Chaos Company by Christopher Slayton
Title: Chaos Company
Author: Christopher Slayton
Publish Date: March 8, 2015
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher’s Description: The highly effective team of genetically enhanced soldiers code-named Chaos Company has returned to the United States to be commended for their bravery. While on leave the team finds themselves at odds with the highly dangerous mercenary Liam King, who has been contracted to assassinate President Jennifer Grey. Chaos Company thwarts Liam’s attack, but at the cost of their team leader’s life.
With their leader killed the team looks to Corporal Desmond Striker to guide them in a hunt for Liam. During their hunt the team will find themselves in the cross-hairs of a private military company and have their abilities pushed to their limits. Before Chaos Company finally comes to blows with Liam they will discover that their greatest threat is a leader within their own country.
Possible spoilers beyond this point.
[UPDATE]: This review has been updated due to my having received an older, unedited version from the Kindle Store. I have since read the final edit, and adjusted my review below.
Sometimes it is obvious when a novel is the first published work of an author. I felt that way about Kylie Chan’s first Dark Heavens entry. I felt that way about John Conroe’s first Demon Accords entry. I feel that way about Christopher Slayton’s Chaos Company. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does affect the overall experience…
The Good: The opening chapter is fantastic. Wanting to know more about the Australian sociopath pushed me through to the next chapter. The characters have interesting abilities. Slayton uses the color orange to represent the supernatural, mutative powers of the Company. This provides a vivid mental image that sets it apart from the standard blues, greens and reds used to represent supernatural power in today’s CGI. He blends sci-fi with political thriller and succeeds. Slayton portrayed a camaraderie among the members of the Company was able to provide a back-and-forth that keeps each character distinct.
The Bad: I felt connection to the Australian sociopath in the opening immediately (what does that say about me, I wonder…) but it took awhile to warm up to the main characters. This wasn’t because they weren’t developed or varied, but simply the way the writing style presented them; perhaps it just took a bit longer to understand their primary motivations (or perhaps I just really like sociopaths…). As a result there isn’t anything specifically bad throughout the novel, but nothing truly great stood out for me.
The Conclusion: The abilities of the characters, while arguably familiar for mutations in a team, have neat twists – such as the orange effect. The opening is great. The rest of the novel is solid, but not amazing. Overall I liked it.
If you want to research more on this book, check out these reviews:
In a past Interview with Sydney Scrogham you said you’d love to have your own office with a team of aspiring writers crafting stories together. What attracts you to collaborative storytelling, and have you attempted it before?
Christopher: I have always been a fan of cooperation. I think the idea of teamwork stems from me watching shows like the Power Rangers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when I was a kid. In those shows the characters worked together to tackle issues too big for any one of them to handle alone and that has always been something held close to my heart.
While in college I did some writing for my school’s bi-weekly sketch comedy show. I wasn’t a full-time member there but when I did participate I always did in a room with a handful of people. We would bounce ideas off of one another for an hour or two before writing and the results were amazing. People really loved our work when it aired. I think with a little tweaking of that method and having the right people on board to write with me the results could be incredible.
Thank you! I really appreciate it. The first piece of advice I would give people would be to make sure what they are writing something they have an interest in and love to talk about. If they can’t get excited about their own story chances are the final product won’t be worth reading. My second piece of advice would be to try to map out what they want to write before starting. This process shouldn’t take more than a week or so to do. They should try writing out notes of the scenes they want to create and use that to help them stay on track when the writing begins. Mapping out exactly how I wanted my story to begin and end helped me keep a good pace in writing it.
That’s a question that doesn’t have a straight forward answer. I created most of the characters for Chaos Company when I was a sophomore in high school and finished the first draft during my senior year. But in college I was pretty busy with classes, clubs, work, and having a social life that I really wasn’t able to truly commit to continue writing until my senior year of college. But once I did I was able to complete a full draft in a year while also working at a mental health facility and training for a number of martial arts tournaments.
Oftentimes a final product differs greatly from the intent of a first draft. What have you gleaned from the process of revising your original idea that you would pass on to other would-be authors working on their first story?
I would tell them to not be afraid of changing a character’s motivation or cutting a character from the entire story. After I wrote the first draft I realized I had an entire army of character pitted against the main antagonist! When I looked back at it and realized how silly it was to have all these people struggle to defeat one person. I cut out three members from Chaos Company who I didn’t feel needed to be there and added some additional characters for the main antagonist to work with.
I would also tell writers to try and rewrite the entire story if it does not feel completely right for them. When I did this I was able to create new ideas that I implanted into the final draft of Chaos Company and learned what scenes I had previously wrote worked within the story. This process is also how I came up with the character Liam King. He wasn’t even in my thoughts until I wrote the final draft and now he’s a crucial part to the story.
Chaos Company opens with an incredible scene. You managed to achieve a character who is by all accounts a complete sociopath, yet I found myself wanting to know more about him and what makes him tick. What inspired the opening with The Australian?
I’m glad you liked the opening with Liam King. I was actually inspired by the intros to Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” and “Dark Knight Rises” films. In both films he opens with the villain first, having them display their violent tendencies and sociopathic demeanor. When I first saw both intros I had to ask myself how in the world can Batman defeat someone like that. When I finally was able to put more effort into my book I thought back to those two opening scenes and I knew I wanted my readers to be thinking the same thing when they read the first chapter. I wanted them to ask themselves who or what can challenge a man as vicious as Liam King.
I definitely wrote aspects of myself in the characters Desmond and Vincent, which I guess is why they were easier to write dialogue and actions for than for the other characters. For Desmond I wrote him as goal-oriented and devoted (especially to his love interest Anna.) Those are two qualities I pride myself on. When it comes to completing a task I get tunnel vision and have difficulty thinking about anything else until the task is done. As for his devoted characteristic, I’m actually a pretty passionate guy when I’m into someone. That person becomes what I think about most and I’m always doing my best to make that person know that I’m really into them. With Vincent I took my weekends of drinking and partying and being a jerk at times in college and made it the blueprint for his entire persona lol. I wanted him to be this guy who doesn’t take anything seriously and is constantly making fun of someone no matter who they are.
As for the other members of Chaos Company, I took the name Cameron from an old friend who is actually the cover artist for my book. He’s a pretty great guy to be around and doesn’t care what people think of him and I tried to apply that to the character, but in a more adult tone. The character Anna is your typical girl next door and those are usually the girls I catch feelings for lol. All of her qualities, her competitive nature, willingness to do dirty work, and her attitude towards her friends and loved ones are all things I find extremely attractive in a girl.
I can say confidently that the creation of Liam King comes from a place of anger and arrogance. At the tail-end of the story the reader gets a little more insight into what makes Liam King tick and I think a lot of readers will be able to relate to his view on the world.
Color is such an important part of making magic or other supernatural abilities appear vivid in our imaginations. How did you come to land on orange as the outward representation of an activated mutant ability?
I picked orange because I wanted a unique color that was rarely used in scifi/paranormal stories. Usually red is used for evil and blue is used for good while green and purple are used for when someone is sickly. I choose orange because not many stories use the color to depict what is good or bad. It was neutral, but also violent to me and I liked that.
Oh yeah, definitely! I already have about eighty pages done for the first draft, but I don’t see it being released for at least another year. There’s another story that I’ve been writing notes on for the past few years and I would like to finish that one first before putting out another Chaos Company story. But I will say this about the Chaos Company sequel whenever it is released; it will give readers new insight into the world Chaos Company found themselves in at the end of the first story. The lines between right and wrong will be blurred for them and a few members will make decisions that readers will not agree with.