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A Near-Future Cyberpunk

Author Interview
Jason Arsenault Author Interview

Shunt follows a woman who receives an implant to remove her grief, but when things get unreal she tries to track down her Pain Surrogate and unlocks a conspiracy. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

The first criteria I usually have for starting a novel is that I’ve never read anything like this before. The idea that two people, cut from different social cloths, could become each other’s mental-health support, in the physical sense, was interesting and satirical to me. It also made for very entertaining reading (and writing) as emotional context would “bleed” into different character perspectives. I also wanted to write a near-future cyberpunk with loads of action and intrigue, so I wove those concepts together and let that evolve into what we have here.

Jade is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

Thanks, I’ve soul searched a great deal to bring her out right (despite the emotional handicap implied by the brain implant and my own biases). In the case of Jade, I needed a character that felt the loss of something entirely unendurable and, to me, one of the most horrible things I could think of would be to lose someone of close kin that I love deeply. Like many among us through her efforts she simply wishes to return to a normal life.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

Perhaps “personal responsibility” or that I see that we are losing the precious adversity that hones us to become better people. In the medical sense, it is much easier for a doctor to prescribe, e.g. benzodiazepines, than to arduously tease out the factors (both environment and neurological) that contribute to that person’s malaise. If your boss is the cause of your despair, find a new boss, same for a partner that puts you down, et cetera. There are people who do indeed require medical intervention, and as a published biomedical scientist I can attest to that. But our society is overmedicated, overstimulated, (for some overprivileged), and overpampered; it is overrun by spoilt brats. Wouldn’t it preferable for us to eat healthy and exercise than to try to fight the consequences of our vices when we are 65 (if we even get there). Our brains work the same way, we each have to tend to our gardens. This story is about getting what we want too easily and the consequences that that entails to ourselves and the world around us.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

As I wish to go through traditional publishers, I would say about when Saturn, Mercury, and Jupiter align during a solar eclipse, in both hemispheres. Perhaps sometime before the next millennia, if I am lucky. I have three other novels that are ready for submission, but I suffer from a full-time career that occludes most of my post-writing efforts such as contacting agents and randomly firing novels to the wrong publishers. All faults to that effect are entirely my own. I won’t stop writing though, that is a guarantee. So my work eventually will become, I hope, just too darn good to ignore.

But that said, I’ve recently finished a large piece about an alien structure hiding in our solar system and the human shenanigan that ensue because of it. I was quite pleased with it after the second rewrite and it is in the hands of a few test readers at the moment. It’s almost ready to start collecting rejection letters.

Author Links: GoodReads | Website | Twitter

A young woman named Jade receives a brain implant that connects her to a “Pain Surrogate” in order to alleviate her grief from the loss of her little brother. At first the relief is ideal; the shunt seems like the perfect solution. But when things begin to feel unreal in her mind, she hires a hacker to discover the identity of her anonymous pain recipient. This seemingly minor breach of security unravels an international conspiracy between PrimaCore, a huge pharmaceutical company, and a military eager to weaponize the feeds from pain surrogates with pathologically violent urges.

Jade’s quest to find her surrogate sends her on a wild adventure across the globe with black operatives hot on her trail. Meanwhile, an enhanced rogue agent within PrimaCore seizes the opportunity to topple the government, seeking to usher in the kind of world that she believes we all deserve.

Shunt

Shunt by [Jason Arsenault, Steven Arsenault]

Shunt by Jason Arsenault is a science-fiction novel that takes place in a dystopia where a device can be used to control and manipulate one’s emotions: a shunt. A shunt is an implant that can alleviate suffering by transferring it to a “Pain Surrogate”, Jade is a young woman who uses this Shunt to deal with the death of her younger brother. She feels immediate and immense relief, until she starts getting traumatic flashbacks of her brother’s murder. She unites with her old friend to investigate this and together they uncover a massive and seemingly omnipresent conspiracy involving a killing machine, the PrimaCore, company supplying shunts, and of course, the government.

Shunt offers a completely gripping story– even beyond its unique premise. All the characters’ dialogue and interactions with technology feel so grounded and engaging. Which seems like a strange thing to note but I appreciate it in a genre where a lot of characters go around casually throwing about ridiculous phrases. This kind of thing undoubtedly has its place and audience, but I found it refreshing how simplistic and real the technical explanations were kept in Shunt. Although the general focus was on Jade, her relationships, and her journey, all the secondary characters were also given fair treatment. Their internal battles spanned a variety of issues that are relevant today.

Author Jason Arsenault has completely nailed the pace of the book. He doesn’t waste any time getting to the meat of the story. It’s a heady read as he keeps the tension tight throughout the book. In some ways, the plot reminded me of the movie, “Her” As Jade discovers the dangers of getting to know the behind-the-scenes of this technology a little too intimately, the knowledge holds the potential to destroy her.

Although this is not exactly a “restore your faith in humanity” book, I still enjoyed its overall tone and themes. It was realistic while managing to convey the dangers of ignorance, greed, and corporate megalomania. It really is un-put-downable. I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys thought-provoking and expansive science fiction novels.

Pages: 229 | ASIN: B08DPWQNQV

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