Troll Mountain:The Complete Novel(20)
Author:Matthew Reilly

    Many of you will recall that Hover Car Racer was originally released online in serialized parts. That was back in 2004. Now, looking back, I think it was a little ahead of its time. The Internet and e-books were not mature enough then for such a release. Now, however, I think it’s different. E-books and e-readers are now widespread and big-screen smartphones from companies like Apple and Samsung make reading an online story very easy.

    I like the idea of someone sitting on a bus, train or subway being able to download and read a fun shorter story on the way home from work. Or a school librarian being able to read it aloud in class.

    I’m not sure this would work as well with a full-length novel, but with a novel like Troll Mountain, I think it works very well.

    Troll Mountain is a very family-friendly story. Is there a reason for this?

    I see Troll Mountain as an action-fable that the whole family can enjoy. Through the vehicle of a (hopefully) entertaining action-packed quest, for me, it’s about questioning those in authority, social hierarchies, and conventional wisdom. This is something that I think all people, but especially young people, should do in their everyday lives.

    You’ve really written some varied stories in recent years: Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves, The Tournament and now Troll Mountain. Is there a reason for this?

    I can understand why some of my readers would be feeling confused lately! After all, I have bounced from the high-octane energy and considerable violence of Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves to the very adult themes in The Tournament to the fantasy-fable of Troll Mountain. Hey, wait for later this year, when my new novel set in China comes out: it’s a full-tilt pedal-to-the-metal thriller that takes action to a whole new level of scale.

    Honestly, I don’t set out to confuse anyone. I just write the story that interests me at a given time. Maybe I was in a darker place when I wrote The Tournament—who knows? Maybe I was in a lighter mood when I wrote Troll Mountain—that might be the case.

    As an author, as the years pass, you grow and, like it or not, you change. My readers have always been very generous in allowing me to try new things with my books—moving from Scarecrow to Jack West, or trying the odd stand-alone novel like Hover Car Racer (which could conceivably also be called something of a fable) or The Tournament.

    In fact, The Tournament is a good example of me growing as an author. It was not a book I could have written in my twenties. As a tale about the relationship between a teacher and a student, it was a story that I grew into writing.

    I hope my readers will always know that, no matter what the subject, every story with my name on it will always—always—have the “Matthew Reilly engine” powering it along, and that means it’ll be fast and entertaining, even if it’s about a chess tournament in 1546!

    Troll Mountain makes some pointed observations about how societies operate. Can you take us through what motivated you to write about that?

    For me, a good fable should have a positive central theme, something that guides us in our lives. As I see it, the main theme of Troll Mountain is: education should always trump brute force.

    Raf succeeds because he learns. He learns that it’s better to know how to make an elixir than simply to find one.

    An extension of this—for me, anyway—is the story’s analysis of societal structures. Many readers will notice the similarities between Raf’s tribal structure and that of the troll civilization, in particular, how they are both ruled by the thugs and bullies of their respective social groups. This was very deliberate.

    It came from my observations of the world today. If you look at our world as you watch the evening news, you will see that, even now in the early 21st century, there are essentially two types of societies: those in which everyone’s talent is harnessed and where physical strength is not the sole determinant of status; and those where guys with guns rule (i.e. military regimes).

    The greatest leap forward a society can make, in my humble opinion, is when that society’s army pledges to obey its parliament under all circumstances. Societies ruled by thugs and military regimes will, by virtue of their very nature, stagnate and eventually die. Guys with guns do not innovate, nor do they inspire any innovation from those they rule over by force. Whereas if we let talented people do their thing—work in politics, science, engineering, or the arts—society will flourish and we will fly to the moon and back. One of the richest men in the world today, Bill Gates, wears glasses and is of modest build. In a society ruled by thugs and brute force, he would never have succeeded. Smarts should always trump brute strength.

    Tell us about Bader, the human villain of the story. He is certainly a character you love to hate.

    For me, a secondary theme of the book is how Raf learns about human nature and people’s motivations. Sadly, not everyone in this world works for the greater good and we all must discover this at some point in our lives (I reckon it’s better to learn this in a book than for real!).

    I very much enjoyed creating Bader. He is, quite simply, a young man who is totally and utterly selfish. Hopefully the part near the end of the story—where he steals the Elixir from the true hero, Raf, and returns as a hero to the tribe—grates with readers.

    This is because Bader’s heroic status is unearned. We have watched Raf toil and struggle for days and days, and suddenly there’s Bader, who is entirely unworthy, claiming all the credit! I’m a big fan of comeuppance in a story and Bader’s comeuppance was one of my favorite scenes to write. Raf needs an external witness to verify that Bader was actually a coward and he gets it from the most unlikely source, the troll-prince, Turv.

    Oh, and by the way, for those who are interested and who didn’t already figure it out, the illness that afflicts the tribe and the trolls (and its cure) bears a striking resemblance to scurvy.

    What does the future hold?

    Later this year sees the release of my next full-length novel, set in present-day China. It’s big. Very big.

    Beyond that, it’s been a busy time, touring with The Tournament both in Australia and the UK, releasing Troll Mountain now, and also revising the China book.

    I’m going to have a good rest and work out what I am going to write next!

    Any final words?

    The same ones I always finish with: I just hope you enjoyed the book.

    Matthew Reilly

    Sydney, Australia

    April 2014

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