A near-future war novel, where teenagers who escaped an attack on their special school become the last hope of freeing the British people.
Special education has never looked like this.
Ewan West has grown up being seen as nothing more than a defiant teenage screw-up, with learning difficulties and enormous personal issues. Thankfully, he’s smart as hell in the battlefield. And now that the British population depends on him, his life might finally mean something.
Britain has been conquered, its population imprisoned in giant walled citadels. They are guarded by an innumerable army of cloned soldiers, created by the biologists and military personnel who have seized power. The nation’s last hope are the Underdogs: a dozen fighters comprised largely of Ewan’s special school classmates, hidden in the abandoned countryside near the prison city of New London.
Ewan and his friends have much to fight against – inside and out – in order to free the British people. But their war is as complex as the characters who fight it. After all, how do you defeat a factory-grown army that outnumbers you by at least a million? The answer may lie in an impossible woman rescued by the Underdogs, who claims to know the secret to destroying New London’s clone factory.
Underdogs, suitable for teens and adults alike, is a character-driven story above all else. Its main characters have spent their formative years being made to believe they’re at the bottom of the social food chain, and now find themselves trying to rescue the population that put them there. As they develop throughout the story, the teenagers are trapped in a constant conflict between learning how to play to their strengths, and coping with the demand on their mental states as the war takes turns for the worse.
In an era when fictional representations of neurodiversity and disability are on the rise, Underdogs goes beyond mere tokenism and introduces a whole cast of teenagers who think differently, balancing their inbuilt advantages with their personal challenges. The novel blends increasingly relevant social issues with intense action, and the result is more than a typical underdog tale. It is a war story about vulnerable young people trying to be the best they can be, in a world that has never been on their side.
A reflective road sign with a thirty-miles-per-hour speed limit suggested that a village was close by. The crumpled frame of a Citroën lay wrapped around the sign’s pole. A year ago, some idiot had tried to escape in a car.
The driver’s body had been left for nature to sort out, and nature had done a good job of it. The skeleton slumped over the steering wheel would remain in place for decades to come, and so would the bullet that had dropped to the leather seat as the skin around it had been eaten away.
Ewan poked his rifle through the car’s remains. They had not been ambushed this far from New London for half a year, but he wasn’t known for taking stupid risks anymore. With nothing of interest inside the vehicle, he glanced up at the sign. There was still enough daylight to read the sentence beneath it.
Sandridge welcomes careful drivers.
‘Repeat after me, Ewan,’ came Alex’s deep voice, booming out from ten steps behind him, ‘we are definitely stopping here tonight.’
‘What, your little legs are getting tired?’
‘Not tired. Bored. There’s a difference.’
It was Alex in a nutshell. The old man of the strike team, nearly in his mid-twenties, he seemed to think his extra years gave him some kind of authority. That, and not having learning difficulties.
Ewan understood. Alex must have felt humiliated, sent out with a bunch of special school teenagers and not even being the leader. Kids in special ed were supposed to be useless. Even the clever ones.
Ewan left the Citroën, and led Alex and Charlie into Sandridge. The other half of the squad would be less than a mile behind.
He glanced across at Charlie, and tried to decipher his best friend’s mood. Ewan would make the same decisions however Charlie felt about them, but it was better to guess his reaction in advance. Objections were always problematic when they came from a fifteen-year-old short lad with ADHD and intermittent anger issues.
‘I’ll give us half an hour,’ Ewan said. ‘No more. The more walking we get done tonight, the quicker we get to the Citadel tomorrow. And the less knackered we’ll be if any gunfire starts.’
Ewan checked around for nodding heads. Alex and Charlie would not be happy, but they knew whatever Ewan said, he meant.
At the start of the war, there had been more than thirty people in Dr Joseph McCormick’s band of Underdogs. Less than half of them were still alive, and Ewan’s leadership had grown more uncompromising with every death. There were twelve Underdogs left now, six of them on that night’s mission. Ewan was pretty sure that was half. Two sixes made twelve, after all.
Common sense told him a war between twelve humans and Nicholas Grant’s million cloned soldiers was already hopeless, and the British people would be imprisoned in the Citadels forever. Especially since eight Underdogs were teenagers from Oakenfold Special School. But Ewan’s whole brain was built for defiance.
Four (yes, FOUR) important updates!
Friday, 22 March 2019
Hi everyone - I can barely express how hectic, important, and downright awesome this week has been for Underdogs. It has involved:
- A release date being announced;
- A finalised cover being made public;
- The end date for the reward stage being announced;
- And one especially amazing bit of news that I’ll save until last.
Oh, and it also involved the book passing 600 pre-ordered copies and…
Want to keep up to date with the Underdogs universe?
Monday, 18 February 2019
Wow, things are progressing rapidly with Underdogs! The publication date is now accurately estimated to be in May, the cover art is being designed (the prototypes I've seen so far have been incredible), the novel itself is going through the final proofing stage, and a whopping 465 people have pre-ordered 554 copies between them. If you're one of those people, thanks so much! (Given…
Guerrillas is dead. Long live Underdogs!
Friday, 1 February 2019
Two big bits of news to report in this update:
1) Guerrillas has now been renamed, and will be published as Underdogs! The decision was a joint one between Unbound and myself, and it's certainly a positive one in my opinion. (Which is no light thing to say, given that I'd been calling it Guerrillas for nine years! There are more details in the Facebook community post here. In short…
A few important updates!
Friday, 4 January 2019
Hi everyone, happy new year and I hope 2019 has got off to a decent start for all of you. It's been a while since my last Guerrillas update, so here's what's in the news.
1. Turns out the reward stage isn't over!
A month ago, I erroneously thought that the rewards phase ended 90 days after the project's launch - which would have been December 12th. On further investigation, the 90 day…
The end draws near...
Sunday, 2 December 2018
...well, the end of the reward phase draws near at least!
I am humbled and amazed that Guerrillas is now 134% funded (at time of writing), with 12 days left of the original pre-order phase. Your support guarantees that the published version will be of the highest possible quality. Thank you all so much!
A fun fact, actually- I learned recently that the average book sells 250-300 copies in its…
Well, this is incredible!
Saturday, 20 October 2018
At the start of this journey, I was advised that Unbound projects are most likely to succeed when they reach 30% in the opening 30 days.
On Day 35, Guerrillas hit 100%.
First things first, I'd like to give an enormous thank you to everyone who put Guerrillas in such a strong position, and guaranteed that the world WILL get a neurodiverse war novel with teenage heroes from a special…
Day Ten - and 50% reached!
Monday, 24 September 2018
Massive, massive thanks to everyone who has pre-ordered Guerrillas already: ten days in out of ninety and we're already halfway there! We're surprisingly close to having a published novel where the cast of heroes is comprised almost entirely of teenagers with special needs. Who'd have thought it?
These people are helping to fund Underdogs.