From Craigmillar Castle to Calton Hill: the locations that inspired Adam-2 – a guest post by Alastair Chisholm - Nosy Crow Skip to content
From Craigmillar Castle to Calton Hill: the locations that inspired Adam-2 – a guest post by Alastair Chisholm
Posted by Sam, August 11, 2021

From Craigmillar Castle to Calton Hill: the locations that inspired Adam-2 – a guest post by Alastair Chisholm

This month we’re thrilled to have published Adam-2 – a hugely gripping, action-packed sci-fi adventure from the highly acclaimed author of Orion Lost, Alastair Chisholm. Set in a futuristic Edinburgh devasted by civil war between humans and advanced intelligence, this is a tense, thought-provoking new story about a robot who has the key to the war and the power to end it. But first, he must survive killer robots, murderous humans and something called The Trial…

And today we’re delighted to share a blog from Alastair about the Edinburgh locations that inspired this new book.

Adam-2 is my new science fiction adventure, and it’s wonderful to see it out in the world – and one thing I’m really delighted about is where it’s set. My first novel, Orion Lost, took place aboard a starship in deep space, billions of miles from Earth, but this one’s a bit closer – my own home city of Edinburgh!

Adam-2 by Alastair Chisholm
Dan Mumford’s wonderful cover for Adam-2, featuring Edinburgh Castle under a silver dome, and a rather battered Balmoral Clock Tower.

I love Edinburgh. Everything about it feels like it’s in a story. It has an Old Town full of twisty lanes and hidden passages, built on top of even older parts, wrapped around tales of heroes and villains. Its “New Town” is over two hundred years old. It has cellars and streets that have been covered up for centuries; palaces, abbeys, ancient walls, a huge loch that became a garden and a train station – and everything is dominated by a mighty castle, sitting on top of an extinct volcano!

The city of Edinburgh. Photo by Carsten Ruthemann.
The city of Edinburgh (photo by Carsten Ruthemann).

The Edinburgh of Adam-2 isn’t quite the same as our one, as the book is set in the future, over two hundred years away. That was fun because it gave me a chance to play with things. What would have changed? What would still be the same? How would it feel to look out onto a place you thought you knew, and see it so different?

In the book, the world has been devastated by a war between humans and robots. The robots have taken over Edinburgh Castle and made it their base. The humans have been driven out, with the last survivors holding out in Craigmillar Castle to the South-East.

Craigmillar Castle, the human stronghold (photo by Dave Drury).

(If you get a chance, go and visit Craigmillar Castle – it’s one of my favourites. It looks really impressive and fortified, but also like somewhere you can imagine people actually living. I had great fun planning how the humans would occupy it.)

In the middle of this war arrives Adam: a robot, but not like the others. He’s been living in the basement of a building for hundreds of years and has no idea what’s happened. His creator, the man he called Father, was very rich and powerful, so I decided he would live in one of my favourite locations in the whole city – Calton Hill.

Calton Hill has a bit of everything. It has a tower, the Nelson Monument, so tall that it was used by ships in the Forth as a timekeeper. It has a colossal, half-built structure known as the National Monument (and sometimes, because the money ran out before it was finished, the “National Disgrace”). It has an observatory, and a high school, and monuments to poets… And a graveyard, and at one point a notorious jail. It’s like a slice through the grandeur and grime of Edinburgh history, and from its top, you can see the whole city.

The West of Edinburgh from the top of the Nelson Monument on Calton Hill. From here you can see the half-finished National Monument, and Arthur’s Seat, if you squint, perhaps even my house. I’m waving.

I thought: if I was the richest man in the world, and didn’t care about other people, where would I build my house? And I realised: I would build it here, right on top of Calton Hill. And I’d make it very big, and put it in front of everything else, so that everyone in the city had to look up to me…

So, the book roams between the Funk-controlled city streets, the human stronghold at Craigmillar, and Adam’s basement on Calton Hill, and one final location. A woman who calls herself the Cailleach rules a forest in the North of the city. This forest is another place I love – the Royal Botanic Garden. When the heroes arrive at the Cailleach’s realm, they see huge silver gates, just like the ones there now, and they walk along paths that really exist. But these gardens have grown wild. (And anyone who knows the Botanics won’t be surprised to hear that the rhododendrons have taken over everything.)

The Silver Gates at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh.
The Silver Gates at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh.

Setting the book in my own city was wonderful. Everywhere the characters went, I could see them, and feel the buildings around them, and imagine how they might have changed. I even got to tap into some old Scottish stories. The Cailleach, for example, is a winter witch from Scottish mythology – sometimes good, mostly bad, but very powerful. When Linden tells hir mother’s old tales, they’re based on actual Scottish stories, but with little twists. In Linden’s version, the infamous Edinburgh villains Burke and Hare appear as evil robots. Finn MacCool, a Celtic hero, now fights metal enemies instead of magic ones. I even got to slip in a tiny reference to the film Trainspotting – something not many children’s books can claim!

I loved placing the characters and working out how they would get through the city, and I loved imagining what would change, from buildings to folk tales. But above all, as I wrote, I realised how much joy I got just from being in my own city.

So, I hope you get a chance to read Adam-2, and I hope you enjoy it, and I hope that it makes you want to come and visit soon. And I promise: as far as I know, in the real Edinburgh, there are no killer robots… yet.

Thanks, Alastair! You can order a copy of Adam-2 from our website here, Waterstones here, or Amazon here.

Read the first few chapters below:

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