Ginger Smith is joining us today to talk about her novel, The Rush’s Edge. Here’s the publisher’s description:
With the help of his commanding officer, a genetically engineered ex-soldier fights back against the government that created him and others like him to be expendable slaves…
Halvor Cullen, a genetically-engineered and technology implanted ex-soldier, doesn’t see himself as a hero. After getting out of the service, all he’s interested in is chasing the adrenaline rush his body was designed to crave. Hal knows he won’t live long anyway; vat soldiers like him are designed to die early or will be burnt out from relentlessly seeking the rush. His best friend and former CO, Tyce, is determined not to let that happen and distracts him by work salvaging crashed ships in the Edge.
Then Hal’s ship gets a new crewmember – a hacker-turned-tecker named Vivi. As they become friends, Hal wonders if he’s got a chance with a natural-born like her. Then on a job, the crew finds a sphere that downloads an alien presence into their ship…
Multiple clashes with the military force Hal and his crew to choose sides. The battle they fight will determine the fate of vats and natural-borns throughout the galaxy. Will they join the movement against the Coalition? What has invaded their ship’s computer? And can there be a real future for a vat with an expiration date?
What’s Ginger’s favorite bit?
The thing about characters is that once you’ve created them, they rarely do what you want. For example, The Rush’s Edge started out as the story of an ex-soldier named Tyce Bernon. Ty joined the military and became an officer after his brother died and his family fell apart. The military was a sort of substitute family for him, and he’d intended on staying in for life until he met Hal, a troubled vat soldier he took under his wing. And in the way that characters sometimes do, Hal stood and demanded the story be about him instead. Ty was still an important part of the narrative, but Hal had stolen center stage.
So, instead of the story I was going to write about this quiet, introspective veteran, I was faced with writing the story of this big-hearted, charismatic adrenaline junkie. The relationship between Hal and Ty turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the novel. Before I speak at length about that, though, I should tell you a few things about “vat” soldiers.
In the universe known as the Spiral, these genetically enhanced super-soldiers are raised in artificial wombs and programmed via implanted technology to be fierce fighters. They’re able to rush, a special ability which allows them to harness the body’s adrenaline response to fight and react at a superhuman level. Sounds awesome, right? There’s a downside. (Of course there is, you say. Great strength always has a corresponding weakness.) Vats are engineered to crave the rush, so when they get out of the service seven years after their activation date, they don’t live very long. They spend most of their time getting into trouble on the fringes of the galaxy, seeking excitement any way they can get it. It’s impossible for most of them to fight these urges, and it wouldn’t even occur to them to try.
As I wrote the first few chapters, I realized pretty quickly that the bond between Hal and Ty would be an important part of the book. Hal was a troubled vat, who was disciplined and moved from commander to commander. He was seriously in danger of being reprogrammed or shut down permanently until put under the command of Tyce Bernon. Realizing Hal’s talents, Ty gave him responsibility instead of the sharp discipline Hal was used to. That’s not to say his expectations of Hal weren’t high, but Ty’s unconventional approach gained Hal’s attention and his respect.
And Hal responded to that with an utter loyalty that blurred the lines between nat and vat. It didn’t take Ty long to realize how much Hal looked up to him – and it was something he determined never to take advantage of.
Ty left the ACAS not long after Hal was released from service. He found Hal fighting in the vat clubs on Omicron Station for the rush, and Ty knew that left to his own devices, Hal would be dead in less than a year. Without a second thought, he took Hal under his watchful eye once again—this time aboard his ship the Loshad. Together they brave life as civilians by salvaging crashed ships in the border area between the Edge and unmapped space. Ty hopes it will be enough to keep Hal focused and out of trouble.
The emotional bonds of loyalty and brotherhood have tied these two together. It’s a bond that transcends mere friendship. They have lived lives that are interconnected on multiple, deep levels and to try to explain it fully is difficult – if not impossible. Hal’s protective instincts keep him at Ty’s side, but he also needs Ty to help him navigate an unfamiliar nat world where he’s unsure of the rules. Ty sees Hal as the brother he might have a chance to save this time. He wants to see Hal grow to his full potential, past the routines and drives implanted by ACAS conditioning.
Meeting tecker Vivi Valjean at the beginning of the story is the catalyst of a series of cascading events that pushes Hal to skirt the rush’s edge to become more than he was programmed to be. However, the story starts with the deep brotherhood between these two ex-soldiers. Because of his relationship with Ty, Hal is ready to become more than just a vat looking for the next rush. He’s ready to be a hero.
And that part is my favorite bit.
Ginger Smith has worked as a record store employee, freelance writer, bookstore assistant manager and high school teacher of English. In the past, she has played in many tabletop RPG groups and even run several of her own. She collects vintage toys, sci-fi novels and comic books, as well as mid-century furniture. She currently lives in the southern USA with her husband and two cats, spending her free time writing and watching classic film noir and sci-fi movies.