Six million years ago, at the dawn of the star-faring era, Abigail Gentian fractured herself into a thousand male and female clones, which she called shatterlings. But now, someone is eliminating the Gentian line.
Campion and Purslane-two shatterlings who have fallen in love and shared forbidden experiences-must determine exactly who, or what, their enemy is, before they are wiped out of existence
House of Suns remains one of my favorite novels, and it was certainly one of the most enjoyable to write. I don’t remember any particular setbacks or impasses at any point in the process, which is an extremely unusual thing for me, especially where novels are concerned.
The genesis of the book is simple enough. I’d been invited to contribute a story to an anthology entitled “One Million AD”, edited by Gardner Dozois. From my first encounter with HG Wells’ The Time Machine, through to Clarke’s The City & The Stars and the Urth sequence of Gene Wolfe, I have always been in thrall to the distant future. I had dabbled in far future settings with my Merlin stories, but they were set a mere 72,000 years from now – barely beyond the middle of next week, in cosmological terms. The commission allowed for something set vastly deeper into the future, and I revelled in the possibilities. My story, “Thousandth Night”, dealt with a group of cloned immortal star travellers, and featured the large scale reengineering of the entire Milky Way as one of its plot points.
In 2007, I needed an idea for a new novel. A fan happened to email me and asked if I had ever considered returning to the universe of “Thousandth Night”. The truth was that I hadn’t, but his email immediately set in process a chain of thought. Actually, it would be kind of fun to pick up those characters again – there was so much more I could say about their society and customs and universe.
Then again, I didn’t want to be slavishly bound by the earlier story. So I made the decision that House of Suns would take its cue from the events and characters in the shorter piece, but it wouldn’t be afraid to contradict them if that made for a better story. And this time, it would be set even further in the future – six million years. That said, I wanted my two central characters, Campion and Purslane, to be very human and fallible. They had access to godlike technologies, but they were anything but godlike in their outlook and wisdom.