Following the horrors she discovered in the basement of Sanctuary at the end of Breeder, there is no longer any doubt in Pria’s mind that the Unified World Order is wicked. But convincing the rest of the world will be another story. When it’s revealed the files she’d stolen from Sanctuary are worthless, Pria and the other Free Patriots must scramble to come up with another way to convince everyone to rise up in open revolution before the UWO’s monsters destroy them all. But Pria’s tenuous grasp of human nature complicates her role in the rebellion as she finds herself torn between Pax, her ever-present protector, and Henri, her good-natured friend.
A new scheme to infiltrate the seemingly impregnable UWO machine places Pria once again at the centre of the plan. This time, though, she must be willing to erase her identity, It’s a sacrifice she thinks she’s ready to make, but she has no idea just how difficult it will be.
Welcome to the GTB blog tour of CRIMINAL by KB Hoyle. The title is actually an acrostic:
C is for Commune. Pria and some others go on a mission to Denver Commune.
R is for Remembrance. Pria struggles to remember who she is.
I is for Incriminating evidence. Pax goes to trial and Etienne stand trial.
M is for Making a move. The Free Patriots decide to make their move against the UWO.
I is for Illness. Pax hides a mystery illness.
N is for New friends. Pria makes a couple of new friends at Asylum.
A is for Awkward romantic tension between Pria and Pax, and Pria and Henri.
L is for Love. Pria learns what love is.
Here is an exclusive excerpt:
I wake confused and chilled to the bone. My blankets have slid to the floor off the side of the bed, and the air in the cave feels like it’s dropped ten degrees since the day before. I scoot to the edge of the bed to try to retrieve my blankets, but I hear a gravelly voice say, “I’ll get them. Don’t move.”
A moment later, Henri spreads them back over me, and I smile in gratitude. The lights are dim and everything is quiet, but I hear soft breathing on my other side as well. I look over to see Pax, fast asleep. They’ve both stayed the night.
“How are you feeling?” Henri asks in the same gravelly whisper. “Need more pain medication?”
“No,” I whisper back. Whatever they gave me, it must have been strong. I can feel only a dull ache beneath the fresh wrappings on my thigh and wrist. “What time is it?”
“Almost morning.” Henri rubs a hand over my buzzed hair. A smile tugs at the corners of his mouth. “You’re almost as bald as I am,” he says. “Still beautiful, though.” He leans down and presses his lips to my forehead.
I’m too stunned to say anything, but I shrink back slightly, into my pillow. His familiarity confuses me, sets me on edge, even as it also spreads warmth through me. I glance over at Pax, prompting Henri to do the same. He straightens and, without another word, returns to his chair. It’s identical to the one Pax is slumped in, asleep with his hand on his forehead.
I try to turn over onto my side and find I can’t. Movement in my injured leg is restricted and painful. I sigh in frustration. My back hurts from lying in one position for too long, and I’m certain I won’t be able to fall back asleep.
Henri said it’s almost morning. What will the morning hold? Release from the infirmary, hopefully. Holly’s test before Luther? Probably. If he didn’t see to that last night while I slept. I wonder if he’ll want Pax and me to participate in her interrogation.
I’m surprised Luther hasn’t come to see me yet. I would think he’d be interested in the intelligence he sent me into Sanctuary to retrieve. Maybe he’s too distracted with the files transferred via the hack.
Someone pushes a cart past the curtain of my room, and the wheels clatter over the uneven rocky floor. All I can see of it are the glinting silver spokes. Who else is here, injured, with me? What do these people do all the time?
It strikes me how little I actually know about the people with whom I’ve chosen to identify.
“Henri?” I whisper. “Are you still awake?”
“Hmmm.” He sounds just barely so.
“Did Holly get her wrist treated last night? She’s not in a holding cell, is she?”
“Probably, yeah. But don’t worry. They’ll have taken care of her wrist.”
I chew my lip, thinking, remembering what it was like for me when I first left Sanctuary. “She’s going to be confused, you know . . . scared. I hope I can see her today.”
There’s a rustle of clothing as Henri leans forward. “What makes you think you can trust her, Pria? Isn’t it kind of convenient that she just showed up right before you fled Sanctuary? How do you know she’s not a spy for the UWO?”
I wrinkle my nose. “Don’t do that.”
“Try to make me doubt her. You weren’t there when we were trying to escape. I think she’s telling the truth.”
“If she’s not, we’re all screwed. There are any number of ways she could lead them right to us, and we’d never know it.”
“Stop.” I put my hands over my eyes. “You sound like Etienne.”
Another rustle of clothing and I feel Henri’s shadow fall over me. Then his cold hands touch mine, prying them away from my face. “Look at me, Pria.”
“No!” I struggle, but I don’t know why.
“Look at me!”
He wrenches my arms apart, and for a moment all I see is Henri’s friendly face twisted into an ugly grimace. Then he turns his head, and the dim light glints off a spot of gold in his ear.
I shriek and flail, but he’s holding my arms too tight for me to get away. I fling my head to the side, looking for Pax, but his chair is empty. The chill in the cave bites my skin, which is exposed. I’m dressed in only my undergarments.
“You can’t smuggle a bomb in here without my knowing it. There’s one easy way to find out if you’re a spy.” Etienne pins both my arms above my head with one hand and takes up a scalpel in the other. “I just have to perform a quick procedure.”
He draws the blade down my stomach, and the skin springs apart like a severed wire. The pain is excruciating, unbearable, beyond articulation. I watch in horror as he flings the blade aside, sending flecks of my blood flying across the room, and then digs his hand into the incision. He retracts his hand a moment later, holding a fist-sized metal contraption.
“See?” he shouts. “It’s a bomb! You were going to blow us all up!”
“No! I swear!”
A switch on the side of the bomb ticks up, and red lights start to blink. Faster, and faster, and faster.
“Now we’re all going to die,” Etienne says.
Below is an interview with the author, and at the end of the post there is a link to a GIVEAWAY!
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
There are several messages, really, in Criminal, that I want my readers to grasp, but as an author, I never want the message to overtake the primary function of the novel—which is to entertain the reader. So obviously first and foremost, I want to just tell a good story, and for my reader to be carried along by the story and to have a good time reading it. As far as the message/messages go, I’d say the primary one in Criminal has to do with identity. I sought to answer the question of what makes us human? The main character, Pria, is faced with this question over and over in the story, even to the point where, by the end, her entire reality is shaken by some presuppositions she has about this question. Pria has to discover her personal identity, but she also has to figure out what she believes about the identity of others, and what that means about the human race and her part in the rebellion against the Unified World Order. These are big issues, and things I think we should all think about, even though we’re not living in a dystopian society.
How much of the book is realistic?
I’d say this book is about 50% realistic. Obviously all the characters and the plot are fictionalized (and the concept of the Golems), but I base my settings and my conceptions of the future society off research I did into real technologies, conspiracy theories, my own knowledge of Denver and its surrounding areas, and just basic knowledge of human nature and my thoughts on future trends in society. I could see some of the sorts of things I write about coming to pass. Actually, some of the things I have written about in my books have come to pass already in the years since I started researching them. It’s a little frightening.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
This is a difficult question! Because by the time you get a book all the way to publication—especially when it has taken a long time (as this book has)—you tend not to wish that you could go back and change things. And my editing team does such a fantastic job of helping me tweak things. Hmmm. I guess, maybe, if I could go back, I would make the first act of the book a little shorter (so as to get to the main action faster), and the last act longer (so as to draw out the finale).
Can you share a little of “Criminal” with us?
Here’s a short excerpt from what was one of my absolute favorite scenes to write. It falls about mid-story, and I won’t say too much so as not to spoil things, but this is a scene where Pria and Pax and some others from the rebel Nest Asylum are being attacked by Golems. It’s absolute chaos, and in the midst of it all, Pax and Pria get separated from the others.
My spine grates over hard rock, and then my breath whooshes out of me as we leave the ground. For a moment, I think a Golem has lifted us, but then I hit a patch of gravel, hard, and my head cracks against a stone. With Pax on top of me, I can hardly breathe, and starbursts fill my vision.
The forest lights up with more starbursts and the zip-zip-zip of energy guns.
“Pria!” Pax slaps my cheek. He rolls off me, and I can breathe again. “Are you hurt? Can you hear me?”
The trees are lighting up. It’s beautiful.
I cough and rake air into my lungs. I cough again and nod. Nodding hurts.
Aircraft circle above the trees like birds of prey, firing down on the Golems. One flies low, and a Golem snatches it out of the air. With a roar and a vicious shake, it flings the craft to the ground. The craft explodes, and bits of burning metal and flesh scatter, some of it reaching Pax and me where we lie just below a shelf of rock. I raise my arms to cover my face, but Pax leans over me, taking the brunt of it. A piece of something red-hot lands on my calf, and I kick it off.
More shots echo through the woods, followed by bellows and crashes. The Golems are being taken out.
I struggle to sit up, and Pax pulls me to his chest. “It will be over soon,” he says in my ear. He sounds so assured.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I used to find it challenging to discipline myself to do the planning and research I needed to work out a novel before I started writing it, so that would have been my old answer to this question, but I’ve progressed enough in my career now (I’ve written 9 novels—8 published and 1 on deck) that I’ve found my writing rhythm. I know the drill. I know how to research and outline and plan. I actually really relish all those steps. And I know when to start writing. All of that is, quite frankly, more or less easy. What is particularly challenging is my schedule—finding the time and just fighting exhaustion to get it all done. With four small children to mother (all boys and all 9 and under), a day job as a teacher, my website and social media platforms to manage, trips and speaking engagements to manage, my house to (attempt to) keep clean, meals to cook, and just all the regular things in life to get around to, the challenges I face are never (or rarely) IN the actual writing. The challenges are external to the writing, but they affect the writing. Finding the right balance where I can get all the work done and still get sleep and maintain healthy relationships and good health is difficult.
What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing “Criminal” to life?
Aside from the external challenges mentioned above, I didn’t have too many of these challenges in bringing Criminal to life. It did take me much longer to write Criminal than it usually takes me to write a book, but that’s because I had just had a baby and was nursing at the time. I also battled a bout of post-partum depression while trying to write the book, which didn’t help me to be very productive, but on the other hand, staying actively engaged in a creative project was good for me at the time in battling depression. I didn’t have too much extra research to do because I was just building on the research and world-building I had already done for Breeder. I’d spent about three years prepping this whole series, The Breeder Cycle, so writing Criminal was really just a matter of going back to my notes and making sure I was still on track and following the plan.
Click the link below to be entered in the GIVEAWAY! One lucky reader will win a print copy of Criminal and Breeder by K.B. Hoyle!! Good luck!