The World of Relic and Reliquary
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WARNING! Major plot spoilers ahead.
Don't proceed unless you have already read RELIC and RELIQUARY!

 

THE 'RELIC' THAT NEVER WAS

Originally, Relic was going to be a very, very different story from what it turned out to be!

In the first draft of the novel, there was no Mbwun, no killer beast roaming the halls. Instead, the bad guys were a small group of scientists in the Museum, who were working on something known as 'Project 4.' These scientists were led by Greg Kawakita. They'd been doing research on, among other things, the plants from Whittlesey's packing crates, synthesizing the drug that is known in the novels as 'glaze.' In this original draft, 'glaze' did not actually transform a body physically. Instead, it provided users with a marvelous--but very dangerous--high. People who used it could get homicidally violent while under its influence.

Suddenly, this group of scientists lost their funding. So Greg Kawakita started peddling the drug to the outside world to raise money for the continuation of their research. A terrible new drug began plaguing New York City. The drug was grown in aquaria across the museum, and 'harvested' by Kawakita and his cronies. The initial murders happened because Kawakita--who was now addicted to the drug himself--caught some kids snooping around his drug-harvesting paraphernalia, and he went off on a glaze-induced rage. There was no monster in this version of the story--although the protagonists, for a time, believed there was.

But Tor Books, the publisher, suggested to Preston and Child, "why don't you have something else come back in that crate?" And another reader said, "you should be writing a JAWS-style story, but set in a natural history museum." Armed with these comments, Preston and Child said to themselves: "let's have a real monster, then! And why not have it be Whittlesey himself?" Thus, the frightening new powers of glaze were devised. And Relic as it exists today took shape.

 

THE SEQUEL THAT ALMOST NEVER WAS

While the revision of Relic was underway, Tor Books said, "this is good. But let's have an apocalyptic ending, something that leaves things unsettling and unresolved." So instead of revealing the truth about the Museum beast to the book's protagonists--Margo, Pendergast, D'Agosta, and Frock--it was hidden from them, and revealed only to the audience. And Kawakita was given a new--but still evil--role to play once the action of Relic had concluded. This left the end of the book hanging in space, unresolved. So many readers said, "hah! Leaving room for a sequel." But the truth was that, at the time, Preston and Child had no plans whatsoever for a sequel. The story of how Reliquary itself came into being is told elsewhere at this site. But were it not for the change to Relic's ending, the idea for a sequel might never have been brought up at all!

 

COMPUTERS IN 'RELIC': RIGHT OR WRONG?

One comment the authors frequently hear from readers is: "great book, but they got the computers wrong." Lincoln Child responds:

"My guess is that people think the computers are wrong because they see characters in the book sending out e-mail with addresses like 'Green@Biotech@STF'--which, obviously, is not a normal-looking Internet address. But the fact is that this book was written before the Internet became a household word. That address is based on an internal network mailing system commonly in use in corporations when Relic was written. Besides, I used to be a programmer and systems analyst, and in the writing of Relic consulted several mainframe programmers and IS people, from whom I learned such terms as 'lights-out room.' It's true, we took liberties with the program that Kawakita wrote, but I don't think the technical details elsewhere are particularly at fault."

 

IS IT 'RELIC' OR 'THE RELIC'?

No stalling, now: what is the real title of this book, anyway? The truth is, it's both. The original hardcover edition, and the initial paperback edition, were titled Relic. But the next two paperback editions were titled The Relic, to correspond to the Paramount movie.

What do the authors call it? "We lived with Relic as a title for so long," Preston says, "that I guess we'll always think of it by that name." And so it is presented at this site.

And why were there two paperback tie-in editions for the movie, you ask? The first came out with Paramount's original (and very creepy) movie poster for its cover, and the second edition came out with the movie poster that was actually used with the movie's release.

 

AND WHAT THE HECK IS A RELIQUARY, ANYWAY?

When the authors were tossing around ideas for titles to the sequel, Child suggested 'Reliquary'.

"It was half in jest," Child said. "I was amused by the ring of 'relic' in 'reliquary'. But we had dark visions of sales reps going into bookstores and spending their entire pitch time for the book having to explain what the word meant." But in the end they decided to stick with the title--and it even took a prominent place in the story. "We were able to use the title to good advantage," Child went on to say. "The reliquary aspects of the final plot--the pieces of Frock's wheelchair, the hut of skulls-- all found their place into the story after the title was decided upon."

So what is a reliquary, anyway? As explained in the epigram for part one of the novel:
A shrine or coffer for displaying an object, bone, or body part from a saint or deity.

 

FROCK: GOOD OR BAD?

One of the author's most difficult decisions was what to do about Frock. "When we killed off Kawakita, we needed another bad guy," Douglas Preston says. "To us, Frock was the only choice. It had to be somebody central to the plot, somebody the reader wouldn't expect. And it obviously couldn't be Nora or Pendergast. We thought about having Smithback get addicted to glaze, and see a character we were close to in great distress--witness the effects of glaze from the other side, so to speak--but somehow the idea never jelled. So it had to be Frock. But during the writing of the book, we met with a lot of resistance. People feared that Frock was too kindly, too good a character in Relic. That people wouldn't buy it--or that they might buy it, but be put off by it."

So what do you think? Was making Frock the bad guy a good thing...or a bad thing?

 

D'AGOSTA'S LOST PROMOTION

When Relic came out in paperback, the opening chapter of Reliquary was included as a teaser in the back of the book. A remarkable number of people contacted the authors, asking why D'Agosta--who had been promised a promotion to police captain in the conclusion of Relic--was still a Lieutenant. The answer, as is referred to in Reliquary, was that there was a shakeup among the police brass, and D'Agosta got passed over for the promotion. A certain Jack Waxie, now deceased, got it instead. "But the real reason," Preston points out, "is that we simply felt a police captain wouldn't get the chance to be running around in the thick of the action, where we wanted D'Agosta to be. So we kept him a lieutenant."

 

THE MYSTERIOUS MOVING MUSEUM

A lot of people questioned the authors about D'Agosta's lost promotion. But there was an even bigger change in Reliquary that nobody has pointed out. Lincoln Child explains: "in Relic, we located the fictitious New York Museum of Natural History on the equally fictitious 'Museum Drive,' situated along the Hudson River. But in Reliquary, the museum has been moved about six long blocks east, to Central Park West. Believe it or not, we agonized over having to make such a change. But unless the Museum was located along the border of Central Park, there was no way for Margo to look out the window and see the Mbwun lilies growing in the reservoir--a critical discovery, and a critical moment in the book. Besides, we liked the idea of mentioning this view of the reservoir here and there in the book, as if secretly tweaking the readers' noses before our secret is revealed. So we had to move the Museum." It's true that some knowledge of Manhattan topography is necessary to spot this, but the authors were sure some eagle-eyed reader would question it. To their knowledge, nobody did.


2019 Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child