Reblog: WAR IS CHEAP!

Michael Patrick Hicks:

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Huge congratulations to Tammy Salyer for releasing the final book in her sci-fi civil war trilogy. Here’s how she describes The Spectras Arise Trilogy:

Contract of Defiance, Contract of Betrayal, and Contract of War follow heroine Aly Erikson and her crew of anti-Admin smugglers through an ever-escalating glut of life-and-death adventures and the trials of living on the side of liberty and freedom—whether they agree with the law or not—in the far future of the Algol star system. As former Corps members, most are no strangers to fighting and dissent, but more than anything, they want to spend their lives flying under the radar without control or interference from the system’s central government, The Political and Capital Administration of the Advanced Worlds. But the Admin’s greed-drenched dualism of power and corruption has other plans, and throughout the series, Aly and her crew are reminded of one lesson time and again: when all other options run out, never let go of your gun.

Sounds absolutely terrific to me, and the kind of space-based sci-fi I really go for. I just bought all three books, which are currently on sale for 99 cents each through August. You really should do the same; they sound like killer reads, and the covers are well-designed to boot (I do love a good cover!).

Hit up her site for more info.

Originally posted on Tammy Salyer:

What’s it like for a writer to finish their latest novel, especially when it’s the last book in a trilogy? Is it an occasion for joy, or is it an occasion to shed tears of sadness and separation, the same kind you feel when you finish reading a great novel? Does it feel like a triumph, or does it bring on more of a sense of being lost and confused, kind of like a puppy that has misplaced her favorite shoe?

I suspect the answer to this is different for every writer. Absurdly, the book I’m releasing today is called Contract of War and is a study of postwar behavior in a formerly oligarchical society. And yet I surreptitiously blinked away a couple of tears in a subdued cathartic expulsion of all of the above when I wrote the final words a few months ago. Then, upon having my little…

View original 702 more words

Last Chance: Convergence Sale

convergence-800-cover-reveal-and-promotionalSo, lots of you may know Convergence has been on sale this week for only 99 cents. But, lots more may not know that at all! And since the sale has proved to be pretty healthy, I’m extending it an extra day to cover the full breadth of the DetCon1 weekend.

Even though DetCon1 is happening nearby, I, unfortunately, will not be able to attend. I’ve already committed myself to some family fun with our town’s Founder’s Festival and the annual Pig & Whiskey.

I’m hoping to attend next year’s DetCon1, though! In the meantime, please enjoy Convergence at the nicely (I think) risk-free price of 99 cents throughout the rest of this weekend (and bonus-points for supporting a local, metro-Detroit author, too!).

| Kindle | Nook | Kobo |

 

The vitals:

An Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist

A Kobo Next Sci-Fi & Fantasy Reads Selection, May 2014

Jonah Everitt is a killer, an addict, and a memory thief.

After being hired to kill a ranking officer of the Pacific Rim Coalition and download his memories, Everitt finds himself caught in the crosshairs of a terror cell, a rogue military squadron, and a Chinese gangster named Alice Xie. Xie is a profiteer of street drugs, primarily DRMR, a powerful narcotic made from the memories of the dead. With his daughter, Mesa, missing in post-war Los Angeles, Everitt is forced into an uneasy alliance with Alice to find her.

Mesa’s abduction is wrapped up in the secrets of a brutal murder during the war’s early days, a murder that Alice Xie wants revenged. In order to find her, Jonah will have to sift through the memories of dead men that could destroy what little he has left.

In a city where peace is tenuous and loyalties are ever shifting, the past and the present are about to converge.

Publisher’s Weekly* called CONVERGENCE a “smart splice of espionage and science fiction. … frighteningly realistic. Well-drawn characters, excellent pacing, and constant surprises make this a great cautionary tale about technology and its abuses.”

“kept me on the edge of my seat the WHOLE friggen time! The writing is tight. The world building is incredible, and the story itself is pretty compelling! A+”
-Melissa “Book Lady” Caldwell, Must Read Faster

“Not only is it original and fresh it makes you think about topics ranging from addiction to loss of personal freedoms and civil liberties. The book is very well written…”
-Amazon Reviewer

“This is a book with well-rounded and evolving characters. It draws you in right from the start and keeps your heart rate up the whole way.”
-Amazon Reviewer

A Top 100 Cyberpunk Bestseller on Amazon

A Top 100 Cyberpunk and Technothrillers Bestseller on Amazon UK

A Top 100 Science Fiction and High Tech Bestseller on Kobo

In Case You Missed It – Monday Rehash

Monday was a pretty active day all around, so it seemed like a good time to recap. For those of you who missed yesterday’s updates, here’s what’s happened:

  • J.S. Collyer, whose fantastic debut lands Aug. 16, guest-posted. If you missed it yesterday, you really should check it out! And, when I say her debut is fantastic, I’m not just blowing smoke. I completely fell for the world she crafted in Zero and think she’s a terrific talent. If you haven’t already, go preorder her book through IndieGoGo and help ensure that Dagda Publishing keeps releasing more authors like her.
  • Lucas Bale, author of The Heretic, out now, interviewed me for his site. He also wrote a great intro that quickly went to my head, saying “Michael’s writing style reminds me of James Ellroy and Elmore Leonard – crisp, neat and slick and more often associated with US crime fiction written by Robert Crais.” HOLY CRAP YOU GUYS! Never in a million years would I have thought to have my name pop up alongside Ellroy, Leonard, and Crais (or, at least, not in a positive way!). All three were definitely influential in shaping the more noir-ish aspects of Convergence, and I’m a huge, huge, huge fan of each of those authors. Wow. Just wow.
  • Although this interview by Jim Cogan actually went live two weeks ago, I think it bears highlighting again. Didn’t happen yesterday, but whatever. It’s my blog, and I liked Jim’s interview, too. Go check it out!
  • And last, but in no way least, is my 99-cent sale on Convergence. It’s still running, but time is evaporating quickly. After July 19, I’ll be resetting the price back up to its regular $3.99, so I’d encourage you all to go grab a copy ASAP! It’s a nifty sci-fi thriller that readers seem to be digging quite a bit. If you don’t have a Kindle, don’t worry – it’s only $0.99 on Nook and Kobo, too!

[UPDATE - the awesome folks at Indie Author Land picked up news of the sale and has Convergence currently featured at the top of their site. I'm pretty stoked by this and am happy that my book has garnered some positive attention from this sale. Go check out Indie Author Land ASAP!]

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Lucas Bale Interviews Me: “Convergence, by Michael Patrick Hicks – Analysing a Writer’s Process”

Lucas Bale, author of The Heretic, interviewed me for his site. You can go read the discussion in full at the link below.

I met Lucas through KBoards and enjoyed the heck out of The Heretic. You should go get a copy at Amazon (only $2.99) and give it a shot. Be sure to join his mailing list too! He’s got some big plans for his Beyond The Wall series, which kicks off with his debut and it sounds like there’s going to be a lot more to come.

The Interview: Convergence, by Michael Patrick Hicks – Analysing a Writer’s Process — Lucas Bale.

And, just to put the reminder out there, Convergence is on sale for 0.99 for the rest of this week on all platforms. If you do buy a copy, please consider leaving a review at Amazon, Goodreads, or wherever else you feel is appropriate.

Right now, Convergence is sitting pretty nicely at #27 in Cyberpunk (in the US; it’s currently #68 in the UK Kindle store), and I’m hoping it’ll start ranking in other categories soon. So, please be sure to tell all your friends and family about this sale, too, and help spread the good word!

Convergence is keeping good company in the Top 30 Cyberpunk titles. (July 14, 2014)

Convergence is keeping good company in the Top 30 Cyberpunk titles. (July 14, 2014)

Guest Post: Author J.S. Collyer “For The Love”

Zero, the debut novel from J.S. Collyer, is due out in August 2014 from Dagda Publishing.

Zero, the debut novel from J.S. Collyer, is due out in August 2014 from Dagda Publishing.

I’m fairly certain I stumbled upon J.S. Collyer thanks to some smart postings over at Chuck Wendig’s blog, smart enough to get me awfully curious about what was happening in her corner of the blogosphere. Good stuff, it turned out. She blogs, hosts her short fiction, some of which has been published in various collections, and generates some great Flash Fiction Fridays work. I liked what she had to say, and when I learned she had her first novel coming out soon, I knew ZERO would not only be making its way onto my to-read list, but that it would be jumping over a lot of other titles to become a next-read. Naturally, when she asked for some advanced readers at her site, I leaped at the chance. You may be asking yourself why, and my answer is simple: SPACE PIRATES.

I mean, seriously, what the hell else do you need to know? Well, OK, if you want a little bit more info, you can check out my review.

Over the last few weeks of coordinating for this post and figuring out my reading schedule so I could get to ZERO ASAP, her publishers, Dagda Publishing, ran an IndieGoGo campaign to off-set the marketing costs, and to help pay for the marketing of other future, fresh authors like J.S. That campaign took off like a bat out of hell and broke their $1500 funding goal in roughly 24 hours. When her publisher says, “Her vision for “Zero” is one of the best we have seen in the world of new SF authors in a long time,” and given what I know of her, her voice, and her work, I have to say, it is not just a bunch of PR fluff. She is a great new voice in realm of science fiction, and ZERO is most definitely a title to watch out for.

Below is the synopsis for ZERO, and then I’m turning the rest of this post over to J.S. Collyer with her article, “For The Love.”


About ZERO

Kaleb Hugo is every­thing an offi­cer of the Ser­vice should be: loyal, expertly trained, unques­tion­ing. He has done every­thing ever ordered of him and has done so with a pride that comes from know­ing you are fight­ing for the good of humankind… until the day that he made a deci­sion, as he has had to many times before, in order to ensure the best out­come for the Ser­vice, even though it was in direct vio­la­tion of regulations.

A bat­tle was won, but Hugo was con­demned and dis­hon­ourably dis­charged by Ser­vice com­man­ders for going against orders and risk­ing him­self and his unit to save an inhab­ited satel­lite that had been deter­mined as an accept­able loss.

Offi­cially, anyway.

Unof­fi­cially, Hugo was re-​​assigned to cap­tain the crew of the Zero, an eight-​​man craft that is clas­si­fied in all Ser­vice records as, at best, a pri­va­teer ship and at worse a smug­gling and bor­der­line crim­i­nal enter­prise ves­sel. What very few peo­ple in the Ser­vice know is that the Zero, and its crew, are con­tracted by the Ser­vice. Their role is to inves­ti­gate and infil­trate the less savoury and unac­knowl­edged lev­els of human soci­ety. They sell on, buy in, bar­gain, threaten and report back on every­thing the polit­i­cal lev­els the Ser­vice don’t offi­cially want to know.

The Zero’s rag-​​tag crew look to their com­man­der, Ezekiel Webb, as their leader and mid­dle­man between the reg­i­mented expec­ta­tions of the Ser­vice and the harsh and unpre­dictable demands of the under­world of colo­nial space. He knows he is not cap­tain mate­r­ial but has not man­aged to serve well under any that have been placed over him. Both Cap­tain and Com­man­der clash, but they will have to adapt and find a com­pro­mise if the Zero is to carry out her mis­sions suc­cess­fully and for the har­mony of the crew.

As the Zero is assigned mis­sions by Colonel Lus­combe, her crew is pulled deeper into an orbit-​​wide game of pol­i­tics, deceit and cor­rup­tion which will threaten to tear them apart and throw Human­ity back into a cycle of war and destruc­tion. To stop this and pre­serve the frag­ile peace, Hugo, Webb and the crew will have to over­come per­sonal tragedy, insur­mount­able odds and every cruel depraved twist of fate that the Orbit can throw at them.

As events esca­late out of con­trol, Hugo will have to go against every­thing he has ever believed in to save his crew and bil­lions of inno­cent peo­ple. The out­come is always uncer­tain, but for the crew of the Zero, it was always this way. What will tran­spire will decide not just their fate, but the des­tiny of the entire Human Race.


For The Love

If writing ever since I was old enough to hold a pencil has taught me anything is that you need to be in this game for the love of it. Writing is hard work. It takes commitment, time, sometimes money (courses, computers that crash, computers that don’t crash, retreats, workshops, books), blood, sweat and tears. It can really take a lot out of you, especially at those low moments when you look back at all you’ve done and wonder if you’ve done anything.

Fortunately, such moments are few and far between and always pass if you’re in it for the love. It’s the love of your craft that makes it all worth it.

So be true to it. Be good to it as you want it to be good to you. Give it time and attention and care. Be prepared that you’ll hit some rough patches but that it will always pan out. Don’t compare it to others’. Studying others’ techniques, processes and ideas is a great way to inform your own, but don’t use them as a yard stick by which to measure your own work short. Every relationship is different and only defined by those in it.

Be patient with your work. It may take you an afternoon to write a short story, or a week, or a year. You may write one haiku every Christmas or an epic novel every six months. Whatever it is you and your writing create together, it was what was meant to be.

Embrace it.

Though it may sound like common sense, one of the hardest things I had to get my head round was writing what you enjoy, rather than what you think you should enjoy.

I struggled for many years trying to be the sort of writer I wasn’t. I did an under and post-graduate degree in Creative Writing. I worked with some really amazing writers whose work ranged from semi-autobiographical histories of their communities to literary drama and beyond. I was awed and humbled by them and felt I should try to be like them.

I failed. Of course I did. I haven’t got a literary bone in my body. I like swords, spaceships, ghosts and lasers. Other worlds and other possibilities are what spark my imagination and always have. They are what I seek out in the fiction I read and are always, always, the backdrop to the narratives in my head.

It may seem like a no-brainer to ditch the reflective prose and blast off in a rocket, but when you are wanting to make the best out of your opportunities, it is very easy to take the wrong path, perceiving it to be the best, the most promising, the most lucrative or the one recommended to you by others. I begrudge no one who does this and wins out. If I had been more determined I might have managed it. But the fact is, I wasn’t enjoying the fiction I was writing. And you can bet the last penny in the bank that if you’re not enjoying writing something, your audience are not going to enjoy reading it.

Shrug off your preconceptions and write what you enjoy. If you want to write space opera, epic poetry, noir crime with a paranormal twist, historical romance, do it. You will be far better at writing that than you would be at something you were not meant to. And, besides, even if there are a million other writers in that genre or none at all, no one, no one, will write it like you will.

Let other writers handle their own corners of the fictional world and you concentrate on your own. You and your writing….all you have is each other. And your audience.

And don’t say ‘what audience?’. There will be an audience for your fiction out there somewhere. If there’s an audience for Bigfoot erotica (it’s for real, Google it…though you might want to turn off the image search) there’s an audience for your story.

True, it’s the getting it from your head to audience that’s the tricky part.

Tricky, time consuming…but fun. Even when you want to cry or scream or throw you hard drive against the wall…part of you should still be having fun. Part of you should still be in love with what you’re doing.

Love is what makes the world go round and the relationship between you and your writing is precious and private and answerable only to the two of you. Do right by each other and just see what you can achieve.

JS CollyerJ. S. Collyer is a science fiction writer from Lancaster, England. Her first novel, ‘Zero’is due for release by Dagda Pubishing August 2014.

She shares fiction and musings on writing on her WordPress http://jcollyer.wordpress.com

‘Like’ her on Facebook: facebook.com/jscollyer

Follow her on Twitter: @JexShinigami

The Convergence Is Near

woman inserting card into her head

Implantable memory devices are getting closer to reality thanks to a $40 million initiative from the Department of Defense. [Image from Mod Vive.]

If you’ve read my book, Convergence, (which happens to be on sale right now for only 99 cents!) then you know all about the DARPA-made memory storage, retrieval, and playback unit I write about. The DRMR device I made-up is actually based on some pretty sound science and actual ground-breaking DARPA research.

Last week, news broke that DARPA has contracted with UCLA and the University of Pennsylvania to develop neuroprosthetics to aid wounded warriors.

Shelley Nash at Mod Vive writes:

The program is known as Restoring Active Memory and is intended to aid declarative memory, which is what enables human beings to record and recall facts specific to daily living, such as remembering times and places.

In a conference call with reporters, Geoffrey Ling, director of DARPA’s biological technologies office said “This is just not cocktail party talk. We have so much hope that this new program is going to do wonderful things to restore our injured service members.”

Wounded warriors are slated to be the first group to benefit from this new technology as they often suffer traumatic brain injuries as a result of roadside bombs while serving overseas. However, the first test subjects for the new device are those suffering from impaired memory due to epilepsy. Devices are already implanted in some epilepsy patients that assist in monitoring seizure activity and that help to stop the malfunctioning of the brain that causes seizures. Data from these devices will be collected by the UCLA research team with the hope of developing a memory formation model. This model can then be used to test the memory device.

This will not be easy because, although we have a greater understanding of the human body than we ever have before, there is still much to be discovered.

The New York Times notes that this $40 million investment in direct brain recording has become the fastest growing area in neuroscience. You can read more at NYT, and at IFLScience.

And if you’re of a mind, check out my science-fiction thriller, Convergence, on sale for $0.99 for a limited time.

Review: The Last Town, by Blake Crouch

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About The Last Town

Welcome to Wayward Pines, the last town.

Secret Service agent Ethan Burke arrived in Wayward Pines, Idaho, three weeks ago. In this town, people are told who to marry, where to live, where to work. Their children are taught that David Pilcher, the town’s creator, is god. No one is allowed to leave; even asking questions can get you killed.

But Ethan has discovered the astonishing secret of what lies beyond the electrified fence that surrounds Wayward Pines and protects it from the terrifying world beyond. It is a secret that has the entire population completely under the control of a madman and his army of followers, a secret that is about to come storming through the fence to wipe out this last, fragile remnant of humanity.

Blake Crouch’s electrifying conclusion to the Wayward Pines Series—now a Major Television Event Series debuting Winter 2015 on FOX—will have you glued to the page right down to the very last word.


About the Author

Blake Crouch is the author of over a dozen bestselling suspense, mystery, and horror novels. His short fiction has appeared in numerous short story anthologies, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Cemetery Dance, and many other publications. Much of his work, including the Wayward Pines Series, has been optioned for TV and film. Blake lives in Colorado. To learn more, follow him on Twitter or Facebook, or visit his website, http://www.blakecrouch.com.


My Thoughts

The Last Town is the third, and presumably last, in Blake Crouch’s Wayward Pines series. While Crouch attempts to make this work accessible to new readers, I’d advise that anyone new to this series start from the beginning and read Pines and Wayward first. And since The Last Town picks up within moments of its predecessors finale, it’s hard to get into the nitty-gritty without talking about some spoilers for the previous books.

Consider this your warning.

Those familiar with the series will recall that Secret Service agent Ethan Burke woke up in the small community of Wayward Pines after getting into a car accident. He was sent to the town to search for a pair of missing agents, but it doesn’t take too long for things to go south and for his entire world to get turned upside down. At the close of the second novel, Wayward, Burke clued in the other residents about the truth behind their idyllic community, and in a fit of rage and hubris, the town-founder/cult-leader, David Pilcher, opened the doors sealing Wayward Pines off from the rest of the big, bad world.

With the threat of the monstrous aberrations unleashed upon the town the stakes have never been higher. Series regulars will know that Wayward Pines represents the last human outpost, home to scarcely more than 400 souls, and the danger posed by the beastly abbies represent an extinction-level threat.

Almost from the first page of The Last Town, Crouch has built an unrelenting horror story that strikes a different chord than either of the previous volumes. In the end, I think that’s one of the strongest aspects of his series and why I appreciate Wayward Pines so much. With each volume, Crouch does something different genre-wise.

Pines was a paranoia-driven conspiracy thriller, in the vein of television series like The Prisoner and Nowhere Man. Wayward was more of a murder mystery, but framed within the elements of the conspiracy that unraveled during the climax of Pines. The Last Town, meanwhile, is heavily geared toward a fast-paced creature feature, and Crouch revels in the horror of the narrative as the abbies roam through town, disemboweling people in the streets and invading homes to tear apart the town’s citizens.

If mysteries were at the center of the previous narratives, then here the focus is squarely on action and keeping the pages turning. Short chapters keep the pace quick and the tension high, and the unrelenting nature of the opposition Burke faces, in both human and animal form, make for a blistering read.

The Last Town is a hard book to put down, and because the predicament the characters suffer their way through is so severe and urgent, readers will be demanding to know what comes next. Crouch has crafted a book that is truly ‘unputdownable’ and it serves as a fitting, satisfying conclusion to the Wayward Pines series.

Note: I received an advanced reader’s copy through NetGalley to review.

Buy at Amazon

Convergence – Limited Time Sale Only $0.99!

convergence-800-cover-reveal-and-promotional

For a limited time, the Convergence eBook is on sale for only 99 cents!

You can download this Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarterfinalist and Kobo Next Read Selection for less than a buck.

After the sale ends July 19, the regular price of $3.99 returns. Until then, you can buy my sci-fi thriller (perfect for fans of Barry Eisler, William Gibson, James Rollins, or Michael Crichton, IMHO) at these fine merchants:

Amazon Kindle

Nook (Barnes & Noble)

Kobo

Google Play

And if none of those etailers are your preferred vendor, the book is also listed in the Smashwords Summer Sale, where you can save 75% of the usual $3.99 price by using the code SSW75 at checkout. That offer is good until July 31.

After you’ve bought and read it, please leave an honest review at the site you’ve purchased from. They can help a new author like me tremendously, and let future readers know if the title might be worth their time.

If you’re a Kobo customer who wants to review the work, don’t fret! Kobo reviews are coming soon, and you can leave a review right now over at this site.

Or, you can post a review at Goodreads, too!

Whatever you choose, whether your review it or not (but please do consider it), just know that your help and patronage is greatly appreciated and I thank you for your support.

You can find out more about my sci-fi thriller here.

Guest Post: Lucas Bale, “The Heretic”

Today, we’ve got a guest piece from author Lucas Bale, who made his sci-fi debut this week with the just-released The Heretic. In my opinion, this is a book well worth getting (my review is here), but be warned: you’ll want more and may have yourself hooked on a new series in very short order!

Check out the description below, and then read on as Lucas discusses ‘hard’ vs ‘soft’ sci-fi and where The Heretic falls, as well as some of the inspirations that helped drive his work.

Heretic EbookEARTH IS GONE.

Centuries have passed since the First Cataclysm ended life on the blue planet. Humanity’s survivors are now dispersed among distant colonies, thousands of light years from the barren, frozen rock that was once their home.

A new Republic has formed – one in which freedom no longer exists. In return for the protection of the Consulate Magistratus, citizens must concede their rights. The Magistratus controls interstellar travel, access to technology – even procreation. Organised religion is forbidden. All crime is punished by banishment or a lifetime of penal servitude on the Kolyma prison fleet.

And humanity’s true history survives only in whispers of a secret archive.

Yet there are those who preach a new religion and who want to be free.

A REVOLUTION IS COMING…

The Heretic is the first book in the Beyond the Wall series, an epic story about the future of humanity and the discovery of the truth of its past.

Buy it on Amazon:    US  | UK

Buy it on Kobo

Buy it on iBookstore

Buy it on Nook (Barnes and Noble)

Add it on Goodreads


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I have always been most inspired by what I now know to be ‘hard science-fiction’. I don’t shy away from stories which fall towards the ‘softer’ end of the science-fiction, but my natural inspiration seems to derive from stories which seem to me to be theoretically possible, and therefore more compelling to my mind. We write, at least at the beginning of our careers, what appeals to us most. This is probably the safest course as we learn our craft and we hone our ability to take our readers on the journey we want them to experience. Experimenting with new angles is best left for later stories, or shorter ones.

I can’t say why I am seduced by hard science-fiction, but even when it comes to fantasy, I prefer the worlds in which magic is explained in some way, or operates according to very concrete rules. I find the whole thing more believable. I find the surreal uncomfortable –I simply don’t enjoy it. Perhaps the simple fact I can relate it to something real makes it more chilling, more compelling. More believable. For me, Alien and Aliens, taken together, are at the pinnacle of thrilling, suspenseful science-fiction. They might be said not to be hard science-fiction in the classic sense. The kernel of hard science-fiction is the relationship between the accuracy, and amount, of the scientific detail in the story and the rest of the narrative. In 1993, Gary Westfahl suggested that one requirement for hard science-fiction is that a story “should try to be accurate, logical, credible and rigorous in its use of current scientific and technical knowledge about which technology, phenomena, scenarios and situations that are practically and/or theoretically possible.”

Pic Three

 

On the basis Einstein’s theory of special relativity tends to preclude faster-then-light travel, most hard science-fiction authors shy away from it. Others might use it as a device whilst maintaining rigorous scientific scruples in respect of the rest of the story. I wouldn’t want to be the butt of what Westfahl describes as ‘The Game’–the search for scientific inaccuracy in a science-fiction work –I am too concerned such rigor tends to inhibit storytelling, and we all take artistic liberties in storytelling. That said, Westfahl concedes, ‘hardness’ is in reality less a matter of the absolute accuracy of the science content than of the rigor and consistency with which the various ideas and possibilities are worked out. For my part, regardless of recent advances which might make Warp Travel possible, through the auspices of an Alcubierre Drive, I chose wormholes as the device to permit interstellar travel. This was as much about the theme underpinning the entire series as it was a construct to allow my story to move along. To say more would ruin the series, but every hard science-fiction story needs to take some liberties and, often, the way in which those liberties are taken can enhance the storytelling. The world I created to tell the Beyond the Wall story is as important to the story as the characters. It is not just a setting, it is a character in itself.

Yet, the themes explored as Beyond the Wall develops are more akin to soft science-fiction –they are political, psychological, anthropological and sociological. In fact, whilst I have attempted to maintain a hard science-fiction tenor in respect of the setting, the story explores far more human themes than technological. The dystopian theme might well be considered ‘hard’ science-fiction, but by definition it must be soft, dealing with social sciences as it would usually tend to. Such is the danger of to rigid a categorisation of fiction –good fiction is usually a blend of different areas. Science is critical to Beyond the Wall, but only in the way it impacts on the remains of humanity, struggling to find its way.

Apart from Aliens, one of the other significant inspirations for Beyond the Wall was Joss Whedon’s Firefly. In many ways Firefly is Space Opera, yet it also carries with it many of the characteristics of hard science-fiction –no faster-than-light travel, no alien life-forms, no technology which is unexplainable or specifically advanced beyond that which might be expected of the setting. It operates within norms which make it more believable as a consequence. I think that is why it appealed to me and why I began, when it’s run was prematurely terminated, to think about my own setting. Beyond the Wall is very different and will become even more different, but I named Shepherd as a nod to Joss Whedon’s superb show. Yet the themes in Firefly are more properly considered to be soft science-fiction, covering the political and psychological ground as they do. They are very human themes and I think we identify with them far more as a result. In the end, ‘hard’ or ‘soft’, what we really want is a story which is believable; which grips us on an emotional, psychological level and which we can identify with. I think good science-fiction has elements of all of that.


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Lucas Bale writes the sort of intense, thrilling science-fiction and suspense stories which make you miss your train stop. The sort of stories which dig into what makes us human and scrape at the darkness which hides inside every one of us. When he looks up at the stars, he sees the infinite and myriad worlds which are waiting for us, and which need to be explored. He wasn’t always a writer, but who can say that? He was a barrister for fifteen years before he discovered crime doesn’t pay and turned to something which actually pays even less. No one ever said he was smart, but at least hes happy.

His debut novel, THE HERETIC, is the gateway to the BEYOND THE WALL series, an epic story about the future of humanity and the discovery of the truth of its past and is out from July 7th.

Author website: www.lucasbale.com

Twitter: @balespen

Lucas Bale on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/lucasbale

Review: The Heretic by Lucas Bale

Heretic Ebook

 About The Heretic

EARTH IS GONE.

Centuries have passed since the First Cataclysm ended life on the blue planet. Humanity’s survivors are now dispersed among distant colonies, thousands of light years from the barren, frozen rock that was once their home.

A new Republic has formed – one in which freedom no longer exists. In return for the protection of the Consulate Magistratus, citizens must concede their rights. The Magistratus controls interstellar travel, access to technology – even procreation. Organised religion is forbidden. All crime is punished by banishment or a lifetime of penal servitude on the Kolyma prison fleet.

And humanity’s true history survives only in whispers of a secret archive.

Yet there are those who preach a new religion and who want to be free.

A REVOLUTION IS COMING…

The Heretic is the first book in the Beyond the Wall series, an epic story about the future of humanity and the discovery of the truth of its past.

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About the Author

Lucas Bale writes the sort of intense, thrilling science-fiction and suspense stories which make you miss your train stop. The sort of stories which dig into what makes us human and scrape at the darkness which hides inside every one of us. When he looks up at the stars, he sees the infinite and myriad worlds which are waiting for us, and which need to be explored. He wasn’t always a writer, but who can say that? He was a barrister for fifteen years before he discovered crime doesn’t pay and turned to something which actually pays even less. No one ever said he was smart, but at least he’s happy.

His debut novel, THE HERETIC, is the gateway to the BEYOND THE WALL series, an epic story about the future of humanity and the discovery of the truth of its past and is out from July 7th.

Author website: www.lucasbale.com

Twitter: @balespen

Lucas Bale on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/lucasbale


My Thoughts

Although The Heretic is a far-flung future dytopia, it carries with it the strong, heady flavor of the American Old West. As a fan of Eastwood’s spaghetti westerns, I’m certainly not complaining, and Lucas Bale nicely balances the genre mash-up in his sci-fi debut.

With the Magistratus in control of this interstellar Republic, and in charge of space travel, technology, and reproductive rights, the greatest heresy is the wish for freedom. The first in his ambitious Beyond The Wall series finds a frontier town on the frozen planet of Herse quarantined and much of its population murdered by Peacemakers following the arrival of a heretical preacher. Tainted by his teachings and the preacher’s call of freedom, the town’s few survivors are cast into the freezing wilderness and hunted by gunmen. On the port-side of this world is an armed trader, Shepherd, making an illegal delivery of medicine and who soon winds up ensnared in the conflict after crossing paths with another survivor seeking aid.

Shepherd is a smuggler, equal parts Han Solo and Hang ‘Em High’s Jed Cooper or Pale Rider, and the sort of archetype that will be immediately recognizable to many genre fans. Although there’s a few central characters, Shepherd is the main filter of information concerning life outside the Core of the Republic, and it’s primarily through him that we learn about the politics and world building, along with a few conversations between the preacher and one of the children in his flock. The world building is one of Bale’s strengths, and it’s quite clear he put a lot of thought and effort into crafting his future realms, and that his series has a lot of intriguing possibilities for expansion. The struggles and fears of Herse’s townsfolk, as well as the technological apparatuses the plot requires, come across quite realistically.

I’m very interested in seeing how this series expands in subsequent volumes. Clearly, Bale’s series has a long-term, epic focus, and in some ways, perhaps obliquely, manages to capture a hint of sprawling fantasy in its thousand-plus years of hidden future-history. With the overarching series title, Beyond The Wall, and references of the punishments awaiting those cast beyond that point, along with the iron fist of the elite ruling class, I’m immediately drawn to the parallels of George R.R. Martin’s work and can’t help but think of Jon Snow and the men of the Nightwatch whenever references to The Wall are made. While there might not be much room for comparison between a sword-and-sorcery marathon to a westernized space opera, I still found The Heretic to be of a similar taste, overall, and I can’t help but draw a few similarities in terms of craft-work, world building, and the enormous scope that is on display. In fact, it’s the easy familiarity to several other genre favorites and references ranging from Martin to Farscape and Star Wars, and the banditry/do-good-(but maybe only secondarily) vibe of Firefly, that makes The Heretic an enjoyable and compelling read.

The opening volume of a clearly expansive series, such as this, tend to be a bit tricky to encapsulate.Not all of the author’s cards are on the table yet, and The Heretic is so clearly a series-focused endeavor that it feels less like a complete read and more of a minor segment, a small opening salvo, if you will, in a grander tale. It works as a skillful bit of bricklaying and a teaser to a grander story that’s yet to unfold. I don’t mean for this to be a knock on the work, or blatantly negative as I did quite enjoy the story, but the book ends just as things get really f**king interesting, which immediately made me want more. It’s not really until the last half of the book that things kick into high-gear, the characters have all been maneuvered into place, and the action starts to kick mondo ass. And the last chapter is filled with such vital information and back-story, and a much-needed glimpse into the preacher’s past, that the abrupt cliff-hanger ending made me wish I could launch straight into book two (or, at the very least, demand spoilers from Bale!).

The fact that I wanted more should definitely be construed as a good thing though! I just need to quell my impatience a bit and hope that my next fix comes along soon. The Heretic is not a work that can stand on its own indefinitely, and cannot be cleanly detached from what must follow because it is so very clearly serialized. Thankfully, the author succeeds in creating a strong enough work to draw readers in for the next installment. What he’s done was done very well, indeed. Ultimately, Bale’s debut is a terrific distillation of many prior SFF works that I’ve enjoyed, if not flat-out loved entirely, and both his story and writing skills are strong enough to have hooked me along for future works in this series. I genuinely cannot wait to see where this story goes next and will be looking forward to Defiance, the next book, with eager anticipation.