Review for Deltan Skies

Today I’m being a host for an online book tour for Deltan Skies, by Noah Murphy.

This is a very unique and complex science-fantasy novel in which humans, dragons, trolls, goblins, elves, and several other mythical species live in a high-tech world dominated by various warring corporations and mobs. A detective and his assistant struggle to face growing conflict with a parrot-like avian species that has built an enormous crime syndicate in the city of New Delta.

Murphy shows a remarkable grasp of the workings of politics and economics. I was also impressed by the amount of thought that went into this complex world of mythical creatures and their different psychologies and cultures. The book does have various editing and formatting errors, and sometimes the sections of expository narrative can seem out of place, but I still say this author has great potential.

Here’s my interview with him:

1. I’ve volunteered at a parrot rescue, and I also kept a very difficult rescued parrot for many years. I can see a lot of genuine parrot characteristics in your avian characters: affectionate but vengeful and misunderstood. How has your own experience with birds influenced your writing?

Before I begin it’s important to note that Deltan Skies grew out of a novella called a Clear and Feathered Danger I released 2 years ago, but decided to rewrite because I felt the story could’ve been done better.

Now, the entire idea for parrot gangsters can from my experiences volunteering at a parrot rescue myself. Despite the avians in the book are based on macaws, it was actually cockatoos that inspired me initially. The cockatoos at the rescue would escape their cages, steal your feed, stalk you around, and hold you hostage until you preened them. So I though what if they were a criminal empire meant to make you miserable? To get a plot out of the criminal parrots, I added them into the wider fantasy world of Terrall, a fantasy world that I had been toying around with for several years.

When I wrote A Clear and Feathered Danger, I found myself paralleling the misunderstood nature of parrots to a point. The avians were bad guys who wanted to blow up and destroy New Delta because they had been mistreated by society. When I turned the novella into Delta Skies, I emphasized their mistreatment to make them more sympathetic, and have other groups take the role of the big bad villains.

2. What education do you have in economics and politics? Your portrayal of this dysfunctional city seems very true to life in many places. 

I have a BA in Philosophy and Religion. Originally I was going to go to philosophy grad school, but decided that it wasn’t for me so I left and went into accounting for a few years, working while taking courses at a community college. Had the requisite course work to take the CPA exam, but again, it wasn’t for me. Therefore, while I have no formal education in politics, studying accounting gave me a very good understanding of business and economics.

When I set out to create the city of New Delta and other societies in my world, I speculated how they might end up functioning based on a set of parameters, in many ways like a science-fiction author would. By doing this, Terrall becomes a living world as complex as our own.

For example, let’s take New Delta’s legislature, the City Senate. Because New Delta is an ultra-dense city with two hundred million citizens packed into sixteen hundred mile-high towers, elections based on location didn’t make sense. Trying to make districts like they are in the real world, based on population would be a nightmare in a three-dimensional space, especially with gerrymandering. To simplify things in New Delta, senators would be elected in a glorified popularity contest, only needing a minimum number of votes to get elected. This creates its own set of unique problems and circumstances, which also get addressed in the same manner.

3. How do you choose the characters’ names? Do any of them have meanings to you?

Names don’t have meanings to me since I use a variety of different naming patterns. Humans have a Hispanic name with a random last name. This came from Alfonso Deegan, the first human character I named. While I made Alfonso’s name up, I decided to have it fit into a larger pattern of human naming. For some fantasy races including elves and orcs, meanwhile, I use online name generators to make it simpler. For others, I make them up using a general idea. Ogres and trolls, for example, have short one-or-two syllable first names with a descriptive surname, like Trogg the Genius or Borga the Rocket.

4. As a language lover, I was interested by the wide variety of dialects and speech patterns you used for the different species. People who grew up speaking different languages bring different distortions to English when they learn it, based on the grammar of their own languages. Have you thought a lot about the structure of the native languages spoken by the non-human characters?

Have I come with up entire fantasy languages like Klingon or Elvish in Lord of the Rings? No. You’ll never “hear” Goblin Energongnan or Teolian Elvish. I’m incredibly poor at foreign languages. However, language reflects culture and identity, and I sought to emphasize that. Goblin dialect reflects their learned, but aloof nature. They can say very profound things, but their syntax is just different enough to justify dismissing them. It’s not even human languages I do this with. The clicking of the dolphin-like Mer translates into childlike speech. While Mer don’t have the minds of children, they can often act like children in terms of how they approach the world and it’s reflected in their speech.

Full disclosure: I was given a free copy of Deltan Skies so I could do this review. I don’t say anything untrue in my reviews, but I am Minnesota Nice, so I can’t guarantee my statements are unbiased.

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