Tag Archives: Liam Card

The Ability to Improve Humanity | Review of “STOPGAP” by Liam Card (2016) Dundurn Press

Stopgap

Imagine if you had the power to improve humanity – everybody on Earth – all at once, would you do it? And are you certain that  thing you would do would actually improve humans? Hmmm. Quite the quandary. That is the premise that Liam Card brings forward in his book STOPGAP.

Page 8

For much of my abbreviated life on Earth, the relationship I had with death was a inconsistent as it was mystifying. As a boy, attempting to wrap my mind around the unflinching laws of nature seemed the most unnatural of tasks – a mental decathlon resulting in total upheaval versus that of order and balance. Suddenly, life no longer came with a guarantee on the packaging. Life was something that could be lost. And not lost like an action figure or a baseball over the fence. Not like a scarf or rogue winter glove that could find its way into the lost and found. Life was now something that could be permanently unaccounted for. No tricky coin slot for second tries. No chairlift up for another wild run at it. On any given day, one could happen to be with out it.

Dead.

Yet, dead is what Luke Stevenson finds himself in. This simple jeweler who was trapped in a frustrating marriage should have been granted a simple afterlife. Yet, as a ghost, he is put in charge to mentor Safia, an angry teenager who died a violent death. But Safia’s powers go beyond what any other ghost can do – actually interfering with the living to the point of killing them – and Luke becomes ensnared in Safia’s plans to rid the world of violent acts between humans.

Pages 101-102

“I’d like to know why my involvement and service is required before you go on your self-justified killing spree.”

“First, let me tell you about Operation Stopgap,” she said. “The world has been able to operate as it has for far too long. Too often, those who harm or kill others walk away with little to no punishment to speak of, and to be clear, I do not consider time behind bars or life in prison to be justice. Clearly, then the criminal justice system in place is not working, nor is it terrifying enough to deter a person from committing atrocities. The world needs something to close the gap between violent crime and punishment. Thus, I present to you our operation. Anyone caught in an attempt to commit a malicious act toward another human being with the clear intent to maim, murder, or cause sever bodily harm is considered guilty, as per the mandate of Operation Stopgap. Upon identification of the Thought Marker, that individual is to be executed before the act of violence can be committed. Luke, this is where you come in. I cannot be gathering information to process. I need you to collect the data. I need you to chart the thought patterns of malicious intent and rank those individuals according to Thought Markers and the time horizon of the event taking place,” she said, and she showed me exactly how to do that. “You send me the coordinates of Thought Markers, and I will be racing around the world, protecting the innocent. It’s that simple.”

“You don’t think any of this is wrong?”

Card has a unique writing style perhaps coming from his background in film. His descriptions are short, quick, descriptive and vivid. And  that works well for a plot dealing with abstracts from visions of the afterlife. Trying to understand something we haven’t truly experience can be hard to explain, but Card does give us a suggestion of what might lay beyond.

Open-minded or closed, agnostic or fundamentalist, no one is prepared for the Post-Death Line. And being unprepared is without fault. As humans, the one thing we are all guilty of is living in the world. You can’t pick the continent or country of your parents, nor can you pick their belief system. We become bombarded with right and wrong from an early age. We are hammered into form like a blacksmith shapes wrought iron, and generally, we do out best to fit in with the herd. We become consumed by stories and promises and drink it all in. There is power in words and in numbers. We remove ourselves from what’s real and hang on to what sounds good.

The Line gets all of this sorted rather quickly and efficiently.

Here’s how it works:

Imagine the impossibly long lines at customs after an international flight or two has landed. Lines chock full of people from varying countries and creeds, all ripe with unique experiences and stories to tell. Imagine each line running parallel to one another and place tens of thousands of people in each row. Now arrange those lines as if they are the steel spokes on a bicycle wheel, attached to a centre core.

Where the spokes meet the core is where the Bookkeeper exists.

Many of him, actually.

Copies of him, shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand, like a string of paper dolls. And the Bookkeeper stands there, receiving the recently deceased after they have made their way to the Post-Death Line.

STOPGAP is certainly a unique and interesting book. It causes a reader to ponder and wonder not only about life after death but the notions of right and wrong. In short a good read.

*****

Link to Dundurn Press’ website for STOPGAP

Link to a Q&A Liam Card did for me about STOPGAP – “For me, this novel was born out of my frustration watching the news and reading the paper every day”

“For me, this novel was born out of my frustration watching the news and reading the paper every day” | Q&A with writer Liam Card

Busy people sometimes make the best storytellers. Liam Card is one such person. Usually involved in the field of movie production, he does divide his time to allow for writing. As his new novel STOPGAP is about to be released, Card took a few minutes in an airport waiting area to answer a few questions for me.
1) First off, can you give a bit of an overview of  STOPGAP?
LOGLINE: In an attempt to rid the world of all violent crime, a recently deceased ghost becomes the most notorious killer in history.

SHORT SYNOPSIS: For Luke Stevenson, an otherwise simple afterlife has become catastrophic. He’s been paired to mentor Safia, an angry teenage girl who recently died a violent death. Safia can not only affect the living – unheard of among ghosts like them – but can actually end human lives. With the best intentions, Luke becomes ensnared in her operation to rid the world of all violent crime.

With Luke’s help, Safia prevents acts of violence before they occur, leaving the world in a state of joy, shock, panic, and looking for answers as the body count rises. Perhaps Safia has made the world a safer place. However, when her plan begins a terrifying evolution, Luke must find a way to derail it, as billions of lives hang in the balance. 

2) What inspired you to write STOPGAP? Was there any research involved with writing the book?
One of my creative writing professors at the University of North Carolina told me that writers should write about topics surrounding their frustrations with the world around them. For me, this novel was born out of my frustration watching the news and reading the paper every day. I find it disgusting how terribly we continue to treat one another on this planet, and the justice system in place doesn’t seem to deter violent criminals enough to see these horrible acts go away in the near future. So, as a writer, you sit in that anger. You sit in that frustration. You recognize how you feel about it and then start to run scenarios. I challenged myself to create a situation whereby acts of violent crime would cease to exist. That’s it. Enough. People can’t hurt each other anymore. Now, what does that look like?
After much trial and error, I realized that the imagined situation would have to be due to a higher form of policing. Said differently, I reached the conclusion that a world with no violent crime would only be possible if humans couldn’t follow through with the act, itself. What I required was something, or someone, to intercept these acts before they could take place. Once that was set in stone, the real work began. Honestly, I must have drawn up two or three dozen scenarios before landing on the one that is now in print. I was able to find my story and began constructing the rules of the afterlife (which the story would hinge on for my scenario to play out). This wasn’t a research-heavy novel, unlike my last one – whereby I was writing a first-person medical genius trapped in a plumbers career. This higher concept novel required running constant checks and balances to ensure that I hadn’t broken any of the rules I had created in giving birth to the idea. It was an entirely different process that I truly enjoyed.
 3) Are you planning to do a reading tour with this book? If yes, are there any dates/events that you are looking forward in doing?
I’m not sure if the publisher has a reading tour in the works. It would be a tremendous amount of fun, but I think the focus is to try and get the novel into several book festivals and hopefully ride a wave of momentum if there is one to ride. It’s difficult to plan whether a novel is going to be a success or not. That said, if it happens to catch fire, the publisher and I will be ready to get out there and take advantage of the momentum.
Like the last novel, I will be doing a number of Toronto-based bookstores, Toronto Library book signings and Q&A’s.
 4) Do you feel your writing is the same or has it changed since Exit Papers from Paradise?
Writing, like anything, is a process of improvement. I learned a lot from my first novel and carried those hard-learned lessons into STOPGAP. Where I feel like I have a strong sense of character, I spent a lot more time on ‘story’ for novel number two and making sure (like a screenplay) that the story followed a bit more of a classic path vs. something a bit more experimental.
 5) You mentioned in an earlier Q&A that Exit Papers from Paradise was in development for a feature film. Did that ever come to pass?
Exit Papers From Paradise is in development for a feature film. Over the past three years I have been working with a producer adapting it from the novel to a screenplay. It has been a very challenging experience, but I feel that we are closer than ever. The producer and I are now getting to the point where we are confident enough in the adaptation that we can enter the next phase of film development: Polish and Packaging. Here, we will seek to attach a noteworthy director and (if successful) polish the script based on the director’s notes. Film is an entirely different beast, but I love that medium of storytelling as much as writing novels. That is for sure. It would be one of life’s thrills to see the character of Isaac Sullivan come to life on screens across the country and beyond. Also, Exit Papers is a story that I think many people can connect and identify with. In short, Exit Papers explores the gap between the person you are and the person you think you should be.
 6) Are you working on anything new right now? If yes, are there details you care to share?
Right now, I am totally focused on the adaptation of Exit Papers from Paradise. I have a few ideas kicking around for novel number three that will only take shape once the screenplay is under control and I can give a new idea the time and focus that it deserves.
 7) In your last Q&A you mentioned you admired Kurt Vonnegut and Irvine Welsh. Are there any new writers or books that you have read recently that you admire?
I am a huge fan of Craig Davidson. I love Chuck Palahniuk and was blown away by (both) Damned and Doomed. These two writers are masters of the craft and I would love to be at their level someday.
******

Pondering the Frustration in our Middle-aged Lives | Review of “Exit Papers from Paradise” by Liam Card (2012) Dundurn Press

We have all spend sleepless nights pondering what we have done in our lives. “What could we have become if opportunity X had only happened to us when we reached station Y.” We tossed and turned and looked ourselves in the mirror in the morning wondering if we still have time to do something with meaning or are we delusional in our dreams. That is the thought process Liam Card has his protagonist go through in his brilliant novel Exit Papers from Paradise.

Page 9-10

You are a plumber, Isaac.

A plumber in Paradise. That is an oxymoron. No, that is an oxymoron on steroids and, of those steroids, most likely Winstrol-V. That oxymoron is not passing a urine test. That oxymoron rebuilds damaged cells faster and can train harder than other oxymorons. That oxymoron suffers from rampant acne, increased aggression, and testicular atropy. Still, no matter how often that oxymoron sticks a needle in its ass, it remains both a tragic and accurate description of my role and location on this planet.

But the dozens of online IQ tests I’ve completed tell me that I, in fact, am quite capable of handling a college-level, pre-med curriculum. My SAT score placed me in the ninetieth percentile. What kind of loser takes the SATs in his thirties? Pathetic. I am, apparently. I’m the loser who took them in his thirties. Proud and ready to secure my notch on the SAT measuring stick, I sat with two hundred seventeen-year-olds battling oily skin who couldn’t give a shit about their scores and who lacked the capacity to appreciate their opportunity. Unable to understand what it felt like to take the test at my age or what it felt like to be on the receiving end of their confused dirty looks.

More resentment to add to my toxic pile.

Card has tapped into a universal feeling with his character Isaac Sullivan. He is a 35 year-old plumber living the small town of Paradise, Michigan. While he was forced to take over the family business at the end of high school, Isaac never really gave up on his dream to attend medical school. He has read every textbook on medical science available to him and practises “surgery” on the wildlife around his house.  But now Isaac has decided follow his heart and apply to school. He knows his decision will be unpopular with people around him but we learn through the narrative of the story, he doesn’t care what people think anymore.

Page 79-80

“Here’s what you do, Isaac,” he says. My father wipes his mouth with the sleeve of his plaid shirt after uttering the preamble to some sage advice. Tiny pieces of food are still caught in his salt-and-pepper beard, post-wipe. Tell him. No let him finish his thought. Dad pauses then takes a long pull from his can of Miller High Life. Obviously, the advice hadn’t completely hatched, and he is now in the process of editing it as he chugs. One of his oldest tricks.

He enjoys Saturday brunch with me. I think he does. I love it which is crazy. I shouldn’t. And the man has to be sick of eating the same thing every weekend. Prepare something different for him then. Try an omelette, for Christ sake. No. It’s tough to screw up bacon, scrambled eggs, sausage, and toast, and the punishment of his complaints are not worth the culinary risk of preparing something new. At least change up the dessert. Why? Because apple boats are boring as all hell and should not constitute dessert.

The chugging has ceased.

Here comes the advice, which historically has been the parental equivalent of an oil spill. Give him the benefit of a doubt.

I’m all ears.

Small droplets of beer have decided to hang out with the crumbs in his beard. It’s all I can focus on. Reach across with your napkin and clean them off. No, he will tell me that I am acting like a woman. Focus, advice is coming. Look interested. There they hang, like tiny beads of water on a spider’s web after a light rain.

“You need to find yourself a woman, Isaac . . . who doesn’t piss you off too much,” he says.  Wow. I wasn’t sure you could pull it off, but you have raised the bar with that gem, old man.

Card does an excellent job of having voices that are both intellectual and vernacular locked inside one man’s head. Readers are able to grasp the frustration of the man inside himself as he tries so hard to get through not only the day but to the next point of his life.

Page 115

November is flying by, like a car through a town without a stoplight, and the tail end of the month brings the first noticeably chilly air of the season. The lazy Indian summer must have enjoyed itself too much in Paradise and had been setting record temperatures late into fall. However, Paradise is partial to winter, and it was only a matter of time before the eviction notice was posted on the door of the tepid Fahrenheits. That sounds like the name of a rock band – the Tepid Fahrenheits. I should start a band. You can’t sing Isaac, and you have more pressing issues at hand. Fine, but when I’m a practising doctor, I will round up other practising doctors, and we be a Guns n’ Roses cover band called the Tepid Fahrenheits.

Exit Papers from Paradise by Liam Card  is an excellent book dealing with an element of the human condition. A must read for anybody who reads fiction and seeks to be enlightened. Hopefully not the last piece of work by this writer.

*****

Link to Dundurn’s  page for Exit Papers from Paradise