Songbirds of Zealandia

Songbirds of Zealandia is a series of books set in a future New Zealand, where synthetic intellects called Minders, virtual gods who work in partnership with (or, they would say, in servitude to) the remnants of an endangered species called Homo sapiens. 

 

Genetic modification of humans is illegal, but the security forces are stretched too thin to enforce minor problems such as a cult of gene-modified bird people. Now that most of the planet has reverted to barbarism the Minders main purpose is conservation of humanity.

In part one, Rooster is a autonomous-truck wrangler who has a god in his head, a Minder who won't reveal her true name. He calls her Gran. She needs Roo to perform some grisly work for her, in places where the machine minds are banned, harvesting state owned memories from the recently dead.

Roo is content in his nomadic hermit lifestyle, keeping everyone distant, feeling nostalgia for his wild days in a rock band. He has felt the pain of loss, he sees it in his work for his Gran, and he doesn't want to cause that in others. See, the thing is: Roo knows he hasn't gone long left.

 

The men in his family line suffer from a condition they call The Curse--all of them die at about thirty years of age. Roo is twenty-eight and already feeling the chest pains. Someday soon his heart will explode, and his fleet of trucks will drive his corpse to the nearest hospital.

Then he gets the call-- the band is getting back together! He's keen. He figures if he's lucky he'll go out in a blaze of glory, during a shredding guitar solo. 

The band is called Featherpunk. Their songbird is Fae, a tangata manu/ bird person, modified to have the twin voice-boxes of a tui; her songs are as complex and as beautiful as that bird. Onstage she plays the unattainable siren, Roo plays the love-struck fool, and their audience goes wild for their duets.

Offstage, he's still trying to keep his distance. If no one loves him, no one gets hurt--and as he has no children, the Curse dies with him.

Except...

when an old friend joins the cult of the Bird-people Roo has to go inside Zealandia, into the land of the bird-people cult, and he must bare his soul to win the friends trust -- before they both lose their humanity.

The gene-splicing Witch who is the real power behind the cult has her own plans for Rooster -- she needs him alive.

Part cyberpunk, part transhumanist. episode one of Songbirds of Zealandia will be released in 2020. Fingers crossed. (Edit: probably not)

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