by Max Barry

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Main Characters

Michiko Fujimori Mayweather

Michiko Mayweather is the current Prime Minister of Antarctica. Long a rising star in Antarctic politics, she became a household name around the continent in 3015, when she moved into a neighborhood that had been gutted by Prime Minister Tomio Batra's economic reign of chaos. In between speaking personally with people who had seen their lives ruined by the economy's downward spiral, she spoke candidly before massive crowds of the heartbreak she felt at the sight of her nation's suffering, and of her relentless desire to right all those who had been wronged. She backed up her words with expertly crafted segues, linking her painstakingly researched and crafted policy proposals to what she hoped would be a revival of Antarctica's once-hopeful future. By the time Batra's government finally fell, Mayweather was the most famous name in the Antarctic National Congress, and the motion of dismissal brought forward by the party named her as Batra's replacement. She immediately set to work upon her designation, and eight months later, she made good on her promises. She spent almost every day of it drafting, analyzing, and re-drafting her Economic Proposal of 3016 - a wholesale repeal of everything Tomio Batra had done combined with a modest assortment of changes from the earlier status quo that she had researched herself. The Proposal passed overwhelmingly, and as life in Antarctica returned to normal, Mayweather's political career soared to new heights. In 3017, the Antarctic economic recovery and Mayweather's legendary political skills won her a second term in a historic landslide. One year later, she brought forth the Educational Proposal of 3018, which built on Prime Minister Pradeep Gilard's reforms two decades ago. The Proposal restructured the education system top to bottom towards a more participatory and hands-on environment, focusing less on standardized test results and more on helping individual struggling students. In the wake of her reforms, graduation rates improved profoundly to 95 percent, and test results also improved considerably. Mayweather's achievement for the next generation of Antarcticans is considered to be the greatest and most enduring achievement of her legacy. She is almost universally adored by the Antarctic people - her approval ratings continue to soar at around 87 percent - and she is more determined than ever to help lead the way to the hopeful future that her people see in her.

Mayweather's character is most notable for two great strengths that have made her a legendary politician, and one of the most beloved Antarctic leaders in recent memory. One of these strengths is Mayweather's stunning talent behind the podium. She has an almost mesmerizing ability to reflect the feelings of her audience like a mirror, addressing their grievances with crystal clarity and speaking to their hopes and dreams with radiant, breathless resolve. Her speeches are seamlessly woven tapestries of beautiful, soaring rhetoric; honest, down-to-earth facts and solutions; and humble one-liners that can evaporate all the tension in a room. Mayweather's other strength is what many would call her nerves of steel. Although she is certainly competent at recognizing and resolving urgent situations that crop up in her work, she has never once been seen to lose her composure while doing so, even in the midst of crises severe enough to derail her political career or even damage the country. Mayweather's greatest flaw, meanwhile, is her tendency to relentlessly overwork herself, even to the point of risking serious physical stress. She has worked herself into less than optimal health on a number of occasions, and must often be forced to give it a rest by one of her friends. Mayweather is also well-known for her appearance, which is considered by her friends and by the public alike to be one of legendary attractiveness and beauty. It is enhanced by her statuesque frame; she stands at 6 feet, 2 inches tall. Michiko's mother is Nadine Mayweather, an architect and carpenter, from whom Michiko inherited her nerves of steel and her pragmatic personality. Her father is Sanjay Fujimori, a kalanta artist and animator, from whom Michiko inherited her idealistic worldview, and her tendency to overwork herself. Her closest friends are Krishna Han, Azuma and Amelie Sawant, and Parvati Page; their friendship is so strong that she often describes them as a family of sorts. They spend much of their time outside work hanging out at each other's apartments and going on adventures through Nanji together. Mayweather's parents, and each of her friends' families, are very fond of the group as well, and enjoy recieving them for visits every few months. Her favorite color is black, and her favorite food is extra-dark chocolate, which she can sometimes be seen eating in stressful situations. Her favorite activities are - in her own words - "work, work, and work." Her birthday is September 24th, and she is 36 years old.

Almost as soon as the young Mayweather could speak, it became clear that serving the communities around her would be the driving desire of her life. As a child in Concordia, she consistently tried to mediate disagreements and solve problems she saw around her, and never stopped until she felt she had made things better. She was already, if only on a most basic level, following elections and politics by the age of six - the age at which she met Krishna Han, who would be inspired many years later to follow her into public service. Mayweather ran in many class elections when she and Han were in high school, and struggled to do well at first. Although her rhetoric was stunningly well-crafted even in her teenage years, Mayweather's dispassionate nature meant that, without understanding what mattered most to her audiences, she struggled to speak convincingly. As she grew older and attended university, her political instincts slowly grew sharper, and she was able to win a seat on the Grand Council in 3011 at the age of twenty-seven. When Tomio Batra's economic disaster struck in 3015, Mayweather refused to spare herself the plight of the people she would one day serve, and moved into a neighborhood that had been gutted by the crash. The helpless pain that she felt watching her neighbors' lives collapse around her is what she has described ever since as the very worst feeling of her life, and an experience that changed every part of who she was. She became filled with an almost luminescent sense of resolve to make things right for everyone who had suffered needlessly, and suddenly, she began to speak to her audiences in a way that she had never done before. For the first time in her life, it seemed, she knew what it truly meant to speak with conviction, reflecting her people's fear, frustration, and despair like a mirror and weaving it breathlessly into heartfelt appeals for action, hope, and perseverance. As she continued to pour herself into her work and her speaking skills grew more legendary by the day, Mayweather set foot along the path to the highest levels of public service in Antarctica, and began to emerge as the Prime Minister that Antarcticans know and love today.

Krishna Dion Han

Krishna Han is the Antarctic Minister of Culture. He was first elected as a Councillor in 3011, immediately joining the Culture Panel, and after three years of notable and dedicated service to the Panel, he was appointed Minister of Culture by Mayweather upon her designation in 3014. He has been highly active in his position, working hard and speaking up to maintain funding for the government's cultural activities. His most notable tendency as Cultural Minister has been spearheading the ministry's efforts to direct the government towards actions and policies that nurture both Antarctic high culture and popular culture, reflecting his belief that the best stories and characters of each era, no matter where they come from, will always become the material of classics passed down through the ages. This has created an explosion of kalanta and popular culture, which Han has also used for public service by commissioning kalanta on government-related topics.

All of Han's friends are fairly bright, but he is by far the most brilliant of them all. He is very quiet, withdrawn, and deeply introspective, and spends much of his time alone in thought. He has a highly reflective mind, and is known for producing remarkable insights from time to time about himself, his friends and family, and the human condition as a whole. He excels at making thoughtful, balanced, and innovative decisions when he has enough facts, although he is sometimes forced to make ill-considered decisions due to a lack of time. Although he speaks in very refined and poetic turns of phrase, he is not a natural conversationalist, and he is often rather socially oblivious in his interactions with others. The true love of Krishna's life, as far as anyone around him can remember, are stories. His imagination is vast and open enough for even the most unremarkable words on a page to make their way into his mind, and the feelings and experiences that many stories evoke in him are real enough to stay with him forever. He is a singularly prolific reader and consumer of anything that features characters and stories, be it books, poems, short stories, films, televised series, or video games. His laughably horrible baseball skills, meanwhile, often bring a singular joyful charm to the games he plays with his friends. His favorite color is green, and his favorite drink is peppermint tea, which he has mastered the art of sipping with a thoughtful elegance. He stands 5 feet, 11 inches tall. His birthday is March 18th, and he is 35 years old.

Han and Mayweather are very old and close friends. They were both born in Concordia, and they met each other when they were just six years old. They soon became inseparable, and they attempted romance several times in their teenage years before both deciding that they were better off simply as close friends. As a child, Krishna didn't know what he wanted to be when he grew up, and as Michiko's idealism grew stronger and more heartfelt, he became inspired to follow her into a life of public service. As he grew older, his love of stories and characters became his motivation in life, and he decided his purpose was to help nurture young writers and creators, wherever they may be. Krishna's mother is Hanako Han, an extremely intelligent and relatively famous astrophysicist, from whom Krishna inherited his intellect and sense of wonder, and his father is Shuo Dion, a prolific writer and critic of fictional media, from whom Krishna inherited his contemplative personality and love of stories. Krishna has one younger brother, Eugene Han. Eugene is a skilled chef and food critic who owns his own restaurant in Concordia. He inherited his mother's enthusiasm and zest for life, and his critical and analytical eye from his father. Krishna's parents live with Eugene in Concordia, and he and his friends visit Eugene's restaurant several times a year.

Azuma Gilpin Sawant & Amelie Gilpin Sawant

Amelie and Azuma Sawant are a pair of Councillors on the Antarctic Grand Council. They were first elected to the Council in 3014, one year before Michiko Mayweather became Prime Minister. They immediately joined the Foreign Affairs Panel, and within a year they had carved out a reputation for highly prolific legislative activity and solid knowledge of foreign policy. In their seven years on the Council, they have introduced over a hundred proposals to the Grand Council, most of which have passed. Many of these bills have pledged humanitarian aid to parts of the world struck by crises such as wars, genocides, and natural disasters, and others have helped establish a policy of granting special recognition, cooperation and trade to foreign territories that have acted in a peaceful, free, and humanitarian manner. They are well-known to politically engaged Antarcticans, and work closely with the Foreign Minister of Antarctica to help determine the nation's foreign policy.

The two Sawant siblings have very similar appearances and personalities, a fact that can be attributed to their being born as identical twins. However, the two do have a number of differences. The most notable of these is their gender: Amelie was born a girl, whereas Azuma always identified as a boy, and due to Antarctica's highly advanced medical technology, his body was entirely indistinguishable from that of any other male by the time he was 22. One of the twins' most profound characteristics is a singularly energetic and joyful love of life; even their closest friends have rarely seen their mood to be anything less than sunny and sweet, and no one can recall them ever being angry. They are also seemingly always full of energy and enthusiasm, and are constantly in motion; they have a singular talent in coming up with ways to occupy themselves. Amelie is slightly quieter and more introspective than Azuma, but they both greatly enjoy conversations of all sorts, and they also share an emphatic weakness for anything they find cute. Although they are both intelligent, they can be quite scatterbrained at times, and they also scare easily. Their hobbies include exploring the outdoors, going to parties and social gatherings, watching and re-watching kalanta, and anything else that pops into their minds at the moment; they are responsible for coming up with most of the group's activities The twins' favorite food is bananas. Amelie's favorite color is blue, and Azuma's is yellow. Azuma is 5'8'' and Amelie is 5'7'', and they are 28 years old.

Their mother is Nozomi Gilpin, a high-ranking financier in one of Antarctica's largest corporations, from whom the twins inherited their energy and their love of social gatherings. Their father is Suresh Sawant, one of Antarctica's most skilled and successful stockbrokers, from whom the twins inherited their happy and friendly disposition. Both of the Sawant twins' parents are vertiginously wealthy, and the twins, who had no other siblings, lived a very cozy and sheltered childhood in a small but luxurious apartment in the mountainside city of Tivin. As they grew older and learned about the world, always their driving interest in life, their altruism and joyfulness served them well. Despite the many heartbreaking things they learned about the wider world as they grew older, their natural optimism gave them the strength to continue. The Sawant twins met Mayweather in a Nanji government hall in 3014, not long after she ascended to her post as Prime Minister, and were instantly drawn in by the dynamic between Mayweather, Han, and Parvati. They walked up and introduced themselves, and offered to take them on a hike up a nearby mountain. The three accepted, and soon found themselves on another outing with the twins, and then another. For them, a world without the Sawants and their unsinkable zest for life soon became impossible to imagine.

Parvati Matsumoto Page

Parvati Page is Prime Minister Mayweather's hardworking aide and close friend. The two of them first met in 3015, when Mayweather was campaigning across the country in her bid to become Prime Minister. Parvati was visiting a friend in Concordia when one spring day, walking down the street, she saw Mayweather speaking before a small crowd. The speech she gave struck her more powerfully than any political language Parvati had ever heard, and suddenly she wanted nothing more than to help make this new woman's vision come true. After the speech, Parvati ran backstage, ignoring all the strange looks, and told Mayweather she'd heard her speech and wanted to do what she could to help make her ideas come true. Mayweather was struck by the audacious girl's courage and sincerity, and decided she deserved that chance. As the two grew older, they came to sincerely admire and value each other's personalities, and their relationship gradually grew from one of coworkers to that of close friends.

Parvati is a headstrong, courageous, and hardworking young woman whose diminutive size, at 5 feet 1 inch, is more than made up for by her personality. Unlike her friends, she is naturally given to anger, and as a child and teenager she was prone to losing her temper. Today, as an adult, she has more experience dealing with her feelings, and she is typically able to keep her anger under control. One way she channels her temper is through her distinctly acerbic yet playful sense of humor. Her frequent wisecracks are considered a staple of the establishment by everyone who sees her on a regular basis, and many other people can recognize her by her humor. The most passionate part of Parvati's nature, though, even more so than her temper, is the protective instinct that she harbors for her friends and siblings. She would do almost anything to keep them safe and happy, and much of the anger that she works to restrain involves people who do her friends and family wrong. Her hobbies include running, biking, baseball, playing video games, and anything involving her friends. Her favorite color is red, and her favorite drink is milk. Unlike her friends, she has some fat in her physique, but she has a healthy weight for someone of her size. Her birthday is November 13th, and she is 24 years old.

Parvati's mother is Terry Matsumoto, a biologist, from whom Parvati inherited her short stature and hardworking qualities. Her father is Dharam Page, a bartender, and an ardent romantic and a dreamer, from whom Parvati inherited her headstrong personality and her strong sense of courage. Parvati grew up in Raasa, and is the youngest of three children. The oldest is Lijuan Page, a woman with her father's headstrong personality but her mother's down-to-earth worldview. Lijuan is a professional baseball player in the minor leagues. She is not particularly famous, but a few dedicated fans of baseball do know who she is. The middle child is Marion Page, a kinra, who inherited their mother's quiet and intelligent personality, and their father's heartfelt worldview. They work as a kalanta writer, regularly producing scripts for a variety of televised series and video games. Marion's dialogue is almost always well written, and at its best, it can be breathtaking in the feelings that it inspires - enough so that their tendency toward plot holes can usually be forgiven.