Lady Melanie Lovejoy's former life as the vivacious space pirate the Red Vixen is over. Escaping the consequences of her criminal career proves more difficult, as her husband, Rolas, is seeming to reconsider the wisdom of marrying a vixen with such a checkered past. But he proves to have his own secrets, as a lover from his troubled youth returns to the scene.
Trying to reconcile their past lives, Melanie and Rolas leave on a sailing trip to work things out. However, after an unexpected storm strands their boat and leaves Rolas critically injured, Melanie must fight for both their lives. For there is a monster here, and it needs the two shipwrecked foxen for its own plans, in the final exciting entry of the Red Vixen Adventures!
The Red Vixen at Sea is available for $2.99 exclusively through Amazon.com, and will release on May 26th, 2017.
(sorry about the crap cover art. I'll fix it when the opportunity presents itself.)
Spheres of Influence: The second book in Spoor’s Grand Central Arena series finds our heroine Ariane Austin facing with an enemy she is ill equipped to deal with, government bureaucrats. This book expands on the GCA universe quite a bit, showing the reaction back in Earth’s solar system as humanity finds itself in a first contact situation with the Arena’s many races, which range from hostile to nominally friendly, but all with their own agendas. We also get more details on the Hyperion Project, which produced the series’ literally designated antihero Dr. Marc Duquesne. In this novel we’re also introduced to Sun WuKong, another of Hyperion’s attempts to recreate the heroes of literature and other media, plus one Hyperion’s great failures, Maryanne Suzanna. Yes, “Mary Sue”. Designed to fit that stereotype and… er… less than happy about it.
Actually Suzanna is one of few weaknesses of the book. She’s built up as a major threat by Duquesne and other characters, but when we finally meet her she basically says “Hi” and heads off again. Admittedly this can be put off as Middle Book syndrome, but it was a little disappointing.
Ignoring that, SoI is a pretty fun book, keeping with series’ dedication to high adventure, high stakes, and Sensawunda. I’m looking forward to finally reading the next one.
Phoenix Ascendant: The third and likely final book in Spoor’s Balanced Sword trilogy, sees Kyri Vantage, last true Justiciar of the dying god of Justice and Vengeance, returning to her homeland with her friends to finally clean house of the remaining false Justiciars and defeat the forces evil that threaten to destroy the world.
With one caveat, I’ll say that I enjoyed the book and was satisfied with the ending, since it keeps with the trilogy’s philosophy of forgiveness towards truly repentant enemies. Unfortunately that caveat has to do with the final battle against the true power behind all of Kyri’s enemies, the evil shapeshifting god, Virigar.
Yep, same Virigar from Spoor’s early novel Paradigms Lost, whom Jason Wood nearly took out with a bucket of silver nitrate.
I suppose my problem was that I was listening to this as an audiobook rather than reading it. Throughout the trilogy Spoor made it clear the nominally AD&D based world owed a lot to such anime as DragonBall Z and Saint Seiya, so when the final battle with Virigar begins, it lasts at least five chapters that I recall, with many twists and turns and changes in the tide of battle. Unfortunately as it went on, I was less amazed than shouting “Oh, come ON!” as our heroes lost all of their previous Genre Savvy knowledge and assumed at least three or four times that surely he had to be dead this time. Suffice to say a fight against someone with instantaneous healing abilities and a tendency to gloat gets really, really annoying as it goes on, especially since I couldn’t skim pages.
That said, if you’re into those sort of tremendous battles I suppose you might find it fun, and aside from that the rest of the book was really good.
Boundary: Written with Eric Flint, this novel follows a disparate team of people, coming together to investigate evidence of the remains of an advanced alien base hidden on Mars’ moon Phobos, which is connected to a bizarre fossil find in the American Southwest.
Ugh. This one just left me cold. Nominally it’s a hard science fiction novel, and some bits such as the deciphering of the Bemmy language were well done, but none of the characters grabbed me and the endless Tom Clancy-ish infodumps were tedious to get through.
Just attempting to codify some of the worldbuilding I've done over the years, starting with the tech.
* * *
Tech Level: In general the G:RVA tech level is TL9-11, following the Safe-Tech path (p. UT10), with some gravity related superscience additions.
( Cut for the RPG disinterested )
SCENE: We start in medias res inside Lord Dark’s Air Fortress. The animation style looks to be the height of mid-1980’s syndicated cartoons.
Assuming it was done by Filmation.
Towards the end of the season.
When the budget was getting a bit tight.
( From here it gets rough... )
* * *
She woke up from the nightmare of blood, to find herself in a nightmare of pain.
It had been the usual dream, the pile of bodies, smoking and smelling of burnt flesh. She would cough and choke on the horrible smoke, claws scratching at the steel walls of the room, desperate to find a way out. But the walls were solid. There were no doors to allow her to escape. Eventually the smoke thickened and she tripped over the bodies, falling into them, dead arms and legs tangling with her own, trapping her, choking her, until she woke up again in the Relentless’ bunkroom, trying not to scream and earn another beating.
She blinked, realized she was awake. A brief bout of panic overcame her as she felt the harsh florescent light shine in her face. Was she late for duty call? She tried to roll out of bed to her feet, only then discovering the heavy nylon straps holding her naked to an examination table in an unfamiliar sickbay.
( Captured and rescued )
Combined with a severe lack of polling data, and the current four-way contest between the Democratic, New Republican, Conservative, and the recently formed Humanity First parties is too close to call….
With humanity’s subjugation under the Groupmind, nation states suffered a severe blow. Traditionally, nations existed to provide military defense, social assistance, and a general framework of laws and values. Since the Awakening on the Ring, military forces have been outlawed, and basic social needs such as healthcare and food are handled by the Groupmind directly. Laws and values are still nominally under the control of the recreated governments, but even they have taken a blow, with cash based economies no longer existing and crime reduced to social transgressions, since acts of violence are no longer possible and few illegal goods are even available to be smuggled or sold. With few threats beyond the Groupmind itself, many nations are wobbling towards dissolution as their reasons for existence disappear. In their place are emerging groups based around more up to date memes than can be offered by nations. With the large land area offered by the Ring, many are taking advantage of the space to create new communities, and new ways of life.
( Read more... )
“You know, vacations are usually for relaxation,” Melanie observed dryly. Rolas’ wife was dressed in Commoner culottes and a crop top shirt, sitting in half-lotus atop a workbench in the car barn, one leg dangling idly over the edge. The wooden barn held a small steam tender Rolas had been puttering over for the past week, the large doors propped open to let a breeze into the un-air conditioned space.
Rolas was finishing lowering a superheater tube into the boiler of the small, colorfully painted narrow-gauge steam engine, his shirt off, dressed only in his shorts and a pair of heavy leather foot protectors to save his toes from being sliced off by errant bits of iron.
“This is relaxing,” he said, biceps straining under his brown pelt, paws holding on tight to the chain running through the block and tackle. He lowered the tube down the last few centimeters into its waiting slot, and then secured the loose end of the chain to a bolt set in a nearby pillar.
“It’d be more relaxing if you used a proper tractor-pressor unit to save you from all of that work,” she pointed out.
“I’m trying to use original materials and techniques while I restore this,” he replied proudly, slipping the foot protectors off and setting them on the workbench.
“The original Mr. Puff is sitting in a museum back in town. The one you’re working on is a replica that was built two hundred years ago using modern techniques,” Melanie said, hopping off the bench and pressing up against him. Rolas smelled very male today, sweating from the work and summer’s heat, with a perfume of machine oil.
“Principle’s the same,” he replied, voice a bit muffled as he nuzzled her neck. She let out a pleased purr, her tail waving happily as he pushed her back against the workbench, feeling his paw reach under her shirt to stroke her back. Yes, with just the two of them here, without even servants at this small country estate in the deep woods, well away from the nearest town, this was the most privacy they’d had since their children had gone to visit their aunts on Greenholme.
“Mmmm, hmm. Less engineering, more sex,” Melanie advised, nibbling his ear tip.
Rolas snorted a laugh into her pelt. “Not even advanced hydraulics?”
“Well that I could get into…”
( We interrupt this scene for a bit of family history. )
Getting past the desert had meant infiltrating the high security of the Ring Transit System, then walking that last hundred kilometers in tunnels designed to accommodate morphs, not men. Tyler has lost three of his twelve man team, snatched by morphs or like Jansen just disappearing around a corner, gone in an instant by the time the next man came round.
Then of course they’d had to climb the Tower, a windowless, two kilometer tall structure, encased in black Ring metal ten meters thick. The air had been freezing cold, keeping the computers that lined the tower’s wall functioning. The climb, without elevators, only access ladders and stairwells, had taken nearly a week as they dodged security morphs, or more often didn’t. By the time they’d reached the penultimate floor, Tyler’s team was down to three.
By the time he reached the top, the only one left was himself.
( Sometimes the Groupmind is kind of a dick. )
Not sure about this yet. Especially since the story is starting to get a cozy murder mystery vibe.
Potential Monitoring Levels
No Privacy: Cameras outside the home, cameras inside the home, and your morph is constantly watching you either directly or via remote monitors. Yes, even in the bedroom and bathroom. With fifteen billion humans to monitor the Groupmind is pretty much beyond shock at this point. Rather unmerciful and it kills any chance at real rebellion.
Limited Privacy: Even if it isn't true, everyone assumes that they're monitored 24/7 once they step outside their home, especially with their morphs tagging along. Inside their home there's some privacy. Aside from cameras associated with their home's com/entertainment system, there's the morphs, but otherwise bathroom and bedroom privacy is somewhat guaranteed (though more than one attempt at either suicide or spousal abuse has discovered that morphs have both excellent hearing and the ability to monitor stress levels in someone's voice.)
Which leads to locks on the doors...
Standard Locks: Operating on a failsafe system, all locks are electronic in nature, opening on detection of proper biometrics (facial, hand or thumbprint, or voice recognition). In the very unlikely event of a power failure, any lock releases automatically. Locks requiring physical keys no longer exist, and if some bright tinkerer tries to recreate them, they're going to get the Groupmind's negative attention shortly.
No Locks: None. Seriously. Assuming No Privacy mode and a Post-Scarcity society why would you even need them? Anyone trying to steal anything would be caught immediately, and the morphs are smart enough to keep Billy out of the medicine cabinet, or the bedroom when mom and dad need their non-existent privacy.
What could possibly go wrong?
( A time to forgive. )
“Sir,” the mousemorph said gently, “you haven’t looked up yet.” It reached over and closed the lawn umbrella, letting him see the sky as he tilted his head back, grabbing the edge of the table even as the little morph steadied the chair, keeping him from falling backwards as a wave of vertigo overwhelmed him. Oh, God. The bastard really did it.
The Earth loomed in the sky overhead, appearing to be over eight times the size of the moon, visible through the blue haze of the sky and clouds, a blue and brown giant looking like it couldn’t possibly hang in the air,. He started hyperventilating, his mind overwhelmed as it tried to reorient itself to understand what he was seeing. He was looking down at the Earth, not up, despite what his inner ear was telling him, pinned by centrifugal force to the inner side of the Ring. Still gripping the edge of the table to hold himself steady, he turned his head, finally seeing how the ground rose up miles away to his left and to his right, and the curve of the Ring formed into an impossibly tall arch, wrapping itself all the way around the Earth and back again.
( More behind the cut. )
( Letting go of old pain. )
She decided to worry about it later. For now, Melanie had a task. Even better, she could do it at the bottom of the stairs instead of climbing all the way to the top to confront the ardalian’s puppets. So she set her improvised spear into the sand, and drew out her real weapon from her pocket.
( Any tool can be a weapon, in the right hands. )
And now for the really stupid part. Feeling her fingers already growing stiff in the cold surf, she yanked at the manual release catches for the lifejacket. It let out an electronic wail of protest as she slipped off, its complaints soon carried with it away in the waves.
( Diving for Chekov's Gun )
They had captured Rolas. He was going to be turned into one of the ardalian’s puppets, unable to control his own body, his mind free to watch in horror as the creature used it. She had a horrible vision of him coming towards her, tentacle leash dragging behind him, arms outstretched, only his eyes betraying his terror as he was used to hunt her down.
( No plan, no tools, no hope. )
She backed up further, rising to a crouch with Rolas as they went deeper into the trees and brush. Melanie gripped his paw tightly, listening as the quartet called out again for their surrender.
“What do we do?” Rolas asked softly, when they were perhaps ten meters distant.
( Good question )
Melanie was the first to act, her fatigue suddenly banished in sheer terror. Grabbing Rolas by the wrist, she started dragging him into the trees, well clear of the tentacle, as the sound of something crashing through the undergrowth reached their ears. She dropped flat to the ground, Rolas beside her, as a figure emerged.
( From bad to worse )
Note: After some consideration, I've revised the main manuscript to reinstate Rolas' memory loss, which will be Plot Important later.
* * *
The night wore on interminably. Melanie spent it trading naps with Rolas, though he stayed up far longer than she did. When she did sleep she used Rolas’ lap as a pillow, his tail curling over her chest to ward off the chill. Even so she still felt exhausted as dawn finally broke, her pelt itching as the seawater dried off from her afternoon swim.
“So do we stay or explore?” Rolas wondered out loud. He grimaced in embarrassment as his stomach let out a loud grumble.
“Explore,” she said reluctantly, probing her lips with her tongue, feeling the dried and cracked surface. “We have to find food and water, especially water, before we’re unable to move.”
( Be careful exploring. You might find something. )
The young grad student gave Jordan a shrug. “I’m not sure. My original intent was to get a better idea of how morphs engage in real time threat analysis when they monitor us, but I think I’m getting sidetracked.” Around them, the patio café outside the student union bustled. By coincidence several professors had scheduled live lectures this week, requiring face-to-face attendance instead of permitting telepresence if the students preferred. As a result the campus had doubled in population, and the temp dorm housing was filled to capacity, at least until this afternoon when the Groupmind finished construction on overflow housing.
“In what way?”
Astrid sipped her own drink, and then set it down carefully. “Let me answer that with a question; Are you scared of the Groupmind?”
( The offered hypothesis in the following story is NOT canon. For your own safety, any evidence to the contrary should be ignored. )