The Characters in
J. N. Hawkins
Characters in Order of Appearance:
Uv: Male. Age: 27.Married. Ygenome ethnicity:Siberian.An Ivenk nomadic 'brigade' member with a strong autodidactic streak.
Gyorgy Markova: Male. Single. Age: 45. Y genome ethnicity:Caucasian. is head of marketing for the Central Siberian Transglomeration of Confederated Wood Pulp Producers. He is frustrated. He has great drive and enthusiasm, but is held back by lack of real contact with the West. He has contact with the www. and virtual conferencing facilities. He would really like more genuine human contact. He has a sentimental side which constantly tends to wax lyrical (he thinks) about Mother Russia and its deep dark soul. He is a bear of a man in stature, but has delicate refined tastes in food and etiquette which are contrasted by his booming voice, and his English which is high on enthusiasm but low on variety, having shown one too many delegations around the experimental research sites of the Central Siberian Transglomeration of Confederated Wood Pulp Producers .
Isabella Abakan :Female. Age: Believed to be late thirties.Single. Ygenome ethnicity uncertain. A single, a wicked sense of humour and a controlled technical ability which is valued by her employers. She has an important position in wood pulp research with involvement in projects that cover issues from GM to the Gaian scientific hypothesis, not the misty eyed animism of the elderly New Agers. She moves through the London of the near future with her friend Corinne. They engage with bizarre developments in the human/digital technology interface and mobile communication. Using Isabella's view point it's intrusive nature and potential for subversive humour is picked at. Her central role is as an observer of the main characters that cut back and forth through the storyline with its intertwining and divergent threads, reflecting some aspects of social interaction in the imagined near future. The life posited is unsurprisingly very familiar.
Proteus Webber :Male. Age: 42.Single. Y genome ethnicity: European. He is introduced into the story as he discovers he has colon cancer or at least a decent case of piles. Anti-hero in a medium grade technicians job in the racy world of packaging technology. A figure who is world weary and totally uninteresting. He does not lack the ability to observe however. He empathises with others who will never be able to break into the higher realms of the consolidating world of the 21st century 'technocracy'. He has a relaxed platonic friendship with the two central female characters, Isabella and Corinne. The most dramatic events and characters in his life have just arrived on his doorstep. Life happens to him. (Never the other way round.) He bumps into Svetlana from Minsk in a shopping mall. His technological curiosity is aroused, along with his bio-sociological drives and much more besides....Is it love ? I'm not sure, ask a policeman.
Corinne Caesar: Female. Age: 35. Single. Y genome ethnicity: Ethiopian. A sassy, early middle aged, black single English woman. She always goes that bit further in her attempts to 'act up' than Isabella would dare. She is a journalist. Isabella accompanies Corinne almost everywhere and at some key points in the narrative Corinne highlights the ridiculous and pompous nature of some aspects of the future business world, where she plainly feels an outsider, especially in Siberia .
Svetlana Arotmistrova Female.Age 33. Married.Y genome ethnicity: Caucasian. Svetlana is an attractive young cosmetologist from Minsk. She has married Cliff Guest of Gidea Park, Romford, Essex in undescribed circumstances. Her great grandfather was an innovative Russian engineer who had unusual Faberge-esque ideas for heating the Great Winter Palace. She has great passion and genuine enthusiasm when she realises that a great dream of her family can be realised at last, which goes back to pre-revolutionary Russia, when European capitalists were setting up factories and businesses which they had to later hurriedly abandon. Her relationship with Cliff is largely platonic, due to the generation age difference. Cliff was embarking on the arranged relationship out of genuine emotional need for female companionship, not readily available to him in Essex.
.Cliff Guest:Male. Age: 60. Married. Y genome ethnicity: European. Cliff has loosely described 'business interests', which helped by his security minder Pat, move along in the background. Pat has connections with some other more unsympathetic characters with a criminal past who are supposedly able to sort things out when Cliff discovers Svetlana's mysterious and highly unlikely business venture, which seems to involve great secrecy and smuggling.
Colin MacCrae : Male. Age: 47. Single. Y genome ethnicity: European. A cameo role as a Glaswegian electrician "slacker" who is a grey haired middle aged "Generation Z " (Post ...X>Y>Z.) character who sees strange things by the sea shore throughout the novel. He likes his sleep.
Rona and Marge : Females. Age: Mid twenties. Single Y genome ethnicity: European. Two young Lowland Scots women who have tried a few years of various seasonal jobs around the Western Isles and have got to know some of the inhabitants of Portree. Their sarcasm strips paint, from red through to violet. They are fairly merciless, especially when witnessing the braggadocio of young Billy from Portree. He's trouble.
Mary Macmillan :Female. Age: Late forties. Single. Y genome ethnicity: European. She owns the Bayview Tea rooms in Portree where Rona and Marge work . A formidable character who attends the 'Wee Free" regularly. She island-hops to Stornaway on the Outer Hebrides as often as possible.
Billy : Male. Age: 17.Single. Y genome ethnicity: European. A character partly inspired by the young bicycle thief character in the old De Sica classic film "The Bicycle Thieves ". There is a reminder of the film's theme that any way to make a living is justifiable where employment opportunities are scarce, especially in the career path that Portree school leaver 'Ginger' Billy sees for himself. He tries everything, experiencing reality however it constitutes itself, digitally or otherwise, oblivious to the sensitivities of others in the fiery self obsession of his youth.He is a recurring figure who appears and disappears through the narrative, which he propels forward like a firefly with a faulty fuse. He has a highly disguised sensitive side also. In the unfamiliar urban surroundings of East and West London he survives by his naive (sic) wit. He likes Cosmo Blank Slide music.
Don :Male. Age: 52. Single. Y genome ethnicity: European. A dealer and car mechanic. He is a true cockney, and he doesn't suffer fools gladly. He is a bit moody and has egalitarian social principles.
Phil & Terry from Cwmbran, South Wales:Males. Ages Mid forties. Single. Y genome ethnicity: European. Phil and Terry are very experienced plumbers from Cwmbran. They are CORGI approved and have an extensive light engineering background. Phil is a perfectionist, and the more reflective. Terry has the teasing humour of the South Welsh. They are both unpretentious. However, Terry is occasionally given to bouts of 'craziness': Demonstrative behaviour that is expected of those who occasionally show their 'Inner Celt '. Phil squares things off and keeps the business on a level footing.
Johnny : Male. Age: mid forties. Single. Y genome ethnicity: European. Billy's elder brother. A bit of a 'fixer' who does a lot of business around the Scottish Highlands. He has contacts on the Aqua-ParcTM casinos out on the rigs.
The introduction of the Firebird.
This chapter is a vivid opening piece with a dream like quality. The story is almost totally separate from the rest of the novel. It introduces the first possible interpretation of the novels title. There is a single linking strand where one of the novels characters is introduced out of context. The tone contrasts with the more familiar western urban feel of the following chapters. It is set on the edge of the Siberian Taiga, with its native inhabitant's different forms of consciousness. The animals present are all from different stages of the evolution of intelligence on earth, spanning from the dinosaurs, through the Palaeolithic era with the various recorded languages appearing one after another in 'mythic form', then discovered to be in the digital form of the near future. This dialogue is incoherent and misunderstood by both communicators. The unspoken communication between the earlier life forms has greater clarity and effect.
The introduction of the characters.
Isabella leaves a meeting at the office open organic learning space of the future . The bi-monthly technical function 3 grade 7 (EU) staff conference forming part of the semi-market managed market consortium for packaging grade wood pulp distribution.
She goes to meet her friends Corinne and Proteus at a country pub where embedded chip nanotechnology is manifest.It is capable of making 10 21 operations per second. ( 2000 million gigahertz computers the size of a sugarcube are currently predicted.). Food is ordered and paid for by the furniture and plates. The humans are only needed to carry it and eat it. Emulated digital human consciousness has been estimated to require 10 14 operations per second. ( Current computers operate at 1012 operations per second.) Without senses, however, consciousness is not possible, as understood by humans. Isabella's colleague, Bix Skodal, who is a focused, 'self -helped' auto-didact who only feeds on positive 'mental protein'. He gives the initial impression of making his colleagues seem part of the 'slacker' or Generation 'Z' demographic tendency. His corporate smarm vocabulary leaves the rest gasping for air.
The next day Isabella attends a conference where the delegates clip on a minimal headset. Some wore costume jewellery that transmitted sound. Isabella feels like she has 'been dropped into a sensory deprivation tank of corporate proportions '. 'The dissonance between so many minds would produce corporate white noise ' she thought. 'The corporate shoal would see whether the wrinkles and folds in the 'rune rug ' confirmed or denied its preconceptions. It would try to mimic its form, arch its back, droop its shoulders , hollow its belly and emerge in some way enlightened.'
The conferential software is hacked into by an unexplained quasi mystical figure named Shinrat Sepeytoe.' Flashes of frail, dusty imagery.' She was in 2048 bit virtual space. She pushed the conference C3/3 carbon atom compound assimilation button for plants: trees, wheat & citrus fruits. She navigated her way to a conference workshop. She chose 'Alternatives' from the menu. The virtual delegates introduce themselves, amongst them is Gyorgy Markova. Shinrat Sepeytoe hacks in again.' Below , like an old badly tuned 405 line TV, flickered the image of floating white swan feathers seen from below '. Isabella remembered that the swan was a creature of transformation to the North American Indians. ( A metaphysical sense of being is suggested by the text, this is possible in 2048 bit space. )
'The set of conference delegates were looking bewildered in real time.' Afterwards Isabella conferences with Helga Stensen regarding the nature of human consciousness, from Freud to the current models as a counterpoint to the digital based consciousness described earlier.