With The Silent Hand (paperback, Kindle), writer Michael Mersault is continuing the military sci-fi space opera series he started last year with The Deep Man. In the following email interview, Mersault discusses what inspired and influenced this second story, as well as his plans moving forward for his series.
For people who haven’t read The Deep Man, or the interview we did about it, what was that novel about, and when and where was it set?
Paul, you may recall that The Deep Man is set in the year 6361 within the Galactic Imperium of the Myriad Worlds, which is, as they say, in a galaxy far, far away. While a war with alien invaders had once nearly consumed the Imperium, centuries of decadent peace have diminished the regard for martial skills until only one old family maintains their edge, the Sinclair-Maru Family.
As a new war breaks out, and seeing an opportunity to restore family fortunes, the Sinclair-Maru dispatch their star pupil, Saef, to serve as a frigate captain in the Imperial Fleet, but they don’t send him alone. To contend with assassins, spies and general skulduggery, the Sinclair-Maru unleash their secret weapon, young Inga, who sticks close to Saef, defending him from every threat for reasons extending beyond mere duty. Together they battle their way to the heart of a mystery and the secretive force behind the expanding war.
And then for people who did read The Deep Man, and can ignore me writing SPOILER ALERT in all caps, what is The Silent Hand about, and how does it connect, narratively and chronologically, to Deep?
Although The Silent Hand continues the action began in The Deep Man, the opening chapter and others throughout reflect back to the childhood of Inga Maru and her evolution from street urchin to human weapon. The continuing story places Saef and Inga in the Fleet expedition force carrier, Hightower, where Saef is ordered on a no-win mission to extricate Imperial Legions from a hostile planet, while Hightower‘s elite unit of Imperial Marines and an insular crew resist his every effort. Spies and sabotage represent only small challenges for Inga and Saef compared to the enemy’s inhuman plot for Hightower and the civilian population of the planet they hope to pacify. Just as Inga’s early history is fully revealed, her present-day lethality forms the only salvation for Saef, and the key to Hightower’s mission.
When in the process of writing The Deep Man did you come up with the idea for The Silent Hand, and what inspired this second story’s plot?
Much of the core plot development for The Silent Hand was formed before I completed work on The Deep Man, but the depth and detail invested in revealing Inga’s youthful origin and unique training developed organically as I outlined the manuscript. Beyond the original vision for the trilogy, there really was no holistic motivation for The Silent Hand.
The Deep Man was a military sci-fi space opera novel. Is it safe to assume The Silent Hand is as well?
While The Silent Hand is a direct sequel to The Deep Man, thus clearly of the same basic genre, the emphasis on Inga’s early development introduces a coming of age element not present in The Deep Man.
Are there any writers or specific stories that had a big influence on The Silent Hand but not on The Deep Man?
Are there stories or writers that influenced The Silent Hand specifically? That’s a good question, and until this moment I didn’t really think there were. But, I’m not sure it is possible to write a science fiction story about transforming a child into a unique warrior without some internal reference to Orson Scott Card’s Ender books. And like Card revealed so masterfully, the emotions and mindset of such a child become a rich field of exploration. I imagine his early work carried some influence in my approach to young Inga in The Silent Hand.
What about non-literary influences? Was The Silent Hand influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games? Because I remember you said in The Deep Man interview that you were, “…not a fan of most modern films, and never watch television dramas,” but you were, when it came to Deep, influenced by the video game Eve.
Perhaps it is rather unfashionable, Paul, but I continue to be largely uninterested in modern films, television, or games, and certainly none of them played any role in specific creation of The Silent Hand.
You also, in that interview, said that The Deep Man was the first book of either a trilogy or a quadrilogy, with the second and third books being called The Silent Hand and The Presence Malign. Have the plans solidified?
Yes, the plans for The Deep Man trilogy have, in fact, solidified, and The Presence Malign will be the third and final book of this trilogy, though some spinoffs may develop.
Do you know when The Presence Malign will be out?
I really cannot say. The first draft of The Presence Malign is completed, but how that translates to publishing schedule I don’t know. Perhaps sufficient clamor from Saef and Inga’s fans might accelerate the process… Maybe? Couldn’t hurt.
So, is there anything else you think people interested in The Silent Hand should know about it?
Anyone interested in The Silent Hand will want to know it features interspersed chapters detailing aspects of Inga’s early life and training, beginning with the first chapter where she is selected by the Sinclair-Maru at age ten. If readers desire to gain a glimpse of her difficult life prior to this, they can obtain the free short story, “Flops,” from Baen’s website. Also, many fans have expressed interest in the eccentric AI character, Loki, and they can rest easy knowing Loki plays a prominent role in The Silent Hand. A Siamese kitten may also make an important appearance…
Wait, is “Flops” included in any version of The Silent Hand?
“Flops” stands alone and is only available from Baen’s website, I believe. The idea was to provide a short story involving characters from The Deep Man, and I chose to create a poignant little snapshot of Inga’s childhood that chronologically proceeds the first chapter of The Silent Hand. Fans of Inga Maru seem to enjoy a more detailed view of her early life, and since “Flops” is available free, anyone curious about the Myriad Worlds may want to dip a toe in and check it out.
Finally, if someone enjoys The Silent Hand, and they’ve already read The Deep Man, what sci-fi novel of someone else’s would you recommend they check out while waiting for The Presence Malign to come out? Oh, and extra points if it’s something you read recently.
Is there anything I have read and loved lately? Once again, my affection for the antiquated becomes evident. I recently discovered Plague Of Pythons by Frederik Pohl [reprinted as Demon In The Skull], and Wolfbane by Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth, both of which I really enjoyed though they are not remotely similar to The Deep Man trilogy. I believe both are long out of print as well, which is sad, because both are excellent stories.