Tag Archives: STOPGAP – novel

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.
******