Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Virtual Book Tour + #Giveaway: The Dark Court (Songs of the Sage #2) by Vyvyan Evans @VyvEvans @GoddessFish



Vyvyan Evans

GENRE: Science Fiction


A genre-blending dystopian, sci-fi mystery-thriller that will make you think about communication in a whole new way.

Five years after the Great Language Outage, lang-laws have been repealed, but world affairs have only gotten worse. The new automation agenda has resulted in a social caste system based on IQ. Manual employment is a thing of the past, and the lowest soc-ed class, the Unskills, are forced into permanent unemployment.

In a world on the brink of civil war, a deadly insomnia pandemic threatens to kill billions. Lilith King, Interpol’s most celebrated detective, is assigned to the case.

Together with a sleep specialist, Dr. Kace Westwood, Lilith must figure out who or what is behind this new threat. Could the pandemic be the result of the upskilling vagus chips being offered to the lowest soc-ed class? Or are language chips being hacked? And what of the viral conspiracy theories by the mysterious Dark Court, sweeping the globe? Lilith must work every possible angle, and quickly: she is running out of time!

While attempting to stop a vast conspiracy on an intergalactic scale, Lilith also faces shocking revelations about her origin, coming to terms with her own destiny.




But just then, twenty meters in front of me, a small group of Dark Court cultists emerged, out from a side corridor. I grimaced—this only meant trouble. There were four of them, this time with cappa hoods covering their heads, obscuring their faces from sec-cam and LS orb identification by NYPD droids. They were no doubt trying to imitate their beloved, so-called adjudicators, the self-appointed, anonymous leaders of this vile cult of violence and misinformation. The cultists were dressed in black from head to toe, including leather pants and tunics. They even wore black, tactical Kevlar gloves.

The cultists spotted me. “Let’s get her, boys,” said one voice. Then I heard raucous laughter.

They moved toward me, cutting off my route to the UN employee East River entrance. And as they approached, they pulled out neural shock sticks, sheathed in cases worn around their belts. Of course, just my luck. The long, thin devices were illegal, and for good reason. If applied for more than a few seconds, they could result in permanent brain damage or even death. I steeled myself—this was the only way through.

As I neared, the group appeared surprised I was still heading toward them—not the response they expected. I would never run away again, not since that night in the Black Forest, twenty years ago. Sure, I had been through Interpol’s basic combat training, back in the day. For what that was worth. But since the Black Forest, I had taken self-defense training to insane levels, obsessive as always. You could say I had elevated it to the status of a dark art.



Interview with Vyvyan Evans

    Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?

    There are two books that stand out for me, that have influenced how I conceive of what fiction can do. Both these books ingeniously explored the impact of language on how we think and experience (illustrated through the conceit of a protagonist learning an entirely new, and alien, language).

    The first, Babel-17 is by Samuel R. Delany. It was first published in 1966 and was joint winner of the Nebula Award for best novel in 1967.

    The eponymous Babel-17 is a language that alters the perceptions and world-view of any who speak it. This is a conceit that draws upon the principle of linguistic relativity.

    Linguistic Relativity holds that divergence in the grammatical organization and lexical structure of the language we speak alters the habitual perception of the world around us, even dramatically changing how we think. As an example, we now know that the brains of Greek speakers perceive certain colours differently from speakers of English because of how Greek labels for colour divide up the colour spectrum. This is an unconscious consequence of speaking Greek versus English.

    In the novel, Babel-17 is the language spoken by Invaders, as they wage an interstellar war against the Alliance. The novel’s protagonist, Rydra Wong, is a linguist and cryptographer who possesses a rare ability to learn languages. She is recruited by the Alliance to try and decode the language of the invaders, Babel-17, to uncover clues for attack vectors.

    Babel-17 is an exemplar of a very high-concept conceit. When Delany was writing the novel, linguistic relativity was still only a hypothesis, first dubbed the Spair-Whorf hypothesis in 1954.

    Delany asks a classic ‘what if’ question: What if the language we speak fundamentally changes the way we see the world, the way we feel, our belief systems, the way we act? Babel-17 then explores the logical, and extreme consequences of this proposition.

    In the novel, as Rydra Wong learns the strange, alien tongue, she starts to see the world, and think as the invaders do. And the consequence is that she starts to become one of them. She ultimately betrays her own command and her government, acting as an agent of the Invaders.

    And in this way, Delany shows that in the context of warfare, when the notion of linguistic relativity is taken to its logical extreme, language can serve as the most powerful weapon of all.

    The second is the novella, Story of Your Life, written by Ted Chiang and first published in 1998. This story was subsequently adapted as the major motion picture Arrival.

    Again, this story features a linguist as its main protagonist, Dr. Louise Banks. The story involves Banks narrating the events that led to the arrival of her new-born daughter. In so doing, she explains how her work, translating the language of the alien Heptapod species, led her to understanding time in a new way, where she could perceive her past and future simultaneously.

    The consequence is that as learning a new (alien) language transforms thought, the novella explores issues relating to linguistic relativity, determinism and freewill.

    How do you select the names of your characters?

    My fiction writing focuses on the impact of language and communication, and how both can potentially serve as a means of control and even destruction, especially with the advent of AI.

    For this reason, the names of characters have linguistic significance, based on geography and the semantic, historical and even professional implications of the names.

    Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

    I do. There are a number of ‘Easter eggs’ hidden in The Dark Court. And there are clues and ‘bread crumbs’ for readers too, that set up important plot points and threads in later books in the Songs of the Sage series.

    What was your hardest scene to write?

    The protagonist in The Dark Court is Lilith King. The hardest scene to write was the penultimate chapter, where she confronts her nemesis, Jürgen Fleischman. The Lilith of earlier in the book would have assassinated him, an act of ultimate revenge. Yet, the woman at the end of the book is not the same person the reader met at the beginning. She has evolved, and so, her “revenge” has too.

    Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

    The six books in the Songs of the Sage series are linked by four protagonists, whose fates and lives are interlinked, and who crisscross each other through space, and time, all intersecting in a variety of ways.

    The central theme of language as the hallmark of what it means to be human is explored in a variety of ways. Also explored is the way in which, in the future, language can be used as weapon against those who use it, when science and AI take over.

    As language entails involves symbol use, the book series, perhaps naturally, also dwells on other aspects of human imagination and symbolic behavior, including religious experience and belief systems, themselves made possible by language.

    What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?

    The Dark Court is book #2 in the Songs of the Sage science fiction book series. The books are set in a high-tech future where language is no longer learned but streamed to neural implants. Lang-laws control how people can use language, which has become a proprietary property of powerful corporations who control language streaming technology.

    The books in the series are conceived as a warning of the future dangers of technology, and how giving up on the hallmark of what it means to be human—language—leads to catastrophe and the potential collapse of civilization. When we lose language, we all lose.

    What inspired you to write The Dark Court?

    Today in the twentieth first century, we are on the brink of a Fourth Industrial Revolution, sometimes dubbed 4IR. This is where automation and connectivity, via the inter-net, will dramatically alter the way in which we interact with each other, as well as everything around us, in our increasingly joined-up technological environment. And I predict, in less than one hundred years from now, this new technology will transform many aspects of our daily lives that we currently take for granted, including language itself.

    Indeed, in 2015, many of the world’s leading scientists, warned, in an Open Letter and accompanying report, against the new dangers of AI, as a consequence of 4IR. This Open Letter was issued in response to new breakthroughs in AI that, without adequate control, might pose short and long-term existential threats to humans.

    But potential dangers come not just from the use of AI, in the sense of, for in-stance, The Terminator series of movies, in which AI seeks to wage war and destroy the human race. New implantable devices, that will enhance how we as humans can interact with our new tech-landscape, will also give rise to potential dangers. Language is, arguably, the single trait that is the hallmark of what it is to be human. And yet, in the near-future, language-chipped humans, or ‘transhumans’, will have enhanced abilities that bring new opportunities, as well as ethical challenges and even threats.

    Self-evidently, in a world where most people have undergone language chipping, this would soon lead to a situation in which in the automated world there are no native speakers of language left. And with an entire population entirely dependent on language, were that language streaming ecosystem to fail, then the consequences would be catastrophic.

    Can you tell us a little bit about the next books in the Songs of the Sage book series?

    There are six projected books in the series which, in increasing turns, examine the role and nature of language, and communication. The thematic premise is that, in the wrong hands, language can serve as a weapon of mass destruction. This overarching motif is explored, across the six books, both from Earth-bound and galaxies-wide bases.

    As language involves symbol use and processing, the book series, perhaps naturally, also dwells on other aspects of human imagination and symbolic behaviour, including religious experience and belief systems, themselves made possible by language.

    Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in The Dark Court?

    The book’s protagonist is Lilith King, the world’s most celebrated cybercrime detective. In The Dark Court we meet her before she met Ebba Blak, the protagonist of the earlier book, The Babel Apocalypse. While Lilith met Ebba in the first book, set five years before The Dark Court, that meeting lies, paradoxically, in Lilith’s future.

    The main focus of The Dark Court is a deadly insomnia pandemic. Lilith must figure out who or what is behind it, how it relates to the mysterious Dark Court that is promoting civil unrest, and whether there is a connection with language chip technology.

    Running alongside the main mystery of the book is a mysterious apparition that comes to Lilith, one that helps her start to make sense of why she is so different from other people—for Lilith has strange abilities that she increasingly suspects make her a freak.

    And as she comes to terms with her origin, she uncovers a larger conspiracy, that will occupy later books in the Songs of the Sage series.

    What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

    I enjoyed most getting inside Lilith King’s head. I did so by building up a detailed “portrait” of her, including her actions and emotional responses as events in the story-world unfolded. 


AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Dr. Vyvyan Evans is a native of Chester, England. He holds a PhD in linguistics from Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., and is a Professor of Linguistics. He has published numerous acclaimed popular science and technical books on language and linguistics. His popular science essays and articles have appeared in numerous venues including 'The Guardian', 'Psychology Today', 'New York Post', 'New Scientist', 'Newsweek' and 'The New Republic'. His award-winning writing focuses, in one way or another, on the nature of language and mind, the impact of technology on language, and the future of communication. His science fiction work explores the status of language and digital communication technology as potential weapons of mass destruction.

Book website (including ‘Buy’ links)

Author website

Connect with Vyvyan Evans on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram



Paperback copies of both book 1 and book 2 on the series

Follow the tour and comment; the more you comment, the better your chances of winning.


Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thank you for hosting today.

Michael Law said...

This looks like a fantastic read. Thanks for sharing.

Sherry said...

Looks like a good read.