I often write about current affairs for young people. In these turbulent times, it is hard for publishing schedules to keep up with world events. By the time a reprint is due, the kettle of fish has become wholly different, a bucketful of vipers more often than not. My Nibweb colleague Stewart Ross is probably wise to move the debate forward into a fictitious world set in a distant future, which affords retrospection into our own age.
Conventional wisdom has it that in the future we shall all live longer and longer. In The Soterion Mission Stewart Ross turns this idea on its head. Three score years and ten have been superseded, due to genetic mutation. Teenage is the new prime. Phase Three of the Mission is now published (June 2017) as The Salvation Project and it describes a dystopia of violence and chaos, in a post-electronic world.
The story is action-packed, the speech is direct and excels in creative terms of abuse, from ratbrains to volepizzles. The plot will surely suit today’s gaming teens and could make a great film.
But its essence is rooted in older storytelling traditions. An heroic journey to the sea through hostile territory is as ancient as Xenophon. The bid to access the knowledge bank of the Soterion is essentially a grail quest, and as in all good quests ‘salvation’ derives as much from the journey and its striving as from any eventual success. The societies encountered on the journey are a Pilgrim’s Progress of moral warnings: our heroes encounter sloth, greed, envy and all sorts of cruelty. They learn that cooperation, hope, trust and love can prevail. Oh and like The Famous Five, Stewart Ross’s adventurers have a clever and trusty canine friend to bark when needed. We all need one of those.
The lesson of The Salvation Project is that we need to learn from the past in order to be civilised, but that we must also constantly adapt to change and be agents of change in order to create a civilised future. There’s more to the world than data and dogma, there’s evolution. Even for Zeds.