War veteran’s latest novel addresses the trauma, aftermath and ethics of a terrible war

Author Mark Iles’ own experience with PTSD, and in helping other sufferers, informs the character and behaviour of the protagonist in his latest novel Gardens of Earth.

Elsewhen Press is a publishing house that is becoming known for high quality, entertaining yet insightful speculative fiction, addressing real-world issues through a fictional prism. Their latest title, Gardens of Earth by author Mark Iles, is set on a future Earth but tackles issues that are very real today, as well as others that our society should be preparing to address.

Gardens of Earth is military science-fiction, with additional aspects of both horror and fantasy – making this a truly cross-genre epic. Mark explains, “Imagine an alien life force that knows your deepest fear, and can use that against you.” In the book, Mark’s main character (Seethan Bodell) suffers from PTSD. In the story we can see the effects it has on him and the coping strategies he uses to mitigate them. Mark says, “Apart from a damned good read, I hope that readers will gain an insight and understanding of PTSD itself.”

Here in the UK, the NHS estimates that 1 in every 3 people who have a traumatic experience develop PTSD, sometimes immediately, sometimes months or even years later. Symptoms may remain unaddressed for a long time but, once diagnosed, sufferers can be successfully treated, even long after the traumatic event(s) occurred. Of course, one widely recognised cause of trauma is warfare and conflict. Mark Iles fought in both The Falklands War and the First Gulf War. He has friends suffering from PTSD.

Surprisingly, one relatively unknown effect is that many of those suffering from PTSD manage to channel it through creative outlets. There are those who do so through carpentry, leatherwork, painting, and also writing. Mark started writing science fiction and, now a well-published author, he also supports other veterans through the ‘The Scribe’, a creative writing site that he helped set up specifically to support veterans seeking to develop their own writing ability (https://thescribe.space).

Peter Buck, editorial director of Elsewhen Press said, “Mark’s latest book not only presents the horrors of war, albeit against an alien race, but also the implications and aftermath – both societal and personal. But it is much more than that. The protagonist’s co-pilot and lover is an android, but they have to keep their relationship a secret because of widespread bigotry and discrimination. Social justice, human rights and android rights are all themes explored by Mark in this book. In many senses this is classic science fiction, but the abilities of the aliens provide an environment, and archetypal creatures within it, that are also reminiscent of myth and magic fantasy. Truly cross-genre, Gardens of Earth is an exciting adventure, a heart-rending quest, and an eye-opening insight into the coping strategies of a war veteran.”

Gardens of Earth is now available to pre-order in eBook format on most platforms for release on the 6th August, and will be out in paperback in October.