City of Rust – Gemma Fowler

Stars: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

In a dystopian future where the world’s rubbish has overflowed and begun being shipped into orbit. ‘The Soup’ orbits the planet, sometimes so thick in places it blocks out the sun.

On Earth, Railey lives in Boxville with her gecko, Atti, and her Gran. She dreams of winning the biggest drone race on Earth and being the champion controller. When there’s an incident at the race and her drone comes down in flames, she not only loses her dream but has to flee to save her life, into the skies with the Junkers.

While here, Railey discovers that there’s a huge trash bomb that is on course to destroy the world unless ‘The Pilot’ is able to do anything about it. Can Atti and Railey find the answer in time to save the world?

Today, I am really lucky to have a brilliant guest post from the author herself, Gemma Fowler. In this, she is going to tell us about some non-human characters that have really inspired her within books she has read, the impact of which have been reflected within one of her own City of Rust characters.


Ever since I was a tiny girl devouring books at bedtime, I’ve loved non-human characters the most. Like Atti (the bio-robotic gecko in City of Rust), they always get the best lines, and add colour to a story like no human could.  I love thinking up non-human characters for the stories I write; how they’d fit into and enhance the world I’ve created, or what their opinion on the events of the story would be. It’s so much fun!

So here are some of the non-human characters that I’ve fallen in love with, and that have influenced my writing over the years: 

DEATH from The Colour of Magic (and many others) by Terry Pratchett

“SOD YOU, THEN, Death said.”
― Terry Pratchett, The Colour of Magic

Arguably, every character gets the best lines in a Discworld novel, but I always grin when I see the unquoted small caps that indicate Death is about to make an appearance. Terry Pratchett managed to give Death a cheeky charm. Was there anything that man couldn’t do?

ASLAN from The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S.Lewis

“Courage, dear heart.”― C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

I used to listen to a lot of audiobooks when I was younger, and one of my favourites was The Chronicles of Narnia. I loved the world behind the wardrobe, but most of all I loved Aslan. He had a stern fatherly quality to me, and I always wanted to bury my head in his mane the way Lucy did. What better creature to have looking over you than a lion? 

The scene of Aslan’s death on the stone table stayed with me for a long time.  

THE THUNDERHEAD from Scythe Trilogy by Neal Shusterman

“I’ve found that human beings learn from their misdeeds just as often as from their good deeds. I am envious of that, for I am incapable of misdeeds. Were I not, then my growth would be exponential.”― Neal Shusterman, Scythe

As a fan of sci fi, many AI characters have influenced me over the years, from Marvin the Paranoid Android in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, to the sinister HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey, but it’s the benevolent Thunderhead that stays with me. 

The Thunderhead is the morally conflicted computer ‘cloud’ that controls the post mortal age world in Neal Shusterman’s Scythe trilogy. These books have been some of my favourite reads of the last few years and I found the Thunderhead’s constant battle (and expert way it talks itself into making loopholes) with it’s own moral programing a refreshing take on the behaviour of artificial intelligence.  

NIGHTEYES from The Farseer Trilogy, and others by  Robin Hobb

“Dying is boring, Nighteyes observed.”― Robin Hobb, Assassin’s Fate

Nighteyes is a wisecracking wolf cub who is accidentally mind-linked with Fitz, the protagonist in Robin Hobb’s amazing Farseer Trilogy. I love how his wolf’s logic conflicts with Fitz’s more complicated human thinking. Nighteyes lives in the Now, and thinks anything more than this is a waste of time. Maybe he has a point? Maybe we should all think like a wolf from time to time.

And finally, some objects with real personality! (Various)

I love the creativity of bringing character to something unexpected like an inanimate object. These characters might not always have the best lines (because a lot of them don’t talk) but they nearly always steal the show. 

I grew up loving the Magic Mirror in Snow White, and Enid Blyton’s winged Wishing Chair. When I was older I snorted with laughter at the escapades of The Luggage in Terry Pratchett’s The Colour of Magic, and most recently, have fallen in love with a cloud in Tamsin Mori’s The Weather Weaver. 
I’m excited to see where and who my next story will take me to, an eggplant having an existential crisis like Marvin the Paranoid Android? …the beauty is, who knows? 

CITY OF RUST by Gemma Fowler is out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)

Follow Gemma on Twitter: @gemmarfowler | Find out more:

Thank you so much Gemma for your brilliant piece – Scythe is one of my favourite trilogies so I particularly loved seeing the influence of Thunderhead, and there’s lots of other memorable characters mentioned too!

Like the sound of this book? Buy it here.

Emily x

📚 Book gifted by publisher

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