The title of the book is Pulau Purba. It is Malay for something roughly translating to Island of the Ancients, or Ancient Island. I've leave you to decide which one is it. I'm not going to spoil anything :)
The genesis of the idea for this book goes way, way back. It dated back to the years just before I was due to be dragged into conscription. 'Enlisted into National Service', they call it. A pretty way of saying that you're getting press-ganged into the army.
Pic 2: Not as glamorous as it looks.
It was nearly a decade ago. I was 18, pushing 19 then. For a year during and after polytechnic, I was nervous and fearing the worse. I needed an outlet, and it came in the form of a childhood hobby I had - Writing. I was also a bit of a videogame connoisseur (I play games that aren't always mainstream), and I was influenced by Silent Hill.
So what came out was a main character who is almost like me, rotting in a military bunk - Until the world changed, the main character entering some kind of an 'Otherworld' that was filled with monsters. I remember writing a tonne of words. Maybe 50,000 to 60,000.
Pic 3: Now imagine those miserable conscripts fighting this thing.
I wrote it fast... And then stopped for a good long while. At that time, I couldn't understand why I didn't want to continue it. But in retrospect, I knew exactly why. It was just about an antsy 18-year-old trying to get out of a hell-world army camp, a world that reflected his fears and memories of being in NS. There was no plot, no story, not even supporting characters. The monsters were simple, nothing new in their design even by average genre standards. Basically, it's so bad that some of them are little more than zombies.
I remember continuing the 'novel' when I was in the army. The quality improved marginally - I added characters based on conscripts/soldiers I met in camp, including one who had mental issues, and was constantly harassed and bullied. But the story's the same.
The big problem was, all those new, shiny stuff were added below my teenage scribblings. It's become like those rings in a tree trunk, or ancient layers of sediment in the ground. I had next to no editing skills and I couldn't blend the new and the old together. It wasn't something even I would read.
By the time I got out of the army and entered university, I'd trashed the whole God damn abomination... Pun possibly intended.
The idea was left largely frozen in my mind for most of my university stint, as I was too busy reading other people's work (I majored in English Literature) or writing stuff that would please the writers-in-residence (I minored in Creative Writing). It wasn't until the Epigram Books Fiction Prize 2015 that I decided to take it seriously again.