The modern Science-Fiction market can easily be classified as a saturated affair, with most innovation considered tapped and very few openings readily available. To squeeze in, something distinct and uncontaminated by the stale waft of ideas is necessary, and not only by virtue of its title, Tinytown by Derby Gallagher has slipped its way into the Sci-Fi stage. Despite the giants that dwell there, this plucky book has more than earned its place.
With its uncompromisingly dry and dark sense of humour, a fast pacing and a cast of colourful characters, the book spins a fascinating and yet scientifically credible story. Starting in the year 2051 in an overcrowded Great Britain populated by 110 million denizens, the failure to pay a “size fee” results in the shrinkage of the unfortunate to a mere 20% of their original size and their placement in the titular Tinytown, where the shrinkees are viewed at best to be second-class citizens, despite the implementation of these dubious population-control measures by the government. And so enters the long-suffering Tom Flack, flat-out broke from paying the alimony resulting from a messy and legally one-sided divorce to a drug-fuelled and thoroughly unpleasant high-maintenance wife. Despite being reduced to a hero the size of an Action Man, Tom shows himself to be a man of action and campaigns for the rights of the shrinkees in Tinytown, all the while weathering larger-than-life opposition from aforementioned ex-wife and her nauseating brother Lloyd, with just a little help from the marginally prickly yet definitely compassionate Holly.
The book itself is a delight to read; the writing style pulls no punches be it certain characters candidly discussing their drug habits to an adrenaline-spiked car chase, all the while the omnipresent yet omnipotent dryly dark humour drawing for than a few well-deserved smirks from the reader.
All in all, Tinytown is larger than life and most worthy of a place on any e-reader!
Books Are Cool interviewed Darby about Tinytown in particular and writing in general.
1. Tell us briefly about Tinytown.
It’s set in England in 2051, where technology allows humans to be shrunk. People are miniaturised if they cannot pay a size fee. The country’s rulers think this is great – it allows them to divide the country so the rich can live in full-sized splendour while the poor are hidden away. People who have always had a diminished social stature now have a diminished physical stature. Of course, it’s a grossly unfair system but has been established and is accepted by the population as just the way things are. Tom Flack gets shrunk and discovers what happens to small people. He fights back, and his struggle brings him into conflict with his ex-wife, Vanessa, her vile brother Lloyd, and Lloyd’s boss – Moffat P Perculie. Size insurance in 2051 has similarities to private health insurance in 2013 – if you have a good job or a lot of money in the bank, you don’t have to worry about it. But the people at the bottom miss out. David Cameron’s Tories would definitely sign up to Tinytown technology given the chance. Take the vote away from the people you shrink and you’re left with a permanent majority of the electorate. It’s gerrymandering – together with social cleansing – through science.
2. What’s the story behind the story? Why did you write the book?
I felt I had something to say about the world and the kind of self-serving people I’ve met at various times in my life. I also had wanted to write a novel for a long time and often imagined possible futures. I like inventing situations, systems and objects that don’t yet exist. I enjoy not having too many restrictions – like the laws of physics, for example – so I can let my imagination have free rein.
3. Are you a tall or small guy?
I’m 5ft 10in in real life. But when it comes to the big and small people in Tinytown, I definitely see myself on the side of the small.
4. Was it an easy story to write?
I had a rough idea what I wanted to happen in the book but getting from A to B, then C then D, took a lot of hacking at the shrubbery. Certain bits came easy and were a joy to write, but mostly it was tough. Like trying to assemble a car from a pile of parts when all you’ve ever done in the past is drive one.
5. Which character are you most like?
I think I’m like Tom Flack, the hero, but my wife says that I’m somewhat like Lloyd Vincent, Tinytown’s bloated villain. She’s kidding – at least I hope she is.
6. Which of your inventions in the book do you think is most likely to have become reality by 2051? Butt chips maybe?
Yes, butt chips definitely. I would guess something like that will come into use in the next few years. People are always losing their bank and ID cards or having them stolen. Having all that info embedded on a chip inside your body would mean you would not have to worry about losing things. It would also make it easier for authorities to keep track of people.
7. Did you design the cover yourself?
Yes, on a laptop using a mixture of PowerPoint and Gimp – with the help of my 14-year-old son.
8. What are you working on now? Will it be out soon?
I have a few situations and characters rattling around in my head. One idea involves the evil owner/editor of a mighty London newspaper. But I have just fragments really – not enough to form a story.
9. Which authors or books are you reading at the moment?I’m reading two novels right now. The Understudy by David Nicholls seems really funny from what I’ve read so far. I can’t wait to get back to it. I’ve not read any Nicholls before. He’s most famous for One Day, which was a mega-seller and was made into a film. I’m also reading Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland. I’ve read a lot of Coupland before and never been disappointed. He’s such a good writer.
10. When did you first realize you wanted to be an author?
At the age of 7 or 8. But it took me 30 odd years to actually start writing a book.
11. What one snippet of advice would you give to aspiring self-published authors?
Have your own voice. But writing is easy compared with getting people to read it. That is tough.
12. OK, enough of the serious stuff. What are your three favorite bloke’s gadgets and why?
A Segway, a Zorb ball and a hoverboard (from Back to the Future 2). I’m a bit of a thrill-seeker, and did several skydives when younger.
13. Where would you rather eat – at a Happy Eater or a Little Chef?
Neither. Both were synonymous with synthetic, plasticised, bland food and I prefer a greasy spoon where the food is real and made to order.
14. Please describe your perfect day away from writing.
At Old Trafford watching Manchester United, or Twickenham watching a rugby international.
15. And finally, anything else our readers need to know about you?
In real life I’m a subeditor (copy editor) on the Guardian newspaper in London, am married and am father to two teenage boys.
You can buy Tinytown here: