Children’s Book Blog: Ask the author – Matt Haig on Echo Boy
Matt Haig is best known for his critically-acclaimed adult bestsellers, most notably last year’s darkly comedic alien bodysnatching novel, The Humans. He has already written three highly successful books for younger children, but Echo Boy marks his first foray into young adult literature, and his second into sci-fi.
The story takes place in 2115, in a world in which artificially intelligent human replicants known as ‘Echos’ are used by humans to carry out all the unpleasant tasks they can’t be bothered to do for themselves. When 15-year-old Audrey Castle’s parents are murdered by an apparently malfunctioning Echo, she is forced to go and live with her oligarchical uncle in his futuristic London mansion. Here, she meets an Echo boy who seems to be able to feel pain and emotion in a way that makes Audrey start to question whether Echos are really as inhuman as she has been led to believe…
What is it that attracted you towards writing sci-fi, both for this book and The Humans?
I don’t know. I think we are living in science fiction right now. What we think of as the present is really the past. The future is already here, we just don’t understand it yet.
Which sci-fi books do you think have had the biggest influence on you?
I don’t like hard science fiction. It leaves me cold. I’d rather read the user’s manual for a refrigerator. I like science fiction that uses it just as a tool to look at humans. Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5, and Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451.
You’ve enjoyed great success writing novels for adults and younger children. Why did you decide to write a young adult novel this time?
I like to treat every novel as if it was the first thing I’ve ever written. That is the best way to stay creative. I also think writing for teenagers is liberating because teenagers are open to stuff adults might not be, in terms of imagination.
Did you have to alter your writing style to make it more suitable for teenage readers?
I didn’t alter my writing style in any way. I always try and write in as clear and accessible way as possible. I think the challenge is always to make big ideas comprehensible.
What sort of research did you have to do?
There’s this great book called The Physics of the Future which helped me work out a relatively realistic timeline for when new technologies will appear. Mainly though, I blagged it. That’s what imaginations are good at. Blagging.
Do you think we will one day have technology similar to the ‘Echoes’ in your book?
Yes. I think in about forty years there will be free-thinking robots. Already, the average X-Box has the processing power of one percent of the human brain. This increases tenfold every ten years.
The ending of Echo Boy leaves several important questions unanswered. Do I detect a sequel on the horizon?
Yes. You probably do. Well detected!
Rebecca Davies is a journalist and author and is currently working on a YA fantasy novel set in Hackney. You can read more of her children’s book blogs here
Follow Rebecca on Twitter @RebeccaDavies__
Tagged in: Echo Boy, Mat Haig, sci fi, The Humans
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