Books and Films Where the Protagonist Dies

Following on from an interesting discussion I was having a few days ago, I’ve been thinking about stories where the key protagonist dies at the end of the book. Always a controversial way to end a storyline, it can be downright book-at-the-wall territory.

I guess it comes down to what you are looking to get out of the books and films you read. If you are looking for the classic hero’s journey, losing that character – that proxy vehicle of your hopes and dreams – can be downright distressing. Then again, if you are motivated by unconventional plots and enjoy a surprise ending then it might be a pleasant experience of difference – ‘Well wasn’t that clever?’

I’ve been wracking my brains to think of books where this happens, but a number of films immediately came to mind, such as American Beauty and Sin City (where the cop – Harrigan? – kills himself at the end to save Nancy). As it happens, I did read Mark Lawrence’s ‘Emperor of Thorns’, last in his three books series. If you have not read this and want to – LOOK AWAY NOW! In the third book the narrator Jorg (and this is all first person) kills himself so that he can find and save his dead older brother in the worlds beyond (and save the world). The final sections are written by a ‘data-ghost’ of Jorg created by the ‘machines of the builders’.

In terms of plot construction and narration, it’s a tricky balance, trying to withhold enough information so the end is not telegraphed. I guess this is in the territory of the ‘unreliable narrator’.

Although I don’t really enjoy these types of endings, as long as the central character stays true to their initially sketched nature and goals, I’m willing to accept them.

So where do you come down in the debate? Can anyone out there think of a book where the narrator dies?

PS: On 9th and 10th November I’ll be at Brisbane Supanova with a whole bunch of copies of Calvanni, Scytheman and Sorcerer, hot off the press. Come and say hello.

You can also find them at on-line retailers like Amazon.

 New Calvanni CoverScytheman CoverSorcerer Cover

Reusable Rockets One Step Closer

Hey, did I mentioned the three books in my Jakirian Cycle are out:)

New Calvanni CoverScytheman CoverSorcerer Cover


For a while now Elon Musk’s Space X has be busily working away at developing a reusable rocket system, with both a first and second stage that can be reused with hours of return.

The Grasshopper rocket is the test vehicle for the reusable first stage. Earlier in the year this reached a height of 325m and then touched down again. In its latest test flight on October 7,  the Grasshopper reached a height of 744m and landed right back down on the launch pad. It’s an awesome thing to see. Check out the footage, which was captured by a remote controlled hexacopter stationed in the sky. The rocket lands on a dime. Amazing control.

Hey, Elon Musk, can I come work for you? I’m a real engineer, honest.

OK. Back to reality.

The plans are to continue to extend the height at which the Grasshopper stops and returns to the launch pad.

In the meantime, Space X has progressed the other part of the proposed testing regime by performing the first test on a returning Falcon 9 first stage booster. The Falcon 9’s engines were re-lit twice on the way down during the September 29 test flight from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The two burns eased the vehicle’s return to Earth, where it eventually splashed down over the Pacific Ocean.

The Falcon 9 v1.1 carried Canada’s CASSIOPE space-weather satellite and three smaller spacecraft to orbit. As its first stage fell back to Earth, the secondary test program was initiated.

The first burn ( where three engines were ignited for supersonic retro propulsion) enabled the returning first stage to survive atmospheric re-entry without burning up. The second burn (with a single engine) went well, although the splashdown was a little harder than planned due to a roll developed by the returning vehicle.

Exciting stuff, and right in line with Space X’s stated development path. The company now believe they have ‘. . . all the pieces to achieve a full recovery of the boost stage.’

One step closer to a true reusable rocket and a system with will get us ‘up there’ at last:)

Creating a New World

I’m still excited about my Jakirian Cycle hitting the real world. All three books – The Calvanni, Scytheman and Sorcerer – and now available through a host of on-line retailers including Amazon (For Sorcerer be sure to put “Chris McMahon Sorcerer” into the search engine) . Ebook versions of all three books are currently in the works and should be available from November.

New Calvanni CoverScytheman CoverSorcerer Cover

I’m proud of the way the whole world came together. It has been with me for a long time, and it’s more satisfying than I can say to finally get my Jakirian universe out there. Thanks to all the patient readers of the 2006 edition of The Calvanni, who have waited some time to see what happens in Scytheman and Sorcerer.

The world of Yos was my first major foray into building a unique world.

Around the time I was dreaming up this world, I was reading David Attenborough’s Life on Earth. I think it was that beautiful presentation of evolution that drove a lot of my early work on Yos.

I thought a lot about the creatures and the races, and how they had come to fit into the ecological niches that existed on the world. All of it was driven by the unique astronomy. The world of Yos orbits two suns (OK for the astronomy buffs, technically the centre of mass of the two-sun system). The red sun, which provides only a fraction of the solar input of the yellow sun, regularly eclipses the yellow sun, causing Storm Season. A period initially of intense cold, followed by – you guessed it – violent storms as the world rapid heats up again. This regular period of intense cold gave rise to various evolutionary coping mechanisms.

There were two main routes. Warm-blooded surface mammals who remained active during this time developed the Heat – an accelerated metabolism that provided warmth, but at the expense of the body’s resources. Modern humans on Yos try to resist the pull of the Heat during Storm Season – the time of the red sun Uros. It can keep you alive, but at the loss of control. In the dangerous world of Yos, the overconfidence and loss of inhibition that comes with the Heat can be a deadly weakness.

The second coping mechanism was to get underground. Birds and other animals evolved to be able to dig burrows they could use to ride out the cold. Others went even further, living more and more of their span under the ground. This eventually gave rise to a parallel evolutionary path that existed in the extensive caverns of the Yos. Creatures such as the drakons with their hot acid breath, delved deep into the bedrock, paving the way for others (their prey). Bats were great winners in the evolutionary race. The bounty of the forests of the Yos was drawn down into the caverns, where a whole ecology of luminescent fungi developed, using nutrients from the upper world. Other creatures evolved to eat the fungi – herd animals that never saw the light of the suns. And then came their predators.

Cousins of man – the Eathal – adapted for the caves. They developed acute hearing and a form of echo-location, as well as sensitive eyesight.

Then came new settlers to the upper world, clearing the forests – inadvertently destroying the world below as they robbed the bats of their bounty. And so the ancient enmity between the Eathal and Man was born. . .

Right. Back to world building. Easy to get carried away with this stuff:

One other thing that comes to mind was an idea for the mammal evolution. I wanted a winged race (the Verial), but I wanted them to have hands and wings.

Now in Life on Earth, Attenborough explained how the form of all land animals basically was derived from the same basic quadruped – lizards, monkeys, birds – all had four limbs (and a tail) to begin with. So to have my winged race I needed not only a proto-four-legged, but a proto-six-legged creature. So that’s way on Yos, some land animals have six limbs – or started with them. One example is the narsiit – the winged horse of the plains. It does not truly fly – its metabolism is so fast that when in full flight it needs to extend its wings for cooling, although it does get some aerodynamic lift.  

So all the birds of Yos have two wings and four limbs. In many cases the second pair of legs or arms has become vestigial – I mean who needs the extra weight? But for birds on the ground – or those that need to compete for space in the crowded caverns during Storm Season, the extra limbs really come in handy for fighting . It also means you can shake hands with a bird:)

So what fun have you been having lately with world building?

PS: I’ll be at Genrecon in Brisbane all weekend, so my post replies might be even more weirdly timed than usual


The Jakirian Cycle Has Landed!

Hi, everyone. I’m excited to say that my Jakirian Cycle has entered the real world of ink and paper! 

For those of you read the first Calvanni edition, the two follow-on books in the Jakirian Series are finally here! 

Book 2, Scytheman, has been published in print and is available through Amazon.

Book 3, Sorcerer, will follow within days. 

The electronic and kindle versions should be available by the end of October. It’s all rock ‘n roll!

The covers look fantastic. Below are the covers for the new Calvanni edition and Scytheman, making its debut appearance. If you lay out the three books, they form a city-scape of the old Imperial Capital of Raynor, seen at three different times of day. I’ve hyperlinked the covers below to Amazon.

New Calvanni CoverScytheman Cover

 I’ll have copies of all three books to sell at Brisbane Supanova 8-10th November.

The Jakirian series is Heroic Fantasy set on the world of Yos, with unique ecology and twin suns, where all metal is magical and control of magic is the basis for power. The setting includes fantastical magical artefacts such as glowmetals, ceramic weapons and an array of new creatures.

One of my all-time favourite writers is David Gemmell, so it’s no surprise that the Jakirian Cycle has strong themes of Heroic Fantasy.

In The Calvanni, the cavern-dwelling Eathal have emerged to wreak their vengeance on mankind. The fate of innocent thousands rests on finding the Scion – lost heir to the fallen Empire. The Temple has outlawed the ancient practice of Sorcery. Its Druids dominate religious and secular power, but are ill-equipped to resist an unknown evil once contained by the Emperors.

Scytheman follows on from events in The Calvanni. The city of Raynor is now in turmoil. False-Scion Osterac has declared himself heir to the fallen Empire and his supporters riot on the streets. Legions of non-human Eathal advance across the continent, destroying all in their path. The future of Yos lies in the balance and only the Scion can unite the shattered fragments of the fallen Empire. Pursued by the renegade Sorcerer Raziin, Cedrin and Ellen struggle to stay alive on a lawless continent torn by war. They are drawn toward a lethal contest for the awesome power of the Spear of Carris, where the identity of the true Scion will be revealed.

More about the series next week:)