Juliette Wade’s debut novel, Mazes of Power, came out last week. On Saturday, February 8, she read from it and answered questions at Borderlands Books in San Francisco.
Juliette was interviewed by friend and fellow writer Deborah Ross, who is probably best known for co-writing several of the Darkover series books, and writing some of her own in the series. The two writers have been friends for a long time.
Juliette had a full house!
When you are the main event at a look launch, you can read as long as you want to, and Juliette shared all of Chapter One with us. It’s told from one of the three points of view in the book, that of a smart, sensitive and conflicted teenager in the world of Varin. The chapter addresses some serious issues very early — like the uncomfortable increase in birth-defects and stillbirths among one segment of society, the ruling one — but it’s also about three adolescent boys on a social outing, and there is plenty of humor. We see a lot about the subterranean world of Varin, and about Tagaret’s complex family dynamic, in that opening chapter.
After the chapter, Wade talked about the world-building and how she imagines the many castes that make up the social world. She wants to push against the image of a caste as a “box,” a discrete thing, and plans to explore what happens when people born into a stratum with specific beliefs and values questions those beliefs, those values. She didn’t say this, but given the presence a high child mortality rate among the ruling caste and the rigidity of the caste system, it seems to me that she is questioning whether a society with such rigid rules can survive. For the ruling class, their biggest enemy is their biology, and a solution is right in front of them, but to employ it means losing their grip on power.
Borderlands is a great space, and a great champion of speculative fiction, horror and mystery. In late spring (May/June most likely) they will be moving from Valencia Street to an address on Haight Street, which is a building they will own.
My two big regrets about the event are that I didn’t have a chance to browse the store, and I couldn’t stay for signings because I had a ferry to catch. Otherwise, the launch event was a delight.
On the way home, the train was delayed for half an hour, giving me time to read into Chapter Two, and meet a whole new character.