• Featured Novel: 'The Extraction List' by Renee Meland

    Renee N. Meland's dystopian science fiction thriller, The Extraction List, is set in an America which is suffering a violence epidemic among young people. The Parental Morality Law is passed which allows the government to "extract" children from homes in which the parents don't meet certain criteria. The woman who wrote the law finds out that Karma is not her friend when a government official shows up on her doorstep ready to takeher fifteen-year-old daughter Riley away from her. This sends them on a journey out of the country with the help of a gifted killer who now makes his living smuggling families out of America. Will they make it out or will mother and daughter see their family torn apart?

    When Meland was flipping through channels a couple of years ago, she found a documentary which she watched for five seconds. In it, a small child was singing a song filled with bigotry, and he was singing it with his mother. Her first thought was, "That horrible woman should not be allowed to raise a child.That got her thinking...what if that really happened? Who would decide what makes a "good" parent? What would the consequences be of having a law that allowed the government to decide (to an extreme level, way beyond the reach of Child Protective Services) who was allowed to raise their children? The Extraction List was the result of that documentary.

    Interview with Renee Meland

    Does Extraction's themes reflect your views on American society as a whole?

    I would say in some ways yes. The economic collapse in the novel starts with businesses going overseas because government regulations are so overreaching in America that they can't afford to do business there anymore. Of course I'm not saying there should be no regulations, but I think, like in all things, if you don't find a balance, you're going to tip over. In The Extraction List, America tips over in a big way. Maybe in the rest of the series, we will see if it can right itself again.

    How does the Parental Mortality Law affect the lives of your characters?

    The Law affects all of them in completely different ways. Riley, the fifteen-year-old narrator, watches her mother become a huge star in the political world, only to realize that her dream of helping children has been manipulated into something ugly. She watches her classmates get taken straight out of the classroom, many of whom she has met the parents and sees them as really good people. She probably realizes that there's something wrong before anyone. Cain came from a completely different standpoint. We learn in the novel that he came from an abusive home, and would watch Riley's mother on the news as she talks about the Law and how it's going to save people like him. Her mother becomes his angel and he spends his childhood waiting for her to come rescue him. The ironic part is that his father had fit every part of the parental criteria, and since no one knew about his abuse, his angel was never going to come.

    It sounds like The Extraction List is dark and violent. Does this novel reflect a lot of the experiences described in the documentary that you mentioned?

    I only watched the documentary for a few seconds, so I can't say. That was just where I got the idea from. I would say it's more reflective of the idea that Martin Niemöller portrays in his famous quote about the Holocaust:

    First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

    It's the idea that (at least in my opinion) sometimes people tend to turn a blind eye to what is happening around them until it affects them directly. As the Parental Morality Law grows and grows in the novel, more and more parents are targeted, until virtually everyone is guilty of some violation of the "parental criteria" laid out by the government.

    The gifted killer, Cain Foley, sounds fun. Why do you think readers would find him interesting?

    He is the badass that you root for and weep for. He's tormented with guilt from what he does to survive, but he has this heart that allows him to spend his life rescuing children.

    How do you describe the violence in your work?

    Some of the
    violence is fairly detailed, but I wouldn't say it comes across as gory. It's more "how-do-I-say-he-slit-the-man's-throat-and-make-it-pretty?"

    How did Neal Shusterman's Unwind Series influence your craft?

    Oh gosh I can't say enough good things about it. The main influence though was that it helped me realize I needed some sort of path toward destruction in the novel. I didn't want to just say "This is how America is right now. Accept it as reality." I wanted to give the reader a look at how it got there. Like he did in his books, he gave a plausible framework for his story, which made it all the more frightening.

    Why did you decide to expand what you originally planned as two books into a larger series?

    I fell in love with the story and the characters, and realized there was so much more I could do with it. There were so many different directions I could take both Riley and Cain that I felt like I'd be losing out if I stopped at two books. Also, there were some additional characters that are introduced in book 2 that I knew I wanted to do more with. I didn't want to leave any of these people behind.

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