Look What’s Up for Preorder!

To See the Sun is perhaps the most romantic story I’ve ever written, which is probably why I had to set in on a planet with little to no atmosphere between the surface and the burning sun, and deep crevasses full of poisonous mists. I put the people in the crevasses too, in a limited green zone. It’s paradise—not. But for Abraham Bauer, it’s a chance to live his dream. He’s one of a handful of colonists dedicated to the effort of terraforming the harsh environment of Alkirak, and though he is content to fill his days with farming, tinkering, and writing bad poetry, he’d really like someone to share it all with.

Enter Gael Sonnen. He’s never seen the sun shining over the oceanic planet of Zhemosen because he lives in the undercity, a level below decency, and several levels below a normal and placid life. His ticket out is a companion contract that will take him to the far edge of the galaxy as a mail-order husband to a lonely colonist.

That’s just where the story begins. ❤

With this book I’ve taken one of my favourite tropes—mail-order spouse—and wrapped it in a story of love, redemption, and bravery. I wanted to explore the idea of two strangers getting to know each other and how a relationship could arise from there. And then, because I’m evil, I tossed in complications, not all of which have to do with the harsh environment of Alkirak.

I loved writing this book and it’s one of the few I didn’t hate by the end of the edit phase. Waiting until August to share it with you is going to be hard!

To See the Sun is now available for preorder at Riptide Publishing. You can also add it on Goodreads!

Click through to read the full blurb. A Novel Approach is hosting a cover reveal on Wednesday, April 25th!

Review: The Furnace by Timothy S. Johnston

The Furnace

Floating in space between the sun and Mercury, Lieutenant Kyle Tanner has only sixteen hours of oxygen left and not enough acceleration to get anywhere useful. Worse, his radiation shielding is toast. He’s dying. But before he goes, he has a story to tell.

Dispatched to the SOLEX One facility between Mercury and Sol to investigate what might or might not be a murder, Tanner encounters the most baffling case of his career. The death appears accidental, but the body has been tampered with, the head and hands removed. Given identification has already been made, the mutilation makes no sense. Nor do the next two deaths. The two after that make a horrid sort of sense. Tanner is too close to breaking the case and the killer is on the run. Continue reading “Review: The Furnace by Timothy S. Johnston”

Review: A Darkling Sea

 A Darkling Sea by James Cambias has one of the best opening lines I’ve ever seen:

“By the end of his second month at Hitode Station, Rob Freeman had already come up with 85 ways to murder Henri Kerlerec.”

The following few paragraphs expand on the statement and the first chapter settles the bet. The pool and the participation of all the crew also sets the tone for the novel. It’s Science Fiction with a good dose of humour.

Set deep beneath the ocean of a far flung planet, A Darkling Sea explores a diplomatic incident that nearly sparks a war between three species. One of the primary missions of the men and women stationed at Hitode is the study of an apparently intelligent life-form that exists in wildly different environment. The Ilmatarans live at the bottom of the ocean, along a rift broken by vents of warmer currents. Miles above, the ocean is capped by a shelf of ice. For the Ilmatarans, there is no concept of anything beyond that barrier.

The humans are forbidden to make contact with the Ilmatarans. When they break this covenant, the Sholen arrive to investigate. They are the third alien species and apparently see themselves as the mediators of the space. They’re not all that impartial, though. The visiting delegates have to dance between the politics of the humans and the Sholen, erring on the side of caution. Unfortunately, the Sholen version of caution seems to be shoot first and ask questions later.

What follows is almost a comedy of errors as each species confounds the others by acting as culturally appropriate. Henri Kerlerec makes contact, in a spectacular manner. The investigating Sholen understand he acted alone, in error and defiance, and yet to appease their superiors, they rule against the humans, who are ordered to leave Hitode Station. They rebel. Meanwhile, the Ilmatarans are curious about the new creature they found, the one that has to wear so many layers of odd material. So they mount an investigation of their own.

Ironically, as the politics play out, tempers rising and fraying, species manoeuvring toward war, the humans and the Sholen learn a lot more about the Ilmatarans than they might have otherwise. The reverse is also true. The mission is no longer hands off; it is very much hands on and, as odd alliances form, it is unclear who will come out on top.

The world of Ilmatar is unique. I really enjoyed the depictions of llmataran culture. James Cambias obviously put a lot of thought into how a species might exist in conditions that differ so greatly from what we might consider viable. The rules he came up with relay well into the Ilmataran culture. The Sholen were just as interesting, for different reasons. We don’t get to know them as well, but their culture is definitely alien. One of the funniest scenes in the book is the two Sholen delegates trying to persuade the human in charge, Dr. Sen, to their way of thinking.

The book is funny. The main characters strike a good balance between humour and intelligence, and stupidity, when required. Because of the multiple points of view, the pace rarely lags. There is always something interesting going on and the author takes time to explore sub-plots within each species’ ‘camp’ as it were, which roll into the main plot very nicely. The reader’s sympathies are pulled in a number of directions so that when the final battle arrives, it’s actually difficult to choose a side. Sort of.

There is also a lot of edge of the seat action and adventure. I expected more military style, but the battles are not large scale. Instead, they’re more a series of carefully orchestrated manoeuvres. Each team wins some and loses some.

A Darkling Sea is a unique take on the first contact novel. It’s a Science Fiction adventure with a little something for everyone. There is a small teaser at the end, but if James Cambias was to turn his attention to a different story, I’d be just as interested in seeing his style applied to a new set of characters and aliens.

Written for SFCrowsnest.

Title also represents my fist choice for The SciFi Experience reading challenge.

Review: How Dark the World Becomes

 How Dark the World Becomes by Frank Chadwick.

Sasha is mid-level gangster involved in the usual smattering of criminal activities: drug dealing, protection and numbers. He seems like a nice guy, so far as thugs go. He funds a clinic, is good to his girlfriend and is apparently respected by his peers, except for the one who’d like to see him dead. To complicate matters, he has been asked to smuggle two high value targets off-planet. There is a thread of connection between matters, but everything in the squashed and squalid depths of Crack City seems related. That’s how slums operate. Simplest solution to all current problems seems to be to accompany his alien cargo off-planet. Trouble does what trouble does and follows.

There are two plots here, the one involving Sasha and the one involving the two alien children he is trying to protect. They’re somewhat related, in that the galaxy isn’t as big as it thinks it is sort of way. But it seems that the more Sasha tries to convince everyone he’s just a thug, the more he has to stand up and do the right thing, to save his own neck, the children, their minder — a woman who seems less objectionable as time wears on, various hangers-on, an entire platoon of marines, a planet and, just maybe, the fate of the human race. The bigger his problems get, the more determined Sasha becomes.

How Dark The World Becomes fits neatly into one of my favourite Science Fiction sub-sets: the thrilling adventure in space. Take a hero who doesn’t really want to be a hero, strip away the things he cares about and then set him an impossible task. He’ll either fail miserably or succeed against all odds. In the best stories, he does a bit of both. While reading Frank Chadwick’s book, I was reminded of Jack McDevitt’s ‘Alex Benedict’ novels and Mark L Van Name’s ‘Jon & Lobo’ adventures. Sasha, as a character, had the same self-deprecating attitude and the tenacity to get things done, even as events messed with his carefully ordered life.

I really enjoyed the world building, too. Crack City, as a concept, both amused and horrified. Humanity rests at the bottom of the pecking order, their labour supporting the rest of the galaxy. I loved how fascinated aliens were with human culture and the way they imitated imperfectly certain aspects. These scenes only served to highlight some of our own more absurd behaviour in a sometimes darkly humorous manner. I got the sense Chadwick has a lot to say about some of our more oddball quirks as a species.

I think Frank Chadwick’s universe and characters have a lot of potential. Given he is a multiple-award-winning game designer, I’m not surprised. I’m looking forward to reading more!

Written for and originally posted at SFCrowsnest.

A note on the cover art: One of the things that usually attracts me to Baen Books is the covers. This piece is by one of my favourite cover artists, Dave Seeley. Click through to visit his gallery.

The Art of Dave Seeley: Publishing &emdash; How Dark the World Becomes - Baen Books
How Dark the World Becomes by Dave Seeley

Review: Universes

Universes by Stephen Baxter

Stephen Baxter has been on the periphery of my awareness for years. I have read one of his stories, only one, a novella called Starfall. I enjoyed it and meant to read more. When he published Flood and Ark, I added them to my wish list. Both were exactly the sort of novel I love: post-apocalyptic adventure followed by an exodus to new planets with all the inherent science and problems. Shamefully, I have yet to read either.

When given the opportunity to read Universes, a collection of short fiction from three of Baxter’s universes, I noted that three of the stories were set in the Flood/Ark universe, and subsequently snapped it up. Short stories are a great way to taste the flavour of an author and sample one of their universes. In addition to three stories set in the Flood/Ark universe—one previously unpublished—there are two stories in the Jones & Bennet universe and another three in the Anti-Ice universe. All universes involve hard science and characters devoted to investigating it—which appears to be a trademark of Baxter’s writing. Given he has degrees in mathematics and engineering, it’s hardly surprising.

For the uninitiated, the Jones & Bennet stories are during the cold war era. Chapman Jones and Thelma Bennet work for an organisation known as DS8, or the UK Ministry of Defence Secretariat 8. They investigate un-catalogued phenomena and unusual life forms. Myths and legends. Anti-Ice is an alternate history setting where nineteenth century Earth receives a gift from the stars—a comet bearing anti-matter and alien life forms. The discovery and exploitation of these powers a new industrial revolution and steam powered rockets!

Continue reading “Review: Universes”