With The Rush’s Echo (paperback, Kindle), author Ginger Smith is completing the story she began in 2020’s The Rush’s Edge. In the following email interview, Smith discusses what inspired and influenced this semi-romantic, somewhat military, sci-fi space opera story.
For people who didn’t read it, or the previous interview we did about it, what was The Rush’s Edge about, and when and where did it take place?
The Rush’s Edge is not based in our solar system; like many famous space operas, it’s set in a far-away galaxy. To most people, the year won’t matter, but for those who love details like that, it takes place in Haleia Prime Year (HPY) 2451 in my timeline. Humanity has spread over the planets of the Spiral and into the Spiral’s Edge over the last 700 years. Most of this book takes place on the “Edge,” a sort of wild area of lawlessness on the frontier of known space. Everything is going along as it always has there until the Coalition of Allied Systems, the government that controls the Inner Spiral, begins to reach out to bring the Edge systems under their control by using lab-grown supersoldiers called vats.
These vats are genetically engineered to be superior to natural born humans. They have the power to shift into a state they call “the rush” when they face a threat on the battlefield or any type of personal danger. In a rush state, vats think faster, react more quickly and have more stamina than a natural born soldier — they are capable of superhuman feats. This talent has a downside, however. The adrenaline rush that makes them formidable soldiers also wears out their bodies. Most vats die around the age of 35 from adrenaline fatigue.
The book focuses on a vat solider named Halvor Cullen who has been released from service. He spends the time he has left with his former CO Tyce Bernon; together, they work salvaging crashed ships on planets past the Edge’s border. Pieces of alien metal and technology left over from humanity’s war with an A.I. species called the Mudar bring a hefty price. Hal knows he won’t live long; vats like him usually die on the Edge, from adrenaline fatigue or chasing the elusive rush they’re programmed to crave. Tyce is determined to keep Hal out of trouble, however, by channeling his friend’s boundless energy into work, in order to distract him from his more self-destructive urges.
When the story starts, a tecker named Vivi joins the crew. As they get to know each other, Hal begins to develop feelings for her, though he doesn’t think he’s got a chance with a natural-born. While on a job, the crew finds a sphere that unknowingly downloads an alien presence into their ship. Multiple clashes with the military force Hal and his crew to choose sides as the Coalition begins to encroach upon the Edge. The battle they fight will determine the fate of not only Hal’s crew, but of those who make the fringes of the galaxy their home.
And then for those who did read The Rush’s Edge, and thus can ignore me writing SPOILER ALERT in all caps, what is The Rush’s Echo about, and how — narratively and chronologically — does it connect to Edge?
The Rush’s Echo is the finale to the story told in The Rush’s Edge. In Echo, we see the crew of the Loshad reach the Mudar and petition them for help. They receive a cool reception and only get some of what they came for. After making a terrible discovery that shows them the truth of how the ACAS treats vat troops, the crew of the Loshad return to an Edge of the verge of war.
In the meantime, a vat named Katerine Neval has been sent into the heart of the Al-Kimian Opposition with a secret mission: to infiltrate the higher ups and take them out. She has not been as lucky as Hal. Instead of having a supportive commanding officer to bring out her best, she is forced to serve under a sadistic commander who wants to distinguish himself in the ACAS by striking a blow against Al-Kimia. He has programmed her with all the skills she needs to be a successful assassin.
However, when Kat is welcomed into the Opposition ranks, she finds it’s not quite so simple. She’s swayed by their honorable cause and struggles against her programmed objectives.
Upon the Loshad’s return, Hal and the others become embroiled in the growing conflict by accepting a mission to infiltrate an ACAS base in the heart of the Spiral. The Loshad’s crew needs the hacker group Echo’s skills to break in, so Vivi must confront her abusive ex who is involved with them.
The mission doesn’t go to plan (this is space opera, after all) and someone gets left behind. I can’t go into any more than that because of spoilers…but I think it will be a fun ride, with all the action and adventure that The Rush’s Edge contained.
When in relation to writing The Rush’s Edge did you come up with the idea for The Rush’s Echo, and what inspired its story?
I had always planned to write a sequel to The Rush’s Edge, because the crew’s journey wasn’t over.
In this novel, Hal must confront what the ACAS did to him and the other vats in a very real way. He always knew that their treatment was harsh, but he’s forced to face the hard truth in Echo, while grappling with who he really is without the rush. He’s not a nat, but unable to rush, he’s not quite a vat, so he’s really struggling to find out where he fits. It’s a very uncomfortable place for him to be. Hal has to find out what it really means to be not just vat or nat, but human.
We also see Vivi transform from a wide-eyed insider to a confident Edger who can handle what comes her way. Her skills are tested, and she’s forced to face one of her worst fears. I think how she comes through that completes her character development in a way that was very satisfying for me and hopefully will be for my readers as well.
The Rush’s Edge was a semi-romantic, somewhat military, sci-fi space opera story. Is it safe to assume The Rush’s Echo is one as well?
Yes, The Rush’s Echo is all of those things. I love space opera. It’s probably my favorite sci-fi genre to read, so I can’t help myself.
As for the always welcome questions about influences, are there any writers, or maybe specific stories, that had a big influence on The Rush’s Echo but not on The Rush’s Edge?
I was going to say no, but I just realized this is inspired by Frankenstein in a way. There’s a moment in the novel where both Hal and the other vat Katerine confront their creators, and we see who the monsters really are.
How about non-literary influences; was The Rush’s Echo influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games?
I have to give a shoutout to the show Treadstone. It’s such a shame that show only had one season, because I loved it. I imagine vat programming to have similarities to the behavior modification and mental conditioning protocol in the show.
And what about the band Rush, who happen to have an album called Test For Echo? In how many ways is The Rush’s Echo a love letter to Canada’s favorite sons?
If you only knew how much Rush I listened to while writing this! My favorite albums are their first one, Moving Pictures, Hold Your Fire, and Presto. If Hal could hear Rush, I’m sure he’d love them just as much as I do.
Now, in the press materials for The Rush’s Echo, it says, “This completes the story of the crew of the Loshad…” Do Echo and The Rush’s Edge form a duology, is Echo a somewhat stand-alone sequel to Edge…what?
They’re a duology. Everyone who was waiting to read the full story can get started because it’s done now. My original plan was for three books, but as the story developed, I began to realize that this was not really the story of the entire war. It’s the story of the Loshad’s crew and Hal’s journey to move past what the ACAS did to him so that he could realize his full potential.
So does that mean this series is done? Because in the interview we did about The Rush’s Edge, we talked about how you had also written a couple short stories in this fictional universe.
This series is finished. I have three stories on my website that are from the universe. There is also a novella in progress, and is set in the universe only a few years after the war for the Edge, but it does not concern any of the Loshad’s crew. Though there are unpublished stories that deal with characters in Echo. I might put out a collection of these if people are interested.
Since The Rush’s Edge and The Rush’s Echo form a duology, some people might consider reading them back-to-back. Or rereading Edge before reading Echo. Do you think this is good idea?
They should read them back-to-back if they haven’t read The Rush’s Edge before. The two stories are consecutive. I hope that I’ve done a good job reorienting the reader to the universe and the events in the second novel so that only some basic recall is necessary, but some people like to reread. It’s really up to them.
So, is there anything else you think people need to know about The Rush’s Echo?
Basically, if you loved The Rush’s Edge, this sequel was written for you. I’m just so grateful to all who read the first book and gave Hal, Vivi, Ty, and Beryl a place in their hearts. Also, I hate unfinished stories, and I wanted to give the Loshad’s crew the ending that they deserve. When Echo was finished, I was loathe to leave these characters behind. I think I even grieved for them a bit, but now, after some distance, I feel I’ve left them in a very good place. I hope everyone who reads it has a great time doing so. That’s really what it’s all about.
Finally, if someone enjoys The Rush’s Echo, what semi-romantic, somewhat military, sci-fi space opera novel of someone else’s would you suggest they read next?
I don’t think there’s a whole lot of semi-romantic, somewhat military, sci-fi space opera out there. If anyone knows of any, please let me know so I can get them on my TBR stat!