It was recently announced that Gareth L. Powell’s sci-fi space opera novel Embers Of War might be coming to TV screens in the not so distant future. But this isn’t the only bit of good news for Powell and his fans; Solaris have just released The Recollection: Tenth Anniversary Edition (paperback, Kindle, audiobook), a new edition of his second novel. In the following email interview, Powell discusses both the 2011 original and this new edition.
For those who haven’t read it, what is The Recollection about?
The Recollection follows a London taxi driver and failed artist named Ed Rico, who is having an affair with his sister-in-law, Alice. When his brother falls into a mysterious portal, Ed and Alice have to put aside their feelings for each other and follow him into a strange and unknown future. Meanwhile, 400 years in the future, space pilot Katherine Abdulov and her sentient starship, Ameline, have to travel to a distant planet in order to prove themselves to Katherine’s estranged family. And meanwhile, in the depths of space, something ancient and terrible stirs…
Where did you get the original idea for The Recollection, and how did it evolve as you wrote it?
I had written a short story named “Arches,” which appeared in my collection, The Last Reef. And although the story was done, something about the characters and setting wouldn’t leave me be, and I knew there was more there to be explored. At the same time, I had an idea for a Dyson Cloud of mysterious alien space habitats — or “bubbles” — that were all different shapes and sizes. Teams of “bubble breakers” scraped their livings by raiding the habitats for alien relics and technology, but the work was dangerous, and the Cloud (or “Bubble Belt”) was actually a lot more than it appeared to be…
In 2010, I brought those two ideas into collision, and The Recollection was born.
The Recollection sounds like it’s a sci-fi space opera story. Is that how you’d describe it?
I’d definitely describe it as a space opera. It has sentient starships, mystical alien beings, and ancient threats. But it also has a cabbie from London thrown into the mix.
When it came out, The Recollection was your third published book after 2008’s The Last Reef And Other Stories and your 2010 novel Silversands. Were there any writers, or specific stories, that had a big influence on The Recollection but not on The Last Reef and Silversands?
Not especially, although Philip Reeve compared the book to M. John Harrison’s Light, which I think is a fair comparison, as both books feature intertwined narratives set in the present and future. However, when I was writing it, I wasn’t conscious of any particular influences; I was taking what I’d learned from writing Silversands and the short stories in The Last Reef and trying to establish my own narrative voice. In many ways, I think The Recollection was the first book where I really tapped into that.
In a similar vein, were there any movies, TV shows, or other non-literary influences on The Recollection?
I filled the book with little easter eggs. You’ll find song titles, allusions to other novels, such as Slaughterhouse Five, and other little in-jokes I threw in for my own amusement. Some of them are subtle, others less so.
As we’ve been discussing, Rebellion are reissuing The Recollection asThe Recollection: Tenth Anniversary Edition. Whose idea was it to do this?
Rebellion approached me with the idea of releasing a tenth anniversary edition, and I was all for it. I’m very fond of the book and don’t think it reached a wide enough audience first time around. Hopefully with this reissue, more people will get the chance to appreciate it.
Is there anything new in or different about The Recollection: Tenth Anniversary Edition?
This edition features a brand new cover and a new introduction from me, but the text is the same.
What’s interesting about the new cover is that it’s in the same vein as your Embers Of War trilogy. I assume this was intentional, right?
I wasn’t involved in the design of the cover, so can’t comment whether or not that was intentional.
Speaking of the Embers Of War trilogy [which you can learn more about by clicking here and here], it was recently announced that the titular first book in that series was being developed as a potential TV show by Stampede Ventures [who are making a movie based on the biography The Luckiest Man: Life With John McCain] and Wiip [Apple TV+’s Dickinson], with Breck Eisner [The Expanse] slated to direct. Is there anything else you can tell us about this series? Like, are you going to write any scripts or work on it in some other capacity?
I will be Co-Executive Producer on the series, which means I will have some input, but the pilot script has already been written by Gary Graham (and it’s very, very good).
And is it safe to assume that if it makes it as far as the end of the first book that they’ll do the other two as well?
They have bought the option on all three books, so I hope so.
So, in the 10 years since The Recollection came out, has there been any interest in adapting it into a movie or TV show, or maybe a video game?
So far, no one has come forward. But I think a TV series would give the characters room to develop and the story time to unfold.
If that was going to happen, who would you want them to cast as Ed and the other main characters?
When I was writing the book, I pictured Ed Rico as being played by the young Jude Law [Captain Marvel]. A bit scruffy and unshaven, but with a twinkle in his eye. I can’t remember if I cast the rest of the characters.
Finally, if someone enjoys The Recollection: Tenth Anniversary Edition, what sci-fi space opera novel from 2011 would you suggest someone read next and why that one?
Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey was also published in 2011. It’s an epic adventure in and of itself, but it’s also the first book in The Expanse series, which is one of the best ongoing space operas, and has also been adapted for TV.