This is my post during the blog tour for The Jade Talisman by Alanna Mackenzie. In The Jade Talisman a band of rebels explores a wild, desolate island beyond the borders of an Empire controlled by artificial intelligence, in the hopes of finding animal spirits to join the battle against their oppressive rulers. I'm currently reading the first book The Jade Rebellion and will be reviewing it and The Jade Talisman soon, so watch out for the reviews on this blog as well as on Amazon and Good Reads.
This blog tour is organized by Lola's Blog Tours and the tour runs from 12 till 18 July. You can see the tour schedule here.
I hope you enjoy the post, especially the guest post from the author, and dont forget to enter the Rafflecopter contest if you live in the U.S. or Canada.
By Alanna Mackenzie
Genre: Science Fiction/ Fantasy
Age category Young Adult
Release Date: 30 March, 2021
A talisman. A song. A gift that bends time, and alters the course of destiny itself.
It is the year 2762 in the Empire of Khalendar, and AI Masters rule the civilized world, striving to crush all dissent. But they have not yet managed to quell the Jade Rebellion or its leader, Walter Saltanetska. The rebels have sailed beyond the Empire’s borders to the infamous isle of Vei’arash. Their mission is to find animal spirits exiled long ago by the AI Masters, and return them to the mainland. With any luck, the spirits will strengthen the fading magical powers of their allies, the Western Mages, and join the battle against their oppressive rulers.
As the rebels plunge deeper into the jungle, physical laws are upended. The plants and animals of the rainforest are inextricably linked to divine beings. An ancient shaman-god entrusts Walter with the Jade Talisman, an enchanted gemstone that warps the basic rules of time and space.
The Talisman allows Walter to gaze into a mesmerizing labyrinth of future possibilities. But the visions it offers up are troublingly dark, giving Walter insight into the potential fates of himself and his loved ones. This gift proves to be a crushing burden, and Walter desperately longs for an ordinary life. But there is no going back…
The gripping sequel to The Jade Rebellion, The Jade Talisman explores whether nature and spirituality are capable of persevering in a world dominated by the cold logic of artificial intelligence.
The Jade Talisman – Excerpt
When Walter arrived at the river, the first thing he noticed was the drying racks the villagers had laid out along its banks. The water level was high, and the river churned swiftly across the landscape, slicing through the monotony of the night’s blackness like a serpent winding across the dark earth.
Walter sat down on a boulder near the river’s edge to admire the grace and power of the waterway. Before long, tears sprang to his eyes as he realized he missed Christopher and the days they had spent training for battle together in Tsei’watu. It was not surprising that those memories were returning to him now, by the river—it was near the edge of a stream that he had bonded with Christopher, first learned to spear a fish with his balayan, and discovered that Christopher was Elaine’s brother. Christopher felt like a brother to Walter, and in that sense reminded him of Jonathan. Although Walter had recently reunited with Jonathan, Walter felt as though the new Jonathan was a different man, a stranger whose humanity had been cruelly eradicated by the AI Masters. In Walter’s mind, the old Jonathan of his childhood was a hero who had symbolized the resilience and indomitability of the human spirit. This, of course, rendered the brainwashing all the more heartbreaking.
Walter unexpectedly found himself weeping near the river’s edge, his mind tormented by a slew of worries about the past and the future. Over a year ago, Elaine had been captured by the AI Masters and he had set out in a rowboat to rescue her. Walter had then chanced upon a seer in a tavern who revealed that his brother—whom he had long believed to be dead—was actually alive. His quest had therefore begun with a basic objective, finding his loved ones, and he had gradually acquired new goals and aspirations during the course of his travels.
However, he regarded his mission so far as a failure. Walter had set out to find Elaine, but after reuniting with her he had not been able to re-kindle their relationship—and now, he had slept with another man’s wife, which would no doubt set back his efforts. Walter had also set out to find his brother, but instead he had encountered a troubled stranger whom he could barely relate to anymore. He had set out to rebel against the AI Masters and to lead the Jade Rebellion to victory, but now he was wasting valuable time on this potentially futile quest. Instead of fighting the AI Masters, Walter was wandering aimlessly through the untamed wilderness in search of animal spirits—that likely did not even exist—and a half-crazed shaman-god. The young man shuddered with grief as he realized that the AI Masters were readying their bulldozers to destroy Elaine’s village to make way for the massive diamond mine they wanted to build, and he was helpless to do anything from this small, isolated island in the middle of the Hapakay Sea.
Even if the animal spirits are real, Walter thought, what chance do they stand against the technological might of the AI Masters? The AI Masters had been victorious against those spirits in the past, when they had succeeded in quelling the uprising of the southern tribes and their shamans. Since then, the AI Masters had grown exponentially in wealth, power, and influence.
As tears blurred his vision, Walter spotted a curious figure emerge from the shadowy rainforest. At first, he thought that it was simply the moonlight reflecting off of a nearby rock, but when Walter wiped the tears from his eyes the figure came into sharp relief. It was an antlered stag, with a coat that was an ethereal, luminous shade of bluish-white. Walter squinted in confusion at the apparition, attempting to discern whether or not it was real as his heart thudded in his chest. Although he could not tell for certain, Walter suspected that it was the same stag he had slaughtered several days ago with Ishkode, which had been carved and dried on these riverbanks. Walter chuckled as he realized how absurd that thought was; it departed from every natural and physical law known to mankind. And yet, he instinctively sensed that his suspicions were correct—contrary to logic or reason, the animal that now stood before him was the same one he had slain.
The ghostly stag came closer. Walter watched it in fascination as the phantom crossed the river with ease, wading confidently through the rushing waters. When the spirit was so close to him that Walter could touch it, he saw that it had the exact same markings and antlers as the slain stag, and even had a wound in its neck where Walter had slaughtered the creature with Ishkode’s knife.
When Walter reached out to place a hand on the stag’s back, he did not touch the warm, firm body of a living animal but a cold, ephemeral substance that made the young man shiver. The stag did not move, and simply continued to gaze at Walter with wide, black orbs of eyes which were so dark in contrast to the surrounding white luminescence that they looked like holes carved into a star. Walter’s memory was jogged by the sight, and he realized that the stag’s piercing black eyes were uncannily similar to those of the seer he had met in the Jamestown tavern many moons ago. When Walter touched the spirit, a whirlwind of thoughts, emotions, and memories suddenly flooded his mind, and he became overwhelmed with an intense yet indescribable sensation which could not quite be categorized as either pleasure or pain, but was equally poignant. For a fleeting instant, Walter was immersed in the stag’s world; he was temporarily capable of experiencing the vibrant richness of each and every memory the creature had acquired during its life on Earth.
- Amazon ebook
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“A reckoning. A rebellion. The worlds of artificial intelligence and ancient magic collide.”
The Jade Rebellion by Alanna Mackenzie is the first book in The Jade Chronicles series. It’s currently discounted. You can get the paperback for only $7.99 and the ebook for only $2.99!
- Amazon ebook
- Amazon paperback
Alanna Mackenzie lives in Vancouver, Canada. She holds degrees in History, French studies, and Law from the University of British Columbia. An environmentalist at heart, she believes in using the law as a tool for social and environmental change. When she is not pursuing that passion, she can be found brainstorming the next chapter in her novels, playing Irish fiddle tunes on the violin, and hiking West Coast trails.
You can find and contact Alanna Mackenzie here:
There is a tour wide giveaway for the blog tour of The Jade Talisman. Prizes are US and Canada only. These are the prizes you can win:
- 3 winners win paperback copies of both The Jade Rebellion (book 1) and The Jade Talisman (book 2)
- 2 winners win a paperback copies of the Jade Rebellion (book 1)
For a chance to win, enter the rafflecopter below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Greatest Source of Inspiration for The Jade Chronicles
There are so many differeuitous technology and surveillance capitalism. While my novels project a dystopian future in which AI Masters control information flows and dictate how human societies operate, this imaginary world is not far off from our own. In my novels, the AI Masters aim to control, understand, and subdue humans with the aim of profiting themselves and advancing their own nefarious agenda. In our modern society, technology companies harness our personal data and continually monitor us in order to advance their own darkly utopian vision of a better future. We remain trapped in the web of surveillance capitalism because we find that it is comfortable to do so; it benefits us, by making life more convenient and fulfilling our needs for material comfort and social connection. Similarly, the humans in Crystal City live in a world in which their every material need is met, where they enjoy glamorous social lives and have access to every new technological gadget imaginable.
However, this rosy picture is undergirded by a profoundly disturbing reality – the reality that their superficially perfect lifestyles are made possible through the conquest of other lands and peoples, and the ravaging of the natural environment. The parallels with our modern society, in which smartphones and computers require the mining of rare earth metals, often made possible by child exploitation and the destruction of ecosystems, are difficult to ignore.
And it is not just the external world that suffers by the prevalence of technology in our daily lives, it is also our inner selves. Nicholas Carr has stated in his book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, that “to remain vital, culture must be renewed in the minds of its members every generation…outsource memory, and culture withers.” The vibrancy of our culture and the richness of our mental landscapes depends heavily on the extent to which we are able to preserve our ability to engage in meaningful knowledge acquisition and transmission, critical thinking, imagination, and introspective reflection. While there are ways in which the internet and digital technology more broadly facilitates these processes, by and large the over-dependency of humans on such technology weakens or even eliminates them. And it is obvious that humans’ dependency and addiction to platforms like Google, Facebook, and Twitter isn’t simply an accident; it’s actually part of the deliberate system of surveillance capitalism that exploits our instincts, impulses, and behaviors as human beings in order to profit a few major corporations.
The Jade Chronicles series, the system of control and dependency that the AI
Masters have created is deliberately designed, and not the product of accident.
The water supply in the Empire of Khalendar is purposefully contaminated by the
AI Masters in order to eliminate human memories and dreams, and to keep humans
obedient and docile. The AI Masters have also censored the society heavily,
removed textbooks from libraries that might inspire political dissent, and
replaced these books with their self-authored propaganda. But there is a
further layer of tragedy lurking beneath the surface of this authoritarian
world; the tragedy that the society constructed by the AI Masters is imperfect,
and destined to fail. The AI Masters believe they are doing a service to
humanity by imposing this authoritarian-capitalist system on them, which is
supposed to cater to their every need. But all the externalities this society
produces – negative effects on the environment, on culture, and on spirituality
– make it dangerously precarious.
At the same time, the series arcs towards optimism and hopefulness, by telling the story of rebels who seek to chart a different path for their society. This path is one where technology and machine intelligence no longer controls us, but is once again controlled by us. I think that in order to even be in a position to clearly see this path, and understand how to travel along it, we need to be in a frame of mind that sees beyond the narrow frame of technological determinism. Harvard business professor Shoshana Zuboff has stated that surveillance capitalists have created the strategies that keep us paralyzed, which include a sense of inevitability, helplessness, and resignation. She has remarked that “there can be no exit from processes that are intentionally designed to bypass individual awareness and produce ignorance, especially when these are the very same processes upon which we must depend for effective daily life.” The solution, therefore, lies in reclaiming individual awareness, which is fundamentally, knowledge of the processes that are controlling us. We should also understand that it is neither possible, nor even desirable, to return to a society where digital technology does not exist. But it should be possible, and one of the most important priorities of our society, to reach a point where digital technology is our slave, and not our mast
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