I’m so happy to be able to welcome Sharon Lynn Fisher to the blog today. Sharon’s new book,Ghost Planet, just hit the shelves and not only was I able to get my hands on a copy but Sharon wrote a lovely guest post for us that just happens to mention a place I think a lot of us would love to travel to.
Kiss Me, I’m (Almost) Irish
What is it with Ireland and writers? Lots of them come from there. Many of the rest of us would like to immigrate. Is it the weather? Nothing to do but write? Maybe so, but I live in Seattle and can get that right here.
Sure it’s gorgeous — rolling green hills dotted with sheep, stone fences, streams and lakes the color of Guinness. There are rainbows EVERY DAY. But you don’t want to get too comfy.
Because Ireland is also bleak and atmospheric. Moody and poetic. Storms, big waves, salty air. Dizzyingly high cliffs where people have fallen to their deaths when the fog rolled in. I grew up in tornado alley and I’ve never seen a storm as violent as the one my first night on a solo trip to Connemara. I thought the roof would blow off. It was the first time I’d ever experienced absolute dark — I lay in bed, window blinds open, and still could not see even the outline of my hand in front of my face. Except when the lightning came.
But guess what? If a day out in the elements or at the keyboard leaves your spirits a little low, Ireland has the
world’s best pubs — friendly people, welcoming fires, and traditional music. Have you ever smelled a peat fire? Earthy, herbal, smoky indulgence. Especially if you’re sitting in a pub like this one, chatting up a friendly bartender named Roy and drinking Bailey’s or hard cider.
That sense you get in Ireland — of nature happening all around you, in ways you are powerless to predict or escape –definitely worked its way into the worldbuilding for Ardagh 1, the setting for my debut novel, GHOST PLANET (Tor Books).
And the hero of GHOST PLANET, psychologist Grayson Murphy, is an Irishman from County Cork. His character was inspired by the physicist hero in the film SUNSHINE, played by Irish actor Cillian Murphy, also from Cork. (The film was directed by Danny Boyle, who is more than half Irish himself.)
I create playlists for all of my projects, and when I’m finished I post them on Spotify and iTunes. The GHOST PLANET playlist includes songs from Dublin-based singer/songwriter Adrian Crowley, whose music evokes the Irish countryside with all its beauty and mystery. I also drew a lot of inspiration from the music of Glen Hansard (of The Frames and Swell Season) and Snow Patrol (part Irish, part Scottish).
How about you? Is there any place on the globe (other than the place you grew up) to which you feel you have a special connection? Maybe the place you think about when you’re wishing you were anywhere but work?
Barbara: Hmm, aside from Eric Bana’s house in Melbourne (when his wife is gone, I’m not a total heathen!), I think Ireland would have to be it. Everyone else?
Publisher: Tor Science Fiction
Publication Date: October 30, 2012
Genre: Sci-Fi Romance
Psychologist Elizabeth Cole prepared for the worst when she accepted a job on a newly discovered world—a world where every colonist is tethered to an alien who manifests in the form of a dead loved one. But she never expected she’d struggle with the requirement to shun these “ghosts.” She never expected to be so attracted to the charming Irishman assigned as her supervisor. And she certainly never expected to discover she died in a transport crash en route to the planet.
As a ghost, Elizabeth is symbiotically linked to her supervisor, Murphy—creator of the Ghost Protocol, which forbids him to acknowledge or interact with her. Confused and alone – oppressed by her ghost status and tormented by forbidden love – Elizabeth works to unlock the secrets of her own existence.
But her quest for answers lands her in a tug-of-war between powerful interests, and she soon finds herself a pawn in the struggle for control of the planet…a struggle that could separate her forever from the man that she loves.
So Halloween has passed and I thought I was done with stories that would raise the hair on my arms for another year. One chapter into Ghost Planet and I had goose pimples and until I closed the book, I felt like I was on a roller coaster of emotions – but I kept those goose pimples. This is a scary, smart, sexy story that occasionally had me doubting my own thoughts as I read.
Earth has become a polluted disaster and the need to find another planet to sustain life sent explorers out into space. John Ardagh found a planet similar to Earth that was full of vegetation and habitable and began a program to settle people there. They found a very disturbing effect once people arrived – a fully formed, solid replica of a person with some sort of relationship to them who’d died was “connected” to them on this new planet. Psychological problems developed when people engaged these so-called ghosts/aliens, so something called the Ghost Protocol was put into place, where Citizens were strongly encouraged not to speak to or acknowledge their ghosts.
Elizabeth Cole, desperate to get away from some relationship messiness on earth, has elected to take on a position as a psychologist at a counseling center on Ardagh 1. She also hopes to study the Ghost Protocol, developed by Dr. Grayson Murphy. When she arrives, she’s taken aback to be met by Murphy himself. A problem at the counseling center means she’ll be working with him in New Seattle. It’s not going to be a total chore – she met the handsome Irishman once before at Trinity College and the spark of attraction she felt back then is still there.
The sad, wan ghosts are unnerving to Elizabeth but Murphy doesn’t seem to have any problem ignoring them. He’s explaining the way the office security is set up to recognize humans vs. ghosts/aliens, when they walk through and the alarm goes off. They realize Murphy’s ghost has been missing for a while now too, so it shouldn’t have, except according to the security scan – Elizabeth is his ghost now. She died on the way to Ardagh 1. Cue the hair on my arms to stand up.
The story is told in the first person from Elizabeth’s point of view, so for that first chapter, I was reading about New Seattle from her eyes, seeing Murphy and her attraction to him, how she felt about the ghosts and what she wanted to do for them – basically everything that made her real – and then, BAM. She’s a ghost? Of course immediately, the creator of the Ghost Protocol has to change his attitude toward his new ghost.
At this point, I’m not sure where the story is going. I don’t trust my own conclusion about who’s alive and who’s dead since ghosts apparently can appear very human and even they don’t know they’re dead. No one who’d been in contact with Elizabeth noticed because she hadn’t been neglected enough yet. Murphy’s problem is that Elizabeth isn’t going to follow the Ghost Protocol. She may not be alive but she’s not dead either and she’s going to find a way to exist and not be one of those helpless creatures no one talks to.
The story is quite serious: there are themes of prejudice, environmentalism, slavery and oppression among the old faithful standards of greed, fanaticism and jealousy. This still has some light and fun moments and Elizabeth is a bright beacon of a character. She’s generally just irrepressible, pretty much corrupting other ghosts by talking to them and driving Murphy crazy by making her presence in his life impossible for him to ignore. Figuring out the relationships between ghosts and citizens was her passion before but now it’s her mission and she’s got some brilliant ideas that she and another ghost talk out. It’s fascinating stuff.
The romance with Murphy is so, so sweet. He’s just so damn adorable and sexy. It’s not all because he’s a yummy Irish guy who absently calls her, “love,” all the time. It’s not his startlingly blue eyes or that he’s practically a chef. Even when he’s trying to ignore Elizabeth, he does it courteously and is protective. I loved that when she started to work out her theories, Murphy was willing to rethink his own. Their attraction was pretty quick but it took time for everything else and I really appreciated that. Once they got there – whew.
I don’t want to say too much about where the plot goes beyond Elizabeth’s research because the halves of the book are like mirror images, mimicking the ghost/person relationship. I loved the way Fisher split the story, showing that both sides had their fanatics and neither had any particular grasp of the true answer because they were so busy proving they were on some moral high ground. There are a few twists and pockets of action at the end that again had me wondering if I could trust myself!
My Summary: I loved this. That’s pretty much the beginning and end of it. I’m not a science fiction reader by any stretch of the imagination but Fisher made this relatable, didn’t throw a hundred unpronounceable names at me and gave me a sexy romance, which I couldn’t resist. Ghost Planet originally hit me as eerie, then wrung me out, taking me through every emotion I could imagine. It left me thinking about the possibilities of the creation of duplicate life forms, wondering what would happen if they went somewhere other than their home planet, wondering about some of the other moral questions raised in the book – in other words, this stuck with me long after I read it. It’s going on my list of favorite reads of the year and definitely will be a re-read!
My Rating: A