-The final cover should have a resolution of 1600 x 2560 to best
comply with Amazon's guidelines.
- The cover should also "make an impression" in thumbnail size, as this is how it will first appear in the Kindle Store. (If you'd like to get a feel for the exact dimensions, I suggest taking a tour through the Kindle Store.)
- This tale features many contrasting elements and the cover should reflect that in some way: bright ideals casting dark shadows, obsession with the material world countered by obsession with the digital one, violence using makeshift tools (as these societies are completely disarmed) in streets automatically cleaned by robots.
- Since the story spices things up with a little bit of Fantasy, you can do so as well, if you wish.
- I have attached some book covers (and one peculiar gem from Middle Earth) to give you some visual "themes" to work with. These are intended as inspiration and not as constraint, so feel free to explore beyond.
Below you'll find more information regarding the world and central characters to aid your inspiration. Read as little/much as you wish.
- The setting
To their inhabitants the arcologies feel not so much as prisons, as every possible dream can be fulfilled within the confines of their walls. And for more exotic desires there's always the unlimited space of the Omninet (the Internet on steroids), where every sensation can be experienced. "Physical space", however, has become the chief indicator of status, with the rich living on floors converted to landscapes and the "poorer" folk in basic tunnels.
On the surface, it is a very clean and "just" future, where things like global hunger, homelessness, war, and even (biological) mortality have long been eradicated. Criminals in the making, i. e. people with problematic thoughts, receive preemptive treatment at correction facilities. Some minds, however, are beyond correction and for these fellows there remains only one sanction: exile.
Presiding over this utopia is a group known as the Nephilim, angelic hybrids of artificial and human minds that have long transcended the limits of man and machine. They seldom interfere in the affairs of mortals directly, leaving the task of securing the Omninet to the Jinn.
These Jinn are what we'd nowadays call IT-specialists or hackers, but because the specialists of that world often shed their mortal bodies for greater flexibility they have more in common with ghosts than engineers. Also, in order to guard this completely digitalized world, they have to meddle as much with human minds as with machine code.
This brings us to the big baddies of the setting. Where there are angels there are demons and in this world the Shaytans fill this role. These are the dark reflection of the Jinn and very much like their mythological counterpart, they whisper into the ears and dreams of mortals to sway them from their path.
Similarly to the "good" Jinn, the Shaytans are organized into guilds modeled after a corporate hierarchy, with AI's and human minds at the bottom and more intelligent (and thus more powerful) entities further up the totem pole. Each guild is usually led by a council of beings labeled "The Unchained", malevolent hybrid intelligences equal in power to the Nephilim.
These two opposing forces wage an eternal war for dominance, a war that the public is largely unaware of. Both sides use deception and manipulation as their primary weapons, moving individuals and corporations alike over the chess board.
Obsessed with his "Lifescore" (the new world's currency, which directly maps to social standing), Jimmy is very much your average arcology citizen. He never really enjoyed his time in the education containers, but the (forced) expulsion chipped his ego. The universities were the most direct path to more intelligence
and without their "thought modules" Jimmy's intellect is very much sub-average. Not the ideal conditions to become an Omninet superstar.
That is his greatest desire, after all. To rise to the top and become a citizen with a six figure follower count, maybe even a "Mindfluencer" like the famous Sophie Zen? His most private dream (probably even unknown to himself) is to be part of a grand Fantasy tale like those told in the streams. That's why he's a devoted follower of the "Wars of Cardamur" series and knows most of it by heart.
A low-rank "Jinn soldier" of "Magog's Harbingers", Ankaa is loaded into action after a long storage period in his guild's database. A rival Shaytan guild has made a move, goading a terrorist group into stealing one of the Harbingers' most prized possessions: a shard of the Dark Prince, offering near unlimited (digital) power to those who wield it.
Even to Ankaa, who has seen more than an ordinary lifespan allows for, such artifacts are the stuff of legends. Legends that tell of a time when the Shaytans were still organized into legions, not guilds, and fought their battles in the open, with whole floors of "human cattle" converted into "slave armies".
Nevertheless, the prospect of rising through the guild's ranks is enough for Ankaa to accept his latest assignment: to perform advance recon before the guild mobilizes its forces. He even cherishes the opportunity to prove himself, for while he enjoys the favor of Magda, one of the guild's Unchained, he has caught many an envious gaze from other members. Some voices have even begun to call him "Magda's son", a great insult amongst beings that have shed all mortal ties.
Consumed by hate for modernity (rooted in his mortal past), Ankaa has dissected many "souls", his ultimate goal being the destruction of the Nephilim, or "the burning of the heavens" as he'd put it. His competence is only matched by his arrogance. The search for answers finally leads Ankaa to the Verona park, and when
he crosses paths with Jimmy, he quickly adopts the guise of a charismatic demon from the "Wars of Cardamur" series. During the rest of the journey, Ankaa continues to warp Jimmy's perception until the latter indeed feels like in a Fantasy adventure.
While the story throws many adversaries at Jimmy, the primary "physical" obstacle between him and his dreams of wealth is this man. Originally recruited from the steppes of Mongolia and spurred on by the promise of digital immortality, this warrior is part of the "Demonhunters", the "final solution" for the correction problem: renegades who somehow manage to escape the correction facilities or their sentence of exile need to be hunted down and "removed", before they can cause harm to society. To accomplish this, the arcologies have come to rely on renegades in turn, secretly bringing back the descendants of the very criminals they exiled into their fold. Thus savage is pitted against savage, barbarian against barbarian.
Terbish has claimed many heads in service of the Nephilim. With age, though, he grew weary of his bloody work and as he now nears the end of his service he feels a great emptiness gnawing at him. Neither belonging to the consumerist people within the arcologies nor to the world beyond the walls anymore, he has become somewhat of a lone nomad, traveling from battle to battle but without real purpose.
When first encountered by Jimmy, he's on a "search and destroy mission", accompanied by his trusty hawk (a biological drone, of course). This companion is more than just a winged spy, as it is possessed by a mighty Nephilim: Terbish's personal guardian spirit, if you will. Additionally, Terbish can join forces with fellow Demonhunters when faced with overwhelming numbers (as happens towards the end of the novel).
Despite their role as the Nephilim's executioners, the gear of the Demonhunters is of the same ramshackle nature as that of their foes. While wannabe arcology gangsters boast homemade pipe bombs and rifles, the hunters' arsenal is testament to their scavenging past. Drone husks are hammered into armor pieces or primitive (yet effective) clubs, blast doors are cut into shields, industry tools converted to devastating weaponry. Terbish himself uses a repurposed satellite drill, capable of firing projectile-like probes. Other hunters in his company use laser cutters or tractor beams.
You'd think that such freaks would stand out somehow, but in a society preoccupied with pleasure and distraction, Terbish and his crew are more often than not mistaken for "cosplayers" on their way to the next party.
- Technology level
The technology in this setting is very advanced, to the point where it integrates seamlessly with people's lives. There are no big cables and people don't wear bulky headgear to enter cyberspace. Also, there are no cyborgs in the setting as "official" military institutions don't exist anymore and injured people get biological limbs for replacement.
Also, while the human drones are called "drones" they are superficially indistinguishable from real humans (similar to the Replicants in Blade Runner). The only difference is that their personalities are tailored towards specific purposes, e. g. the human drones in the Verona Park know only the park as their world, are ever excited to meet strangers from the outside, and love to spend charming evenings with them.
The famous quote by Arthur C. Clarke probably describes it best: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
Of course, the setting's premise is flipped on its head when its inhabitants step into territory that's not part of their "designed" environments, such as violence.
People in this world are obsessed with standing out. Medieval-style robes (plastered with logos, of course) and fancy hats are quite popular. Also, since the "outside world" remains a big mystery to the people inside the arcologies, all materials from nature have heightened prestige: the rich wear dresses adorned with leaves, have their chairs built from compost etc.
- Scene Spoilers
This is a list of some scenes which could be used as inspiration.
1. At one point in the story, Jimmy is cornered and Ankaa takes possession of his body to get him out of the situation.
2. Although Jimmy actually dislikes drones, Ankaa manages to get him to the point where the damsel he's supposed to steal reminds him of a princess from the "Wars of Cardamur" series. There's even a spark of romance, as Jimmy accepts the drone's offer to have a dance with her. Of course, right afterwards sh***t hits the fan.
3. The final showdown is a massive free for all shoot-out in a replica of the Coliseum: terrorists and citizens possessed by rivaling Jinn (good and bad) duke it out in the sand, and the Demonhunters also arrive in a captured shuttle to clean up.