Please welcome Weston Ochse back to the blog! The second book in his Task Force Ombra series, Grunt Traitor, just came out this week and he was kind enough to answer a few questions about it, and the series!
I can’t wait for the 2nd book of your Task Force Ombra series, Grunt Traitor. Will you give us a teaser as to what we can expect?
We invaded ourselves first. Make no mistake about it, had the Cray not descended from the clear blue sky, we humans—as our own invasive species—would have killed ourselves off within two hundred years. Un-regulated population, pollution, water overuse, and our utter failure to shepherd intrinsically important flora and fauna would have been our crimes. Our punishment would have been starvation, suffocation, dehydration, and overpopulation. Maybe the invasion of the Cray was the best thing that could have happened to us. Maybe the advent of the Cray was our control-alt-delete. Regardless whether you believe this, we have an undeniable clean slate. What are we going to do with it? Are we going to change, or trot out the same old governments with the same old ideas?
—Excerpt from Conspiracy Theory Talk Radio,
Night Stalker Monologue #1343
Benjamin Carter Mason was brought back from the brink of suicide to fight the Cray in Grunt Life. How would you say he’s changed the most from book one?
This is important, because it goes to the origins of our main character, not-quite-the-everyman, Ben Mason. Like many of us, he grew up being nurtured by movies and television and books. In Mason’s case, more movies than books. You see, director Tony Scott committed suicide from that same bridge. Scott, the brother of Ridley Scott, directed such heroic films such as Man on Fire, Top Gun and The Last Boy Scout, all movies about a man who reached the bottom, only to realize they could still save the day. But Mason’s PTSD wouldn’t let him see through the possibility of him ever climbing out of the hole he’d found himself in. Over the last decade, he’d lost so many wars, seen so many things, that they’d become as much a part of him as Tony Scott’s films.
That first sentence represents the elongated moment every PTSD sufferer feels at one time or another that there’s absolutely no hope left. How Mason changed was that once he was given a second chance by Mr. Pink, he realized that no matter how deep one went, there was always a way to climb back out. To accomplish this, Mr. Pink gave him a purpose beyond anything Mason could understand… the saving of the human race. Now finally, Mason could move onto act three of his favorite movies—his own life. He could be Denzel madly searching for the ‘killers’ of his ward, or Tom Cruise overcoming the death of Goose, or Bruce Willis playing the quintessential Bruce Willis, trying not to trip over his bad habits and save the day.
What have been a few of your favorite supporting characters to write?
Having read Grunt Life, you know I have a lot of characters. Each of them has a particular arc and a special place in my heart. I think Michelle is my favorite supporting character. They began in such the same way, but ended up taking far far different paths. Sometimes I feel bad for Michelle, but then she made her own choice, didn’t she.
For those who haven’t read the series, will you tell us a little about the “world” in the books?
Sure. It’s pretty simple, really. The world is our world… or was our world, right up until the aliens invaded. And they didn’t negotiate. They didn’t try and talk to us. Instead, they came in and tossed the human race back into the Dark Ages like it was easy. The speed by which it was done is terrifying, but wholly realistic. Book One tells us whether we have a fighting chance.
Book Two begins six months later, what’s left of humanity still has hope, but a strange thing is happening to the planet. It’s being terraformed beneath us and we don’t know why, or how long it’s going to take. Perhaps the most frustrating part of the invasion is that, unlike in the movies, there is no alien who comes down and explains everything. There is no scientist who has the answer. That’s what makes it scary.
Obviously you have quite a bit of military experience to draw on, but did you do any additional research for the books?
Oh, hells yes! Science isn’t my strong suit. To have even a tenth the brain of David Brin or Gregory Benford would be amazing. Instead, I have friends who are smart. Brian Gross is my main science guy. He keeps me straight. On occasion, I’ll go to other people with specific questions. For book two I had to do a lot of chem-bio research. I studied plants and fungi, and there effects on oxygen-breathing species. In fact, I spent more time researching Grunt Traitor than all my other books put together.
When you started the series, did you already know how many books you’d like to write, or did you just decide to let the narrative unfold and go from there?
Don’t tell the publisher, but I’d originally planned on writing twenty-seven books in the series.
Just kidding. Not really. But no, I’m really joking. Ha. Ha. I knew I wanted to write at least one sci fi trilogy in the Grunt Universe. I have the books planned out for two trilogies, thusfar. The third book is already in the works.
What are a few of your military SF titles?
The Forever War, Glory Road, Starship Troopers, Old Man’s War, Armor, Dune, Lord of the Rings.
Have you read any good books lately? Anything you’d recommend?
Armada was whack! Cline is such a prize, such a stunner. I’ve also been enjoying all of Daniel Abraham’s books, including The Expanse Books, which is written under the name James. S.A. Corey (Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck). It’s going to be a sci fi tv series soon. Can’t wait.
What are you currently reading?
An advanced copy of Nick Cole’s new MMO Punk novel, Control-Alt-Revolt. It’s a prequel to his planet killer Soda Pop Soldier and so far is terrific.
What’s next for you (and Task Force Ombra)?
More world saving. More heroics. And soon, a better understanding of exactly who is doing this to our planet and why.
About Grunt Traitor:
The breakout military SF series continues!
Their spies were among us for years. They mapped our electrical infrastructure, learned our weaknesses, until finally they flipped the switch and threw us back into the Dark Ages.
Only OMBRA and its battalions around the world seem capable of defending Earth from the next wave of attack—terraforming. But at what price can we gain our freedom from these yet to be identified aliens? They’re pushing the human race to the edge of extinction if we can’t find a way to change things. But what will we have to change? What will we humans become to survive this threat. This is a time for heroes. For killers. For Grunts.
Benjamin Carter Mason will be asked this question over and over as he dives deep into the nasty heart of an alien transformed Los Angeles. And in the end, he might be the last person on Earth defending not just our lives, but our humanity.