In April 2020 Corinna Turner read out her first unSPARKed novella, DRIVE!, and provided discussion questions, with parents and teens under COVID-19 Lockdown especially in mind. The videos are now available on YouTube and you can watch them below.
The unSPARKed novellas are set in a future America where dinosaurs roam the countryside and most people live ‘SPARKed’ in cities, behind great electric fences. The main characters are Darryl and Harry Franklin—teens who have grown up on the family farm with their Dad, having lost their mother in a farm accident when they were younger—and Joshua Wilson, an eighteen-year-old hunter who lives in a HabVi (armoured motorhome/RV), earning his living capturing and culling dinosaurs (though we don’t meet him until novella 2: A Truly Raptor-ous Welcome).
The novellas (DRIVE!, A Truly Raptor-ous Welcome and (coming soon) PANIC!) are suitable for teens and some tweens (some threat and tension). The prequel novel, BREACH!, due to mature themes (crisis pregnancy, etc.), is PG below the age of 14.
Part 1 – p.1-9
1.Darryl’s and Harry’s father remarries without warning. Both Darryl and Harry are upset and angry, though Darryl tries very hard to be understanding.
- How would you feel if this happened to you?
- Do you think you would take it as well as Darryl (or even Harry)?
2. In Darryl’s world, humans are no longer top of the food chain. Caution is deeply ingrained in Darryl and Harry, since their lives depend on their fence and their weapons.
- Can you think of cultures, areas, or countries, either today or historically, where young people must live with such caution, either because of wild animals, harsh natural conditions, or human activity?
- How would you feel about living in one of these places—or in Darryl’s world?
3. In Darryl’s world, the most common meat consumed from day to day is dinosaur meat.
- What do you think dinosaur meat would taste like? Like alligator? Or like chicken? Maybe half-way between? Something else entirely?
- What is the most unusual animal you have heard of being farmed and/or eaten?
Part 2 – p.9-18
4. In Darryl’s world, being in the ‘Fence Maintenance and Defence Corps’—or SPARK Brigade—is seen as a very glamorous job, even though they are as much electricians as they are soldiers.
- What jobs can you think of that may seem unimportant but are suddenly valued in a crisis?
5. Darryl’s family’s favourite saint is ‘St Desmond the Hermit’ (fictional). He lived alone in a cave for 20 years with no protection from carni’saurs, putting complete faith in God for his safety.
- Why do you think farming families like Darryl’s feel so close to him?
- Do you have a favourite saint and is there a reason why they are your favourite?
6. In Darryl’s world, among other things, cars are built differently and highways operate differently, in order to keep people as safe as possible. Human beings are famous for being adaptable.
- Do you think adaptability is an advantage?
- Why or why not?
- Think of some recent adaptations to behaviour or things that have been made to keep people safe. Have you found it difficult to adapt?
- Do you understand why it is necessary?
Part 3 – p.18-28
7. Carol is very frightened of travelling unSPARKed, but is prepared to do so in order to join her new family.
- Have you ever had to do something that was outside of your comfort zone or unfamiliar to you?
- Was it difficult?
- How did you feel once you’d gone through with it?
8. Hunters live in armoured motorhomes/RVs. These are unbreachable by medium-sized dinosaurs but vulnerable to the largest species such as T. rex, spinosaurus and large herbivores of the ‘longneck’ varieties.
- Would you ever consider sleeping unSPARKed in such a vehicle yourself?
- Why/why not?
9. Highway traffic controllers in Darryl’s world have to deal with normal accidents and breakdowns, but also with large herds of huge grazers, massive predators like T. rex, and smaller, smarter predators like raptors as they try to keep the traffic moving—and safe.
- Think about the lesser—but to our lives, just as important—challenges our own traffic controllers face.
- Have you ever thought about them, out of sight in their control rooms?
- Does it make you appreciate them more?
Part 4 – p.28-34
10. A wolf can smell blood from over a mile and a half away so it’s likely many carni’saurs could scent blood from a similar distance. Wolves can also hear prey ten miles away in open country. In the past it was incredibly difficult to hide from predators such as this, which is why humans often adopted a ‘hunt them before they hunt us’ mentality. In Darryl’s world, the predators are so dangerous this is not an option for most people. Fortunately, they have developed technologies to help them to hide, such as ScentBlock plasters/bandages.
- Can you think of any way you might try to conceal your scent/blood if you didn’t have any ScentBlock strips available? (Hint: one method is demonstrated in the film ‘Jurassic World.’)
11. Raptors in Darryl’s world not uncommonly learn to prey on broken-down or stationary vehicles, pulling the grilles off to get to the occupants inside.
- Can you think of any animals that pose a significant risk to motorists in our world?
- Is there anything drivers can do to help protect themselves?
12. Darryl’s father trusts Darryl and Harry to keep their heads and work together to fend off the raptors.
- Have you ever been in a difficult situation where you found yourself with a lot of responsibility on your shoulders?
- How did you deal with it?
Part 5 – p.34-51
13. Despite their desperate situation, Darryl would have liked to put the injured raptor out of its misery. The ability to show compassion to our ‘enemies’ is a beautiful thing and something we are all called to do.
- Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you had an opportunity to extend compassion to someone who had hurt you in the past?
- Were you satisfied with your response?
- Would you do something differently in future?
14. The hunters resort to desperate measures to reach Darryl and her family, threatening to cripple a vehicle that is refusing to move.
- Do you think their actions are justified?
- Why/why not?
15. Despite his family’s vulnerable situation, Darryl’s Dad thinks of those even more vulnerable than they are and tells the hunters to stay with the majority.
- What would you have done in this situation?
- Why/why not?
16. To Darryl, the farmhouse with its armoured shutters speaks of safety; to Carol, it suggests danger. People’s experiences of life shape their expectations and can have a profound effect on how they perceive something, especially the first time they encounter it.
- Can you think of some things (or words or actions) that could be interpreted in opposite ways?
- Why would particular people interpret these things in such different ways?
17. The definition of Providence is: ‘divine guidance or care’ or ‘God as the power sustaining and guiding human destiny’. Providence in a story—or in our lives—doesn’t mean that nothing will ever go wrong, but it does mean there will be a sense that Someone cares and is in charge.
- Did you get a sense of Providence in ‘DRIVE!’?
- Is there any element of the plot in which you specifically sensed the hand of Providence at work?
DRIVE! by Corinna Turner is available in paperback or ebook from Amazon or anywhere that sells books!