BY ROUBEN KRIKOURIAN
An engrossing and high-spirited story, “The Legend of V: The Solar System’s Prophesies,” by Varak Kaloustian, is a captivating cavalcade of adventure, humor and science-fiction written by a promising teenage author in what should be considered a sign of many good things to come.
At 15 years old, Kaloustian published and debuted his book earlier this year to a warm reception. The story — concerning the protagonist, simply named V, and a group of characters, who take a supernatural journey through archeology and science-fiction mysteries – has proven popular enough to instigate demands from readers for a sequel.
A sophomore-to-be at Notre Dame High School in Los Angeles, Kaloustian, says the idea for writing his book stemmed from a school assignment in sixth grade.
Kaloustian will be on hand for a book signing at Abrik Bookstore in Glendale on Sunday, July 26 at 5 p.m. Also, his middle school alma mater, Laurel Hall Middle School, has opted to make Kaloustian’s book part of the required summer reading list for incoming eighth grade students.
“The first of two summer reading selections for the 2015-2016 school year is The Legend of V: Book 1: The Solar System’s Prophecies, by Varak Kaloustian. This is an action-packed, Science Fiction novel about the battle of good versus evil and teenage self-discovery. The author, Varak Kaloustian, is a freshman in high school and a former Laurel Hall student who just published his first young adult novel! As you read The Legend of V over the summer, write down any questions that you might have for Varak about the creative writing process and how to go about publishing a novel, as he will speak to us about his book in English class at the beginning of the new school year,” said Laurel Hall English teacher Suzanne Bergstrom and Pati Evans, Director of Middle School Programs in a letter sent to students, which was shared with Asbarez.
“I had a lot of thoughts in my head that were just kind of scrambled in there,” Kaloustian said in an interview with Asbarez News. “When I was little I used to make these little comic books, which weren’t so good but they were creative. So it inspired me to make something bigger a few years after. We had an assignment in sixth grade, where we had to write for thirty minutes every week and turn it into a little folder. And I ran out of ideas the second week,” Kaloustian said, laughing. “So I thought to myself, ‘I’ll turn it into a little story, and she might like it.’ And after writing I thought, ‘this is not terrible but it’s not the best thing in the world, so here’s what I’ll do, I’ll scrap this one and start all over.’ And the result: ‘The Legend of V.’”
Kaloustian said some of the characters are completely made up and some of them are inspired by real life people. “Like, V is obviously me,” the teenage author said with a chuckle.
Griff, the protagonist’s best friend and companion in the story – a Samwise Gamgee to V’s Frodo Baggins – is based on Kaloustian’s friends, according to the author. “Griff’s personality is a mix of all my friends. He’s high-spirited, he’s fun, he’s adventurous. His name was taken from one of my sixth grade classmates; he’s still my classmate.,” the author said.
Explaining what drew him to write science-fiction and the prominent inclusion of astronomy in the book, Kaloustian said, “I’ve always been fascinated by the supernatural and the extraterrestrial. I’ve always liked to study astronomy, for a long time.”
“My favorite subjects would be math, science, maybe even like a creative writing class for English,” the writer said. “Weirdly enough, I don’t really like reading, I like writing!”
Kaloustian took three and a half years to write the book, starting in sixth grade and finishing in his freshman year of high school. “My mom helped me a lot with that, we’re partners almost,” he said.
“Whenever I felt like writing, I would just sit down and write,” Kaloustian said, explaining his process. “There’s nothing to explain really, it’s just you feel like doing it. Sometimes you write one page, sometimes you write an entire chapter. It all just depends on how you feel on that day, in that given moment. Otherwise it just won’t be good.”
Like Newton obstinately guarding his discoveries, Kaloustian allowed no one to see his work until it was completely finished, not even his mother.
“It was definitely a challenge writing the book while also going to school,” he said. But, the author said, “This is fantastic. This is what I’ve always wanted, for a long time.”
I asked Kaloustian what advice he would give to young writers like himself. “Start as early as you possibly can,” he said. “Don’t wait for anyone to tell you to do it. If you think you can do it, if you want to do it, you should do it. At least try to do it. Because if it doesn’t work out the first time, you take what you learn and you move forward.”
Kaloustian has more in store, as one could guess from the “Book 1” that prefixes the subtitle of the book.
“I’ve actually already started working on the second book in the series. Three people have already asked me, ‘Where’s the next one?’ I always tell them, hold on, I just published this one, it’s gonna take a little time,” Kaloustian said amusedly. “But yeah, I’ve started on the second one, I’ve got ideas for it, I’m writing down what I think is good.”
Kaloustian said he’s pleased with the reception his book has received, having had one book signing event and planning on a second one in the near future. He hopes to continue his creative writing into college.
“The Legend of V” is on sale on Amazon.com and at Glendale’s Abril Bookstore.
Below Is an exclusive excerpt from “The Legend of V: The Solar System’s Prophesies” by Varak Kaloustian.
CHAPTER 2: The Mystery Person’s Hideout
Griff, Rodger, and I make it to Egypt. Weird events have already begun to occur because when we get there, nobody is at the airport.
“Now that’s creepy,” Rodger begins, “when I came here months ago with the squad to check if your parents are here, this area was teeming with people.”
“Well this could probably mean that the rumor we heard about the Sphinx,” I am shocked to say, “is probably not a rumor at all…”
“That’s not good!”
“No,” Rodger says, “not at all, Griff.”
“Let’s go to the Sphinx. Now!” Griff and Rodger agree. We rush to the Sphinx. As we make our way through the city of Cairo, I try to search for signs of human life, but I don’t find a single soul.
“Hey guys,” I get their attention as we’re still running.
“Have you noticed that there’s no one in this ENITRE city?” Griff and Rodger take a moment to stop and scan their surroundings, and the more the two observe, the more their eyes widen.
“Impossible!” Griff stands stunned. “How can a heavily populated city like Cairo just not have any people anymore? I highly doubt this is the Sphinx’s doing.”
“Then it must be…” I close my eyes to think it over.
“The mystery man,” Rodger assumes. “It has to be.”
“Then the faster we get there, the better,” Griff starts to run as fast as he can. “Come on!”
The Great Sphinx of Giza was built thousands of years ago with a lion’s body and man’s face. It is the largest structure ever created from a single piece of stone. Just its paws are 50 feet long! It’s been damaged over the years and has a missing nose, or so I’ve read in books. When we get to Giza, we are shocked to see the monumental structure has a full-grown nose and glowing, green eyes… It is alive!!
“Oh God!” Griff murmurs. “How are we supposed to take down an oversized cat?”
“You tell me,” Rodger says, “like I’m going to know. That thing is taller than a six-story building! Actually, give me a sec…”
“NO!!” the Sphinx roars out.
“It talks?!” Griff is flabbergasted. I’m just as stunned as Griff, but at the same time, exhilarated. I mean, how can I not be?! I’m literally talking to a piece of ancient history! But at the same time, it does look quite intimidating. I have to be quick on my feet. There’s no telling when this thing will just swat us with its giant paw.
“Yes,” the Sphinx says, “I have been reborn by a mystery figure that looks like you, V!” I’m guessing that the Sphinx caught my name because of the mystery guy, but I’m still wondering how the mystery person himself knows my name.
“Wait, you mean…”
“Yes, the so-called ‘figure’ you know is my creator!”
“Wait,” Griff cut in, “what about my parents?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, but that’s beside the point. You won’t get past me. I know what you want to do with this legacy of yours, and I’m not letting it happen!!”
“Wait,” I cautiously walk towards it. “What are you talking about?”
“RRRRROOOOAAARRRR!!!!!” The Sphinx stirs up a sandstorm with a malevolent roar. I guess this means that we’re going to have to take down the Sphinx before we get to the mystery man. It might know something about his location. We’re going to have to make it talk, so we can’t destroy it. It’s a long shot, but I have an idea.
“Griff, Rodger! I’ve got a plan. Rodger, what if we use your whip to tame the beast?”
“That’ll never work,” Griff says over the sandstorm. “The whip’s not long enough!”
“I know. But what if we use the long rope we brought and attach the whip at the end of it?”
“I’m not sure it’ll work,” Rodger shouts. “But it’s all we’ve got as of right now. Let’s do it!” As we’re about to start attacking, the Sphinx pounces first. It tears the rope in half, which sends us flying. The Sphinx looks like it’s ready to finish us off. But as it’s charging at us, it stops, and takes a good, long look at me. Then, astoundingly, its eyes widen, it stops the storm and…kneels before me?
What’s going on?!
“That thing is evil. It tricked me!! My apologies, V and friends, you may pass.” We have so many questions to ask the Sphinx, but at that moment we are all so relieved it doesn’t want to crush us or eat us alive. So we don’t ask any questions, and run past the beast.
“That was…odd,” I start to think out loud.
“What?” Griff looks over. “The fact that the Sphinx is alive, or that it just knelt before us?”
“Yeah, both really. But that second one, the fact that it knelt before us. What could it have remembered that caused it to do that?”
“I don’t know. I’m just glad to be alive!”
After a while, we reach the Great Pyramid of Giza. There is a bright light coming out of it.
“Your guess is as good as mine, V,” Rodger says. “I have no idea how or why that’s happening.”
“I’m in the same boat as Rodger.”
“Great…” Suddenly, I feel an incredible force crashing down on me like a tidal wave.
“What the…who, or for that matter, what, are You?!”
“I’ll be waiting on the other side of that light. I have the answers you seek…”
“Seek about what?! What is this?! How is this happening? How are You in my thoughts?”
“You’re saying that like you have NO IDEA about your legacy…”
“That’s because I don’t! Are those the answers You have? And how do I know this isn’t a trick by the mystery man?”
“Because I can see where he is from up here…”
“What?! What does that mean?”
But It vanished.
The life around me feels dead like it did when I first stepped into Cairo. “Let’s go, guys.”
“To that light? I don’t know if that’s a good idea.” Rodger, our guardian, says.
“I’m all in! If it’s fine by V, then it’s fine by me!”
“Oh dear…” Rodger regretfully follows us. As we get close enough, we start to feel a strong electromagnetic force around us. The force is so powerful that it makes us vanish into thin air. Are we dead? I pinch myself. I’m still able to move, feel, and think so definitely not, but it does feel like I’m dreaming because what we see next, I’m pretty sure no human has ever seen before. There is a strange star pattern. I see what looks like a moon, but it’s quite dim and bloated. It’s much darker than usual. I’m not sure what that force was. It wasn’t strong enough to be a black hole, but whatever it was, it was able to transport us billions of miles away to a dark castle next to Pluto!
“Whoa…” I’m so overwhelmed and amazed. I have always had an interest in space because I love its everlasting mystery. There’s always something new to explore. But when you see space in person, that’s an experience like nothing else.
Wow! It’s breathtaking. Oh no…AIR!! Wait…I can breathe? Somehow Griff and Rodger are not gasping for air or freezing to death either.
“What’s going on?” I look at Griff and Rodger. “How are we not freezing to death or suffocating?”
“I have no idea.” Rodger says, confused and in shock.
“Where are we and how’d we get here?” Griff says as he walks off to start exploring.
“I’m pretty sure we’re next to Pluto. That huge object in the sky is Charon, Pluto’s moon. It looks really dim because it’s reflecting sunlight and the sun is really far away right now. It should be freezing cold though. And I have no idea how we got here so fast.”
“Does it really matter? I have a better question… How do we get back home?!” Rodger yells hysterically.
“But I actually really want to know how we’re even breathing out here. It could be a major breakthrough!” I continue to think out loud.
We are so pre-occupied with actually being here, Rodger and I miss the obvious.
“Uhhh…V,” Griff tugs my shirt. “Look over there.” I would recognize him anywhere. He looks exactly the same, even after seven years. It’s the mystery figure!
“Glad to see you, V,” the figure says. “But it doesn’t look like you’re very happy to see me…HAHAHAHAHA!!”
“You fiend! What have you done to Griff’s and my families?!”
“Oh, them. They were a real bother.”
“What have you done to them?!”
“I have tossed them aside… to oblivion! BWAHAHAHAHAHA!! You won’t see them for a while. Actually, you will, V…you’re going there too!!”
I feel no fear; rage and resentment, but not fear. “Not on my watch! Let’s do this, whatever-your-name is!”
“My name is Vizor, and I’m here to wipe you off the face of this universe!”
“Alright, Vizor, I’ve been itching to get to you for years…”
“Looks like you have a death wish. Very well, I’ll be happy to grant it!” Let the battle begin. Vizor wastes zero time trying to kill us. He rushes towards Griff, Rodger and me using the upside-down “V” like figure in his hair as a sword. Wow, I didn’t know he could do that! Still, since there are three of us we spread out and start to overwhelm him. Getting desperate, Vizor uses a mind control technique to take control of my friends’ minds. The enemy possesses them and they actually turn against me! I know it’s not really them but it still feels awful to have the people I trust and love look like they want to annihilate me. But while they are in that condition, I notice something glowing in the background. It looks like a floating, radiating tablet. Is that the light that will get us back to Earth? Then another possibility comes to mind. What if it’s the source of Vizor’s mind control power? There’s only one way to find out. It’s a long shot, but I use all the strength I’ve got to jump and grab it.
“Oh no you don’t!” Vizor whips out a grappling hook from his hair and grabs my foot with it. How many tricks does this guy have in his hair?! As I impact the ground, Vizor starts to move towards me. “That’s right…sit there like the little helpless puppy you are!” I look at the hook, and notice that he’s still holding it. This gives me an idea.
“Gotta run, Vizor!”
“Hey! WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU’RE GOING?!”
Yes! The grappling chord is stretched out! Now’s my chance!!
“RUF, RUF!!” I jump and the stretched chord helps me fly towards Vizor at an incredible velocity. Upon impact, I make him release his grip, and send him flying.
While Vizor is down, I go and grab the shining object. A radiant surge fills my friends and the castle. My friends are freed of Vizor’s grasp. They pin him down.
“We want answers,” I bludgeon.
“Ugh…” Vizor says, “For what?”
“This tablet,” I point out the obvious. “What is it?”
“That tablet is one of the five legendary Solar Prophecies…”
“Solar Prophecies? What’s it supposed to do?”
“Are you sure you want to know?” he asks. I raise an eyebrow and Vizor knows we mean business.
“That’s not all I want to know…”
“Okay. Having possession of one will give someone a certain power. Having two, three, or four, will give them even more power, depending on which prophecy they have. If one obtains all five, they will acquire great power, especially if…”
“If what?” Rodger says tightening his grip on Vizor. “Speak up!”
“Alright! Especially if you are the chosen one.”
“But why were you trying to hide this prophecy from us?” I finally realize what all of this has to do with…
“Because, V… You are the chosen one!”