Penguin Random House UK, in partnership with Lex and Editions At Play, launches science fiction world, STRATA

Penguin Random House UK, in partnership with Lex and Editions At Play, publishes STRATA today worldwide, a unique digital-only storytelling experience with writing from authors including Misha Glenny, Laurie Penny and Maggie Koerth-Baker.

The year is 2116. Eugenics experiments have failed to curb the city’s dense population, which drowns in the perpetual shadows cast by a layer of giant towers scraping the stratosphere miles above. Further below an ancient and mysterious world crumbles...

What will the future hold for petty thieves, high-society chefs and dispossessed young women?

STRATA is a book about the future, made for the future. Directed and illustrated by Tommy Lee Edwards, with music and sound design by I Speak Machine (Tara Busch and Maf Lewis), it comprises science fiction short stories and accompanying essays by eight stellar writers. Each story is a portal that takes the reader deeper into STRATA; each essay reveals another layer of science that underpins the world.

Readers toggle between ‘fiction’ and ‘science’ modes to discover STRATA’s dystopian class war and explore the future through specially-commissioned work across four topics:

LAW ENFORCEMENT: Greybox by James Smythe, paired with an essay by Misha Glenny
SYNTHETIC NEUROBIOLOGY: Outreach by Laurie Penny, paired with an essay by Lewis Dartnell

FOOD PRODUCTION: A Handful Of Rubies by E.J. Swift, paired with an essay by Paul McMahon

INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Affection by Lavie Tidhar, paired with an essay by Maggie Koerth-Baker

Conceived to live on the web and optimised for mobile, STRATA uses a parallax navigation system exploring Edwards’ rich and striking retro-futuristic visuals. Combined with the ambient soundscape from I Speak Machine, STRATA makes the most of the storytelling opportunities of the web in a highly immersive new science fiction world that will appeal to all readers of comic book and graphic novel readers, and anyone with an interest in speculative future worlds, from the anime of AKIRA and GHOST IN THE SHELL, to BLADE RUNNER and MAD MAX’.

Available at and through the Google Play Books store, STRATA is the first step into a new science fiction world that has been developed by Google’s Creative Lab in Australia and Editions At Play as part of a publishing programme of books that live in the browser and make the most of the dynamic qualities of the web.

Dan Franklin, Digital Publisher, Penguin Random House UK, said: “STRATA has been a fantastic collaboration between Penguin Random House and Lex as part of the Editions At Play programme. By commissioning eight brilliant writers to run wild within the visionary world that Tommy Lee Edwards and I Speak Machine conceived we now have an entirely new kind of book that creates itself before your eyes, on the browser of the mini-computers we call our phones. It’s the best kind of ‘future shock’.”


Tommy Lee Edwards commented: “Tara Busch had written a gorgeous song that inspired me to write a story. My writing inspired Tara and Maf Lewis to elaborate on the story's characters and create more music, which drove me to start visualising our rapidly building world.  Lex, Penguin Random House, and Editions At Play joined the fun, and eventually an entire universe began to unfold. STRATA is a project built by inspiration, mutual respect, and a yearning for creativity. The topical and imaginative fiction from our contributing authors is an incredibly immersive experience, while the accompanying prophetic scientific essays push our world into a new level of interactivity. STRATA is the ultimate in collaboration, and I'm excited about spreading the inspiration.”


Tom Brown, Owner, Lex, added: “Tara, Maf and Tommy came to Lex with an idea for STRATA, growing out of their shared appreciation of classic sci-fi music and art. Analogue synth scores like Gil Mellé’s for Andromeda Strain and Jerry Goldsmith’s for Logan’s Run informed the music with John Berkey and Syd Mead providing inspiration for the artwork.

“STRATA is an ambitious project, with an animated film in the early stages of development. Developing the STRATA book with Penguin Random House and Editions At Play has been one of the first stages in creating the universe. It brought together Tara, Maf and Tommy’s original concept with some fantastic writers and thinkers who helped add breadth and depth to the fledgling world.”  #strataworld



Watch the book trailer here:

Find out more about Editions At Play here:


Hannah Glenny, Penguin Random House UK

+44 7769 617881

Ben Harris, Run Music

+44 7890 997249




Law Enforcement – Misha Glenny –What does law enforcement look like in the age of automation and a widening divide between rich and poor? Policing will become as much about managing data as physical presence and brute force.

Greybox – James Smythe – Charlie doesn’t know what goes on in Jimmy’s head, she just looks after him. Jimmy is trapped inside ‘greybox’, a cruel and unusual form of imprisonment. It’s part of her own criminal sentence, to look after her partner in his vegetative state, but Charlie is getting desperate.

Synthetic Neurobiology – Lewis Dartnell – We already use drugs to enhance our neurobiology, like caffeine and Adderall, but these drugs can only get more sophisticated as research and developments continue to be made in this lucrative field.

A Hush Descends – Laurie Penny – Rosie is worried. Supplies of Hush, the drug she relies on to get through the day, are drying out. Scraping a living on a lower level, she needs to find a fix soon, or else her mysterious friend will start to appear again.

Food production – Paul McMahon – What does the future hold for food production in a world that is over populated and over-farmed? How will we grow enough food and combat climate change? Paul looks at some technological and social changes that might take place.

A Handful of Rubies- EJ Swift – Vardimon is one of the world’s leading food experts, but he can no longer taste the delicacies he is judging every day. Reaching the limit of his aging body, he must make the difficult decision to transplant his consciousness into a new form – but will his secretary have other ideas?

Infectious Diseases – Maggie Koerth-Baker – Disease control isn’t straightforward, especially when climate change, poverty, war and racial issues intersect. Maggie looks at how the resources gap between rich and poor will continue to affect the spread of disease.

Affection – Lavie Tidhar – Anat lives on the top levels, in the rarefied atmosphere of her wealthy home, where she communicates only via screens with her little brother and her parents. One day she dares a stealthy trip down to the lower levels, risking infection in an encounter with a shop girl from a forbidden world.


For the past twenty years, Tommy Lee Edwards has taken the comics industry by storm on such titles as Wolverine, The Question, Marvel 1985, Batman, and the hugely successful Turf with co-creator Jonathan Ross. Edwards perhaps feels most at home putting his imagination and storytelling flair to the test as a writer, storyboard artist, designer, and director for film and animation. Alongside Edgar Wright, Edwards created the award-winning interactive animated Microsoft series called The Random Adventures of Brandon Generator. Proving to be one of the most respected and versatile artists working today, has also designed video games like Command & Conquer and Prey, movies like Harry Potter and The Book of Eli, and countless Star Wars books and posters for Lucasfilm. Edwards is currently writing and directing an upcoming animated television series with Fox.

Vocalist and synth-nerd Tara Busch and film maker and designer Maf Lewis form I Speak Machine. Together they make brooding soundtracks and horror/sci-fi films, creating audio and visuals in unison and giving both elements equal prominence. Their approach is inspired by Spaghetti Western cinema duo Ennio Morricone and Sergio Leone, who used to play with score ideas for scenes while scripts were being written.

I Speak Machine’s debut offering is score and short film, The Silence. The duo’s first London show was a live performance of The Silence at the Purcell Room, London on 21st September with Tara on vocals and an array of vintage analogue synths, accompanying the screening of the film. I Speak Machine also toured Europe, the UK and Scandinavia in 2015, including a string of LA and London shows supporting Gary Numan. I Speak Machine are currently set to release the next short film and EP, Zombies 1985, in early 2016. The Silence soundtrack is available on Lex Records on vinyl and digital download.

Tommy, Tara and Maf are joined by eight writers, who have each contributed an essay or piece of fiction to the world of STRATA.

Penguin Random House is the world’s most global trade book publisher. It comprises the adult and children’s fiction and nonfiction print and digital trade book publishing businesses of Penguin and Random House in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa, and Penguin’s trade publishing activity in Asia and Brazil; DK worldwide; and Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial’s Spanish-language companies in Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia, and Chile. Penguin Random House employs more than 12,000 people globally across almost 250 editorially and creatively independent imprints and publishing houses that collectively publish more than 15,000 new titles annually. Its publishing lists include more than 70 Nobel Prize laureates and hundreds of the world’s most widely read authors.

Lex is a London-based production company, also known as leading independent record label Lex Records. They will celebrate their fifteenth anniversary this year and are best known for releases by Alan Moore & Mitch JenkinsDanger MouseMF DOOMBadbadnotgood & Ghostface Killah and Neon   


Editions At Play is an initiative by Visual Editions and Google’s Creative Lab to explore a new kind of book: one which makes use of the dynamic properties of the web. The goal of Editions At Play is to allow writers to create books which change dynamically on a reader’s phone or tablet using the internet, and to engage the next generation of readers on their phones as well as in print. We want to create books that are powered by the magic of the internet.


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