As I mentioned yesterday, getting to meet authors can be a very interesting and gratifying experience for readers. I first met local author Mark Van Name several years ago while he was appearing on an author panel at my local Barnes & Noble and as I listened to him speaking (including a somewhat disturbing story from his youth spent in a para-military youth group) I thought that this is a guy I would like to hang out with. He’s extremely laid back (or so he seems), he’s very friendly and loves to talk about Sci-Fi, so what’s not to like? I bought his first novel (One Jump Ahead) and had it signed. As he signed it I let him know that I work for the library and that he had been featured in one of our quarterly book newsletters, and that I would be interested in hosting a Science Fiction author panel at the library. He seemed pleased that we had featured him in one of our book newsletters and genuinely open to the possibility of coming to speak at the library. Well, as these things go, it took me several years to get the author panel together, but true to his word, Mark was glad to be a part of it and even helped me recruit David Drake, as well. Thanks Mark!
Prior to publishing his first novel in 2007, Van Name has run a technology assessment company, based here in the RTP area and had published over a thousand computer related articles. He’d also had several short stories published in a variety of magazines and anthologies, including The Year’s Best Science Fiction. The year following its publication, One Jump Ahead won the Compton Crook Award for best new Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror novel at Balticon, the Baltimore Science Fiction Convention. It’s the first in the Jon & Lobo series and is the story of Jon Moore, a retired warrior enhanced with nano-technology within his body, and his partner, Lobo, an artificially intelligent ship complete with a personality that more than occasionally irks Jon. The two seek some R&R on the lush and pristine planet Macken, but Jon is tricked into kidnapping a girl thinking that he’s returning her to her father. This is just the latest event in a plot involving two mega-corporations battling for control of the planet’s “jump-gate.” (The jump-gates are what allow humanity to travel quickly between the stars – entering a jump gate in one area and ending up somewhere else in the galaxy entirely. No one is sure if they are a natural phenomena or artifacts from an alien race.) Jon naturally must set right the wrong he accidentally committed, enlisting the help of some of his former comrades in arms. Throughout this action packed story we learn a bit about Jon’s background and the sorry life of a mercenary as he shows that it takes brains even more than brawn to prevail. I also loved the fact that it was Jon who came up with the brilliant plan to defeat the bad guys, and not the super-intelligent sentient ship, Lobo – proving that man can surprise even machines, at times.
The other books in the series include Slanted Jack (which provides more background information about Jon), Overthrowing Heaven (in which we learn more about Lobo), and the brand new Children No More, for which Mark is donating all of his proceeds from the hardcover to the charity Falling Whistles, - which helps real child soldiers in the Congo region of Africa.
Mark also has a blog that is really quite cool and worth checking out – it covers a wide variety of topics – from his writing, his life and family, to movie reviews, from all kinds of food, to the UFC, the State Fair and much, much more. He even blogged about his two appearances at our library (the Sci-Fi author panel and the Cary Library’s 50th Birthday).
Find and reserve One Jump Ahead in the library catalog.