Book Jacket

 

rank 5908
word count 12927
date submitted 15.05.2009
date updated 05.09.2009
genres: Fiction, Thriller, Science Fiction,...
classification: universal
incomplete

HOLIDAY

Nick van der Leek

Hugh van Lewen witnesses the heat and exhaustion of a warming world and then, the inexorable wilting of life.

 

In this world there are no more patterns. There’s just chaos.

Hugh van Lewen, an ESL teacher working in South Korea, travels to the Philippines for some R&R. Instead he walks off the plane into a sizzling storm. But the aftermath of the storm propels him into a world of Rapid Onset Climate Change. The islands are swallowed by rising waters as he tries to leave...but the problems on the world's mainlands have just begun.

This is a 'Climate Thriller' influenced by Cormac McCarthy's The Road, though not quite as dark or bleak. The star of the show is the planet's climate which rapidly deteriorates, propelling the characters, Hugh and Stella (a 30-something man and a teenage sidekick) through a panorama of increasing troubles and chaos. Their flight takes in the islands of North Palawan in the Philippines, Singapore, the East Coast of Africa, Madagascar and South Africa, where the story culminates.

It is a grim tale which addresses our failure to appreciate reality and to see things as they are rather than as we wish they were.

 
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tags

, adventure, climate thriller, human interest, travel

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Defragmentation

In this world there are no more patterns. There’s just chaos.

 

Part 1
 
Forewarning
 
 
 
 I've watched the stars fall silent from your eyes - R.E.M. - The Great Beyond
 
 
 
 One
 
 Manila

Incinerating, the moth caught in the exhaust plume gets a final glimpse of the black jet dancing demonically through the heat haze of the cigarette sky. Even as the burnt flakes of the moth eviscerate into the jet stream, the perpetrator continues to press a cold hard body against the smoky air. Far, far below its belly, far below feathery fragments of a falling Lepidoptera, a wide wave of foam crushes over a sugary shore.
 
 
 
 A dark dragon roaring over more waters, the sky around it transforming from stained tobacco yellow to the color purple. Running along the inside of the dragon’s purple painted spine – painted by the light of the sky – was an echelon of people, something like cyclists seen from above in a cycling race, except they had nothing of the organic nature of the peloton. The holidaymakers had placed themselves with machine like precision in columns and rows, like numbers on a spreadsheet. Most of these numbers were asleep. Some were reading, but in Hugh’s case, writing.


 
 Hugh closes the lid of light, with this thought: Most of all, I need a holiday away from myself..  CLICK.  The notebook’s peppermint blue is extinguished. He glances at the passenger beside him who opens an eye then closes it to the airplane’s hollow sounding darkness. The ‘Now’ lasts for a few moments, then slips away.
 
 
 
 A child could have drawn the deep gashes in Hugh’s forehead. His clenched hands pushed down on the computer’s ceiling. His eyes were closed, but not in an attitude of sleep, such as the Asian man beside him. They were pinched shut. Hugh’s thoughts had focused his face into its present consternation. And his thoughts were the clanging symbols of futility. He had, you see, on a whim decided to open a document he’d been polishing for several years, and after a few final flourishes and finishing touches, he had fiddled and fussed, and somehow lost it all. Now, with the edge of the Philippine’s dark archipelago crawling under the ailerons of the Asiana Airlines Boeing, and his two weeks holiday about to start, his entire being ached with pain and futility. The consequence of confirming to overwrite the file had meant he had lost the original. And with that loss, all the sacrifices, backaches, arguments – the entire retrospective – now amounted to nothing.  He had taken a whole, fragmented it, and then lost the fragments.  The story of my life.
 
 
 
 Already he began to search for meaning in the loss. Already he attempted to find the silver lining. As he did so he realized the full extent of the loss. Daggers penetrated his chest. Images swam through his mind. The breath knocked out of him by the storm of emotional chaos that flushed through him now, in floods, torrents, and monsoons.
 
 And all the while the aircraft continued to descend to the islands. The randomness, now, of his life, begin to scratch at him.  The wrecked fragmented-ness of everything began to gnaw it him. An unpleasant emptiness swelled inside him, like a virus.  Like a cascading disconnectedness that infected everything with its innate dysfunction…
 
 If your life fails to work out, it must be because you did something wrong? Trouble is your fault.
 
 He opened his eyes. The crude digital airplane on the LCD moved a fraction over a map of the islands.  Fragments in the sea.  Where these islands once a larger Pangaea?  Is this entropic destruction of land a singular process in one direction – decay, crumbling, reduction?  

If things always decay from order to disorder, how were they ever ordered in the first place?

The crude digital movements remind him of the graphics on Atari games he played as a child.
 
 
 
 He glares at the screen. He finds himself moving suddenly, rapidly,  towards a place he no longer wishes to visit. With all his work stolen from him, there is no work to celebrate. He would have to turn back and start again. Start over! Repeat what had already been done, repeat what had been accomplished! How could he convey it all as well once more? There was that one original moment of reflection, and it can never be repeated! (But, it occurs to him…surelywriting is a process of reflecting on an original moment already past and now recollected for the purpose of massive reflection…)

And to suffer those sacrifices twice? To venture through those troublesome memories, to spend the time negotiating the complex narratives again…Once is enough!  Too much!
 
 
 
 Heartbreak was in the eyes that now blinked in the direction of the notebook.
 
 The aircraft landed, hangars and buildings flashed by the windows in rapid-fire. When Hugh stood up, his body felt twice as heavy. He contemplated leaving the notebook – a burden now – on the seat. He contemplated smashing it on the tarmac under the volcanic nose cone of the plane. He bumped against a passenger and, out of character, did not apologize. He was determined to be miserable. His wretchedness was encouraged by the fact that of the two queues, the one he chose moved half as fast.
 
 He finally emerged in the terminal, utterly defeated, and unwilling to continue his journey. Bored, disinterested, disgusted with himself, he stood as an island unto himself. Disconnected.  A fragment of the passengers group falling away, falling into exile.  Soon he was one man in a room, with just the silent flashing of computer screens, and mounted on the walls, televisions broadcasting CNN. He looked at the television screens, saw they were showing clowns. He stepped closer to see. The headline script read: ATTACK OF THE CLOWNS. Irritable as he was, Hugh stood as close to the screen as he could, looking up. His eyes followed the rolling script at the bottom of the screen:
 
 …police suspect the clowns' water pistols do not contain water but acid…
 
 Hugh glanced beyond the rolling script; saw the pictures of the G8 summit, the anti-globalization posters, the clowns themselves, and the weapon ready forces marshalling around them.
 
 He walked slowly through the airport. It was quieter, even the linoleum floors shone with a ghostly quality; he felt like he was at a portal, a doorway to another world.
 
 The television images revisited him briefly as he sat down. He placed his backpack on the floor at his feet.
 
 Very clever to dress up as clowns, he thought. Police pushing clowns around doesn’t only look ridiculous, it irks the child inside, it spoils the fun. And Hugh instinctively knew propaganda was being broadcast to crush their protest.
 
 The building was now quite empty except for a few dark shapes already slumbering on nearby benches.
 
 He decided he would also sleep on a bench, here, at the airport, and fly back to his teaching job in Seoul the following day. Perhaps he could stay up extra late and get a few chapters done in the first week. If he worked quickly, it would save him time and effort, for he’d be able to draw on short term memory.
 
 But he couldn’t sleep. The mosquitoes feasted on him. After two hours he was sitting in the dimness, other bodies snoring around him. Whilst searching for chewing gum (chewing loosened the sulking mouth) his fingers found a Lonely Planet. He tugged it out, the rough soles of his shoes wedged in the bag causing the cover to tear in half.
 
 He started with pictures, then jumped around, and finally his reading became more focused, more interested. Fatigue had anaesthetized the memory of the lost file. Now sleep was the priority. And second to sleep, passing the night.
 
 Inexplicably, the motionless shadow, which every few minutes turned a page, and made no sound to disturb those Filipinos sleeping around him, stood up and broke away from the family of sleeping shadows…almost without effort; walked quickly out of the building. A waiting taxi immediately pulled away from a line of other quietly assembled cabs, and drove him away from the airport, and into Manila.

 

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Eddexx wrote 117 days ago

I don't think I have read a more 'literary' opening than Chapter One. You have taken so many images and described them with consumate skill allowing the reader to almost taste what your are trying to say. The subject of climate change is very topical and you have made the story a real page-turner.
Expertly written and much enjoyed. Well done Nick.
Ed Marriott 'Sucker Punch'

Nick VDL wrote 1082 days ago

There is something different about your writing. The way it sweeps over the page. It's hard for me to put into words. But when I read your words it's like walking through a mist. Seeing the softness of everything. Yet it is strong. It any of that makes sense.

There were a few point of view switches which I don't think added to the piece. Such as the taxi drivers point of view. He was a minor character.

‘Hugh handed over dollars.' This sentence sounds a bit off to me.

Other than that I think you have a beautiful solid piece of writing. Good luck and on my shelf. C.P


Thanks for your thoughtful feedback CP.

Barry Wenlock wrote 1412 days ago

This is great writing and I had no problem backing you. Best wishes, Barry

Simon Swift wrote 1641 days ago

Love the concept Nik and I am hooked by the pitch alone! Your style is unique (in a good way) and I will definitely be reading on! Happily shelved in the meantime!
Simon

C.P. wrote 1642 days ago


There is something different about your writing. The way it sweeps over the page. It's hard for me to put into words. But when I read your words it's like walking through a mist. Seeing the softness of everything. Yet it is strong. It any of that makes sense.

There were a few point of view switches which I don't think added to the piece. Such as the taxi drivers point of view. He was a minor character.

‘Hugh handed over dollars.' This sentence sounds a bit off to me.

Other than that I think you have a beautiful solid piece of writing. Good luck and on my shelf. C.P

chrisalys wrote 1643 days ago

The concept of this book is right up my street as a geographer and the writing reminds me of Joyce with its colourful, creative, imaginative use of words and metaphors. It also starts with a quote from one of my favourite REM songs, so it's backed! Good luck with it... i have found so many good books on this site recently and for me this is one of them.

mikegilli wrote 1681 days ago

WOW WHAT A HOLIDAY. shelved.
Great writing..I was biting my fingernails from the word go.
I love this adventure. Hugh's character is excellent and the
description and thriller hooks work well...Congratulations.

There´s an Avaaz action day on climate change..Sept 21st?
Plus The Age Of Stupid world premiere Sept 22

Nick VDL wrote 1761 days ago

Some of your chapters are incredibly short. And I see that you use music a lot to define a moment. This works for me as I do the same. Great metaphors. A very easy read. Poppet



Thanks Poppet. Short because we're dealing with a market with incredibly short attention spans (and suffering from ADD0. I don't know about you but I found Cormac McCarthy's The Road hard to read, because you have difficulty deciding where to find your intermission. That may have been his point, to make the read also feel endlessly laborious, but a writer also has to make himself read. Especially if he hasn't been published yet.

kgadette wrote 1764 days ago

Dear Nick,
Further to my earlier comments that previously concentrated solely on your pitch:
Moody, atmospheric opening. Strong character in Hugh, a smart man who won't turn away from conflict. And interesting career choice, the ESL teacher as hero. Love the visual: "a child could have drawn the deep gashes …"
Suggest a more dramatic page turner at the end of Chapter 1.
Given how ecological concerns are very much in the forefront of people's minds, this story addressing climate concerns is very timely. Shelved.

Nick VDL wrote 1770 days ago

Chapter 10

Jeepers Julie - big kiss thank you. Really appreciate you r reading ALL TEN CHAPTERS. Will def have a look at Chapter 6 but as I recall the other side of the ocean was preternaturally calm...and I think the whole idea of knowing a disaster is about to strike and then STILL BEING RECKLESS is something we're all culpable of. Maybe need to reinforce that though. I have actually completed the entire story, although the last two thirds don't have the commitment of the earlier chapters. I wanted to create a sense of a tight ball unravelling faster and faster so that at the end there is very little left. But maybe the writing falls apart to much to claim that this strategy works. Is there something of yours you'd like me to read?

ergi1120 wrote 1770 days ago

Chapter 10

Good News! New York and London are OK! I really like this novella. I don't know if this is the complete manuscript but what I have read so far is excellent and something I would read. Hugh is a strong sensitive hero/protagonist and I cheer for him. The setting is exotic and the plot is universal (everyone fears nuclear explosion). This is a winner I am putting it on my bookshelf! Good Read Nick.

Julie

ergi1120 wrote 1770 days ago

Chapter 9

The tension builds will our protagonist Hugh die? I like how the chapter ends with Hugh asking of "news of the world."

Julie

ergi1120 wrote 1770 days ago

Chapter 8

Hugh is surrounded by crocodiles. Man against the man made explosion and man against nature, two truly menacing predators. 007

Julie

ergi1120 wrote 1770 days ago

Chapter 7

This is an excellent chapter. The fallout from the Hydrogen bomb is explained very well. I have a perfect picture of what the landscape looks like and Hugh's primal Nooooooooooooo. . . . !

Julie

ergi1120 wrote 1770 days ago

Chapter 6

Frightening hurricane, yet Hugh wanted a swim at the beach. I would have liked some of Hugh's interior thought once catastrophe struck to balance out the description.

Julie

ergi1120 wrote 1770 days ago

Chapter 5

This is excellent! The isolation you convey of being alone though surrounded by many people and the resourcefulness of Hugh has me intrigued. I like your monologue on consciousness very though provoking. You write what humans fearfully think.

Julie

ergi1120 wrote 1770 days ago

Chapter 4

You capture the chaos and strangeness of airports and airplanes very well. I can tell you are a seasoned traveler by your descriptions, details and precision. I feel truly transported to the other side of the world. I get a good sense of Hugh's physical presence: his sweat, his bulk the gentleness of picking up the child and moving it.

Julie

ergi1120 wrote 1770 days ago

Chapter 3

You have an excellent sense of location that becomes a character in itself. The scene in the hotel with the prostitute was poignant and touching and the exchange between taxi driver and Hugh about the women of the streets gave me insight into Hugh. I like him.

Julie

ergi1120 wrote 1770 days ago

Chapter 2

This is an interesting chapter. The sexual innuendo and metaphor are nice and gives the imagination something to think about. You write very intellectually: Your reference to Gerard Manley Hopkins. I appreciate this. Whatever you do DON'T DUMB DOWN YOUR WRITING!

Julie

ergi1120 wrote 1770 days ago

Nick:

You write long muscular sentences with precise description and immediacy. I like what I am reading!. I am a fan of Cormac McCarthy's The Road and look forward to reading your entire manuscript on Authonomy. The third person narrative gives you much freedom where to go in the story. Good Choice.

Julie

Heidi Mannan wrote 1771 days ago

Nick,

You are a writer of the creative kind. My favorite. You use very colorful language here. Overall, from what I've read so far, I do think there places that could probably use a bit of tightening to quicken the pace, but that is a very minor thing.

You provoke some unique and vivid images. And I think you've done a good job characterizing Hugh. Shelved mostly for your creative flare. Love that!

Heidi
Turning Red

Nick VDL wrote 1771 days ago

Thanks for your advice...implementing now. Anything I can do?

Nick [HOLIDAY]

KostasAu wrote 1771 days ago

The 6 first chapters are interesting and with some editing, getting rid of unnecessary words, and sometime sentences, it will do very well.

Kostas
Hariklia's Icons

kgadette wrote 1771 days ago

Dear Nick,
Looking at your pitch now, will be back to look at your book later.
Suggest that for the quick pitch, decide on either heat or exhaustion rather than both, especially since you then follow it up with "inexorable wilting of life."
For the longer pitch, suggest breaking it into digestible paragraphs (us readers seem to have digestion problems!).
Break after "chaos."
Then after "begun."
I'd move the Cormac McCarthy reference to the 2nd to last paragraph.
Last line would be "It is a grim tale ..."
Sounds promising. Back to read more later.

Nick VDL wrote 1772 days ago

Thanks Jack...made changes as recommended. Now to yours...

Jack Ramsay wrote 1778 days ago

Nick,

1st Para: ‘glimpses a final glimpse...’? Minor, but it’s your opening paragraph so it needs to be bang on (the rest of that opener’s fine apart from that.) Personally, I’m not too keen on your last para in ch1 (the word ‘almost’ overused; failing as a motif, if that was your intention) but again it's a minor nit pick.

However, ‘Holiday’ is beautifully lyrical in places – great use of alliteration too; good similes and metaphors and the characterisation is coming together rather well – Hugh is a likable chap, someone I could have a beer with (and you’ve drawn the cabbie very well). It’s nicely sensory, too – smells and tastes as well as sights and sounds. Good work.

The whole global warming / climate in crisis thing is a winner, I think; not yet (to my mind, at least) past its best, so good choice – forcing honesty and recognition from the readers. Yup, we’re all to blame. Add in the promise of exotic locations and you’ll have them clamouring.

Well done – shelved. Best of luck!

--Jack Ramsay (Brogan's Crossing)

Nick VDL wrote 1781 days ago

Hi Elinor. Thanks for backing HOLIDAY. I was a school teacher in South Korea so am interested to read your story. Will read and comment soon. Thanks.

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