Books, news, & views from Karen Traviss


RATING: Violence, very strong language, and some sexual content.

An original series about private military contractors, politics, transgenic research that goes too far, and money. Lots and lots of money.

What if you really could create a shape-shifting human? Superpowers are ten a penny in the movies, but when it’s for real and it’s happening to you, daily existence is the biggest challenge. Ian Dunlop, raised by his grandmother on an isolated ranch, thinks he’s crazy because he’s seen different faces in the mirror since childhood. But when he discovers that it’s really happening, that his gran is a complete stranger tasked to keep him hidden, and that he’s a billion-dollar biotech research asset, his world is upended. He’s rescued from an uncertain future by Mike Brayne, an idealistic billionaire who just wants to be an ordinary soldier, and Rob Rennie, a former Royal Marine who’s always up for the right fight. The two combat vets draw Ian into a world of serious money, high stakes, and the kind of military work he was born for – designed for. He’s got the perfect skill set for covert ops and now he wants to put it to good use.

Ian has the specialised cells and structures that enable cephalopods to change colour, shape, and texture, and also gives them speed and strength. With his learned skills in mimicry, that all makes him a formidable undercover operator. But he’s also a kid in his late teens who’s been raised in isolation, has never had a girlfriend, and now has a staggering amount of money thanks to ultra-wealthy Mike. How does a guy stay grounded when he’s got all that? And how does he find his way in life when he can never tell anyone beyond his small circle exactly what he is?

The Ringer series is set in the real world of today, not an alternate Earth, and the science on which the series is based is potentially real. The books started life as a modern allegory about identity and how we see ourselves, but when I did more research, it turned out that the wilder ideas I’d come up with had more than a little basis in fact; they were actually a lot less astonishing than what was happening in the real world of transgenic research. I was lucky enough to have the professional advice of a real-life geneticist who’d worked on cloning, transgenic embryos, and human fertility, and when she nodded and said my story wasn’t as impossible in theory as I’d thought, I felt a little nervous about the brave new world ahead. Fiction always has to sprint to catch up with reality. For example, I’d never have thought up a scenario where a human could be produced from two transgenic mice – technically feasible, apparently. Eat your heart out, Stuart Little.

Click on the images for links to the books’ synopses and excerpts.

Black Run CS web