Wisteria Heights High School students Jerry, Veronica, Davis, and Will, led by Cheerleader Captain Miranda, were putting the final touches on their plan to kill Alexander, the varsity wide receiver.
I shouldn’t giggle at new writing so soon, but I did when I came up with that.
So, what do you think?
I’m on a roll.
I have a specific, honed, editing process. When I finish a novel, I put that sucker aside and do something else for a few weeks.
Apparently, doing something else turned into write another book.
As my 37.3 readers (Google tells me I had more readers via my RSS feed than previously thought) know, I had these various characters, setting and a ton of world building love for a Space Opera novel I was calling Stuff Blowing Up in Space.
After I finished The Lightning Giver, a plot for SBUIS hit me like an exploding nova.
The plot was all I needed, and I completed the first draft last night. DONE.
People, I am officially OUT OF CONTROL. The novel needs a round of edits, but it’s far, far from me just barfing words out on the page. It’s wonderful Space Opera plot with mysterious and sexy aliens, hunky men, and, of course, stuff blowing up in space. Some cuts, some edits, some polishing and that sucker is ready for some query love.
I’ve titled the book The First Casualty of War and it stands alone but also works as the first book in a trilogy. Now I turn back to editing The Lightning Giver while recharging my creative batteries by reading a bunch of books sitting in my queue.
Below you will find the first draft of a query. It needs work, but I was somewhat surprised I could pull a draft query of a Space Opera book in 249 words.
Bad Day for a Shish Princess
Fleet Commodore Philip Connery thought nothing of giving a sish Huntress a ride to the ass-end of nowhere even knowing the mono-gendered sish used sexual attraction to feed on the blood of both enemy and friends. If the odd crewmember arrived paler than normal for his or hers shift, well, that was the price of doing business with the beautiful sish. The sish saved their humans allies in the last war. A ride was the least he could do.
The impromptu mission was going well until they encountered pirates deep in the sish core.
Sent by the Commodore to obtain reinforcements, Captain James Tilbrook was at the end of his options when the surprisingly young and beautiful sish Space Marshal of Aoe Station refused to believe his story.
So he shot her and tossed her into his ship. Now the entirety of Aoe’s forces is out for his blood. Literally.
Sish Princess Leiesha was feeling lonely and resenting her cruel mother, the Queen, when crazy Fleet humans shot and kidnapped her simply because she didn’t believe their stupid story about pirates. Humiliated and trapped on a Fleet warship with empathic humans, Leiesha realizes that far from committing a heinous crime, the humans have saved her life. Someone had poisoned her!
The Commodore, Huntress, Captain and Princess grapple with these random events, but eventually realize they aren’t random at all. Galactic war looms on event horizon and they must come together or perish separately.
Got Space Opera? No? Well, here you go.
Here is Chapter 20 in its entirety. Please excuse the grammatical boo-boos and typos, this it it, raw, right out of Suff Blowing Up in Space.
What do you think? Comment below, my 9.3 readers.
“Princess, you are not trained for rescue operations. We’re hot docking to a heavy cruiser that may lose gravity compensation and turn everyone inside into pasty goo. I request you stay on the ship.”
Leiesha stared at James. He was being oh so respectful and oh so proper.
She was going to oh so bite him.
“Captain. That is the flagship of Aoe Sector. Let me be very specific with you. If it goes up, I’m going with it. So if you value my love, and my life, your S&R operation will not fail.”
“Mitty and Kitty won’t leave…”
He shut up.
She glared at him. “Damn it, James, stop being so formal. We’re alone in your conference room. It’s just you and me.”
He gave her a little smile and her heart actually started to beat faster. Did the male have to be so good looking?
“I was trying to spare you the horrors of war, Leiesha. When was the last time you saw a dead body?”
She bit her lip.
“You have me there, James. But I have to grow up sometime.”
He paused. “Aye, I just, this bond thing. It makes me want to hold you and shelter you and tell you that everything will be okay and I will fix it.”
She smiled. “You are so romantic.”
She gave him a little kiss.
She should have stayed on the Coolidge.
Bodies with shrapnel wounds from exploding electronics.
Bodies cut in half by slamming blast doors.
Bodies left like so much litter because the living had better things to do. It was obscene and grotesque.
That’s when she saw Koiea.
She had met Koiea at some Navy function on Aoe Station. The sish was young, and Leiesha had felt a pang of attraction when the young officer marched up to her while everyone else was ignoring the grumpy Princess, and started telling jokes. Leiesha even considered sneaking off with her and making out, but Palace Security had a grip on her lips just as they did on her sex.
Young Koiea was dead. A bar of metal had detached somewhere and impaled her right below her belly, right through her suit. It looked like she died trying to pull it out, hands wrapped around the protrusion.
Koiea’s face painted the tale: she died in pain, from blood loss and alone.
Leiesha opened her faceplate, leaned forward and puked all over the deck.
Mitty and Kitty were right there. One helped her stand straight and the other gave her a .water pouch.
“You’re doing better than I did,” said Mitty. “I puked on body two.”
She rinsed her mouth out feeling monumentally stupid. “What? I thought you came out of the womb wearing armor and spitting hell fire.”
The marine chuckled. “That was Kitty.”
Leiesha could not stop looking at Koiea.
Kitty came up to her. “Ma’am, we need to focus on the living.”
Leiesha gave herself a little shake. She looked at Kitty.
“Let’s go fix this deck’s net and see what’s what,” she said, trying to hold onto something besides the body in front of her.
“Aye, aye, Space Marshal.”
No sooner had they plugged in the new net module then Sergeant Koltsov was in the all-channel.
“Listen up, people. We’ve got enough new and repaired nodes to get the missing decks in the battle net. Be lively, the engineers are really busy, and if you asked me how this thing is still under helm control, I really couldn’t say. I guess they got a hamster somewhere and a wheel. Here it comes…”
“Ma’am, watch your inputs, Fleet armor integration is a little different,” said Kitty.
“Thank you, Kitty. You can call me…”
Suddenly her brain was the ship.
“Little different, she said,” Leiesha mumbled running down a corridor with her marines in tow. “You think? No, really, a little different?”
“Well, Kitty has been known to be a master of understatement,” said Mitty.
Leiesha snorted as the corridor ended in a closed blast door with red flashing lights over it.
“I don’t know where I end and ship begins,” she said as her armored hands flew over the manual controls, as the automatic ones didn’t respond.
Atmospheric leakage, hull integrity degraded. Magnetic locks engaged. Override required.
“Hey, this door is a better conversationalist than Kitty,” Leiesha quipped.
Leiesha had the override panel open.
“Is this what a battle net feels like in ground combat?” She knew she was babbling but the talking grounded her where she was. It made her feel more real rather than the feeling of being a networked computer node.
“Mostly, minus the oh Goddess we’re going to die, oh Goddess, oh my Goddess,” added Mitty.
The override wheel was difficult to turn. She put a push into it and it started to spin.
“Ma’am, save the telekinetics. Use the power assist in your armor,” said Kitty.
“Right. Sorry, I’ve trained with power armor but never anything so light.” She did as the marine suggested. “I can’t even feel the tube in my butt.”
“Yeah, that’s kind of a bummer,” Kitty said wistfully.
The door came open and wind started whistling past them. The armor was so sensitive, it actually felt like wind on her skin.
“That’s not good,” Leiesha said. “Right? Wind on spaceship bad?”
“Yes. Wind on spaceship bad,” said Mitty.
They were past the blast door and it slammed shut behind them, magnetic locks going clang, clang, clang.
They had a sudden wave of vertigo as they stepped forward. The gravity on this deck was much lighter.
“Just so we’re all on the same page, gravity changes while spaceship is moving also bad,” Mitty added.
“Hurry, they are this way,” said Kitty and they ran down yet another corridor.
Goddess of Space, does the ship have to be this big?
“Whatever you three are doing in that section you better hurry the fuck up, because according the laws of physics it shouldn’t even be there,” said Sergeant Koltsov in her ear.
“And to round if off, that’s really bad,” Mitty said.
They were looking at the cabin through a bulkhead, which showed up in her vision as a high-detailed wireframe with structural problems shaded from green to red.
The cabin was yellow with large red cracks over all the surfaces.
Three sish were in the middle of the cabin in slim-suits. They were floating off the floor, arms linked, in a circle facing each other.
“Ma’am, what are they doing?” asked Kitty.
“They’ve, um, this is hard to explain in Common,” Leiesha took a deep breath. “You can say each user of telekinesis operates on a different frequency, unique and not like anyone else’s. If you’re lovers, though, especially with a linked ovulation cycle, you can be in telekinetic harmony.”
She nodded in their direction. “I can feel the push coming from them. They are holding the structural integrity of this hull section intact by meditating and using each other’s strength as an amplifier of their own.”
“Ovulation cycle?” Mitty sounded confused. “I thought sish didn’t have periods.”
“We don’t, but when you really love someone and that person wants to go into heat, sometimes you don’t have a choice and go along with her. Those three are lovers.”
“Awww, that’s so sweet.” Kitty said.
Suddenly the push fluctuated and the entire deck around them groaned.
“Um, Mitty? Gonna remind you that if the structural integrity goes in that section, the intact gravatonics will squish everything inward” said Koltsov over the squad channel.
“Copy that. Death by squish imminent. Sarge, we got ourselves a situation here, we’ll get back to you.”
“Copy that. Shut up and let us think,” he said.
There was another groan and this time Leiesha could feel the deck vibrate.
“So, they’ve been doing that for a long time—almost an entire day-cycle. How long can they keep this up? Can they last until we dock?”
Leiesha bit her lip. “They should have been dead hours ago. We have minutes, maybe less.”
Mitty actually frowned. “Poop on that. Options?”
“I’m leaned towards sheer panic and outright hysteria,” Leiesha said.
“That works for me,” said Kitty.
This time the deck buckled. Her wireframe extended out to the corridor they were in, most of it yellow, and she could feel the deck bend beneath her boots.
Leiesha’s mind whirled. The Goddess of Space spared those three. She would be damned, literally in her mind, if she wasted their efforts. Maybe she could augment their push…
A red crack appeared at the end of the corridor along the wall near the floor.
She had a sudden thought.
“Okay, I have a plan. It is clever and heroic as it is stupid and mostly impossible.”
Mitty nodded, “Hey, you just described life as a Fleet Marine!”
“Awesome,” said Kitty.
Leiesha activated the ship-to-ship channel. “Coolidge, Coolidge, Coolidge, depressurize your aft passenger airlock and open the outer door. We’ll be there shortly. Now here’s the very important part. Don’t open the inner door after we depressurize until Mitty or Kitty gives permission to proceed. Got that? “
“Copy that. Aft passenger airlock depressurizing, door open shortly. Marines give the go for inner door,” said James.
Why does Fleet repeat everything when the armor records it all, she thought, and then told her brain to shut up because they all were about to die.
“What’s the plan?” asked Mitty. She sounded causal, but Leiesha could tell it was an act as the world around them turned a computer generated yellow and red.
Leiesha turned to the short and tasty marine. “There’s going to be a big hole in the bulkhead in front of us and we’ll need to grab those three real fucking fast.” She waved her hands and labeled each sish 1, 2 and 3.
“And then?” Mitty just raised an eyebrow, her face through her helmet a forced blank.
I can appreciate fake calm, thought Leiesha.
“And then I’m going to pull some funky sish shit,” she said, hoping she had rid her voice of all the panic she felt.
“I got 2,” she said.
“I got 1,” said Mitty.
“3,” said Kitty.
Then the deck split in half.
Leiesha pushed and pulled, her telekinetics pouring forth as the ship tried to crush them. She forced a tear right into the bulkhead, which wasn’t too hard since it was breaking apart, defeated by the undamaged portions of the cruiser’s gravity field.
The three sish in the cabin held each other tightly, but they turned as the other three of them skipped and ran over the buckling deck.
RELAX THIS WILL STING A LITTLE came a thought from Mitty, very loud, and right before Leiesha slammed into sish 2, the slim-suited sish turned and looked at her with very wide, hungry eyes.
Wham! All three of the sish were in armored embraces, and the cabin was open to space. The hull seemed to crush in around them.
Leiesha pushed. She pushed outwards in all directions as she had never pushed before.
The hull exploded. It just—exploded—outwards and she screamed with the effort. They were in space, wreckage flying away.
Leiesha reversed her push and latched on with telekinetic tendrils to her two marines. They snapped close to her and she noted dimly the three slim-suits were trailing atmosphere, most likely tears from the exploding composite decking and armor.
Leiesha pushed again and the three of them flew in a tight formation, and she reversed their direction by doing a loop and spinning her body along her long axis.
They flew. They flew back to the cruiser, and then along the hull only meters away from it, faster now. Faster.
“Weeeeee!” shouted Mitty as the hull zipped “underneath” them.
“Goddess in Space! Goddess in Space!” Kitty yelled.
They looped around the entire ship, and there was the Coolidge.
She flew them along the Coolidge’s hull.
Slow down slow down slow down!
They stopped right before all six of them hit the first inner door.
The outer door slammed shut.
“Pressurization!” yelled James.
The three sish were struggling with their suits. Leiesha set her sish on the deck as she clawed at her helmet release.
“Mitty, Kitty, stay suited,” she said in a shaky voice. “This is going to be very ugly. You need to just leave them be while…” she swallowed.
“While what, Space Marshal?” Mitty asked in a command voice.
“While they, um, feed,” she said as she undid the memory seams of her armor.
Leiesha saw that Mitty now understood that the sish were not merely taking off their helmets to get air.
She and Kitty pulled out their stunners.
“No! They can still die! Leave them be. Leave me be. I’m trained for this.”
Leiesha took off her helmet.
“Her” sish crawled to her and jerked at her armor on her leg, peeling it off. She latched onto a calf and bit.
“Ah!” the pain was intense as another ripped at her sleeve and bit her arm. Leiesha started to cry. It hurt. It hurt a lot. The three were indeed in deep need.
The third sish was crying and crawling along the deck.
“Should we help?” Kitty asked, looking very sour.
“No. It… is important for her… to… to … do herself.”
The crawling sish on the deck took a deep breath and slowly stood up.
She was the center, thought Leiesha. So strong.
The sish took faltering steps. She walked behind Leiesha, and with trembling hands, peeled the combat suit away from her upper torso.
Leiesha felt fangs go into her shoulder.
“Oh, oh. Ah,” Leiesha started to pant. It hurt—Goddess did it ever hurt.
“Leiesha! This is terrible. We can’t let them do this to you!” Kitty practically screeched.
“Sorry, my bond… mates. No time… explain. Leave be.”
When do we make them stop, Mitty thought at her. Her telepathy was sharp, almost as if it had an edge.
You don’t. I will do that, she thought back.
She felt the humans’ empathic link as if she was drowning in a sea of their emotions. The marines were sick with worry, the ascension bond causing them mental anguish at her pain. Their suffering was almost too much.
Almost done, my loves. Almost done.
Just a little longer.
Let them take a little more…
As the world faded, Leiesha heard the snap-hiss of stunners, a fist of pain slammed into her, and she thankfully felt no more.
So I’ve been chewing on this Space Opera story for, oh, I don’t know. I’ve given it the working title of Stuff Blowing Up in Space. When I started writing on it, I had no plot, just a few characters and scenes. I knew I wanted sexy vampires as one of the species. I wanted humans as the technologically superior species, and I wanted psionics in a way that it created an epic, galaxy spanning mythos so very unlike “The Force.”
But I didn’t have a plot.
Well, no more. I’ve got a solid, epic Space Opera plot. I’ll be banging away at that sucker until my self-imposed “bake time” is up and I start editing my finished novel in a completely different genre (whoops).
Awesome. I always wondered if there was a real plot to this story worthy of a novel. I can’t wait to finish it!
Damn, it’s good to be me.
I have way too much fun writing. Even when it hurts, when the emotional intensity of if all is overwhelming.
Does that mean I am a literary bottom? A masochistic wordsmith? Is it the endorphin-like rush of putting the words I want to put on paper and watching a story come alive? Am I a story junkie?
Sometimes, I wonder if I’m doing it wrong.
The landscape Josh glided through was bleak and blasted, a twisted caress of despair and destruction, yet it was nothing compared to the dark memory of the girl that abused his thoughts.
Here at the R.H.W. Blog, we target book reviews to people who write novels. There are many other book reviews on Across the Universe out there tailored for readers.
Across the Universe by Beth Revis is a contemporary young adult science fiction book of monumental science fiction YA goodness. There is a particular fondness for YA sci-fi on this blog, as the 9.3 blog readers will attest. Before we get into Across the Universe, let’s talk about that topic specifically: YA science fiction. We need to go there to come to grips on why Beth Revis has awesomesauce for blood.
Dystopian Settings in YA Science Fiction
YA science fiction has historical roots in dystopian settings. What industry labels as simply “dystopian” really used to be thought of, by readers, as “science fiction”, if they thought about the genre label at all.
Enter vampires, urban fantasy, contemporary and paranormal (although vamp fic is a paranormal offshoot). You could say these killed off classic science fiction under the guise of character-driven stories marketed (successfully) to girls, and science fiction stories along “classic” lines was not meeting the needs of a new vastly expanded audience.
We could say that… and it’s BS. Science fiction is alive and well, simply nudged into a little dystopian niche that is selling like chocolate in an all-girl high school student store. There are only so many books and book publishers to go around, in the traditional sense. What sells, sells. That “classic” science fiction for young adults fell by the wayside wasn’t elitism, but it wasn’t the fault of science fiction itself. It was capitalism.
This is only brought up because as novelists, we need to practice the art of eye-rolling. Take for example the following conversation:
“Science fiction as a market for youth is dead.”
“What? What about The Hunger Games? Uglies? Unwind? Or…”
“That’s dystopian fiction.”
“Don’t roll your eyes at me! It’s true. Simply placing a book into the future doesn’t make it science fiction…”
“Maybe classic science fiction for youth is dead…”
“You mean, maybe classic science fiction for youth is underutilized and underrepresented?“
This was an actual conversation, by the way. No names are given to protect the guilty.
Why digress to talk about the current YA book market in speculative fiction? Because the current market has its roots in the older market. And there were some amazing young adult science fiction books in dystopian settings.
Enter John Christopher
The king of dsytopian settings is John Christopher. His legendary Tripod trilogy was a chilling tale of alien conquest and subversion, where as a teen, your own parents turn against you because they have been “capped”. It’s a mind-control device turning people into hypnotic slaves for unseen alien masters.
Christopher nailed all the dystopian YA elements, and one could say, defined them. There is one complete and utterly horrific subplot, where the unseen aliens (in the first book) take the prettiest young girls to “the masters” city once winning a beauty contest, and these girls are never seen again.
Once the truth is known what happens to these girls, oh my. There’s nothing explicit about it. It’s just evil. Pure, understated, evil, and from a literary standpoint, so very delicious.
We’ll come back to John in a moment.
What Makes Dystopian YA So Delicious
There no mystery why dystopian fiction provides a fertile ground for young adult novels. It’s delicious because the setting is great for the come-of-age story. As teens and adults, we yearn for places to put context to growing up, and nothing says “grow up!” like oppression and tyranny, especially in the future. In dystopia, everything is about the removal of choice. And nothing makes a greater young adult story than a teen trying to make choices where it seems like there is none. It often is a choice of defining oneself correctly, or dying.
So much goodness.
Enter Across the Universe. Across the Universe nails the dsytopian feelings of oppression and tyranny, and as a dystopian novel it just doesn’t work, it sparkles brightly (sparkles like stars, heeee). The setting, particularity for Amy, the main character, goes from a disturbing familiarity to an assault on everything it means to be a teen girl growing up. Like Christopher, Revis serves up the terrible with glee, and like Christopher, it is both hauntingly subtle yet at times overpowering and overt.
The Value of Choice in Across the Universe
Unlike Christopher, Revis parties in the gray areas of choice and consequences. She parties hard. Right at the beginning of the book, Amy must make a choice and ho-boy (ho-boy being a technical term), is it a doozy. When she “wakes up”, the novel is a quest for the truth. A mystery presents itself and it spirals out of control as she and Elder (a teen boy training to become a leader) come to grips with the awesome evilness of a society built on lies.
And here is where we depart our dystopian study, and how Across the Universe plays in the genre, because the book is so much more.
Ho-boy is it ever.
What is Classic Science Fiction, Anyway?
Let’s not be coy. There are certain elements of science fiction that can be called “classic” and applied to books aimed at young adults, such as Rite of Passage by Alexei Panshin and to a larger extent, Cities in Flight by James Blish. I could go on and on but those are “classics” and not “dystopian” (although in Rite of Passage the main setting is not perfect by any means).
Science fiction, in essence, is more than a look in the future and the use of some thing that, if it didn’t exist, the story would come apart.
Classic science fiction holds elements of what I call The Want. The want to know. The need to know. The yearn to understand. Star Trek was up front about this: this is a story of people who want to know more.
There’s a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode where the Enterprise is on a mission. On the way, they find a curious hole in space and wonder what it is. The plot is summed up like this:
“Hey, there’s this funny hole in space.”
“Not really relevent to the current mission.”
“Let’s look at it anyway. It’s kinda cool.”
That right there is classic science fiction.
Across the Universe is Classic Science Fiction
Beth Revis nails this. She sticks the yearn to know, the itch to understand, in a 10-point landing. The story takes place on a colony ship, the Godspeed, and what a brilliant story it is. There are problems with the Godspeed. Deep problems. People problems. Technology problems. Problems with simply being in space.
The colony ship is a familiar troupe, and as a science fiction setting it works: a big ship in space going from point A to point B.
Setting, though, is only a small part of it. Science fiction authors should pay close attention to the underlying thematic in this book. Revis goes so far as to place Amy, a runner, in a place where she can run, but soon she realizes there is nowhere to run to. She just isn’t metaphorically trapped by her youth and inexperience, she’s trapped by the cold, hard, reality of space. There is nothing for Amy. Labeled as “nonessential” and alone from anything familiar (including safety), she turns to the search for truth, not simply as a means for survival, but because that’s all she has left.
And oh, Ender, the boy born on the ship. How he yearns. He yearns both for knowledge and the right to know knowledge. He yearns for the stars. He also yearns for the truth.
Indeed, at one point, someone in the novel dies for the yearning. It drives him crazy because he literally is designed to know and question, but because of the dystopian society he lives in commits the cultural equivalent of the Russian Winter Mistake, his creative intellect never goes anywhere. It drives him to the edge of disrepair and beyond.
So Brutal. So full of storytelling goodness.
And Finally, Character Driven vs. Plot Driven Elements in Across the Universe
Is Across the Universe a character driven novel mercilessly targeted to teen girls, because, you know, boys don’t read and that’s what sells to girls?
Do it with me folks:
No. It is not, and a novelist wanting to write a page-turner targeted to teens should pay close attention. Revis drives the central elements of the novel by events that are both based on character motivations and actions, but also plot elements that interject themselves into the story in which Amy and Elder have to react.
That is, of course, life, and especially a poignant way of looking at the process of growing up. If a writer takes anything from Across the Universe, study how Revis does this, because she pulled it off like this was her tenth published novel, not her first.
So here we are. We have a brilliant come-of-age story in a dystopian setting with classical science fiction themes delivered by the yin-yang dance of characterization and plotting. How wonderful Across the Universe is!
While I am loath to even type the word “I” in a book review (witness the thousands of book reviews where the “reviewer” simply talks about themselves), I need to confess I had a dream about Across the Universe the night I finished reading it. I can’t even remember the last time I did that. To say the book sticks with you after you finish it would be an understatement.
Now that I have read the book, I don’t particularly like either the cover or the title. While the starry background makes sense given the way some of the characters feel about stars, both the title and cover art do not convey the wonderful, yummy mystery hidden inside. That’s just me. It’s also me that I didn’t like one of the intense scenes where I felt a different outcome would have made Amy more of a young woman many girls yearn to be.
Of course, the book was expertly written with a distinctive voice even when the viewpoints flipped back and forth between Amy and Elder. Readers will appreciate the subtle foreshadowing and the mystery-in-a-mystery plotting. Readers will also appreciate masterful world-building that never bores you, only teases you and makes you thirsty for more. All these things are the hallmarks of an excellent novel, and as a debut it was a stunning and thrilling page turner. On the Rehabilitated Hack Writer Scale of Book Goodness, I give it four slices of bacon out of five, and it is literally a genre defining book in the Young Adult market segment.
From my Space Opera novel, Stuff Blowing Up in Space.
As soon as he stepped out of the airlock, he knew the mission, such as it was, was going to hell.
They didn’t step out into a reception area—it was an atrium. Immediately he felt his marines tense up from the increased exposure. Snipers could hide in a hundred places.
Then there was the Princess herself and her four person detail, two of them obviously security.
The Princess was tall. 1.905 meters to be exact. Her hair looked like sapphire silk, made to run hands through. She had legs that went forever out of her tunic, ending in short military boots. At least the top of the tunic she changed into wasn’t diaphanous like her previous blouse, but it might as well have been. Her breasts, which his stupid battle comp proudly told him was 36C, were of the round, youthful sort.
Then her eyes. They were big and doe-like—soft amber-colored with flecks of green.
She was a light shade of purple. She was, without a doubt, the most beautiful feminine creature he had ever seen. She put Lieutenant Jennifer Polouski, the female looker of Wolfpack 359, to shame.
As they approached, she looked confused. Then she looked disturbingly hungry. Now she was, and it was hard to tell because facial expressions were somewhat different, smirking.
Yes, it definitely looked like a smirk.
“Princess.” He bowed. As to plan, the marines did not.
“Captain.” She simply stood with her hands on her hips.
Her voice was high-but not annoyingly so.
Tilbrook looked around. Everyone had Aoe Station insignia. Bleh.
“Are we to meet the Navy personnel in a briefing room? I would like to present the data to a tactical officer.”
Now she looked positively haughty.
“No, Captain Tilbrook. No, what you are going to do is listen to every Fleet and Aoe regulation and protocol you broke in getting here, and then and only then, hear my plan.”
She gave her hair a little toss. “First, there is the manner of you trying to contact the Navy directly. This was a violation of Section 15a from Article…”
Well, crap. So much for Plan A. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a Plan B. She didn’t want him to submit. She was not intimidated. If she was hungry, she didn’t show it. She was simply annoyed.
**Ah, Skipper? You’re not really listening to this amazon quote regs, are you?** asked Mitty.
**No, Private, I’m trying to come up with a new plan, because the old one just went to hell.**
**Thank you for saying it first, Skipper,** said Kitty.
**I had such high hopes,** he admitted, **especially for all the time and money we put into it.**
**I think we underestimated her smarts, sir. Looks like her plan is to talk until you get very tired of it and slink off,** said Mitty, sounding annoyed, which was a pretty neat trick for sub-vocalization armor talk.
“…and now let’s turn to the quite rude and inappropriate actions of your helmsman starting with…”
Deep down, Tilbrook got angry. Smart and beautiful sish or no, the Commodore was counting on him. He could even be dead, and Princess here was pulling Rear-Escalon-Mother-Fucker.
**Sir, I know I don’t need to state the obvious, but every minute we listen to this purple bitch give us the riot act, Really Bad Things could be pouring out of that jump-point. It could even be war,** said Kitty. She sounded depressed.
That’s when he knew.
**New plan. Stun her escorts, zero body count. GO!**
It was as if Mitty, Kitty and his brain was connected. As he was drawing his sidearm, they were drawing their stunners and both of them were weapons-free before he was.
The snap-hiss of the stunners was loud and he dully noted his helmet had formed around his head and there was a small hiss of a seal.
His pistol was free. He aimed it at the comically surprised Princess and pulled the trigger. Dark sish blood from his expertly aimed shot spurted from her left thigh, and she went down.
Staff Sargent Sergei Koltsov wasn’t exactly surprised everything went to hell, although the manner in which it did surprised him. One moment the Princess was droning on and on and the next the captain and the twins threw down.
Well, so much for diplomacy.
“Squad, RESCUE PLAN CHARLIE, GO!”
The rest of the marine detail, including him, poured out of the Coolidge.
His explosive tech was moving with lightning speed. He slammed a boarding surge module into the power receptacle in the airlock, twisted the safety handle, and pulled it up.
“Fire in the hole!” the tech screamed as he slammed the handle down and everyone dived out of the airlock.
The surge module was a particularly nasty device. It debugged the power hardware and then sent a surge in various frequencies up the system until it found a vulnerability, and then it poured an enormous amount of power back up the grid.
Sometimes, they simply exploded.
More often than not, they sent a surge all the way through the system, burning cutouts until the main power plant completely shut out that portion of the grid.
And that’s exactly what happened. Power went out in their station section, the atrium they found themselves in bathed in sudden darkness. Not even the emergency lighting turned on.
His optics went into night-vision mode.
That’s when he saw the twins and the skipper thundering towards him. Only, Tilbrook had the Princess over his shoulders in a fireman’s carry.
“Back in the ship! Back in the ship! Back in the ship!” he screamed over the tac-channel.
As his squad retreated, they all fired flash-bangs and the world for anyone not wearing proper armor and looking into the atrium went white.
Ensign Fredrick Hernández aka “Rookie” aka “Steady Freddy” was surprised the Princess was in his airlock, but his orders were clear. Rescue plan Charlie called for him to “GTFO” as soon as the Coolidge’s outer airlock door closed with all personnel on-board, and that’s what he did. Since he was combat docked, he blew the flimsy boarding tube and punched it.
“Coolidge! You are to heave-to immediately! Coolidge!” This was from the security channel.
ECM Tech Ensign Gina Kipply, sitting over to his left, punched a virtual button on her console. A pre-program routine started, the first of which was to send massive jamming on all comm frequencies. The comm chatter ceased.
The Coolidge shot out Aoe Station’s space like a speed demon from hell, burning hard towards the FTL safety line, and if anyone had bothered to look, they would have noted she was breaking all the system speed records in the process.
I’ve given up on hit stats, and gauge my blog posts in how they connect with readers in three ways, in order of increasing popularity:
- Did anyone comment?
- Did anyone send me mail?
- Did anyone link my post on their blog and comment?
The link is the Holy Grail of popularity indicators. While my post yesterday did not generate any links, it sure hit a nerve. It took one reader by surprise, and even the Wife Unit told me I needed to put warning labels on things like that.
Heh. Insert sheepish grin here. Whoops. Someone emailed me and asked why I wrote that. Why indeed.
Quite simply, my work-in-progress is kicking my ass. This novel is, unfortunately, a creative and emotional vampire.
Contemporary Young Adult was never on my horizon. I love reading it, I just never saw myself writing it. My love for genre fiction is deep, and more than that, I have such fun writing science fiction and fantasy. But when the plot for this novel hit me along-side the head, I knew I had to drop everything and write it.
The emotional intensity of my work-in-progress is high. The situation my main characters find themselves in is as absurd as it is heartbreaking, and as I approach the ending the intensity and emotional impact increases dramatically. I find myself in need of a creative outlet in order to not, um, explode or something. Because that would be messy.
I wrote The Pilot simply as a need to express the emotions bleeding from my work-in-progress. It was write it or fall to pieces.
Yes, that post was merely spill-over.
For anyone new popping up on the scene, I target my book reviews towards novelists (you can find my prior reviews here).
Darkship Thieves by Sarah A. Hoyt was my holiday me me me book, but it turned into much more than that. For the novelist interested in speculative fiction, Darkship Thieves is a course of science fiction om nom nom nom with a major serving of romp and romance.
Here’s the book blurb:
Athena Hera Sinistra never wanted to go to space. Never wanted see the eerie glow of the Powerpods. Never wanted to visit Circum Terra. Never had any interest in finding out the truth about the DarkShips. You always get what you don’t ask for. Which must have been why she woke up in the dark of shipnight, within the greater night of space in her father’s space cruiser, knowing that there was a stranger in her room. In a short time, after taking out the stranger—who turned out to be one of her father’s bodyguards up to no good, she was hurtling away from the ship in a lifeboat to get help. But what she got instead would be the adventure of a lifetime—if she managed to survive . . . .
You can always count on the publisher, Baen, to deliver some classic sci-fi with a bit of the libertarian thematic, but Darkship Thieves is a not-so-subtle homage to Robert Heinlein, and that is one reason it is worthy of study. Once a reader gets into that, the book comes into its own in a major, major way, and how Hoyt does this is a bit of the ‘ole awesomesauce.
Essentially it goes like this: any Heinlein fan is going to read this book and start grinning like a dork about a quarter of a way through it. Halfway through the book the little science fiction libertarian in you will go “this is soooooo good,” but then, like the dogs of war unleashed, the novel takes off on its own and doesn’t end until the reader is breathless.
And Hoyt does this with an exploration of love and honesty, two great libertarian themes so worthy of needing exploration in science fiction.
Heinlein was the master of the libertarian thematic but he also dabbled on the edges of libertarianism beyond the personal affirmation and the economic delivery from tyranny. The core of libertarian philosophy centers around peaceful interactions between people in a “trust, but verify” relationship. A person has to believe in the overall good of mankind, yet expect the odd duck to cause problems and thus plan accordingly.
Thena finds herself as the obligatory fish-out-of-water in a libertarian society after being rescued by Kit, a genetically modified pilot who makes a living stealing power from the terrans. Kit brings her to Eden, a large asteroid with refugees from a nasty war back on Earth. Eden is, for the most part, an anarcho-capitalism society.
Oh, but Kit. Kit is so nakedly honest, so honorable (not to mention a bit of a studmuffin), Thena falls in love with him. She falls hard. She’s a product of a declining civilization, a civilization kept together through understated oppression and slight of hand. When encountering pure goodness, it drives her a little crazy, and she is drawn to Kit not so much because he can get inside her head (literally) but because Kit is simply Kit and no one else. Hoyt brings out the craziness in Thena as she realizes the core of her beliefs are a lie, and then, like a master novelist, Hoyt dials it up to eleven when Thena finds out her life has been a lie.
Thena, my fellow writers, kicks-ass throughout the entire novel despite all of the setbacks a cruel universe throws at her. And yet, when faced with the prospect of losing the first real taste of love she has ever known, she goes on an unholy libertarian rampage that is both epic and intensely personal at the same time.
I could prattle on and on about how Darkship Thieves is a marvelous science fiction book in a classical sense, with wonderful uses of technology and some truly clever settings. At its heart, however, it is a romantic love story wrapped up in a personal coming-of-age yarn about good triumphing over evil.
For a novelist in any type of speculative fiction, I give the novel five slices of bacon up out of five.