As Justine Fixes Everything: Reflections on Mortality heads for its release date on October 15th and I settle in for the revisions to the first two books of The Netwalk Sequence to prepare them for rerelease (while working on Book Seven in the Martiniere books, Repairing the Legacy), I find myself doing a comparison between the two series. Some of that is due to when they came out in my writing career–the Netwalk books came first; the Martiniere books are my current work. But both are science fiction, both involve the use of biobots and digital cloning, both are near-future.
But there are huge structural differences between the two series.
The Netwalk Sequence is pretty much locked into its story. There really aren’t any points of divergence in the story; no place where a character making a different choice spins off an entirely new set of consequences and storylines. Changing one aspect of the sequence of events ends up bringing down the whole house of cards. It falls apart and–most importantly–I haven’t felt the urge to explore possible divergences.
Not so for The Martiniere Legacy. There are a number of nexus points where the story can veer off in a different direction into new adventures that make a rocking good tale. For example, if Saul, Angelica, and Louisa Martiniere weren’t killed in a plane crash when Gabe was twelve. In that scenario, Gabe learns that Philip is his biological father at age sixteen, spends two years in Philip’s household, and, upon becoming eighteen, petitions Saul, as the Martiniere (the Family and Group head), to remove Gabe’s half-sister Justine from Philip’s household (the reason given is the recent suicide of Justine’s mother Renate). Justine never undergoes abusive treatment in her teens from Philip and her other half-brother Joey, Gabe’s exposure to Philip’s mind control programming is restricted, and he openly competes with Joey to become the Martiniere-in-waiting. Justine doesn’t need to marry Donald Atwood at seventeen to escape Philip but goes on to college and meets/marries Donald after graduation. Gabe meets Ruby when interviewing her as a candidate for the Martiniere Grant, and they become involved with each other over the course of several years. Not that there aren’t obstacles–just different ones.
Another point where The Martiniere Legacy could go a different direction is when Gabe is confronted with the necessity of telling Ruby that he’s not really Gabe Ramirez, a broke saddle bronc rider, but is Gabriel Martiniere, heir in hiding. There are several different points where the storyline could go a drastically different direction from the current Martiniere canon if Gabe’s disclosure to Ruby happens before Philip silences him. And that brings out an entirely new set of obstacles which Gabe and Ruby have to face.
I haven’t decided if I’m going to write those stories yet–but those possibilities exist. I find them intriguing at times.
Those change points don’t exist in The Netwalk Sequence storyline. In part, I suspect it’s because the Legacy relies on the ambiguity of those change points. With the exception of the plane crash that kills his family, Gabe faces that disclosure turning point several times in his relationship with Ruby. Gabe’s choices drive the Legacy storyline, for better or worse. He could have told Ruby when Justine let him know that she was aware that he is Ruby’s boyfriend. When Ruby becomes pregnant and they marry. At Brandon’s birth, when Ruby’s grandfather Ron tells Gabe he knows Gabe’s secret. The things that keep Gabe from that disclosure are little interruptions, little choices…but oh so very different.
But in the Netwalk books? There really aren’t those points where a character’s choice–other than refusing to participate–changes things. Sarah’s secret doesn’t change the fabric of reality like Gabe’s does. It’s only her shame at learning that secret which could change things–and even then, it’s unlikely to have the same effect on the storyline, except to make it much, much darker and traversing places I really don’t want to go as an author.
I’m still not sure why these series are so different. My ability to craft a more complex storyline after nearly fifteen years of consistent fiction writing? Elements of the story? Or the basic characters who drive it? All I know is that I really don’t see variant storylines when I look at Netwalk. Perhaps it’s the difference between Sarah Stephens and Gabriel Martiniere.
Sarah Stephens is the heart of the Netwalk books. Her obsession with power, her desire to control access to that shameful secret about her origins, and how she faces the challenges brought by the Gizmo, including the way that Francis Stewart betrays her, all shape her character. Even after her death, when she exists as a Netwalker, power, access to that secret, Gizmo challenges, and Stewart’s betrayal shape who she is. But even though she’s a scion of a timber baron family, her heritage is purely American. There is no long history and tradition that she adheres to. No noblesse oblige. The Stephenses are all about raw political power. Sarah’s vision, until she spends time as a Netwalker with her granddaughter Melanie and great-granddaughter Bess, is about gathering as much power and control to herself as possible. It isn’t really until she has to deal with the fallout from controlling Gizmo that she develops a more altruistic vision–and even that is only over the course of many years.
On the other hand, Gabriel Martiniere is the descendant of European nobility, from a rich and powerful family that remembers and cherishes its origins. While born in Los Angeles, his upbringing is within the tradition of centuries of family history. The Martinieres descend from an illegitimate Valois descendant, which also means descent from the Medicis and the Borgias. Napoleon Bonaparte also comes into play, later on. The Martiniere family became The Family during the French Revolution, when the American branch formed an aid society to assist Family escapees from France. That aid society became The Martiniere Group, and it just kept on growing over the years with a focus on agricultural technology and research, pharmaceuticals, androids, cyborgs, and cloning.
More importantly, Gabe was raised not just to become the Martiniere and manage the Group, but as part of a large, complex, and social family with many, many connections and interactions. The tension within the Martinieres is between a striving for tangible political power and the strong family tradition of noblesse oblige. No matter what storyline I look at, Gabe is always the polite Martiniere heir. The one with a vision that leads to a better world. His father Philip desires money and power. Gabe wants a better world.
So I still don’t know. All the same, it’s fascinating to compare the two series. Two very different rich and powerful families.
Meanwhile, I’m still turning out work in the main Martiniere Legacy storyline. I’m serializing the current work-in-progress, Repairing the Legacy, about Gabe and Ruby’s attempts to deal with the toxic witches brew that Philip left behind. The serial can be found on Substack, as Martiniere Stories.
The latest Martiniere Legacy book, Justine Fixes Everything: Reflections on Mortality, is currently up for preorder on Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and more. Official release date is October 15th. What’s it about?
EVEN THE MOST POWERFUL PEOPLE HAVE TO START SOMEWHERE…
Over the years, Justine Martiniere has become the fixer for the Martinieres. Have a problem? Go to Justine to get it remedied.
But it wasn’t always that way.
First, Justine needed to escape the abuses of her father, Philip. She didn’t expect to fall in love with the man she married, Donald Atwood. But she did–and then she faced the choice between remaining married to Donald, or stopping her sociopathic, megalomaniac father.
Justine Fixes Everything is in part the unusual love story of Justine and Donald–and in part the saga of her rise to power, viewed in retrospect as she tells the history to Philip’s clone Mike, as he recovers from surgery. It’s about what she sacrificed to become powerful—and, at the same time, how that past comes to haunt the challenges she faces toward the end of her life.
I hope you check out Martiniere Stories and Justine Fixes Everything! And, hopefully, by November I’ll be able to announce the rerelease of The Netwalk Sequence.