Friday, April 25, 2014

V is for Vines: Dystopian Alternate History

Working our way through the A-Z Challenge, today's letter is "V". In this case, it stands for the vines that are a feature of the dystopian alternate history created by our guest Dale Cozort in his Exchange series of books. Take it away Dale!    ~Kat Sheridan

Black vines cling to sterile, concrete-like ground, black leaves chittering in the wind that whips across a treeless landscape, a sea of black with nothing poking through it, nothing flying above it. Barbs along the vines are useless, vestigial. No animals big enough for them to grab survive in this shattered piece of world. Thumb-sized multi-legged forms, as black as the leaves, scuttle among the vines, the largest surviving animals.

That’s the environment where much of my novel Devouring Winds takes place. The rest of it, ironically, happens in a bountiful world, overflowing with animals, unspoiled.

Devouring Winds is the second novel in a series. The premise: near future Earth encounters a series of Exchanges, temporary swaps of town-sized pieces of our reality with an alternate reality where humans never developed, and the world is still dominated by animals.

In the first book, a cult with mysterious ties to the US government colonizes the alternate reality during an Exchange, cutting themselves off from the rest of humanity. Computer guru Sharon Mack and her autistic daughter are also cut off and take refuge with the cult.

The second book brings another Exchange, this one with the black vines reality. The new Exchange takes us from a fresh, exuberant world to a tired, depleted one. The black vine reality developed industrial civilization while our ancestors were still spearing mammoths. That civilization then spent nearly fifty thousand years in a cycle of destroying itself, pulling the remnants back together and repeating the process.

As one of the characters comments, nuclear wars should be one to the customer at most, but the black vine reality kept fighting, going beyond nuclear weapons to even more destructive devices. Now, a few thousand refugees from our reality face the power of this ancient and powerful reality.

I enjoyed writing Devouring Wind. I like asking big questions. What would an industrial civilization look like after fifty thousand years, with technology giving ever-increasing power to countries and individuals? How much of our civilization could a few thousand isolated humans maintain? What would their lives be like? How would they react to enforced isolation from so much of our culture? No new television, books, videogames or music unless they produced it themselves. Cut off from new styles, new slang, new celebrities, never knowing if Lindsay Lohan is in or out of rehab, even if they wanted to know.

How would they react to enforced closeness, never being able to get away from relationships that went bad? How would they settle quarrels with no courts and no lawyers?

I try to address all those questions, and have a lot of fun doing it.

Let’s chat: If you were cut off like the characters in Devouring Wind, what would you miss the most? The least?


"They're coming for us, from the sky and emptiness." This is the unnerving prediction of Bethany Mack, the autistic and strangely prescient daughter of technology guru Sharon Mack. After the last Exchange—a literal swapping of sections between two different realities—Sharon and her daughter are trapped in the wild alternate version of Earth called Bear Country. They’ve taken refuge at Fort Eegan, an outpost built by a peculiar cult with mysterious ties to the US government. But a new Exchange brings terrifying new consequences.

Fort Eegan now faces beings with technology superior to theirs and a millennium-old history of mass violence. The Exchange also blocks Fort Eegan's precious water supply, threatening deprivation now and catastrophic floods in the future. The older and far more threatening civilization also brings a weapon capable of devouring everything in its path, including Fort Eegan.

Even more dangerous than the threat from the new Exchange are the humans of Bear Country. Roaming the countryside, ruthless escaped convicts hold hundreds of women hostage. With supplies dwindling, they eye Fort Eegan's dwindling resources. Inside and outside the fort, restlessness grows among the isolated humans and conflicts fester, including a deadly love triangle. Fort Eegan's only hope is that Bear County's humans unite before they are all blown away by the devouring winds.

Dale Cozort lives in a college town near Chicago with his wife, daughter, three cats and a lot of books. Dale is a computer programmer and teacher as well as a long-time science fiction fan.


Kat's "V" Book List

Victoria Holt – author of many classic gothic mystery romances

The Secret Life of Violet Grant: Beatriz Williams. Manhattan 1964 and Berlin 1914. A great beach read.

Night Vision:  A Jake Lassiter novel by Paul Levine. A fast talking lawyer and hilarity.

Image courtesy of TeddyBear[Picnic] /


Kat Sheridan said...

Dale, so glad to have you here at Over Coffee! I have to say, I really enjoyed reading both Exchange and Devouring Wind. Although I don't read a lot of dystopian or alternate history (other than some steampunk), I really admire how authors can take an ordinary world and twist it so much!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Dale, welcome back to Over Coffee! I enjoyed Exchange. I liked the blending of the normal status quo and the exchange of old and different slice of environment and life within our world. How normal dealt with the unexpected. Loved Sharon Mack.

I think the questions you asked to create this story are valid. We, as a world, are facing some serious problems with the results of industrial carelessness. I'd hate to see our world end up like Devouring Winds.

I'd miss the green lushness of my world and the ability to hear birdsong and see wildlife. The ability to grow flowers and food in my garden. What I'd miss the least would be many of the electronics. I'd miss some of them initially but I can thrive without electronics if I have the means to take care of myself.

Robin said...

Sounds like this series tackles some of the Big Questions. Good for you, Dale!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I like the premise of the series!

Jo said...

Like Sia, I would miss the lushness of this world although I am not sure how long such lushness is going to survive anyway.

I used to read Victoria Holt years ago. Good books.

cleemckenzie said...

I can imagine how not being able to put distance between yourself and those you dislike would be a terrible situation. Have to find out how these characters handled that.

Kat Sheridan said...

Robin, Dale does ask big questions! I get really impressed when he considers not only things like fuel and resources, but what becomes of value (food, toilet paper, beer) and what doesn't (money).

Kat Sheridan said...

Alex, it really is an interesting series!

Kat Sheridan said...

Hi, Jo! Yeah, I kinda cut my teeth on Holt. And I'd miss the lushness as well.

Kat Sheridan said...

CLee, being stuck in close proximity with someone I loathe and not being able to escape would be a total nightmare (I used to call that a "job", but now I'm self-employed and LOVE my co-workers, a.k.a Hubs and the dog. LOL!)

Unknown said...

Pat: I've had "Trapped in it forever" jobs. I'm working toward the "just my wife and the cats" model.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the little home-life touches more than any other part of the novel. Teenagers don't stop being teenagers just because they're trapped in an alternate reality. And, as one character realizes, the being in another reality thing doesn't even entirely eliminate spam.

Mark Koopmans said...

I think I would miss not having new books so much that I would have to figure out a way to print some new ones :)

I wouldn't miss anonymous comments - *thanks* Sia and hugs to you and yours :)

Kat Sheridan said...

Mark, I think anyone who could tell stories, write, sing, make music, or otherwise be entertaining would be a very welcome addition to closed societies like the one Dale writes about!

LD Masterson said...

The black vine world would be very interesting to explore.