but in the world of Day Moon people’s lives have lost the freedom of spontaneity. The cars within Day Moon represent another way in which people have chosen to give away self-determination. They can’t choose where to go and when. It’s chosen for them and executed in a way the system feels is best. There is no going off-road anymore and it’s unlikely most people would think to do so, given there is no need to concentrate on driving. That time is now free time. Leisure time. What we normally fill with television, movies, social media, games, etc. 

While driving to work one day, I realized the view I have on my way there is fantastic. I had been driving it for almost a year when I realized this. Between the radio, talking to my mom via Bluetooth, and having to zip through the route in the midst of a group of drivers who were sleepy, grouchy about being sleepy, possibly running late, and anxious enough to do some crazy things because they were late; there wasn’t much room for noticing peripheral details. That was with primarily necessary distractions. If, for instance, I could write during that hour and a half of my day spent driving, I would be in a bubble, completely unaware of anything. And I would be happily engrossed at that. Technology often represents a tradeoff in Day Moon and a major theme of Day Moon is the cost of those choices for advancement that never were weighed in the balance. The fantastic thing about science fiction is that any element of the world can be emblematic of something much deeper while still being enjoyable for the thing itself. I’m not a big proponent of writing simply for entertainment. I think writing should entertain, but if it doesn’t say something deeper, I feel like the reader and author are missing out on a great chance to journey through a much more vibrant landscape with the story as the vehicle in which both can ride. 

About the author: 
From an early age, Brett Armstrong had a love for literature and history. At age nine, he combined the two for his first time in a short story set in the last days of the Aztec Empire. After that, writing’s role in his life waxed and waned periodically, always a dream on the horizon, till he reached college. At West Virginia University, he entered the Computer Engineering program and spent two years pursuing that degree before an opportunity to take a creative writing class, for fun, came along. It was so enjoyable, he took another and in that course he discovered two things. The first was the plot for a short story called Destitutio Quod Remissio, which the others students really seemed to love. The second, he realized he absolutely loved writing. For him, it was like the proverbial light bulb coming on. In the years since, describing that epiphany has been difficult for him, but he found the words of 1924 Olympian Eric Liddell are the most eloquent expression for it: “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” God gave Brett a passion for writing, and so feels His pleasure when writing.

After a few years passed, Brett got his Computer Engineering degree, but also completed a minor in each of his real passions: history and creative writing. In 2013, he began graduate school to earn an MA in Creative Writing. During that time he completed the novelization of Destitutio Quod Remissio and entered the 2013-2014 CrossBooks Writing Contest, which won the contest's grand prize. As of March 2015, Brett completed his MA and is presently employed in the West Virginia Division of Infectious Disease Epidemiology as a programmer analyst.

Brett lives in Saint Albans, West Virginia, with his beautiful wife, Shelly. In the summer the pair gardens together, and each day Brett continues writing his next novel. 


Brett Armstrong said...

Thank you for joining Day Moon's tour and hosting it on your blog today!

Unknown said...

Enjoyed your review of Day Moon. Loved the book!

Linda B