Title: The Man Who Ended the World
Author: Jason Gurley
ISBN: None, e-book only
Page count: No specific page count, e-book only
Genre: Science fiction
Jason Gurley is the creator of the graphic novel Eleanor, and author of the novel The Man Who Ended the World. By day, he’s a creative director for a design firm in Portland, Oregon. He believes that Superman without the red undies isn’t really Superman, and that nobody has ever swung a better bat than Darryl Strawberry. He’s comfortable being relatively alone in these beliefs. Jason resides in the Pacific Northwest with his wife, Felicia, and daughter, Emma Purl.
Tell us about your book:
When Steven Glass’s third grade teacher asked his class what they wanted to be when they grew up, Steven’s classmates shouted the usual answers: “A fireman!” “A teacher!” “The President!” When his turn came, Steven said, “When I grow up I’m going to be the last man on Earth.”
Warning signs don’t come much clearer than that.
Nearly thirty years later, Steven Glass is a billionaire. Surrounded by groupies, yes-men, investment opportunities and glamour, all Steven really wants is to be alone.
Really, really alone.
In secret, Steven builds a personal sanctuary nearly a mile underground. He vanishes from public life, goes off the grid. He’s finally alone. Well, except for an artificial intelligence companion named after the only girl he ever loved.
There, Steven plays video games, heckles the news, and waits for the apocalypse. When the end doesn’t come soon enough, Steven goes to work. He still has billions of dollars to spend — and there must be something he can do to accelerate the coming storm.
Wrestling with his own destiny, unaware of the young stowaways who have discovered his underground paradise, and battling his duplicitous A.I. companion at every turn, Steven Glass struggles to create the reality he has always hoped for — at the expense of the future of every single living human being on Earth…
Unless a pair of eleven-year-old children can stop him and save the world, that is.
How long did it take to write the book?
What inspired you to write the book?
Initially, I had planned on writing a fast novel to submit to Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel competition. The idea, however, springs from a lifelong interest in the concept of the lonely, empty planet, and what it might be like to walk it alone. I’ve waited for a lifetime for post-apocalyptic stories to become of greater interest to audiences, and though now there may be too many of them, it seemed like a good time to tell an adventure story of my own.
Talk about the writing process. Did you have a writing routine? Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?
I’ve been writing for years, and I would only write when inspiration struck. Sitting down daily to write wasn’t something that I did, and if I tried it, my work felt forced. But I’m a new dad, and I’ve got a new job, and my family and I have just moved to a new state, so there are any number of things that make it hard to write when inspiration strikes. This experience actually taught me a lot about writing whenever there was time. I would write after my wife and our new daughter went to sleep. I would write in the middle of the night when I should have been asleep. I would write early in the morning before work. I didn’t do much research, though, because the story is much more fun as a cautionary and high-concept tale. Research was something that I didn’t have a lot of time for, so I either wrote things I knew well, or imagined things that research wouldn’t have fed very much information into anyway.
What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?
An interest in more of my work, of course, but I wanted to tell a story about the determination of life, and how it surges to fill every gap it can find, no matter what the obstacles might be.
Where can we go to buy your book?
The Man Who Ended the World is available as an e-book on Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/The-Man-Ended-World-ebook/dp/B00AZUEPII/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1357925097&sr=1-1), and will soon be available on the Nook, the Kobo reader, and in the iBooks store as well.
Any other links or info you’d like to share?
I also write and illustrate a graphic novel, Eleanor. This book is also available on Amazon, the Nook, the Kobo reader and in iBooks. It can also be read on the web at http://www.eleanorwitt.com/.
Excerpt from book:
Henry is walking home from school when he first sees the man who will end the world.
There isn’t anything special about the man. He is of average height. His hair is brown. His eyes are brown. His posture is stooped, although so slightly one might not notice right away. He wears ordinary blue jeans, an ordinary blue T-shirt, and an ordinary blue windbreaker. His stride is perfectly normal, without any hiccups or interruptions. He walks with his hands swinging gently at his sides.
There is absolutely nothing noteworthy about the man.
But Henry shrugs his backpack a little higher on his shoulder, and stands with one hand in his pocket. He chews a little on his lip, and watches the man for a time.
The stranger looks through the window of Miss Peel’s book shop, lingers a moment, then pushes through the creaky old door and goes inside.
Henry finds an out-of-the-way spot behind a recycling bin and waits. Between the slats of the blinds that hang over the shop windows, he can see the man nosing around inside. The man walks slowly up one aisle and down another. He stops and picks up a paperback, turns it over, puts it back.
Henry thinks he should know the man, whose face is familiar in an unexceptional sort of way. A friend’s dad? A substitute teacher? Maybe he’s one of the school district’s bus drivers?
Abruptly the man heads for the door. Henry can hear Miss Peel call, Thank you, but the man doesn’t hear, or doesn’t care. Henry squishes himself against the metal bin as the man passes by, making himself as small as possible.
His inability to place the stranger’s face was a minor annoyance at first, but after watching the man for a few minutes, the annoyance has grown into a full-fledged, got-to-scratch-it itch.
So when the man comes to the end of the block, Henry hefts his backpack, slides both arms into its straps, and follows.
In a town like Bonns Harbor, with fewer than twenty thousand residents, Henry thinks it is strange that he cannot figure out who the stranger is. He doesn’t know that many people to begin with.
The man walks fifteen or twenty yards ahead of Henry, who suddenly worries about being detected. He ducks into every doorway on the block and peers around corners and windows at the stranger.
Sorry, he whispers when his behavior nearly topples a young woman’s baby stroller.
Please be careful, she replies, and Henry says, Shhh. The woman frowns at him. He darts around her, spies a parked Chevy pickup, and runs in a conspicuous crouch to hide behind its bumper. He exhales, counts to three, then leans over until he can see past the truck’s tailgate.
The woman with the stroller has ventured into an intersection. A Bonns Harbor Light and Power truck has stopped to allow her to cross. People bustle in and out of shops and across the street. The sound of small town life is almost pleasant. A dog barks, then barks again.
The stranger, however, has vanished.
Henry jumps up, giving away his location, but the man is nowhere in sight.
And then, just like that, the stranger reappears, straightening up and smoothing his ordinary blue jeans the way a man does when he’s just finished tying his shoe.
Henry drops to his knees and presses himself to the side of the pickup, breathing heavily. He makes a crackling sound with his mouth.
Krzhhhhkkkttk, he says into his hand. Agent almost detected, but subject seems unaware.
The stranger resumes his course through town, weaving left to examine store windows, veering right to avoid other pedestrians. He doesn’t seem to acknowledge them otherwise. There are no nods, and Henry can sort of tell from the man’s posture that he’s not smiling.
Some people you can just tell they’re not smiling.
Krzhhhtkk, he hisses. Subject in motion.
When the man has walked a reasonable distance ahead, Henry slides to his left, still flattening himself against the truck, and like water folds over the curves and corners of the truck until he is hunched over beside the passenger fender.
This makes him visible to the entire street, and a couple of people watch him, amused. But Henry pays no mind, at least until a yellow Volvo lumbers by. The tires crackle and seem to cough gravel. The driver notices Henry and leans on the horn. YOU SHOULDN’T PLAY IN THE STREET, the stern Volvo grille seems to say. Henry flaps his hands wildly at the driver to shush him.
The horn again.
BLEAAATTTT. DANGER, DANGER.
Henry snaps up and risks a peek over the roof of the Volvo to see if the stranger is looking his way.
The stranger is not. He’s just walking, farther ahead now, still slightly stooped, still drawing nobody’s attention. He hasn’t noticed Henry’s antics, or Henry at all.
Some people you can just tell they don’t notice things.
Krzzhhtkhhkk, Henry sighs. Subject is boring.
The Volvo swings past, the driver glaring down at Henry. But Henry pays him no mind, and trudges after the stranger again.
But the inattentive and ordinary man begins to take on a different air as he approaches the edge of downtown. In one horrifying moment, the stranger executes a sudden spin that catches Henry flat-footed in the middle of the sidewalk. The stranger looks this way and that, and Henry nearly pees himself.
But the stranger seems to look right through Henry.
The stranger’s shoulders relax, and his hands find his pockets, and he begins strolling up the street again.
Nobody notices eleven-year-old boys. They’re practically everywhere. They’re like trees, or red Jeeps, or discarded shoes.
Henry the spy is too shaken to radio in.
He lags back and follows at an even greater distance, too disturbed by the other man’s anti-spycraft moves to employ any flair. He lingers so far behind that the man becomes insect-sized on the street far ahead.
Henry pretends to look at the display in the game shop window, distracted a little by the little diorama that Glenn, the shop owner, has created. There’s a little Tyrannosaurus rex stomping through a tiny small town, tail precariously close to toppling a miniature water tower with BONNS HARBOR BEARCLAWS emblazoned on its side. Little toy cars and plastic figures scatter before the dinosaur, and red-and-yellow cellophane, lit with flickering LEDs, sets several small buildings ablaze.
He almost forgets his mission, and when he turns back to survey the street again, his heart sinks for a moment until he locates the man, surprisingly far away now, turning the corner at Harper Street.
The stranger is leaving the downtown strip behind, and heading for the neighborhoods near the railroad tracks.
For as long as Henry can remember, the junkyard at the edge of town has always been abandoned, its treasures secured behind a sheet metal gate strung up with heavy chains and a threatening lock. This is not to say that Henry has never been in the junkyard. Eleven-year-old boys are not thwarted by the trappings of grown-up security.
But this time, there’s no need for Henry to peel back the loose boards on the Silver Cloud Lane side of the junkyard. The stranger pats his pockets and produces a key, and to Henry’s amazement, unlocks the gate.
This is huge, Henry thinks. Someone bought the junkyard!
Henry cannot exactly say why this is huge, but events of such magnitude rarely happen in Bonns Harbor. The sale and purchase of a tired scrap yard rates very high for an eleven-year-old boy indeed.
He waits until the gate has closed again, and then he dashes to the Silver Cloud side of the property. The boards are still there, still loose, still forever damp and porous with rot. Henry doesn’t slip inside the junkyard just yet. For now, he pulls the boards back only enough to open a sightline, and he watches.
The yard is still populated with discarded automobiles and diseased washing machines and hollowed-out refrigerators and crumbling oil drums and twisted bumpers and even a soot-stained smokestack from an eighteen-wheeler. There are coiled and scarred springs the size of fire hydrants. Henry and his friends have played here enough times to know that some of the cars are brittle, the metal eaten nearly completely through by weather and rust, and with a careful swing, can be punched through with a baseball bat or a metal pipe.
The stranger drops a key back into his pocket, and strolls casually across the yard to one of those cars, a 1994 Chevy Corsica. The car, resting on top of a larger pile of assorted metallic junk, used to be wine-colored and now is just a husk of orange steel and bleached plastic. The windows are mostly knocked out, and broken bits of bluish diamonds are sprinkled in the window gutters and across the seats. Henry knows this because he and his friends were responsible for breaking those windows, as well as the windows of most of the other cars in the yard.
Henry watches, puzzled, as the stranger lifts the Corsica’s trunk. The lid groans and squeals, and the stranger winces. So does Henry.
Then, to Henry’s amazement, the stranger carefully steps onto the car’s bumper and climbs into the trunk.
And, with some effort, pulls the lid shut from the inside.
Henry yanks the boards back and runs into the yard, his concern at being discovered forgotten. The Corsica just sits there, not bothered at all by the human trapped in its bottom.
Henry bangs on the trunk with a flat palm. Hey, he says. Hey! Mister, are you alright? Can you hear me?
There’s no response from within.
I’ll open it up for you! he shouts.
The trunk is locked, so Henry looks around and spots a bent metal rod. He pushes one end into the space between the trunk and the bumper, and leans on the rod. But nothing happens. The trunk doesn’t budge.
For ten minutes Henry tries and fails to break into the car. He bangs on the car with his palms. Mister? he yells. I can’t get in. Are you alright in there?
As the sun goes down, he gives up and goes home.
He tells his father, who listens with an unimaginative stare, then tells Henry to wash up for dinner. After dinner there’s the singing show they always watch, and Henry briefly forgets all about the man who locked himself in the car until that night, when he’s just about to drift off to sleep.
Then it’s all he can think about all night long.