Charity Sweetling – The Freighter Pilot

Charity Sweetling was rescued from a life of violence and abuse by a freetrader and taken onto the Coalition Protected Children Program for refugee children seeking asylum without their parents.

She was raised by a loving foster family in the rarefied high-tech enclave of Central and even undertook the military service required under the Program, before taking her pilot training into civilian life, flying huge freighters instead of military transports.

“The issue is, due to the Asylum For Children Legislation Amendments, you were granted asylum under Section D. That means unless you are employed in a reserved occupation, your status falls under the remit of the Security of Place and Persons Committee and it is their decision as to whether you should have leave to remain as a citizen of Central or not.”

Charis felt the confusion returning. It made no sense.

“I really do not understand what this is about.”

“Let me put it in plain words, Var Sweetling -”

“Oh please do, plainer the better – this is just sounding bizarre.”

“The Security of Place and Persons Committee has decided the term of your asylum is now over. The original conditions of it being in place – you being an unescorted minor in need of safety – no longer apply and the sole mitigation you held through working in reserved employment, is no longer valid. As a result, Var Sweetling I need to inform you that you are no longer a citizen of Central nor – since you were born outside it – of the Coalition either.”

Facing the chilling prospect of being deported back to the low-tech, barbaric, hell-hole of a planet she had been rescued from as a child, Charis was willing to do anything. She would clutch at any chance she was offered – even if it meant risking her life…

 

 

Whatever they were going to ask it would be dirty and dangerous. But they had been careful to push her to this point so it must also be something they needed her for and her in particular, no one else. Maybe there would be some small bit of room for manoeuvre.

“You may as well tell me what you want me to do, I know I don’t have any choice.”

“There is always a choice,” said the woman on the left, her expression sharpening for moment.

 

Jazatar Baldrik – The Mercenary

Avilon Revid – The Convicted Terrorist

Durban Chola – The Enigma

Jazatar Baldrik – The Mercenary

Check out ‘Doubled Spirit’ – a FREE Fortune’s Fools short story, that gives insight into Jaz’s experiences in the Special Legion. Sometimes the past comes hunting – and sometimes it finds you.

To most people, the ‘City is infamous for being the crime capital of the Coalition and Shame Cullen is the biggest Name amongst the criminal syndicates that dominate it’s skyline. To Jazatar Baldrik the ‘City is simply his home. Having survived five years of convict military service in the Special Legion, under the most brutal and savage conditions imaginable, Jaz just wants to rebuild whatever he can out of the shattered remnants of his life.

Life never gave Jaz any breaks. He started at the bottom and clawed his way up making his own. But then that’s how it is when you start life as a street kid in the most dangerous city in the civilised galaxy.  From the first, Jaz had to fight for everything he ever got out of life: the education he needed to qualify for the military, the promotions once he was accepted, and all the time fighting the prejudice of his origins.

In his prime, he was someone who commanded respect as a mercenary. Running with the finest units that were fighting corporate resource wars and making a name for himself as one of the elite in that challenging profession.

Apart from his career, the only thing that Jaz really cared about was his family – his partner and their two sons.

She always knew and accepted the dangers of his mercenary work, then she once did military service herself and knew just how good he was at it. It took him away from home for a cycle or more at a time – but also meant he could be around a lot between times and that worked well for them with the children.

Then he met Avilon Revid and discovered a friend he had not expected:

Avilon had few other real friends, if any, just followers and admirers. Jaz understood it. Within his organisation, The Legacy, there was no one Avilon could be at ease with. As the head of their Direct Action section – the general of their amateur army – he needed to stand apart. He had to be the legend they wanted him to be. And outside the Legacy he had nothing but enemies. And plenty enough of them.

They met more than a dozen years before, when Avilon pulled Jaz out of a bad place – saved his life. And to begin with, nothing more than the need to repay that debt made Jaz keep in contact. But somehow things shifted and a real friendship grew. Real trust.

Which was why when Avilon asked for his professional help in a strike that would cripple the Coalition, Jaz had accepted. He had no time for the Legacy and its political dreams and little more than contempt for its methods. Jaz took it on for his friend – his brother. The price of that was a sentence to serve in the Special Legion, a military convict unit which was designed to function as a deferred death penalty…

Check out this FREE short story that gives insight into Jaz’s experiences in the Special Legion.

Charity Sweetling – The Freighter Pilot

Avilon Revid – The Convicted Terrorist

Durban Chola – The Enigma

Doubled Spirit

A short story set just before the start of Harupex Trilogy – Book One: ‘Trust A Few’ and featuring events from a couple of years before that…

Doubled Spirit

It always began with an explosion.

Any explosion – any one of the hundred or more he had survived.

The explosion would lock him in, trap him, make him a prisoner of his sleeping mind. In the real world, he was safe in bed with a woman curled close beside him. Vel’s cousin, Lea, her body warm and sated. But it was not enough. The moment sleep claimed him the explosion would still come, shredding his sanity. Then the nightmare would run on, making him relive each episode, as vivid as life. Every thought, sensation, feeling, image, as clear as it had been at the time, pursuing him remorselessly until he could – somehow – scramble back to consciousness from the relentless abuse of sleep….

 An explosion crumpling the building to his right as if it were paper.

Three more blasts in quick succession, the last close enough to spew out a lethal hail of masonry. The kinetic shielding on his armaments belt protected him so the rubble bounced away, but the screaming beside him was cut off abruptly. What had been two human beings a moment before, was now a pulped mess.

 A shattering silence followed. He could see troops advancing – eight  – and five more still in cover behind them according to the Lattice screen. With three bursts he  dropped two of the nearest, the rest scattered for cover.

“Leader Four-Delta from Prime. Withdraw immediately.”

The voice in his ears at last.

“Acknowledged.”

Relaying the order to his three surviving team members, Jaz put down covering fire as they retreated. The Lattice was pounding him with information through his scalp implanted data-port, faster than he could absorb it:  numbers and location of the enemy, their armaments, expected movements, ground plans, suggested paths he could take. More.

Then:

“Leader Four-Delta from Prime.  Lattice is showing you are surrounded. We are unable to support. Repeat. Unable to support.” A pause, before the voice added: “You’re on your own out there, Jaz.”

Bastards.

Acknowledged.”

Snarling the word, he focused on keeping up covering fire. He knew they were surrounded. He could see what was going on.  The handful of Special Legion troops he had been given for this job were being sacrificed – a feint – so the rest of his unit could hit the main enemy base largely unopposed. Except of course no one had told him that. It crossed his mind to wonder who he had pissed off enough so they chose him for this suicide run. If – when – he got out of this he would find out and make them pay. Then the thought occurred that it was probably nothing personal at all. When you were living out a death sentence, you shouldn’t be too surprised to be treated as completely expendable.

A sudden blossom of light caught one of the three whose retreat Jaz was covering. It impacted in the centre of the spine and the figure’s arms went wide, briefly embracing air that was suddenly red with a haze of  vaporised blood, flesh and entrails. Jaz swore and pulled a grenade loose from his belt, sending it in a skilful parabola back towards the enemy to cover his own retreat.

 Another of his surviving team went down to a sniper shot,  but the third was trying to offer what covering fire she could from behind a partially demolished building and was being pretty effective. He ran, rolled, then vaulted the lowest part of the wall, crouching beside her, checking Lattice screens, looking for any way out for them.

 More blasts exploded on either side and the world disintegrated. Finding himself suddenly under a pile of tumbling masonry, Jaz shook free of it like a wet dog shedding water.  But beside him one arm was all that was visible from beneath the rubble – that and the blood. He started running again.

Watching the environment.

Watching the screens.

Checking the Lattice data overlays.

A movement on the screen broke the profile of the low rise building beside him, some kind of accommodation block. Appearing on screen: ground-plans, elevations, positions of people, their predicted paths. The data projected into his visual field, augmenting his reality. He turned, raking fire across the facade. A figure fell and a fusillade of energy fire came his way from the building.

 Lattice visual was showing him six men in there. Lattice data telling him they were armed with anti-mech heavy weaponry, which he knew they would now be turning on him. The energy threshold of his kinetic shield would be zero defence against that kind of power. Lattice data flashed up a helpful message warning him of the over-ride risk. Better late than never. He cancelled it and pumped more of the adrenalin based cocktail of drugs through the intravenous clip fixed into his torso. Speed was his only defence now and not much of one.

 

He ran.

Using cover.

Changing course.

His whole focus on making that speed.

The buildings ended in a high wall and as he made the final sprint towards it, he tried to decide between tracking along it for a break or scaling it and risking exposure. Checking Lattice screens for the information he needed to inform the decision. A close burn sent him diving into the last available cover before the wall but –

The screens all went dark and a mild voice was speaking calmly in his ear:

You are not logged on to the Lattice. Please be aware when the countdown hits zero your brain implants will self-destruct – you are not -”

 Fuck the bastards.

He cancelled the voice and ignored the timer as its chilling digits counted down his heartbeats on the edge of his visual field.  There was nothing he could do. The coms drone has been pulled out leaving him to die. For a moment he felt the futility of fighting. They had abandoned him, he was not going to get out this time.

Then he heard it.

Distant sounds of a fire-fight.

Jaz felt an almost dizzying rush of relief – these were the sounds of death that offered him some small hope of life. A moment later he was up and running.

Freeing the climbing line on the belt, he fired the grapnel, barely waiting for it to impact before swarming up the high wall. He felt incredibly vulnerable  – naked to the guns behind. Then he was flattening himself, sliding over the top,  dropping down and sprinting.

The trace of light caught in his peripheral vision, making him break into an evasive diving roll. He saw, not felt, the next splash of energy. The shock of it impacted afterwards, horrific and crippling, tearing out his strength and will.

He hit the ground and stayed down, unable to rise, unable to think, his consciousness hollowed out by the pain.

Time fragmented.

 Awareness shrank.

The smell of the dark ground beneath his face, tasting musty and sweet – an alien soil. The beat of his heart timing the steady flick of numbers that counted down to the moment oblivion would devour him.

Then –

Something moving, lifting him, an arm under his shoulder. A voice – his brother’s voice – Avilon Revid.

“Let’s get you out of here.”

….. waking was always sudden and never easy.

Like ripping away flesh.

Then came the disorientation as the two worlds of the past and present battled for supremacy.

Which was real?

His mind was still caught in the snare of memory, vividly relived.  He could feel the cold sweat on his body and the hammering of his heart.  A face, vague in the darkness, Avilon’s? Then another voice, familiar and feminine, full of concern and compassion:

You got it bad tonight?

The face shifted, the features softening into Lea’s. She was there for him as she had been the last time and the time before that. And he knew then, with a sudden certainty, she would be there for him every night he needed her. He reached out and her arms slipped around him drawing him close, holding him as he sobbed in relief, like a frightened child.

Doubled Spirit                                                                                                                          E.M. Swift-Hook

 

Haruspex Commences!

 

Trust A Few, the first part of Haruspex Trilogy, will be available for purchase on 26 March. Come to the Launch Party! Find out more about the main characters:

Jazatar Baldrik – The Mercenary
Charity Sweetling – The Freighter Pilot
Avilon Revid – The Convicted Terrorist
Durban Chola – The Enigma

And read a teaser short story to get you in the mood:

Doubled Spirit

This wonderful promo was kindly made by Robert Lee Beers. And if you have yet to read all of Transgressor Trilogy, you can catch up with the story HERE!

If you would like to know more, sign up for the emails and find me through the SciFi Roundtable on Facebook!

Amazing Story!

There is something special about having a legendary name take an interest in your work. It suddenly makes you feel like a grown-up author! So you can imagine how I felt to find that not only had an Amazing Stories reviewer, Matt Mitrovitch, written a review of ‘Tales of Wonder’, but my story was one he singled out for a positive mention:

“Changeling Child” by E.M. Swift-Hook: A young girl named Tani and her father are forced to leave their home as bad Lowlanders are coming for them. Tani, however, becomes separated from her father and soon finds herself near Castell Blighe where she hears the disembodied voice of a  faie…except this fairy tale creature is made out of switches and wires.

The old fairy stories are not something I am that familiar with, but elements of them (like not eating the food they offer to you) are familiar to me. I thought this story did a good job using those old tales in a world that appears to be a technological civilization that suffered some great catastrophe. Now the thinking machines of old have become the supernatural creatures that go bump in the night, making this a fun story for genre fans who remember the old tales.

SQUEEE!

No. Wait. Grown-up response:

I have to say I am absolutely delighted with Matt’s review and was also thrilled by having an Amazon Vine reviewer Darcia Helle praise the anthology too.

If you want to check out the full Amazing Stories review you can find it HERE.

And whilst I’m on the topic of awesome reviews, I have to share this one for ‘Times of Change’ which has had me blushing today:

Melonie Purcell‘s 5* Review of ‘Times of Change’.

 

 

Murder In Absentia – Assaph Mehr

Rara Avis.

‘Our city may be named after the regal birds that grace our shores, but our people march on squid.’

Egretia is Ancient Rome, but Ancient Rome in a parallel universe where magic is real. This is historical urban fantasy at its best and it will appeal to all who have enjoyed the works of Lindsey Davis, Rosemary Rowe, Steven Saylor, David Wishart, Ruth Downie, Jane Finnis and a handful of other authors who have set their whodunit solving heroes lose in a Roman setting. But Assaph Mehr‘s hero, Felix the Fox, has both the advantage and the disadvantage of living in a world where magic is real. He has some small command over it himself, but he is up against those who know much more powerful spells than he does.

Then story opens with Felix being asked to look into the strange death of a local official’s son. It turns out an ancient and powerful magic had to be involved and Felix has to call on the knowledge, skill and ability of several friends and enemies to try to get some idea of what is going on. Secret cabals and ancient manuscripts, death curses and pretty actresses, sea voyages and gladiatorial games, mysterious prophecies and mythical beasts that are real in his world, all play their part in helping Felix track down the reason the young man died.

‘I am not usually afflicted by bouts of honour and disposing of the bodies in the nearest sewer would have been quicker, but I have seen enough vengeful shades of the dead not to want one associated with my home.’

This is a well written book with a well developed and believable world. The author has clearly spent a lot of time researching into Ancient Rome and then taking the history and using it as a brilliant raw resource to craft his own landscape of an alternative Ancient Mediterranean world. It is not only Ancient Rome we see on display in Egretia, but Ancient Greece (Hellica) and Egypt (Mitzrana) as well. The characters are very well painted into the background scenery, even those we only meet in passing like Crassitius, the lanista who hires Felix a bodyguard gladiator, have their own personalities well shaped and on show, the result is a very solid and totally credible world.

The pace is well managed, a little slow perhaps at the beginning due to some scene setting, but quickly picking up to a pleasing clip which is then maintained throughout the rest of the book. The story has some extremely intriguing twists and turns and I would be telling fibs if I were to try to claim that I saw the final denouement coming in advance. To make the whole even more of a delight, the book is lightly garnished with touches of humour.

‘She tried to snatch her hand back, but found it bound to the table with the shimmering tracery holding her wrist tight.’

My main criticism of the book is in the earlier pages when the amount of information delivered almost turns into a lecture. Correction, it does turn into a lecture at a couple of points. A slightly less heavy hand would have created a better impression from the off, but I have to say it is swiftly forgotten once the book gets going. The other issue I feel which was skated close to, but never quite breached, was the limits on the magic Felix could command. On a couple of occasions it did brush very lightly against being a bit too convenient that he just happened to have a spell that could do what was needed.

Overall, I loved this book. Anyone who, like me, has hunted out just about every author of Roman whodunits or who loves urban fantasy with an alternative historical twist, will want to read this.

Those who would like to can obtain a copy of Murder in Absentia here.

The Fated Sky

Get it HERE.

One man’s fight against fate shapes the destiny of an entire world.

Temsevar is an insignificant Periphery world on the very fringes of galactic civilisation. Settled long before the rise of faster-than-light technologies and left isolated for hundreds of years, its population have degenerated into the barbarism of a medieval culture. This primitive world has nothing the wealthy planets of the Coalition could want, until it becomes unwitting host to one of their most dangerous enemies – Avilon Revid.

What Amazon readers have said about The Fated Sky:

‘Beautifully written and paced’ ~ MM

‘All in all a good read that I would definitely recommend.’ ~ Enesha

‘Sci-fi epic that feels like a fantasy. Loved it.’  ~Trish

‘This one will go in my library of to be read again books.’ ~Ducky

‘This well written and exciting book was an engrossing read.’ ~ Kristy C

‘The Fated Sky introduces a novelist whose storytelling skills, at once masterful and wondrous, create a world of magnificent scope and vivid imagery.’ ~ Rafael

‘The Fated Sky is an intelligent and wonderfully convoluted fantasy novel, enchanting the reader’ ~ AF

‘The author’s writing style reminded me of J.R.R Tolkien or George R, R, Martin’ Frank Julius Palumbo

‘This is a world and culture spanning fantasy and a page turning adventure. I was sorry when I reached the last page’ ~ BEEJ

‘..a well crafted fantasy/sci-fi filled with wonderfully Machiavellian characters that will make you long for the next volume in the series.’ ~ PLB

‘The story is captivating. The world is rich and well built. The characters are wonderfully diverse and well developed.’ ~ M.P.

‘The detailed world-building, the subterfuge, the struggle for power and position, the quasi-medieval setting — it reminded me, in a good way, of Game of Thrones  (with an ‘off-world’ element). I was addicted and turning pages like crazy.’ ~ JT

‘It definitely makes the reader hunger for the next installment to see what happens.’ ~ Page M

 

Warren Dean – First Contact

Warren Dean is a master of first contact science fiction. His books are all really well written and they unfold credible, and very different, views of how we may one day meet aliens. I thoroughly enjoyed his books, recommend them unreservedly and hope there will soon be more.

The Forever Gene

Who wants to live forever?

We won’t know the answer for decades, perhaps even centuries, but our current research indicates that the gene will extend a person’s life indefinitely.

For most science fiction books one key advance, such as the idea of a genetic manipulation that will halt the aging process, would be the basis of the entire plot. But the technology of the title is only one of the threads in The Forever Gene which is brimming with interesting concepts as well as an excellent first-contact storyline.

The Faerie Folk are aliens of an elven appearance and they arrive one day without warning to offer Planet Earth access to their spacefaring technology.

David Herald was the creator of the Forever Gene which freezes biological age when it is applied. He is no selfless humanitarian and makes big money selling the precious gift of life. He and his wife, Pris, run a clinic where the procedure is undertaken, offering effective immortality – but only to those few financial fat-cats who can afford the multimillion dollar price tag. When the Faerie Folk arrive David and Pris find themselves being asked to apply the procedure in a highly unusual way, in return for which they are, apparently, well rewarded.

One of the aspects I love about this book and indeed about all of Warren Dean’s writing that I have enjoyed so far, is the open internationalism. Any nation can become the place where events happen and if they do, then it is portrayed in a non-partisan way. In this case, the aliens arrive in Ulan Bator and one of our heroines is a Mongolian journalist, Qara-Chinoa. She is befriended by one of the Faerie Folk – a translator with the expedition called Vi. It is a relationship that turns out to have far reaching consequences.

Aided by blueprints from the Faerie Folk, an international consortium begins building an interstellar-capable craft from a base on the moon and there we meet Katya Kasparova, second in command of the Russian delegation to that consortium and someone who becomes a key player in events after the aliens have left earth. When the aliens do leave, their parting gift is one that seems beneficial, but leaves tremendous issues in its wake. Issues which affect the lives of everyone on earth and lead to dramatic consequences that push humanity out into the stars.

It struck her that the predominant concepts reflected were beauty, nature, and co-operation rather than conflict, passion, sorrow, and sacrifice, which were thecommon themes expressed in human artwork.

The story is generally well paced and the writing style excellent. The characters are mostly the kind of people you can believe in, root for and want to know more about. The plot is credible and exciting and the futuristic technology is intriguing, creative and well explained where needed.

For me the only slight flaw was that I was not fully accepting of the reaction of humanity as a whole to the gift of the Faerie Folk. Some of the things that the author saw as being key problems were ones which I could see there being little issue resolving. But that is a personal view based on my own, perhaps too optimistic, view of humanity. And on a side note, I did feel the author made an odd choice in highlighting the UK as a place where religious sentiment in relation to morality was deemed to have real influence. Even today it is one of the top five least religious countries in the world. But these are minor gripes when set against the overall story.

I would whole heartedly recommend ‘The Forever Gene’ to lovers of sci-fi and to those who enjoy apocalyptic and dystopian fiction too. I am hoping that there will be more books in the series available soon.

 

The Treasure Hunters

It is hard to write too much about what I liked in this novella without moving into spoiler territory, but I will try.

To begin with, it is as the title tells us, about treasure hunters – but not just in the modern day. The binding thread of the separate, but inter-woven, adventures told in very different time periods is the same lure of treasure, even if the motives vary from seeking wonder to seeking wealth – to seeking something else altogether. Each step on the ladder of time is a complete story in and of itself, but nests together with the others to give a fuller picture. It is this careful crafting of each sub-story which gives the overall book its strength.

The writing is lucid and fluid and the author shows a good command of the technicalities involved – presenting them in a way that does not get too exacting or demanding on an ignorant reader like myself.

The questions left at the end of the book point the way forward to something more, but it still finishes in a way that allows a reader to feel they would not have been short changed if nothing more was ever added.

I enjoyed it.

Return of the Treasure Hunters

I really enjoyed this book. It is definitely best read having enjoyed the introductory novella The Treasure Hunters as that more than sets the scene for this story, it underpins and enhances it. The Treasure Hunters asks questions which this book begins to answer and some of the awe and wonder of that would be lost if you have not made the journey with Patrick and Molly and have not followed the Christina de la Fuego on her voyage of adventure.

The story begins some forty years after the last book closes and is set in the near-future, when Patrick and Molly tell their eldest son Connor the source of their wealth and then discover it is missing. The reason for that becomes apparent when all of humanity falls under threat. The involvement of Connor and his parents in trying to avert this threat form much of the rest of the story.

But there is a second story, that of Christina – of the Christina de la Fuegofame – the daughter of the man we met in The Treasure Hunters, who had named his ship for his red-haired daughter. This story is almost complete in itself, a parallel and fascinating historical odyssey of a woman in a man’s era making her own mark in her own way.

We also learn something of the story and motives of those who have come across space-time on their own treasure hunt and glimpse into a vastly grander universe through a brief window with them.

The stories all flow together in unexpected manner, but in a way which also seems perfectly natural and unforced. Something that is a great strength of the author – like peering into a prism through its different facets and allowing the final rainbow of light to emerge seamless.

Most first-contact story lines leave me struggling to really believe in them, but this one has a really solid ground and that carries into the story, gathering power and conviction as it goes. The response from humanity is, in my view, very well explored and the unexpected resolution both satisfying and totally credible.

If you enjoy concept sci-fi with a human face, you should pick this up. If you enjoy a well written story with interesting characters, you will enjoy this. But do read The Treasure Hunters first or you will miss out on so much which gives this book its ultimate appeal.

I look forward to the next novella in the series.

Eric Michael Craig

Eric Michael Craig

One of my favourite authors, I can recommend these books to anyone who enjoys good writing in the science-fiction genre – and the Atlas and the Winds books are going to appeal to those who enjoy a thundering good thriller too! From the same stable as Michael Crichton, Eric has the science background and the human insight to bring that extra convincing depth to his stories.

Find out more about Eric and his projects here.

The world is about to end – but no one is telling

“Several years ago, Carter and I circulated a plan to deflect large asteroids by using a series of timed nuclear detonations.”

Stormhaven Rising is a fascinating book. It is billed as science-fiction – and it is, superb and hard ‘real’ science fiction where the physics stands out for being fully feasible – but it could also be quite happy sitting on a shelf next to political thrillers or even near future dystopia novels. In fact anyone who enjoys a well written, tense plot will find themselves well rewarded if they pick up this book. The book is the first in a series called ‘Atlas and the Winds’ – a nod, perhaps to Ayn Rand, whose John Galt may bear a passing resemblance Eric Michael Craig’s Colton Taylor, but for my money this is more like Robert Heinlein meets ‘House of Cards’.

The basic premise is of a meteor heading for the earth and predicted to impact smack-bang in the middle of North America. At the point where it is spotted it is still two years away. But only one observatory has spotted it and the US government moves to clamp down on the news. But one of the people from the observatory escapes to Stormhaven – a kind of futuresque city owned and run by tech magnate Colton Taylor. Stormhaven has developed incredibly high levels of science – even a space capable vessel – but no one really knows it is anything other than a corporate HQ.

There is then a massive standoff between the US government and Colton Taylor which forms the main conflict of the book. Taylor wants to launch into space believing he should be better off trying to save a handful of humanity, rather than try to get the world to join forces fast enough to find a way to defeat the meteor and the US government wants to stop him taking off. Meanwhile the world governments try to come up with a way to deal with the incoming meteor.

There is no doubt about it – this is a very well written book. The use of language is fluent and appropriate throughout. It is very easy to read and attains that essential threshold at which the words almost slip from conscious awareness leaving only the story they are telling in their wake.

The plot leaps into life from the first page – an opening scene with one of the astronomers fleeing to Stormhaven and seeking to avoid being stopped on the way. This same thriller-like pace is maintained well throughout, with some quieter moments to review the science or for a little bit of character building.

“Mr. Taylor achieved financial success through the deployment of a technology colloquially known as the Broadcast Power System. Although not widely known, this device is a miniaturized generator that directly converts inertial field energy to electricity.”

The world is our own, but in the near future with a few technological advances like Colton Taylor’s own. The depth of characterization varies a lot – some are here and gone so fast you barely have time to get to learn their names, some are fairly stereotypical, others are developed very deeply and well.

So what is not to like? The answer for me is ‘Not a lot’. Only one thing, in fact, and that is purely a matter of personal taste. I was not a fan of the immense cast of characters through whose many eyes we get to view events. It was a bit of a distraction for me to have to shift point of view so many times – often to a character we only met that once and for a couple of pages. But there was still plenty enough time spent on those who become main characters, for me to successfully bond with the story on its human level.

Even as I write this, I have already starting on ‘Prometheus and the Dragon’  as I could not wait to find out the impact (pun intended) of the cliff-hanger ending and I am delighted to see the series is planned to include at least another three after that.

All in all, this is a book that is going to be enjoyed by most science-fiction enthusiasts. It is also a book for everyone who loves well-written, taut, action thrillers and political drama. It is not a book for those who want to sleep easy and not think about the possibility that a lump of rock somewhere in deep space could even now be heading our way….

 

A Book With Maximum Impact

“Does anybody else feel like we’ve just been made responsible for the entire future?”

‘Prometheus and the Dragon’ is the aptly named second book in the ‘Atlas and the Winds’ series and follows up on ‘Stormhaven Rising’ with a powerful continuation of the story.

Antu is coming – a lump of rock which will destroy human life on earth. Instead of co-operating to meet the challenge, the world has fragmented and there are various nations attempting individual projects to deflect it. But some seem to think the chance of those efforts failing is high and prefer to invest in lunar colonies – or in repositories of genetic material, human, animal and vegetable.

The technology exists to deflect Antu and is already doing its job. Given just a reasonable modicum of good fortune the world will be saved. But a string of accidents and disasters could still seal the fate of Planet Earth and bring disaster instead of survival.

“If it weren’t for you, we’d have no hope at all”

The people most at home on the moon are Colton Taylor’s future-tech company. They already have solutions to many of the problems the other lunar colonies have yet to even think about. I liked it that in this book that we get to know their people (and AI) in a bit more depth and start to see the reality of the man behind them. They are the real heroes of this story and it is their people we shadow most closely and come to care most about – except possibly the US President whose ‘pink fuzzy slippers’ moment is one I cherish.

This book has insight and insanity, humour and horror, courageous feats and catastrophic fiascos, it shows humanity at its finest and its most feral. And as with all good literature, it turns the mirror back on those who are its readers, challenging them to consider where they would stand or how they would fall.

“We’ve still got work to do out here. Suck it up for now, and let’s get through what we’ve got in front of us. We can both fall apart later.”

So what is not like? Not much – very little in fact. I still struggled a bit with what I felt was an overlarge cast of characters, leading to frequent shifts in viewpoint and all too often it seemed we only met someone so they could die horribly a few pages later. I also found the description of the logistical detail a little overwhelming – but I do recognise that this is something another reader could find adds verisimilitude and solid foundations to the story. But these minor issues were not enough for me to be taken away from the roller-coaster ride of immersion in a storyline which put a bit extra into ‘existential’.

This is a very well written and compelling book and if you enjoy political thrillers, near future dystopias, apocalyptic sci-fi – or seek a thought provoking and plausible insight into one way humanity could react in the face of such an extreme crisis, I would recommend this book wholeheartedly. But I would also recommend reading ‘Stormhaven Rising’ first or you will miss out on some valuable scene setting and a thundering good tale.

For myself, I am looking forward to seeing how the story continues and develops in the next book which I hope will be out in the not too distant future


Ghost Out Of The Machine

He’d discovered that getting money for science, was tougher than getting it for a three headed leper who wanted to have sex in public and call it art.

Alan Steele is a scientist with a crazy idea and no money, then an angel investor turns up who is also an attractive woman with whom he falls in love. Life is perfect, he develops his dream. But then things – of course – have to go wrong…

Naturally, considering who the author is, the science is futuristic and well founded. If you want to know how it might one day be theoretically possible to transmit matter – and people – directly over distance, this will tell you the kind of basis such science would need.

Every short story needs a twist and this one twists like a knife in the guts – you don’t really see it coming until it impacts.

“So you’re chasing Heisenberg uncertainly through the corridors of quantum indeterminacy?”

So what is not to like? Nothing for me, but those who read this author for his hard sci-fi might prefer to stay clear, this is definitely science fantasy not hard sci-fi.

I would totally recommend this short as a brilliant introduction to the writing of Eric Michael Craig, Although it is very different from his main ‘Atlas and the Winds’ series, it showcases the typically Craig narrative style and his command of language to tell a thundering good story.

Tales of Wonder

Tales of Wonder – Changeling Child

Available HERE

from Inklings Press

“Don’t go you by the Castell Blighe

And if you go by, run!

Don’t go you by light of the moons

Go by light of the sun.

Don’t listen to the voices there,

Don’t hear what they do say,

Or you will find you stay behind

Until your hair turns grey.”

So begins ‘Changeling Child’ a story in the Fortune’s Fools timeline – it falls between the first two trilogies, after the end of Transgressor and before the start of Haruspex. But whilst it has its place in the Fortune’s Fools timeline, it is also a stand alone story which anyone who enjoys science fantasy can appreciate to he full.

It is a story full of childhood mystery, with playground rhymes, riddles, fairy land and magical happenings. It also gives more than a passing nod to a classic work of literature that also deals with the realm of fairies and magic. Something to look out for, maybe, for the perceptive reader.

I can’t say much more about the story without entering spoiler territory, but it does feature characters who will be familiar to those who have read Transgressor and it gives insight into events which are referred to obliquely in Haruspex.

It would be beyond remiss of me to neglect to mention the other eight stories in Tales of Wonder as well. They are all really excellent reading and will introduce you to some amazing authors who you will want to read further including some Roundtable authors:

Leo McBride – The Last Sorcerer,  Ricardo Victoria – Kaana,  Rob Edwards – Lair of The Thunderlord and Brent A. Harris – A Twist in Time. The other excellent writers to connect with are Jessica Holmes – An Honest Trader, Terri Pray – Grace. Matthew Harvey – A Very Improper Adventure and Jeff Provine – Sedna’s Hair.

 You can find Tales of Wonder here.