What a way to start the New Year. Between fires cutting huge swathes through Australia, western nations teetering on the brink of starting yet another war in an already besieged region, the global political climate in general and now the outbreak of this coronavirus, it really doesn’t feel like we’re off to a great start, does it? Thank goodness we have books.

The misinformation that has accompanied every single disaster of the past ten years has been overwhelming. Fortunately, nothing sharpens the eye for it like satire. Read plenty, and you find yourself amongst those who see through the absurdities. For example, you might find the reports of two-hundred arsonists in Australia excessive and find that in fact less than thirty people were charged with deliberately lighting fires, of which most were just stupid, not actually malicious. How could newspapers report such a blatant lie?

Well, people believe it.

The humanitarian crisis that is war and, I fear, will come of this pandemic shows not only visions of great suffering, but great coldness as well. People crying out for the blood of their enemies. Paying no mind to the innocent people who live in the cities they cheer their leaders on for threatening to bomb. But, nothing awakens empathy like reading the stories of the persecuted and forgotten. Those who take the time to read their stories, more so than simply watch or listen, become intimately more aware of what people go through.

It must be easy for everyone else to forget their humanity when they think they’re on the winning side. Nobody “wins” a war. There are countless war novels – fiction, but written by survivors nonetheless – to teach us that.

There used to be a debate over whether insight was a gift or a burden, but I don’t think it exists anymore. Patriotism is the prime currency of every coward. They speak an infectious language laden with lies and false machismo and they’re leading most of the world. The future doesn’t need cowards. Conformists. Loyal flag-wavers. Such notions have led us nowhere. The future needs thinkers. Cynics. People who consider and question and change their beliefs based on what they observe. Knowledge is fluid. The future needs readers.

I’m going to release a new novel this year. At least I aim to. It’s called Saga of the Ice Forest, and it’s about the last attempt by Vikings to colonize Newfoundland around 1000 AD. I’ve been working on it since 2016. I set out to examine the notions of loyalty and subservience but to disguise it in a fictionalized retelling of the clashes that occurred between the Natives and the Nose. The research has been an immense ordeal but deeply rewarding. I’m particularly excited about the antagonist of the piece, the formidable Freydis Eiriksdottir. She’s appeared in fiction before but I just don’t feel like she’s been done justice.

I’m excited to bring it to you. I’m excited to have got so much reading done over the holidays – Half Moon Lake, Do androids Dream of Electric Sheep, a Keeper, The Canterbury Tales and Woman on the Edge of Time got me through the downtime.

Let’s keep the conversation on what’s important. What have you been reading?