A Calculated Book on a Calculated Life

ACalculatedLifeAuthor Anne Charnock is a former journalist for such publications as The Guardian, New Scientist, Financial Times, and International Herald Tribune who self-published her first novel, “A Calculated Life” at the end of 2012. It sold so well, and garnered so much acclaim, that Amazon’s 47North imprint quickly snapped it up and is releasing a new edition on Tuesday, rushing it through the editing/production process in less than two months. I had to know more about this book…and a story that people found so immediately captivating…so I invited her here to tell us about it.

My attention is always grabbed by a book that asks, “what if?” So I’m delighted to see that Lee’s thriller “The Walk” ventures into this territory with the question: What if The Big One were to occur and someone had to walk home across a landscape of destruction? That is, what would happen if an apocalyptic earthquake ripped along the San Andreas Fault and demolished Los Angeles?

My debut novel, “A Calculated Life,” is a “what if’ novel, though the starting point is not a catastrophe. Instead, I imagine humanity walking (or sleepwalking) into a new world where genetic tinkering at birth has freed society from addictions – from drugs, alcohol, gambling, everything. No addictive tendencies means virtually no crime. Sadly, life in this near-future world is not all rosy. The population is now compliant and segregated so that high achievers live in the inner cities and suburbs, while menial workers live in subsidized but spartan enclaves.

Although my story is classed as science fiction it gradually morphs into a thriller. One reader told me there are “blink and you’ll miss it” moments. He’s referring to the clues I lay in the book that explain the final outcome. So my worst fear is that readers who skim through their novels will miss these key bits of information! Maybe this is a worry for all authors of mysteries, thrillers and whodunits.

Jayna, my main character, is hyper-intelligent and she’s a star performer at a top corporation that forecasts economic and social trends. A string of events contradicts her forecasts, and she suspects she needs better intuition and more contact with the rest of society. The reader follows her journey as she stumbles into a world where her IQ is increasingly irrelevant… a place where human relationships are difficult for her to decode. And along this journey she crosses the line into corporate intrigue and disloyalty.

In effect, I prompt Jayna herself to ask the question, “what if?” by placing her in  awkward social situations and by making her confront the fact that she’s making mistakes. She starts to look more critically at her privileged yet restricted life and it dawns on her that there are attractions to living life in a different way, on the margins. Jayna is not the only character who is dissatisfied – maybe the grass is always greener on the other side.

“The Walk” is set in the immediate aftermath of The Big One and dramatic events occur in frightening and quick succession. In my novel, I imagine society taking a slow walk into a new genetically engineered future, but the impact in the long term could be as seismic as any earthquake.