The Project Nemesis Series – 4 Key Moments, Explained
by Brendan Reichs
When Penguin Teen asked me to highlight and discuss four key moments in the Project Nemesis series, and to explain why I did what I did, I initially balked at revealing some of my key surprises. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there were things about these choices that I wanted to explain to my readers, some of whom have remained baffled, angry, and/or astonished to this day. So, I will attempt to explain a few important twists below. But fair warning: MAJOR SPOILERS TO FOLLOW! If you’re considering starting the Project Nemesis series from the beginning in anticipation of Chrysalis, releasing 3/5/19, then please stop right here and go read Nemesis and Genesis first. It’s okay, I’ll wait. Promise.
Okay? Okay. Here we go. Again, MAJOR SPOILERS TO FOLLOW.
- Noah had to betray Min. Nemesis was always about this moment, from the very first kernel of the idea. Part of what I wanted to do with this series was turn the typical love triangle on its head, and for that to happen, Min and Noah simply couldn’t have a happily-ever-after moment to end Nemesis. Indeed, part of what Noah—mistakenly, it must be said—comes to realize to close the book is that Min is the nemesis he’d always feared. He’s wrong, and he’s scared, and he’s suffering from a psychological break with reality in a moment of intense pressure, but this is what he starts to believe. And he spends most of Genesis attempting to atone for his mistake. This is carried even further in Chrysalis, when new pressures test their bond. It doesn’t get any easier for the group. Sorry, guys and girls.
- The conspiracy was never trying to hurt them. This point—that Project Nemesis was intended to save the lives of the Fire Lake sophomore class, rather than destroy them—was meant to restore a little faith in humanity for my readers. In Nemesis, Min and Noah are ruthlessly used and exploited by Black Suit. To be repeatedly murdered on their birthdays was a horrifying thing to have happen, and I used flashbacks and oral transcripts recounting the episodes to drive home just how bad these experiences were. Their entire class was caught in a giant web, but I thoroughly enjoyed twisting the common conspiracy trope into something hopeful. This town, the government, everyone involved—they’d dedicated their lives not something nefarious, but to something selfless. That felt good and right to me for the story.
- Resets stopped working inside the Program. This was a late twist in Genesis, and it was meant to serve a major redemptive purpose in addition to simply quickening the conclusion of the Program and upping the stakes. This sudden threat to their existence was a catalyst for Noah’s final, awful, brutal atonement. To this point in the story, I didn’t feel like Noah had even approached evening the ledger for his betrayal of Min at the conclusion of Nemesis. And Min isn’t the type of person to simply forgive-and-forget a boy who’d shot her in the back. But when Tack realizes that Min is down several lives in the final count, and that she needs them back to survive, Noah forces her to takes his, in perhaps the single most painful scene in the whole series—the lives exchange that takes place in Noah’s garage. To me, that tradeoff, which Noah forces through despite Min’s horror, felt like a sufficient penance for what he had done. I leave it the readers to decide whether they feel the same.
- The Program ran for over a million years. I really liked this idea from the first instance it crossed my mind, which was as I was polishing off the final draft of Genesis. I knew I wanted the story action within the Program to take place over a reasonable amount of time—enough for society to fully break down in a world without consequences, but not so long that the characters would age weirdly, or that the plot pacing would suddenly lag and become dull. But then it occurred to me that, due to the nature of the Program, there was nothing to prevent me from changing the passage of time outside of its electronic confines. Additionally, this allowed me to do basically whatever I wanted in Chrysalis, since so much time had passed in the “real world” that literally anything was possible, in terms of setting. And that’s what you get in the final volume of the series—a story of what happened next, in a place where nothing can be predicted. It’s a wild final ride! J