In early November I had a dream that led to an idea, which eventually led to me starting a new book. This was something completely outside of either Citadel or Sawyer Jackson—a new, independent story that could stand on its own or become a series in its own right. I titled the story “Evergreen.”
The basic premise is this: What if you had the ability to absorb all the thoughts, memories, and skills of anyone you touched? One touch, and Evergreen knows everything you know.
This opens up a lot of potential consequences and ramifications, and thus a whole mess of interesting stuff to explore.
I found myself thinking about what it would mean to suddenly have someone else’s life in your head. What would this ability mean for social adjustment and relationships? What would it mean from a moral or ethical standpoint? Could this character ever really know who he was, if he had other voices inside his head?
I put a few limits on the ability. For starters, he has to make skin-to-skin contact. He can only absorb someone’s memories for 30 minutes, and then those memories are completely gone—he can’t recall anything about the person that he didn’t experience directly. And he can replicate skills, but those also fade when the memories go.
I decided to take it a little further with some serious downsides to the power. If he absorbs multiple engrams, it can get a little hectic in his head, with conflicting memories and personalities vying for dominance.
Taking it even further, if he comes into contact too often with the same person, their engram becomes permanent. Sort of like practicing a new habit or skill—over time his brain rewires itself to include that engram.
And just because that didn’t seem far enough, I added a quirk to his power that really has some potential to complicate things: If he touches someone who has died within the past 15 minutes, their engram is automatically permanent.
The whole permanent engram thing has some really intriguing ramifications. How can you have a strong relationship with someone you can never touch? And what does it mean, philosophically, that a person’s engram permanently attaches to you after death, like a shipwreck survivor scrambling for a lifeboat? What happens if you have someone’s permanent engram in your head, and they dislike the choices made by their real-world counterpart?
I look at a lot of these ideas in the book, in the framework of a guy caught up in a bit of international intrigue. It was a fun exercise, and one I’ll probably repeat.
I hinted a bit at the idea of the alphabet agencies (CIA, NSA, FBI, etc.) having some interest in our hero, but I didn’t dig into that too much. Instead I focused on what it would be like for someone with this ability to live in a heavily populated city like New York. It helped a great deal that Kara and I spent a week in Manhattan right as I was starting this book. It added the perfect flavor to the story, in my opinion.
Evergreen (his reluctant “code name”) starts out by scratching a living as a data thief with a solid reputation in the underworld for being able to get his hands on some very close-kept information. He’s incredibly paranoid, taking great lengths to hide himself, and using his abilities to stay a step ahead of anyone who might be looking for him. But he eventually finds himself embroiled in something on a whole new level, and he’s forced to rise to the occasion.
I’m editing and rewriting this book now, and I’ll hand it over to my beta readers and editors for a second round of revision when I’m done. I’m looking for a mid-February release, so far.
I think this is a fantastic book, with an intriguing premise and an engrossing plot. I’m not sure where I’ll go with it from here, but the potential for a sequel or even a series is definitely there.
Look for more development notes on this and a release announcement in the future!