Donna THWAITES (no Chinese names around when she was born in 1970) is 127 years of age, the oldest surviving member of the all-female Thwaites clan and recently retired from her job as a specialist in erotic activity for the over 80s (though she still does mixed-gender part-time sessions on the side). She lives in a house near Horcum Heights – bought in the 2010s long before the English Government, desperate for funds, handed over the North York Moors to China in the late 2040s – with her granddaughter Mei-ling. Donna’s past is shrouded in mystery for most of the book, but in her old age she comes across as a lively, eternally bawdy and nearly always good humoured crone with a mean wiggle to her ageing hips, a mean sense of 1980’s fashion and a soft spot for great, great, granddaughter Su-yin. Her accent is broad Yorkshire (probably the model for granddaughter Mei-wah), she speaks no Chinese (as all the other Thwaites women do to a greater or lesser extent) and she has a tendency to put her foot in it – intentionally or otherwise.
Sheila THWAITES (born before the takeover so no Chinese name) is Mei-ling’s mother and Su-yin’s great grandma. She is 104 and works in the ‘Erotic’ service industry on the equipment sales side. She lives in a state-owned penthouse in the North Bay zone of downtown Sekabo and belongs to the high income/asset group in Sekabo (though no one is more than five times richer than anyone else). She is a fashion conscious woman with a refined Yorkshire accent and a liking for the good things in life. Her childhood was difficult despite the best efforts of her mother Donna and she is set on making up for lost time. She is neither fanatically for nor fanatically against the Chinese takeover and is happy to live within the limits imposed by its egalitarian and fair shares for all constitution. She is lesbian by choice and lives with a Chinese beauty fifty years her junior. She thinks daughter Mei-ling takes life too seriously and would like to see Su-yin partnered off with some ‘nice young woman’.
THWAITES Mei-ling (had an English first name, but removed it by deed poll) is just 75, works in cryonics and is Sekabo’s leading expert on frozen body resuscitation. She is elegant, single, also lesbian, and lives in a mid-asset range house in Lifasho with her granny, Donna – her daughter, Mei-wah was an IVF baby from donated sperm. Alongside her cryonics work she represents Horcum Heights on the SKSAR council. She was the first of her family to go to university (a degree in genetics at York University in the early 2020s), experienced the handover of Sekabo to China in 2047 and quickly became a committed Sekaboan with good contacts amongst top Chinese administrators of the enclave, one of whom taught her at university. She believes in hard work, fair shares for all and the importance of clear and concise communication in both English and Chinese. She has never settled down with a partner, but survives on a diet of solo-sex, Relief House visits and occasional brief affairs. She outsourced upbringing of Mei-wah to her mum Sheila.
THWAITES Mei-wah (her mum, Mei-ling, gave her no English first name) is fifty and (to be honest) a bit of a frump. She has one IVF child, Su-yin, no real job and spends her time lying on a massage couch in a two bed-roomed Lau Bin Hun Wan (Robin Hood’s Bay) state-owned, eco-flat staring out at the North Sea and the outer reaches of her e-spex world. Perhaps in reaction to her PC mum, Mei-ling, she’s a great fan of the Anglo Royal Family past and present (collects memorabilia avidly), is not enamoured of the Chinese in general (still prefers fish n’chips, mushy peas and a ‘brew’) and dislikes Chinese takeover of Sekabo in particular - despite living off Sekaboan state. On the fat side (from junk food watching e-spex programmes) she has a down at heel look with little interest taken in her outward appearance. Also lesbian, by nurture/ genetic design, she has (despite frumpiness) a glamorous live-in female partner, a formerly famous folk-singer now on a comeback tour in China. Mei-wah cultivates a strong Yorkshire accent and sees herself as bit of a Northern wit.
Samantha THWAITES Su-yin (known as Su-yin), twenty-five in 2097 and the youngest member of a family of English Sekaboan’s that stretches back over five generations to her great-great grandmother Donna. Attractive English Rose/ Princess Di looks matched with a sharp intelligence and a conscientious approach to life. In 2097, she has just graduated as a Crychologist (rehabilitator who uses one to one therapy on resuscitated cryonics cases) from Sekabo Science University and faces her first big challenge with the unfreezing of Michael. She is something of an idealist, believes 100% in the Sekaboan egalitarian way of life and supports the Chinese administration. She admires her hardworking grandmother Mei-ling (a staunch supporter of the Sekabo system, too) and is less close to her couch potato, royalist mum Mei-wah. Lesbian by nurture and genetic design, she has just discovered a hetero side and during the course of the story this starts to blossom and bloom in the presence of Michael.
Michael HOWELL (appears in both 1990 and 2097) is a 23 year old with an Afro Caribbean mother called Elaine and an unknown father who, Michael presumes, is white given his own mixed race appearance. The father is a mystery man his mother is not prepared to talk about, so Michael – an easygoing, hardworking, good-looking sort - gets on with his life videoing parties, baptism, weddings etc. He lives with his mum in Scarborough and gets most of his work through a video shop owner called Lennon. Always short of cash, he jumps at an opportunity to do some house videos for an estate agent. All is not as it seems and this takes Michael through a series of macabre adventures in the area of off-centre video-making that leads to him to fall in love, and eventually to his death. In his second incarnation in 2097, Michael’s ability to assimilate and cope with strange situations – combined with his natural curiosity and willingness to help out when he can – allows him to adjust to the new world of Sekabo, but doesn’t prevent him from falling in love for a second time, after going through a number of very strange encounters and events.
Elaine HOWELL (1990 section, always in first person flashbacks taken from her diary) Yorkshire-born and bred, Michael’s mum Elaine (about fifty years old in 1997) has her roots in Tobago (capital city, Scarborough) and has been cleaning at Scarborough General Hospital ever since her son can remember. We only meet her through the first person extracts from her diary, but from these she seems to be a somewhat naïve girl in her late teens who grows into a wise, industrious and caring older woman and single mum. Her traumatic experiences in an aristocratic household on the moors have led to her leading an almost monastic life, nurturing a dark secret she can tell no one. Her one solace is her son Michael and when she discovers him in a shocking situation her ability to cope with trauma and tragedy is again put to the test. Although on the edge of the narrative, Elaine comes across as a warm-hearted and courageous woman, whose violent death shortly after the Chinese takeover in 2047 remains unresolved almost to the end of the book.
Maddie THOMPSON (in 1990 section only ) is a 20 year old country girl from North Yorkshire with a talent for singing (she does a mean ‘Nothing Compares 2U’), modelling and performing. Frustration and boredom with her life has led her to become something of an exhibitionist and she enjoys displaying her body at housewives lingerie parties run by her foster mum, and later within the more pornographic contexts in which she involves Michael. A tough material girl in the Madonna mode, and like Su-yin blessed or cursed with looks similar to those of Princess Di, she also has a soft and compassionate side revealed in the way that she does her best to make life tolerable for her paraplegic birth mother. In the end, it is her concern for the latter, and a need for money, that leads her to take a fateful step that costs her Michael’s love.
DE VERE, Charles (Earl of Lockton in 1990/2097). Charles is the younger brother of James De Vere, who has become Duke of Dalby by 1990. Charles’ life is dominated by a sibling rivalry that has been present since childhood and has warped his sense of reality. He is jealous of his older brother’s right to the family Dukedom and estate and, though supported by that same brother and allowed to live at the family manor of Dinsdale Hall, Charles is an inveterate gambler who piles up debts, and a womaniser. In order to pay off the debts and to satiate his increasingly jaded sexual appetite – as well as take revenge for an unrequited love with an important establishment figure – he sets up a filming session that has consequences for all the key characters in both 1990 and 2097. A bad apple with a certain suave charm, he acts as a catalyst for key events and helps push the story to its final climax.
THE BOSS (appears in 2097 elements only). A violent and unpleasant-looking man in his mid-fifties, who has become mega-rich through his own persistent ruthlessness and adherence to the key rule of putting profit before people and making money from exploitation of base consumer desires. A self-made man from a poor background, he is now boss of a multi-media porn empire and will stop at nothing to get what he wants to ensure that he stays top dog in his branch of the ‘entertainment’ industry. Sensing the contemporary potential of a rumoured royal scandal from a hundred years before, he sends his minion Albion on a mission to the Chinese enclave of Sekabo to find the evidence that will expose the scandal and reap him, the Boss, the massive financial reward. Irredeemably bad, he believes in the right to be as rich as you can at whatever cost to others – a right still protected in the remnants of England – and scoffs at the egalitarianism of Sekabo.
Albion King Arthur WALL (in 2097 era only) is a fifty something Anglo loser (revamped with laser treatment to look – but very much at first look only - in his 30s) from Birmingham. A former failed business student, failed soldier and failed lover, Albion currently works as a general dogsbody for a big time Brum crime boss in porn and extortion. Albion’s father, a patriotic, George Cross waving, English soldier, left Albion’s mum when Albion was five. His mother died during childbirth when Albion was fifteen, leaving her only son in charge of a kid sister who, as the story opens, the boss kidnaps to make sure his minion ‘does the business’. This ‘business’ is trying to track down a woman in Sekabo who might know something about a porn film that might involve the Royal Family and be worth a mint. This mission leads to Albion having to choose between good and evil – and ultimately life and death.
Cedric LO (2097 story only) is a smooth, very anglicised Chinese man of indeterminate age who speaks with an Etonian accent and always manages to appear at the right or wrong moment, depending on your point of view. A secret service agent, who mixes James Bond with occasional flashes of Jackie Chan’s physical bravado, it is never quite clear who he works for and whose interests he is trying to further. Brought up in Hong Kong but educated privately in England, Cedric Lo’s loyalty is, however, unswervingly with Queen and country. He has the ear of both the Anglo and Sekaboan leaders and seems, at first sight, a force for good. Certainly the ‘secret’ or ‘secrets’ that permeate the book are very much his business, and, as his true agenda is revealed, his nice guy image turns nasty and his charm takes on a cruel edge.