Author Interview: Michael Mangual, Author of Shattered Citadel

Courtesy of Michael Mangual

Courtesy of Michael Mangual


Courtesy of Michael Mangual

Courtesy of Michael Mangual

Since the review of his short stories were so wildly popular, I thought it would be a good idea to interview Mr. Mangual. I hope you enjoy this interview with the author, as it was exceptionally interesting!

IB: What made you want to start SC?

MM: Well it was collection of reasons. SC started when I was a kid around 12 years of age. I would draw pictures of monsters and eventually I would make back stories to them. That developed into the original SC which I called “space wars.” It wasn’t very original or good but as I grew I changed the storyline and would fill entire journals with pictures and stories based on it. At school my classmates would look through my books and after I heard for the millionth time that I “should make a book” I started focusing more on “dark crusade (the new name I gave it before SC).” I really liked the attention I got from my classmates and random strangers about it so I worked on it cause of that selfish desire. After i went to Valley Forge Military College my attitude changed, I still liked the attention, but I worked on SC to be like a warning to mankind and highlight the best qualities of us like honor, self sacrifice and love.

IB: Why did you make it a warning?

MM: A warning in the sense that I’m a huge student of history and we as a people tend to fall into the same reckless patterns of rise and fall. I know I’m not in any position to change the world but I’m hoping that some random guy reading SC will go “maybe we should focus on our national debt,” “maybe we should stop tyrants before they rise,” etc. I try to do it in an entertaining way but like most media today there is always a hidden message inside.

IB: Ah I see. I can sympathize with that immensely.
Have any other works of fiction (or non-fiction) helped to give you inspiration for the events, tech, or races you explore in your stories?

MM: SC definitely has numerous sources of influence. The obvious being in my opinion “Starship Troopers” by Heinlein and “The Lord of the Rings” series by Tolkien. I take the sense of realism, focus on character and even the way the federation is run from Starship. From Tolkien I take his enormous attention to detail. I love how he creates his own languages, cultures, bloodlines and full history. I’m doing the same with SC, putting detail into everything down to name every ship in the fleet. The only other book today that puts the same attention to detail is the “game of thrones” series and look how successful that is also. Some minor influences to my work is the HALO universe, Battlestar Galactica tv series, Exo Squad TV series, and all the ww2 non-fiction books I’ve ever read. From all these fictions I take the sense of action driven by character and epic scope. I like the emotions behind people put in “hopeless” situations. The WW2 books give me a lot of my ideas for stories and even acts of violence because a lot of the stuff I’ve written is based on real events that honestly RL is more diabolical then anything that can be written.

IB: You get a lot of hate mail and angry comments on your stories and videos. You’re often accused of racism, fascism, and nationalism, why do you think this is?

MM: Due to the highly controversial topics I write and make videos about. It’s bound to happen no matter what I do. I’ve learned to accept and now relish it. I think it validates my work and controversy leads to more renown.

IB: That’s a very good way of looking at it. Many other authors say that they have their stories planned from the start while other are the opposite, do you have the entire story of Shattered Citadel already outlined in your head or are you just creating as you go along?

MM: I don’t have all of it planned out in my head. I may be a planning kind of author. I have two main SC story arcs, the first being the WWIII story and its immediate post-war years and the second story arc, which I haven’t touched upon much, is from the years of 2450 and beyond to the end of those events all planned out. In between those years I’ve written a historical outline/timeline that is more then 200 pages front and back full of dates and important events to keep me on story. I wrote it on paper a decade ago. It has changed very little since then. I’ve always been a planner and a sucker for detail.

IB: Have you ever planned or thought of writing stories that are in the point of view of your alien creatures at all?

MM: Yes I plan to make a few from the alien POV. I have written one “SC:They Bleed Like Us” that has a few bits in the POV of the two other alien races. Its fascinating to me how outsiders (aliens) would look at our culture, mannerisms, emotions, technology and evolution. In that story I mentioned earlier I had the aliens we were fighting make note how violent we were and reckless our species can be with our own lives and the lives of other humans. It blew their aliens minds how some of us could strap on bombs and sacrifice themselves to kill them. I am taking this from the truth that almost every animal on Earth aside from certain parasitic organisms have an intense survival instinct that prevents this.

IB: Ah yes. I enjoyed that story immensely. Have you any projects or plans for projects outside of SC?

MM: Yes I have other stories I am working on, about seven different universes. One of which is dubbed “Accidental Apocalypse” where in 2012 someone somehow jump started the apocalypse. Mankind has only survived because it was triggered before Hell was ready and in the middle of a civil war. Other projects are in different states of completion.

IB: That sounds very interesting. Now I think I speak for all your fans when I ask, when will the first SC book be completed?

MM: It seems like ive been working on it forever (five years maybe) and thats because I have. This is actually my third attempt at it. the other two being completely scrapped. I am excited about the third one because it’s similar in style to Max Brooks “World War Z” and that format to me fits best in the size and scope of the book. As of late I’ve been so focused on working just to survive that I’ve had no time to work on Shattered Citadel like I would like too. Especially the book. I originally wanted to finish it before the “World War Z” movie came out, but now I am moving back home and I hope that I can finish it before the summer of 2014. Thats my goal. Then I can shop around for a literary agent and a publisher. I do hope that 2014 will be the year I get it done.

IB: Well I’m very excited for the finished product to say the least. Do you have any final comments you’d like to express?

MM: In terms of the future success of SC, I am optimistic, but also grounded in reality. The number of fiction books that are printed and sell no more then 500 copies is staggering, I heard from someone that the number was around 95% in the industry. I won’t quit my day job but I’ll continue to produce new content for myself and my fans. I may not be where I want to be in life and life may have been a struggle for me, but one thing is constant. It brings me great pride and happiness to entertain people via my writings. I love getting my readers feed back both good and bad. I also hope that I’ve instilled through my writings the values I value most of our species to my readers; courage, honor, self sacrifice, and hope where none should be.

On behalf of Interesting Books I would like to extend a hearty thank you to Michael Mangual for this interview. It’s always interesting to pick the brain of an author. Each author has so many different views as to how they do their writing, and what inspires them. Further, as a fan of Mr. Mangual, it was exceptionally exciting to be able to discuss his work on a more personal level. If you are interested in reading Mr. Mangual’s short stories and exploring his universe, please visit http://shatteredcitadel.com/ . Happy reading!

Ender’s Game Movie Part 1: The Preview

photo credit to wikipedia

photo credit to wikipedia

Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game has had a massive effect on the Science Fiction genre as well as Modern American Literature. Needless to say, it’s also an exceptionally popular book. It’s been published in tens of languages, it has comics and video games based off of it, and finally, after years and years of waiting, it has been made into a movie. This is the point of this post, to discuss the movie. Now I know what you’re all thinking “But Jeff! This is a blog about books and book reviews! You can’t discuss a movie!!!!” Oh, but my diligent readers, but I can. This is in part because I’m required to by my Multimedia Class a Point Park University in which I use my blog to complete numerous projects. This assignment, which this post will fulfill, is to preview something. What better thing to preview than the movie version of one of my favorite Sci-Fi books which I’ll be seeing very soon.The book Ender’s Game is a very deep and complex book, both in the story as well as into the emotions and character developments that take place inside its many pages. In all honesty I’m quite surprised that the movie has even been made. This is because I’m not entirely sure if you can make a good movie adaptation of the book. So much happens inside of it that how one could really chose what to take out and what to leave in so that the film doesn’t go out of the standard 2 hour format that most films utilize. Based on what I have seen from the trailers it does look rather entertaining. But then again, World War Z looked really good too, but that turned out to a rather poor imitation of the source material. Despite my wariness I do look forward to seeing this movie. After I have seen it, rest assured I shall report back as to my experience.

Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein

Every once in a while everyone comes across a book that fundamentally changes how the reader sees the world and their place in it. For me that time came when I was 17 years old, and that book was Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein. Never before had I read a book as fascinating before, and never had a book asked me about my place in society and my purpose along with it.

The high action movie version that seems to be more well-known these days is nothing like the book. While much of the movie takes place through action scenes with little character development, the book takes place largely in flashbacks and in classrooms. Of course there are scenes of action, but these are few and far between.

The story is about a young man named Juan “Johnny” Rico and his training for and eventual participation in a war to protect humanity from a race of insect like creatures known as Arachnids. While this war rages, however, we see through several flash backs how the man at the beginning of the story came to be, first through images of philosophical debates presented to him in school and second through his intense training for the Mobile Infantry. The Mobile Infantry is the name of the military force of the Terran Federation, the super national government which controls Earth and her colonies in other solar systems.

The Terran Federation is a limited democracy, which means that only a select few can vote. The population is divided into two sections: Citizens and Civilians. Citizens earn the right to vote through some type of service to the state (usually a two year term in the Mobile Infantry) while civilians are ordinary people. Other than voting rights there are no real differences between citizens and civilians. Other than voting both groups enjoy the same freedoms and protections by the state. The rationale behind this divide is that only those who are willing to sacrifice their individuality for the greater whole can be properly trusted to vote in the best interests of civilization rather than for their own personal gains.

The book makes the argument that every person must come together to help make the larger world better for all. While this sounds communist in nature it surprisingly isn’t. Heinlein makes the point that all jobs, no matter how petty or unimportant they may seem are always important to the larger picture. A doctor who cures patients is just as important as the janitor who keeps areas clean and sanitary for all to enjoy.

The book also gives a good description of a future military force. All soldiers wear a type of mech-suit which increases strength, maneuverability, and the gathering of battlefield intelligence. Each soldier can do the entire workload of a squad of normal soldiers, thus increasing the capabilities of large armies. Another interesting aspect of the Mobile Infantry is that EVERYONE fights, not just the normal grunts. This includes chaplains and commanding generals. The rationale behind this is that it builds up a greater sense of brotherhood amongst the troops, fostering a higher level of trust in the chain of command.

In conclusion this book is a Sci-Fi classic, while at the same time being a philosophical novel at the same time. I believe that it can interest a whole score of readers, even if they aren’t interested in Sci-Fi or military based fiction.

Top Ten Books for 2013 (So Far)

Top-10-Multi-Level-Marketing

Now I know that the year is not yet at end and that there is still plenty of time for finding new even better books to read, but I felt that now would be a good time to review some of the gems I have found this year. Not all of these books have been reviewed yet, but rest assured that I shall get to them all eventually!

1.The Diamond Age : Or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer by Neal Stephenson
-This is on the number one spot for a number of reasons. The first is that I have never read anything quite like it before or since reading it. Neal Stephenson manages to craft a startlingly wild yet beautiful future for his characters to live in. It becomes more realistic every year with the massive advancements in nanotechnology and 3-D printing that have been occurring as of late. The story presented in this masterpiece of the Cyberpunk Genre is that of a young girl named Nell, growing up in the slums of Shanghai, who comes across a computerized book. This book bonds with its owner and helps to “raise” its owner to thrive in whatever environment the owner lives in. Through this book and other events both around her and around the world she manages to become something great.

2. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein
-Long considered the Bible of the Hippie Movement of the 1960’s, Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land is a milestone of early Science Fiction. This novel taught us how to grok in life and how hard it can be to understand new things when first experiencing them. This novel tells the story of Valentine Michael Smith, the only survivor of the first Human expedition to Mars. He is only a child when his parents and their fellow crewmates die and is raised by the indigenous Martians of the planet. Several years later he is “rescued” by a second expedition and comes back to Earth. Here in becomes something of a celebrity as he tries to figure out not only his fellow humans, but also strives to bring what he learned on Mars back to Earth.

3. Souls in the Great Machine by Sean McMullen
-Picture a world far into the future where combustion engines and electricity are banned, where librarians fight duels with flintlock pistols for honor and wind trains are the main means of getting from one destination to another. If you can adequately do this than you have only a part of the picture that Sean McMullen created in this amazingly well written book about Australia more than 2000 years into the future. This book is also the first in what is known as the Great Winter Trilogy. I am only on the second book and I am constantly surprised with how well thought out the premise and execution of the story in both books are.

4. Confederacy of Dunces by John K. Toole
-Before I read this book I had never actually believed that a comedy novel was possible. What is usually labeled “Comedy” in book stores and libraries are more often memoirs of famous comedians like Chelsea Handler or Tina Faye or very old joke books. John Toole was able to accomplish what I at first thought was impossible. He was able to create a very silly story, make the characters both larger than life, yet quite believable, and to write it in a very enjoyable style. This novel tells the story of Ignatius Reilly, a good for nothing mama’s boy with a History degree of Medieval History. He only has two delights: criticizing the world around him and eating. Set in the little used (outside of vampire stories) setting of New Orleans, it gives a charming portrayal of life there in the 1950s.

5. Child 44 by Tom R. Smith
-This was one of the more chilling books I’ve ever read. It takes place in the Soviet Union during the final days of Stalin, a place that is so “utopian” that murders don’t take place. Enter MGB agent Leo Demidov. Disgraced by a jealous comrade he is banished to a small dirty city east of Moscow. Here he comes across numerous murders of children. In a nation where murders are swept under the rug by those who swear to protect the citizens only he can solve the crime. This novel is also the first in a series and is exceedingly well researched. The crimes portrayed are based on the murders committed by famous Russian serial killer, Andre Chikatilo. Extensive detail also goes into describing life under Stalin and how literally millions of people lived in fear every day.

6. LZR-1143: Infection by Bryan James
-While this is an action packed story of zombies and the terror that always accompanies them it is all somewhat comedic in tone. Mike McKnight is an action star condemned to a high security mental ward for the murder of his beloved wife. One day he wakes up from the daze of “calming” medications to find his cell unlocked and the orderlies gone. This novel is full of the normal gore we find in other zombie stories, but I found the idea of an action star in the zombie apocalypse quite interesting. It turns out that someone like that may be better equipped for it than anyone else. There are numerous instances that Mr. McKnight has to use something he learned from covering people for his roles to get out of a tight spot. The character developments as well as the description of a broken America are also quite entertaining to read.

Courtesy of Texas Public Radio

Courtesy of Texas Public Radio

7. Rest in Pieces by Bess Lovejoy
-I previously reviewed this book in July (the review can be read here: http://wp.me/p3mys6-2K). It is a collection of true stories as to the eventually fates of the corpses of famous people. Some of the corpses profiled are that of Einstein, Columbus, and Hunter S. Thompson. This book was good fun to read. It was entertaining and informative. At times it got kind of disgusting and hard to read, but those parts never lasted too long and in the end they were worth the read.

8. The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
-This book is one of the hallmarks of Civil War Literature. It is a fictionalized retelling of the Battle of Gettysburg from the viewpoints of many of the famous generals and soldiers involved. Much like Child 44 and Rest in Pieces this book is also well researched and this fact adds to the veracity and entertainment value of the story. Many parts of the book are accompanied with maps which helps the reader top better understand the full scope of the battle.

9. War Trash by Hai Jin
-This book twists the POW-theme we are all used to from such movies and novels as the Great Escape or Bridge on the River Kwai and turns the theme on its head. War Trash portrays the experience of being a POW from the enemy’s point of view. In this case a Chinese POW during the Korean War. The book portrays camp life under the Allies as being no less tough than it was for American POWs in other wars. The main difference is that while American POWs were tortured and harassed by their captors in this story the captives are harassed by their own fellows. The prisoners are divided by their allegiance to either the People’s Republic of China on the mainland and that of the Republic of China in Taiwan. While most just want to be left alone, these two sides soon drive them to one side or the other through a mixture of fear tactics and outright torture. This book gives a very unsettling, yet poignant view of the Korean War.

10. We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families by Philip Gourevitch
This book will stick out in the mind of any reader. It the most famous written source about the Rwandan Genocide of the early 1990s. It is hard to put this book into words as it is so ambitious in its scope and so brutal in its descriptions of the mass murders that took place in the small African nation. While this book describes the violence of the event it also attempts to explain how and why such a terrible event happened in the first place.

Author Biography: Frank Herbert

The most influential book in Science Fiction is arguably Frank Herbert’s Dune. Before Dune, no Science Fiction book every achieved the level of detail in terms of world building and character development that Dune so easily achieved. With Dune, Frank Herbert proved that a Science Fiction novel need not be driven by the futuristic technology the work would portray, but instead could be driven by the characters and the world (or worlds) they inhabited.

Frank Herbert was born on 8 October 1920 in Tacoma, Washington. Because of a poor home environment he was sent to live with his aunt and uncle in Salem, Washington. He graduated from high school there in 1939. He had a short stint in the Seabees in the early years of the Second World War, but after a few months he was granted a medical discharge. In 1940 he entered into a short lived marriage to one, Flora Parkinson. This marriage resulted in the birth of a daughter, but in 1945 they had divorced. Not too long after this he met Beverly Ann Stuart in a creative writing class that they were both attending at the University of Washington. They were married in 1946. This marriage resulted in the birth of two sons, Brian Herbert (b. 1947) and Bruce Herbert (b. 1951 d. 1993). Brian would go on to become a Science Fiction writer in his own right and continue his father’s series. Bruce would become a Gay Rights Activist and would unfortunately die in 1993 of AIDS.

For the early part of their long marriage, Beverly Herbert would be the main breadwinner of the family due to Frank’s focus on his novels. She made money by writing advertisements for department stores. By all accounts they had a loving relationship which lasted more than 30 years. When she died of cancer in 1984 he wrote a heart wrenching eulogy for her at the end of his book Heretics of Dune which was published that same year.

Dune took six years to research and write and the final version was considerably longer than most other Science Fiction Novels of the time. It was because of its length, and Herbert’s refusal to shorten it that many publishers refused to publish the novel. It was finally published in 1965 by the Chilton Book Company which was known for mostly publishing auto-repair manuals. While Dune was not an immediate financial success it was an immediate critical success. Because of this Herbert was soon offered the job of Education Writer at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and also became a lecturer for General Studies at the University of Washington. It should also be noted that he worked in both Vietnam and Pakistan as an ecological consultant. By 1972 he was able to pursue writing as his main source of income.

By the mid-70s his novels were enjoying considerable success. Other books besides Dune and its successive series included The Dosadi Experiment, The Jesus Incident, and The Saratoga Barrier. His novels, besides discussing the effects of ecology on humanity and vice versa, also discussed the beauty of planning over the long term, the tendency for large groups of people to blindly follow charismatic leaders, and the effects politics and religion had on one another. Before Herbert many of these themes had not been explored in-depth in the field of Science Fiction.

Dune enjoyed a considerable revival during the release of its film version David Lynch’s Dune in 1984. Sadly the movie was a critical and financial failure in the US, but was a success elsewhere. Due to its failure in the home markets a sequel was not made.

Sadly, on 11 February 1986 Frank Herbert died of a pulmonary embolism at age 65. While he was never able to fully complete the Dune Series (which was later completed by his son) he was successful in changing the face of Science Fiction as well as building numerous worlds which will continue to fascinate and inspire many for years to come. Wikipedia and Frankherbert.org helped contribute to this post.

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.

CAUTION SPOILERS!

It isn’t often that I find a book that is not only beautifully written and thought provoking, but also at times downright terrifying. This can all be attributed to this novel. This novel went far and above what I expected from it and days after having read it I still find myself thinking about it.

The story is broken into three separate stories all of which take place a few hundred years after each other. All the stories take place long after a nuclear war that threw the human race back into the dark ages. The story focuses on a catholic monastery located in the deserts Utah. The monastery was set up by Saint Lebowitz, a Jewish electrical engineer who worked for the US military during the nuclear war. After the war he converts to Catholicism and sets up an order of monks whose sole job is to preserve the knowledge of the world from before the war which is being destroyed by the survivors as being evil. The stories cover three major points in the monastery’s history. The first covers a the conflict the monastery goes threw in order to get Lebowitz to be declared a saint during which a potential miracle appears. The second story involves the place of the monastery in the beginning of a second Renaissance. The third story tells of the end of the monastery through a second nuclear war.

As I said before all three of the stories are thought provoking.  The first deals with the place of miracles in society. The second deals with the massive frustration caused between religion and the state, and the third deals with euthanasia and religion.

The third story was for me the most troubling as well as the most poignant. The horrifying picture of a second nuclear war and the local  government’s response to the survivors of a nuclear blast are reminiscent of On the Beach by Nevil Shute.

Besides being thought provoking, the story also gives a wonderful description of the inner workings of a monastery and the Catholic Church. In this respect it is also exceptionally interesting.

This book has found a place in my heart as one of my favorite books and I highly suggest it to anyone who is into thought provoking science fiction.