We are delighted to welcome Gavin G. Smith back to the Gollancz Blog for a special guest post. Gavin returns to the blog with a breakdown of his character Jakob Douglas from his debut novel Veteran.
So anyway Veteran is to some people an outrageous all out action-fest (my editor continually describes it as the book where someone gets bludgeoned unconscious with their own arm), but to others it is a comment on the human condition as we move into the science fiction that is life in the early twenty first century. (I mean how William Gibson was the last decade?)
It is to the latter that I wish to present this blog. Those that can see through independently targeted shoulder lasers, the gladiatorial kick boxing fights, the demonic cyborg pirate king of New York, the motorcycle races through crumbling tower blocks and powered armoured battles with strange aliens.
This blog is for the people who understand the inner turmoil of Jakob Douglas, the washed out, cybernetically reconstructed, ex-special forces soldier who is Veteran’s main protagonist. This is for the people who understand that Veteran is first and foremost about the relationships we form, that it is about the abuse of power and society’s burden of care to those less fortunate than us. A burden of care that we are all in part responsible for.
So with this in mind and to prove the depth of Veteran I have decided to compare Jakob with other fictional hard-men through a totally arbitrary scoring system designed to favour my own fictional creation.
Richard Sharpe: Sharpe is the hard drinking, hard fighting, lowborn, rookery-bred, whoreson done well. He is an Imperial Eagle snatching, sharp shooter, raised from the ranks in Wellington’s continental army fighting the French during the Napoleonic Wars. Sharpe is almost as dangerous to his fellow officers and the ladies as he is to the French.
|Richard Sharpe||Jakob Douglas|
|Being shat on by the army||4/5||5/5|
|Shooting lots of French people||5/5||0/5|
|Fish out of water||4/5||3/5|
Rogue Trooper: A blue skinned, be-mohawked genetically engineered infantryman who talks to his dead comrades. Rogue Trooper cuts an unlikely figure as he tabs through the poisoned soup of Nu-Earth. He’s not afraid to kill Norts, marauders, Norts, deserters, more Norts, traitors, even more Norts and, oddly, historical re-enactors. The future war’s ultimate future soldier.
|Rogue Trooper||Jakob Douglas|
|Fighting In A War That’s Gone On Too Long||4/5||4/5|
|Talks to his weapons||5/5||0/5|
|Does What He’s Told||0/5||1/5|
Neo: Hacker, martial artist, Chow Yun-Fat wannabe, rebel, superman or possibly Jesus in fetishware. Woken up from a life of comfort to discover he’s product placement for a well-known battery manufacturer. Instead of sensibly going back to a life of comfort (Cypher was right!) he decides to ruin everyone elses fun by taking out his sense of post-modern alienation on the nice machines that had been looking after humanity.
Kung-Fu, gunfights, car chases, computer programmes pretending to be Chinese ghosts (though they are actually handymen from a home improvement show), more kung-fu and superhero/villain fights… Oh whatever here’s the comparison:
|5/5||3/5 (Neo cheated)|
|Is a Plank of Wood||4/5||0/5|
|Cool Dialogue||(Hysterical laughter)||3/5 (because I’m being modest)|
Max Rockatansky: Who? Perhaps better known as Mad Max the Road Warrior! A highway patrol officer in a post apocalyptic world where they drive around in cars looking for petrol so they can…drive around in cars looking for petrol. When nasty evil biker types kill Max’s family he takes to the road to wreak terrible vengeance on the piratical road scum who did the vile deed.
Car chases, cool cars and bikes, more car chases, razor edged boomerangs, feral children, yet more car chases, gladiatorial combat against people with learning disabilities, more feral children, even more car chases and, oddly, Tina Turner. More than anyone Max has taught us the correct way to behave after the apocalypse. He is the reason my Astra has spikes wielded to it and is booby-trapped. Well that and the inevitable zombie apocalypse.
|Mad Max||Perturbed Jakob|
|5/5 (there’s a clue in his nickname)||1 maybe 2 or occasionally 3/5|
|Complete Sense of Humour Failure||5/5||Only sometimes.|
|Looks Good in Leather||4/5||1/5|
|Road Pirate Relations||0/5||2/5 (well okay there was the crucifixion but…)|
Rik Dekkard: Poster boy for diversity, Rik Dekkard tracks down and murders immigrants trying to escape a life of colonial slavery for the crime of being different (and, y’know murdering people, hijacking shuttles and stuff). His saving grace is that he gets to do this to the sounds of Vangelis in a beautifully realised city of neon and rain.
|Rik Dekkard||Jakob Douglas|
|1/5 (The Replicants have them all.)||3/5 (Again I’m being modest.)|
|Constantly getting the crap kicked out of him because he picks fights with people much, much harder than him.||3/5||5/5|
|Being a Replicant||5/5 (Of course he is!)||0/5|
|Being a Plank of Wood||3/5||0/5|
|Having naughty relations with people you’re supposed to be shooting.||3/5||3/5|
Kyle Reese: Probably the most accomplished stalker in film history, Kyle Reese, based on the photograph of his mates mum (Yew!), travels across time to meet Sarah Connor. Oh and to save her from being assassinated so she can give birth to John Connor, the head of the resistance that Kyle fought for in the future. The future in question being another where the machines inevitably take over and are not as nice as the ones in the Matrix (I think we’re calling it the Singularity in SF circles now. Facebook is Skynet. You have been warned. I wonder what’s more inevitable zombies or the rise of the machines?)
|Kyle Reese||Jakob Douglas|
|Travels across time to get laid.||5/5||0/5|
|Weird fixation on mate’s Mum.||4/5||0/5 (that’s being admitted to)|
|Human Cyborg Relations||0/5||3/5|
|Cool Long Coat||2/5 (It’s a bit dirty as he stole it off a tramp.)||4/5|
|Outclassed By Antagonists||4/5||5/5|
Hicks: Michael Biehn again? Really? (I had an ex-girlfriend who suggested I was a little hot for Michael Biehn in the 80’s.) Corporal Dwayne Hicks, the calm in the storm, fearless alien killer, handsome, strong, patient, a pulse rifle wielding vision in combat armour, an angel of death to horrible aliens, a…I think I’m getting a little carried away.
|5/5||4/5 (Godamnit! But every boy who grew up in the 80’s knows that the M41a phase plasma pulse rifle is the coolest gun ever.)|
|Use of power armour||0/5||4/5|
|Being utterly hardcore.||3/5||3/5|
|Bad luck to be around if you’re in the same squad as him.||5/5||4/5|
|Angry alien magnet||3/5||5/5|
Snake Plissken: Snake “Call me Snake” Plissken what can be said that hasn’t already been said? He’s the one eyed veteran of the Special Forces unit Black Light (or possibly Flight depending on who you ask). He fought in Siberia, piloted a glider over Leningrad, wounded, decorated for bravery and turned crook. Women want to be him, men want to be with him, he is a relentless hardcore mother****er who escaped from not one, not one and a half, but two high security prisons!
Snake Plissken needs no introduction (except for the one I’ve written above).
|Honey Badger Douglas (seriously they are really hard)|
|Cooler than Leather Jackets and Smoking||5/5||3/5|
|Being Utterly Hardercore||5/5||3/5|
|Having One Eye and Perfect Depth Perception||5/5||0/5|
|Escaping from coastal US cities||5/5||2/5|
|Clint Eastwood Impression||3/5||0/5|
Takeshi Kovacs: Gang member, criminal, soldier, mercenary, body hopper and mercenary. Kovacs is a truly scary guy with a frightening body count from a reasonably Darwinian world.
I was recently asked who would win a fight between Kovacs and Jakob (isn’t it strange that you only ever have these conversations with other males). The answer is Kovacs, Jakob doesn’t win fights, then Woodbine Scab would murder them both with a tailored virus, shoot some rounds into their corpses for fun and smoke some cigarettes.
|Takeshi Kovacs||Jakob Douglas|
|Psycho-spiritually conditioned to be a psycho||4/5||2/5 (he uses drugs for chemical conditioning when he wants to be a psycho)|
|As dangerous to his friends as his enemies||4/5||3/5|
|Cameo as a schizophrenic trickster god in fantasy novels||3/5||0/5|
|Association with people who have inappropriate relations with animals||1/5||3/5|
|Can be easily stored||5/5||0/5|
So I think we can see that Jakob comes from a proud tradition of unrealistic male wishful thinking. Jakob stands tall with the bad, the dangerous, the damaged and the desperate (okay maybe he’s not as cool as Snake Plissken but who is?). Want to see for yourself? Read Veteran.
Gavin G. Smith is the Dundee-born author of the hard edged, action-packed SF novels Veteran, War in Heaven, The Age of Scorpio and A Quantum Mythology, The Beauty of Destruction, as well as the short story collection Crysis Escalation. His most recent book, The Hangman’s Daughter is out now in ebook. You can find out more about Gavin by visiting his website, following him on Twitter @gavingsmith or Facebook.