Z. M. Wilmot was born in Rockville, Maryland, but grew up in Carlisle, Massachusetts. He started writing seriously around the age of fourteen, primarily in the form of fan fiction set in the Warhammer Universe. In September 2009, Zachary (Zack) began working on his own universe, what he has dubbed the “Juxian Mythos.” In November of that same year, for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), he wrote the introduction to this universe, The Loneliness of Stars, his first novel. He is also a huge wargamer, roleplayer, budding esoteric, browncoat, GIRophile, and all-around geek.
Major influences on his writing are H. P. Lovecraft (and his circle), J. R. R. Tolkien, David Brin, Dan Simmons, Vernor Vinge, and Lois McMaster Bujold. Other writers I enjoy include Tamora Pierce, Brian Jacques, George R. R. Martin, Scott Westerfeld, Orson Scott Card, and Terry Pratchett.
Z. M. Wilmot listens to metal (Hammerfall, Nightwish, Avantasia, Sonata Arctica, Stratovarius, Turisas, Lordi, In Extremo, Eluveitie, Rammstein, Rhapsody of Fire, Luca Turilli, Apocalyptica, Sirenia, HolyHell), progressive and older rock (Rush, Kansas, Blue Oyster Cult, Supertramp, Jethro Tull), Irish folk (Lunasa, Solas, Gaelic Storm, The Chieftains, Bothy Band, Cherish the Ladies), and Nox Arcana when he writes. He himself plays percussion (mostly drum set), tin whistle, and bodhran.
He also is a fan of Firefly, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Bones, BBC’s Robin Hood, Invader Zim, Trapdoor, Murder, She Wrote, and Phineas and Ferb.
He likes tacos.
on July 09, 2012 :
Wherever a writer learns to write, the following advice pops up frequently and forcefully: Write a strong opening! Hook your readers! Well, Zack Wilmot certainly has crafted a flavourful opening, many of them in fact. Each chapter kicks off with a quotation, and they do paint some depth to his story of a stowaway. So we can almost smell the slums of Raheera where Jak grew up and from which he manages to escape on the good ship Ambassador.
The story is all told from Jak's light-hearted, first-person perspective and so the chapter quotes do help in sketching out a little of the background. Later on, some of them take the form of flash-forward quotations from a speech Jak makes on his arrival home on Earth. I like that in one way, except that it defuses the 'will-he-survive' tension.
The voice of Jak, chatting away about his adventures, is a welcome change from the terribly serious hard science fiction I sometimes read, complete with its short lessons in particle physics and n-dimensional mathematics. This is not that kind of story. It has much more the character of a pirate story: we get to meet the Ambassador's motley crew, and begin to suspect that there is intrigue afoot. There is plenty of gritty dialogue and action, although there are places where it could be sharpened up a little.
The surprise for me was when Jak and his new friend Ezekiel began kissing. This, too, taps an old vein of cabin boy tales, back in the days of sail when men would be at sea for many months and would miss the affections of the womenfolk. The wide world of good writing must have a place for the expression of all sides of human life, however much some people would prefer it to stay hidden. For myself, being happily straight, I value the honesty of Wilmot's portrayal of a boy's gay encounter and the chance it gives me to step into someone else's shoes for a moment.
As the plot and several intrigues develop, it's plain that Wilmot's vision is much greater than a sailing-ships-in-space tale. The uncovering of a terrorist plot and the way Jak becomes caught up in the action is carefully done. Plenty of twists and turns here. The story is quite ambitious, tries to cover a lot of ground. The use of genetically engineered lifeforms (enough said) is an echo of an idea found in a certain story by Alan Dean Foster, but Loneliness of Stars is none the worse for that.
The technology described in the story is not centre-stage, not painstakingly described, so the humans get the attention they deserve. A little more originality or inventiveness may have improved the story, though.
Quite a large part of the story's fabric explores the much-visited terrain of torture, sadism and revenge. The plot involves several murders, and when Jak finally overcomes the culprit, he says: Something inside of me had changed. I did not want to cry, nor was I filled with despair. I had just done with what needed to be done. I was expecting a little more, after so many of his friends were done away with. So there's that, and the revelation that the sadistic murdered was treated abominably by his parents, and brought up never knowing compassion. That's realistic enough, unfortunately. The author tries hard to portray the way Jak has to cope with the gradual disintegration of the crew and its mission.
As the story closes and we glimpse a vast alien civilisation, we've come a long way with the sly stowaway, and yes, Jak has changed. He's learned some tough lessons and has grown up a good deal. I rate at two stars, tough perhaps, but on the plus side: sensitive, mostly people-centred, ambitious scope, mostly great style; on the not-so-plus: often rambling plot, fuzzy technology, the use of stock-sci-fi ideas, not exploring all the implications of the horrific and momentous events described. But an author to watch, all the same. Science fiction can use a few more authors willing to try new things.
(reviewed 26 days after purchase)