Featured Dystopian Novel: 'Human Again' by Moran Chaim
What would you do if you wake up 300 years from now, and be asked to join a war? In Moran Chaim's dystopian sci-fi novel Human Again (Book 1 of the Cryonemesis series), we see that the person who wakes up is a soldier who already died once during battle and isn't thrilled to endanger his life again although he could still fight. When I heard its synopsis, the novel instantly reminded me of the sci-fi film Edge of Tomorrow, which is based on Hiroshi Sakurazaka's Japanese light novel All You Need is Kill, but Chaim's novel offers more thought-provoking themes about how technology influences society as a whole.
Chaim said that he wrote Human Again because he is curious about the direction that modern society is heading to, and he feels that technology is making us weaker. So Chaim asked himself what would be the one thing he'd be willing to fight for, instead of living a comfortable life. After all, the title refers to what a character in the book thinks society should become after technology ruined it, while it also implies resurrection and development after being cryo-frozen for 300 years.
Human Again sounds like a post-apocalyptic novel but there's no single event that changes the world in the story. Chaim says that his novel depicts climate change and the collapse of the world’s economy, which caused the world to undergo changes. "No evil plan, no sudden zombie outburst. Just people ignoring facts and making mistakes along the way"
Interview with Moran Chaim
What inspired you to write Human Again?
Israel was going through a political and social turbulence in the last 5 years. I felt that people aren’t strong enough to revolt and that their lives are too comfortable to give up on and risk everything.
I asked myself why that is. How come everyone knows that the government is taking us in the wrong direction but no one is actually going to do anything about it, including me of course. I added that to my fascination with psychology, technology and the climate change. As a result, Human Again was formed.
Tell us about the world of your novel. How did you develop this setting?
I asked myself how the future will look like after a climate crisis that initiates a social degradation and an economical halt – which means technological stagnation and people fighting for resources. I had to figure out what the technological developments are going to be and in which point they are going to stop developing. Then I observed the current state of Israel and asked myself how society will deal with these challenges, given my knowledge of the human nature. I tried to make it as logical and plausible as possible for people to connect with my vision.
Why do you think technology makes people weaker? How do you present this point in 'Cryonemesis'?
When technology is aiming to solve all our problems, it numbs us as human beings. We let computers think and decide for us. We forget simple abilities, even like remembering phone numbers, memorizing recipes, navigating with our cars or having eye contact during a real life conversation. We lose touch with our intuition and trust algorithms to guide us.
This makes us less mindful to our feelings, thoughts and body sensations. Instead of using our leisure time to really develop ourselves and connect with others, we use it to maintain the same technology that was created to "free or enrich" us. We are enslaving ourselves for a fake sense of progress while we actually regressing to a simple set of triggers and instant shallow emotions.
Now take this baseline and multiply it by 300 years. This is the state in which the citizens of New Knaan, the underground shelter city, live in.
What kind of sci-fi technology do we expect to see in 'Human Again'?
There's the simulation VR world that keeps all the citizens sane, happy and busy while they spend their days. And also some green technologies and laser guns. The technology is not the main concern of the story, but what it does to people and how they live with it. I use technology to tell the story but I don't focus on it.
How do the Purists battle those who use technology? What weapons do they use?
I don't want to reveal too much but some older weapons are still out there. Think of the Soviet Union after the cold war, there were hangers and bunkers filled with unused weapons and ammunition. While the technological development was halted but you could still use the old stuff if you watched your quotas. Don't forget that even advanced machines can get rusty.
How is climate change significant in 'Human Again'?
The purpose of New Knaan was to build an underground shelter city that would withstand the heat, storms, looting and chaos that the climate change had caused. The only way that the privileged could survive both climate and society crumbling down was to go underground. Roy, as a main character, is being unfrozen inside that shelter but to him it feels like a prison. So there's a very vivid conflict between being safe and locked inside and being in danger but free outside.
Do you aim to accurately reflect Israel's political and social turbulence in the last 5 years? How do you reflect this aspect of reality in your work?
That's not my aim at all, just a vantage point for me as a writer. While there's a political allegory underneath the story layer, there are almost no referrals to current events. I tried to use my life in Israel to tell a universal story, but at the same time I didn't want to set it in a fake location in the US just to appeal to a global audience. I feel that setting the story in Israel enables me to tell things as they are without idling on the back story.
Name some authors who have influenced your writing style
The author who has the most influence on me is Milan Kundera. I really connect to the tone and state of mind in his books. On the one hand, he can describe the most realistic scene or regular conversation that occurred in a real place and time, and on the other hand he can become witty, poetic and philosophic about anything from relationships to politics and to the human existential crisis. I love it when you can read his books while alternating between these different voices.
You said that your book started out as a YA Sci-Fi novel, and you described it as 'American Pie' "set in the future". Do you still have some of these plot ideas in your adult-themed version? How did your work evolve from YA Sci-Fi to adult?
The story isn't funny-cute and the main story line isn't a love story anymore. I wanted to write a balanced male hero that wasn't too self-centered. I wanted to give him a bigger meaning and responsibility and let him grow into it. On the other hand the sense of teen rebellion against adults is very prominent. Roy is 19 years old, other main characters are teenagers. And the adults symbolize the ones who ruined the world through unclean industries, wars, politics and short sight. The teens are those who want to fix the situation instead of sustaining it in numb condition like the adults do.
Check out 'Human Again' on Amazon now.