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New book: Dead Formats

My latest novel is a sci-fi mystery story set in 2064, in a world based loosely on our own where immortality has been achieved via workable, but imperfect, hologram simulation technology.

Check out the amazing cover, which was designed by Kat Bastow and incorporates elements by Bruno Thethe and Irina Bg. I think it manages to capture the themes of neon, cyberpunk, hologrammatic existence and the chaos and confusion of the digital future perfectly.

I don’t know about other writers, but when I begin a project like this – which involves starting from scratch to create a new world, new inventions, new technologies and new characters – I need a helping hand. Inevitably, I draw from a selection of inspiring books whose stories, characters and world-creation aspects have made a lasting impression on me and stayed with me throughout my life.

I’m not emulating any specific title, or work, of course. But the books I brought to mind when I was creating this release are a similarly nostalgic selection. No, I am not saying Dead Formats is in the same league as them, because I am not mad. But my novel does share some of the themes you’ll find in these absolute classics, and I can wholeheartedly recommend every single one, as they’re all amazing reads in their own right.

1] Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? 
Philip K Dick (1968)

The 1968 book that became Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic Blade Runner is a far deeper, denser and more philosophical affair than its flawless silver-screen counterpart. Its ruminations on longevity, memory and identity, set against the vivid backdrop of a ruined industrial city of the near future, have left an indelible imprint on every SF detective novel that came after it.

2] The Passion Of New Eve
Angela Carter (1977)

When I turned from a human into a teenager, for a time, I read anything and everything in the local library. Angela Carter’s novel The Infernal Desire Machines Of Doctor Hoffman blew my tiny mind and I vividly remember reading it with a dictionary open next to me, stopping every couple of pages to understand what the hell I was reading. This one – her bid for the great European novel – has a hugely memorable, complex and timeless creation at its heart. Mia Tristesse, the hologrammatic femme fatale in Dead Formats, is my sideways nod to him/her.

3] Vurt
Jeff Noon (1993)

Jeff Noon is a perpetually underrated genius and each one of his works is a mind-expanding trip to some mysterious parallel storytelling dimension. But his debut and its sequel Pollen in particular have chaotic, tragedy-tinged characters with real feelings despite their interfacing with a magic-realist realm, and their everyday lives, though magical and strange, have a consistency and internal logic.

4] Neuromancer and Snow Crash
William Gibson (1984) and Neal Stephenson (1992)

Light City, the cyberpunk-y city setting of Dead Formats, obviously owes much to the founding fathers of this genre. Neuromancer’s imaginative melding of the digital and the sleazily physical has never really been bettered, just iterated upon; while the Metaverse in Snow Crash – despite the of-its-time, zeitgeisty feel of the novel – is now guaranteed immortality, thanks to Facebook’s aggressive play for the meta realm. 

5] Our Final Warning: Six Degrees Of Climate Emergency
Mark Lynas (2007/2020)

Cyberpunk can often play out against a kind of circuit board of a storyworld, where every corner has been industrialised and technology has transformed every situation beyond recognition. I wanted Light City, the setting in Dead Formats, to contain glimpses of an unworkable version of our world ravaged by runaway climate disaster, and Six Degrees is the most convincing guide to such a future I’ve yet read. 

6] Wizard Of The Pigeons
Megan Lindholm (1986)

One scene in Dead Formats pays its respects to this obscure but resonant and well-written tale by Megan Lindholm from 1986, about a displaced character on the edges of society with eerie supernatural powers. The book was a precursor to the now-massive urban fantasy genre and is well worth scooping out of the infinite bag of great 80s literature. 

Dead Formats, by Esa Ortega, is available from Amazon in ebook format now, with a print version coming soon.

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