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Summer of Sci-fi: 6 Tales to Beat the Heat

by Merlin Hoye

🎵 It’s getting hot in here, so read a sci-fi book 🎵 

Summer is BACK and so is this list of Sci-Fi books we recommend you dive into this season! Check em’ out!


Fractal NoiseFractal Noise by Christopher Paolini

The perfect page turner to take to the beach as long as you like your beach reads existentially terrifying, which we do. Fractal Noise is about a space crew that travels to a harsh planet to investigate a mysterious dark hole, known only as the Anomaly.  Set in the same universe as Paolini’s bestselling sci-fi epic To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, this fever-dream of a novel is a perfectly bone-chilling entry point to the series. Out now in paperback!


The Terraformers by Annalee NewitzThe Terraformers by Annalee Newitz

Talking animals, a lost city, and a pissed off cyborg cow. Intrigued? The Terraformers is a smart, interplanetary adventure about a scientist, her moose, and an ecosystem collapse in the face of corporate greed. Despite the heavy subject matter, it’s so much fun and somehow… cozy? Don’t ask us how, but it is.


The Genesis of Misery by Neon YangThe Genesis of Misery by Neon Yang

Joan of Arc but make it space opera. Need I say more? No, no—I will. This is an epic space fantasy adventure with a gender-queer protagonist who starts a civil war after an angel appears to them with an important message. Locked Tomb fans need to hop aboard the Misery Nomaki train ASAP. They’ll be just your cup of tea. Iced tea of course.


Exadelic by Jon EvansExadelic by Jon Evans

Exadelic is essential reading to prepare you for the day artificial intelligence hacks our reality and decides we are the biggest threat to its existence. This is a gloriously insane story of black magic, mayhem, AI, and adventure and it is SO. MUCH. FUN. Also, uncannily relevant. But we won’t think about that now. It’s summer time, baby!


Dune: The Heir of Caladan by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. AndersonDune: The Heir of Caladan by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson

If you’re looking for an escape from the hot summer sun, Dune: The Heir of Caladan isn’t going to give you that longed for reprieve. The third installment in the Dune prequel series, The Caladan Trilogy, follows Paul and his parents before they arrive on Arakis and in typical Dune fashion, this is a story full of heat, sand, and adventure. Soak up that vitamin D while you still can!


sandymancer by david edisonSandymancer by David Edison

If you finish Dune and crave some more hot, desert-y sci-fi vibes, we offer you Sandymancer. This is a genre-defying tale about a girl, her sand magic, and the god-king she summons with said magic. When the god-king steals her best friend’s body, things go south fast. This adventure has the feeling of a classic sci-fi novel and is the perfect end of summer treat. 

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Our Favorite Non-Humanoid Aliens

Our Favorite Non-Humanoid Aliens

the three body problem by cixin liuA while back, we put together a kickin’ list of aliens who might not be able to ‘kick’ in the traditional ‘human’ sense of the word, because they are not humanoids. Now, with the new Netflix series of Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem captivating audiences across the galaxy, we thought it’d be a great time to bring this important piece of literary listicle writing back to the forefront. Because it’s an important piece of science fiction but also because of the Trisolarans, a notably unhuman species of extraterrestrial entities.

Check that list out below!


by Emily Hughes

The idea that any aliens the human race might encounter will look even vaguely humanoid is so tired. While the proliferation of humanoid aliens in science fiction is understandable – it can be hard to conceive of creatures so foreign we might not even recognize them as sentient. But it does happen! Here are five more of our favorite non-humanoid aliens in sci-fi.

The Ghorf (Knight by Timothy Zahn)

Place holder  of - 27When Nicole first wakes up on board the ship Fyrantha, she’s understandably a little unsettled by the appearance of Kahkitah, a bipedal shark-like alien who seems to be made of melted down glass marbles. But these chondrichthian creatures aren’t nearly as fierce as they look – mostly they serve as counsel and muscle on the densely-populated, living spacecraft.

Rainbow Bamboo (Semiosis by Sue Burke)

Image Placeholder of - 25Semiosis is a first-contact novel about plants, and at its heart is the relationship between the human settlers on the planet Pax, and a species of plant known as rainbow bamboo, which has a collective consciousness that takes the name Stevland (long story). Stevland’s voice, once it and the settlers have figured out how to communicate, is fascinating – it has awareness of all parts of its root network at once, and can manipulate its chemical reactions to grow faster, slower, in new places, or to communicate danger or opportunity to its human friends and other plants alike.

Sandworms (The Dune series by Frank Herbert, Brian Herbert, and Kevin J. Anderson)

Poster Placeholder of - 97How could we not include Sandworms, honestly? They’re iconic in the science fiction world, and for good reason. These leviathans, indigenous to the planet Arrakis, are instrumental to the production of the highly valued spice melange, though they’re intermittently dangerous to the people who harvest said spice. And though the sandworms can be managed and (occasionally) ridden, they can never truly be tamed.

The Gelet (The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders)

Image Place holder  of - 77On the planet January, human settlers are limited to two habitable cities – but outside those cities, in the planet’s dark, cold hemisphere, live a species reviled and feared by humans: the furry, tentacled Gelet.

The Gelet are a species of individuals who share a telepathic group mind and a collective memory. They’re sentient, empathetic, and ambitious, aiming for a goal as lofty as saving their dying planet. And when Sophie, the protagonist, befriends them, they introduce her to a future filled with one thing she never anticipated: hope.

Aunt Beast (A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle)

Placeholder of  -7As Meg Murry recovers from her confrontation with IT, she’s nursed back to health by the four-armed, eyeless, furry creature she comes to think of as Aunt Beast. Aunt Beast is a gift, a being who writer Jaime Green calls “the embodiment of grace.” She loves Meg while creating space for Meg’s pain and anger – and we all need that sometimes.

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6 Stories You Can Enjoy on Page and Screen

Don’t you just love it when books leap off the page? And onto the screen? Here’s a list of exciting titles with series and movie accompaniments! 


The Three-Body Problemthe three body problem by cixin liu by Cixin Liu

Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. 

Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion. The result is a science fiction masterpiece of enormous scope and vision.

And meanwhile, on Netflix, you’ll soon be able to watch their adaption of Liu’s work! 

I Am Legendi am legend by richard matheson, cover to be revealed by Richard Matheson

This New York Times bestselling classic tale of Earth’s last survivor of a vampire plague inspired the hit film I Am Legend (2007), and if you haven’t gotten around to reading the book yet, now is seriously the time, because I Am Legend 2 is set to release in 2025. 

The Caladan Trilogydune: the heir of caladan by brian herbert & kevin j. anderson by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson

Dune and Dune: Part Two have been all the rage in the box offices of recent years, and decades before that, David Lynch’s Dune (1984) captivated fans of epic science fiction. And all these movies beg a new question: What if there were more Dune books? Answer: There are. The Caladan Trilogy adds more detail to the lives of Duke Leto, Lady Jessica, and Paul. And if you want even more Dune, we’re thrilled to share even more with Princess of Dune and Sands of Dune

The Wheel of Time Seriesthe great hunt by robert jordan by Robert Jordan

How epic do you like your fantasy? If you said “Very!” then The Wheel of Time is for you. All 14 books in the series (plus a prequel!). And if once you’re done with those stacks and stacks of epic writing, or honestly at whatever point you prefer, check out The Wheel of Time on Amazon Prime, starring Rosamund Pike. The first two seasons cover Jordan’s first two books, The Eye of the World and The Great Hunt

Dark HarvestDark Harvest by Norman Partridge by Norman Partridge

Halloween, 1963. They call him the October Boy, or Ol’ Hacksaw Face, or Sawtooth Jack. Whatever the name, everybody in this small Midwestern town knows who he is. How he rises from the cornfields every Halloween, a butcher knife in his hand, and makes his way toward town, where gangs of teenage boys eagerly await their chance to confront the legendary nightmare. Both the hunter and the hunted, the October Boy is the prize in an annual rite of life and death.

Pete McCormick knows that killing the October Boy is his one chance to escape a dead-end future in this one-horse town. He’s willing to risk everything, including his life, to be a winner for once. But before the night is over, Pete will look into the saw-toothed face of horror—and discover the terrifying true secret of the October Boy.

You too can discover this secret, in the pages and now on screen with David Slade’s Dark Harvest (2023)

PinocchioPinocchio with Introduction by Guillermo del Toro; Illustrated by Gris Grimly; written by Carlo Collodi with Introduction by Guillermo del Toro; Illustrated by Gris Grimly; written by Carlo Collodi

This edition of the timeless classic Pinocchio has the full text with a mixture of full-page and spot illustrations in black and white integrated in the text, in pen-and-ink style. The ink is sepia brown, and the introduction is from Guillermo del Toro, the director of Netflix’s adaptation of Pinocchio

You’ll love it, no lie! 

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8 Books to Read After You Watch Dune: Part Two

Yeah, we’re into DuneDune lots of reading 📚😎

The spice must flow, and so will our sci-fi book recommendations! But what’s that you say? You’re not just looking for any space opera, you’re looking for the particular space opera that’s going to satisfy the exact reason why you’re already planning to see Dune: Part Two again? Fear not! Our recommendations are sorted by what got you excited for Dune!

By Julia Bergen


If you’re excited to see Dune because:

dune: the heir of caladan by brian herbert & kevin j. andersonDune seems really cool:

You should read: Dune: The Heir of Caladan by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson

When you need Dune, you need Dune! Dune: The Heir of Caladan is the conclusion of a prequel trilogy by Brian Herbert, Frank Herbert’s son, and science fiction legend Kevin J. Anderson. This saga began with Dune: The Duke of Caladan, continued with Dune: The Lady of Caladan, and tells the story of the Atreides family’s rise to power, and this particular volume details how Paul becomes the leader he needs to be before the events of Dune

princess of dune by brian herbert & kevin j. andersonNo, really. Dune is the coolest and you’ll throw yourself into the maw of a sandworm if you don’t get more immediately:

You should read: Princess of Dune by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson

When you need Dune, you need Dune! Set a few years before the events of Dune, this story explores the lives of Paul’s love Chani and his wife, the Princess Irulan. Both women will impact the trajectory of the whole galaxy as Paul Atreides brings it hurdling to its destiny. 

to sleep in a sea of stars by christopher paoliniYou love crazy space monsters:

You should read: To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini

The sandworms in Dune are definitely some of the creepiest monsters in SF, and their connection to the spice is shrouded in mystery. While you wait to see sandworms on the screen, you can dive into the mystery of the creature discovered by a xenobiologist during what was supposed to be a routine survey mission on an uncolonized planet. And make sure to check out Fractal Noise for more tales in the same universe!

Image Place holder  of - 17You love dudes fighting in suits in space:

You should read: Red Rising by Pierce Brown

If you’re most looking forward to seeing how Villeneuve envisions the stillsuits necessary to survive on the desert planet Arrakis, and to see some sweet suit fight scenes, calm you suited bloodthirst with a book about genetically perfected superhumans wearing futuristic body armor battling it out in a Hunger Games-esque competition for the solar system’s best job opportunities.

You Sexy Thing by Cat RamboYou love PEW PEW PEW space battles:

You should read: You Sexy Thing by Cat Rambo

Perfect reading if you want to be able to practically hear that “PEW PEW PEW” noise, and maybe even a Wilhelm scream or two while you’re reading. A group of retired space soldiers gets dragged back into war when they’re forced onto a sentient ship that’s convinced it’s being stolen, and in addition must survive the machinations of a sadistic pirate king.

The Genesis of Misery by Neon YangYou love space politics:

You should read: The Genesis of Misery by Neon Yang

If you can’t resist competing galactic empires and political machinations in space, dive into The Genesis of Misery. A nobody from a nowhere mining planet becomes the center of a power struggle between dangerous players and royal families because of their forbidden powers. Plus, like Dune it’s full of prophecy and space magic. 

Image Placeholder of - 89No, seriously, you LIVE FOR space politics:

You should read: A Desolation Called Peace Arkady Martine

Oh, so you’re one of those, huh? No judgment, just book recommendations here, my friend. And you definitely need to feast your eyes on A Desolation Called Peace, which should give you all the space politics you could possibly want. An ambassador from a backwater planet must untangle the webs of subterfuge at the center of the Teixcalaanli Empire.

winter's orbit by everina maxwellYou love space politics, but not as much as you love love.

You should read: Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell

If you can’t wait for Dune’s space politic glory, but you’re also looking forward to scenes between Paul and Chani, then as soon as it’s on sale you need to get your hands on this romantic space opera. Two neuromodified psychics, a flirty socialite and a duty-bound soldier, find themselves at the center of a decades-old power struggle and a dangerous treasure-hunt. If they sync their minds, they might avoid life under military control, but they’d be giving up their free will. And what are these FEELINGS they’re having for each other?

Which one are you reading? Let us know in the comments!

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Summer of Sci-fi: 6 Tales to Beat the Heat

by Merlin Hoye

We’re coming up on the fall season, but even though we’re breaking out our sweaters and planning our spooky reading lists, it feels like the weather missed the memo. While we stare longingly at our pumpkin carving kits and feel a trickle of sweat drip down our backs, we’re yearning for the cold, dead emptiness of space. Sure, that yawning chasm could (and does, nay MUST) contain horrors beyond our comprehension, but hey, at least it’s nice and cool up there, right?

Spot this rundown of great titles to chill with as we blaze toward the end of summer!


The Terraformers by Annalee NewitzThe Terraformers by Annalee Newitz

Talking animals, a lost city, and a pissed off cyborg cow. Intrigued? The Terraformers is a smart, interplanetary adventure about a scientist, her moose, and an ecosystem collapse in the face of corporate greed. Despite the heavy subject matter, it’s so much fun and somehow… cozy? Don’t ask us how, but it is.


Fractal Noise by Christopher PaoliniFractal Noise by Christopher Paolini

The perfect page turner to take to the beach as long as you like your beach reads existentially terrifying, which we do. Fractal Noise is about a space crew that travels to a harsh planet to investigate a mysterious dark hole, known only as the Anomaly.  Set in the same universe as Paolini’s bestselling sci-fi epic To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, this fever-dream of a novel is a perfectly bone-chilling entry point to the series.


The Genesis of Misery by Neon YangThe Genesis of Misery by Neon Yang

Joan of Arc but make it space opera. Need I say more? No, no—I will. This is an epic space fantasy adventure with a gender-queer protagonist who starts a civil war after an angel appears to them with an important message. Locked Tomb fans need to hop aboard the Misery Nomaki train ASAP. They’ll be just your cup of tea. Iced tea of course.


Exadelic by Jon EvansExadelic by Jon Evans

Exadelic is essential reading to prepare you for the day artificial intelligence hacks our reality and decides we are the biggest threat to its existence. This is a gloriously insane story of black magic, mayhem, AI, and adventure and it is SO. MUCH. FUN. Also, uncannily relevant. But we won’t think about that now. It’s summer time, baby!

On Sale 9/9/23


Dune: The Heir of Caladan by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. AndersonDune: The Heir of Caladan by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson

If you’re looking for an escape from the hot summer sun, Dune: The Heir of Caladan isn’t going to give you that longed for reprieve. The third installment in the Dune prequel series, The Caladan Trilogy, follows Paul and his parents before they arrive on Arakis and in typical Dune fashion, this is a story full of heat, sand, and adventure. Soak up that vitamin D while you still can!

On Sale in Paperback 9/19/23


sandymancer by david edisonSandymancer by David Edison

If you finish Dune and crave some more hot, desert-y sci-fi vibes, we offer you Sandymancer. This is a genre-defying tale about a girl, her sand magic, and the god-king she summons with said magic. When the god-king steals her best friend’s body, things go south fast. This adventure has the feeling of a classic sci-fi novel and is the perfect end of summer treat. 

On Sale 9/19/23

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Series That Ended This Year You Can Binge Read Now!

Here’s one for the marathon readers. The book-jockeys who devour quadruple digit pages in single digit days. Here’s a list of fantasy series that ended this year to satiate even the most voracious word-eater. Enjoy your book binge 😈


Wake the Dragon seriesgods and dragons by Kevin J. Anderson

Co-author of the Dune sequels, Kevin J. Anderson’s Gods and Dragons marks his triumphant return to epic fantasy and magnanimous finish to his epic fantasy Wake the Dragons series.  Two continents at war: the Three Kingdoms and Ishara have been in conflict for a thousand years. But when an outside threat arises—the reawakening of a powerful ancient race that wants to remake the world—the two warring nations must somehow set aside generations of hatred to form an alliance against a far more deadly enemy. 

The Sorceror’s Song trilogyThe Sword's Elegy by Brian D. Anderson by Brian D. Anderson

The Sword’s Elegy is the third book in a new epic fantasy trilogy from successful self-published author Brian D. Anderson, perfect for fans of The Wheel of Time and The Sword of Truth. The doom of humankind has at last been realized. Belkar’s prison is broken and his army is on the move. The nations of Lamoria, unaware of the greater danger, look to repel the aggression of Ralmarstad. In the end, it is not great power, terrible armies, or mighty warriors who will influence the course of fate. But two lovers and the unbreakable bond they share. All questions are answered. All mysteries revealed.

Poster Placeholder of - 7A Chorus of Dragons series by Jenn Lyons

The Discord of Gods marks the epic conclusion to Jenn Lyons’s A Chorus of Dragons series, closing out the saga that began with The Ruin of Kings, for fans of Brandon Sanderson and Patrick Rothfuss. Do you like it when demons run rampant? When political intrigue and ancient rituals intersect? How about becoming the living avatar of a star? This epic fantasy series about a long-lost royal whose fate is tied to the future of an empire will take you on a thrilling ride you won’t forget and might not survive. 

Image Place holder  of - 89The Serpent Gates duology by A. K. Larkwood

The gods remember. And if you live long enough, all debts come due. This epic fantasy series about an orcish death priest who starts a new career as an assassin for a wizard to avoid becoming the god of death’s new bride is an amazing, swashbuckling, screaming-in-frustration, heart-racing cascade of emotion and action. Snake goddesses, ancient ruins, sibling rivalry for the favor of a garbage wizard. What more can you ask for? 

Placeholder of  -50The Lotus Kingdoms trilogy by Elizabeth Bear

Hugo Award-winning author Elizabeth Bear returns with The Origin of Storms, the stunning conclusion to her acclaimed epic fantasy trilogy, The Lotus Kingdoms. The Lotus Kingdoms are at war, with four claimants to the sorcerous throne of the Alchemical Emperor, fielding three armies between them. Alliances are made, and broken, many times over—but in the end, only one can sit on the throne. And that one must have not only the power, but the rightful claim.

The Fall of the Gods seriesImage Placeholder of - 51 by Ryan Van Loan

Ryan Van Loan concludes his pulse-pounding fantasy series with sea battles, hidden libraries, warring deities, old enemies, and one woman’s desire for liberation and revenge all wrapped up in one epic novel—The Memory in the Blood. When her quest to destroy the Gods began, Buc was a child of the streets. Now she is a woman of steel, shaped by gaining and losing power, tempered by love and betrayal, and honed to a fine edge by grief and her desire for vengeance. If Buc has to destroy all Gods, eat the rich, and break the world’s economy to save the people, she will do it. Even if it costs her everything.

Mercenary Librarians seriesDance with the Devil by Kit Rocha by Kit Rocha

The Mercenary Librarians and the Silver Devils are back in the explosive conclusion to USA Today and New York Times bestselling author Kit Rocha’s post-apocalyptic action/romance in Dance with the Devil. How to describe the Mercenary Librarians series? Post-apocalyptic corporate autocracy with a rebellious streak of sweet and sexy romance. Rogue information brokers on a mission to save a crumbling America collide with a team of disillusioned AWOL supersoliders. It’s intense. It’s dangerous. It’s hot. 

mysticThe Mystic Trilogy by Jason Denzel

In Mystic Skies, the epic conclusion to Jason Denzel’s The Mystic Trilogy, which spans decades and timeless realms and dreams, Pomella must confront her greatest and most personal challenge yet. For the Deep mysteries of the world will reveal themselves only to the most powerful and dedicated of Mystics. This series from the founder of Dragonmount is perfect for all fans of swords and sorcery. Do you love Robert Jordan? Brandon Sanderson? Dungeons & Dragons? You HAVE to check out The Mystic Trilogy. 

The Caladan Trilogysnek by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson

In Dune: The Heir of Caladan, the final book in the Caladan trilogy by New York Times bestselling authors Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, we step into the shoes of Paul Atreides. A boy not yet a man and about to enter a world he could never have imagined. The story that began with Duke Leto Atreides’s rise to power, then continued with the consequences of Lady Jessica’s betrayal, will now conclude with Paul becoming the person that he needs to be to become the Muad’Dib.

Mistborn: Wax and Wayne serieslost-metal by Brandon Sanderson

Return to #1 New York Times bestseller Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn world of Scadrial as its second era, which began with The Alloy of Law, comes to its earth-shattering conclusion in The Lost Metal

The Mistborn series is a bold saga of epic fantasy that asks the question: What happens if the hero of prophecy fails? And also: What if ingesting various metals gave you special powers? 

You simply cannot tell us you’re not curious…

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Are You an Atreides or Harkonnen?

By Julia Bergen

In Dune: The Heir of Caladan, the climactic novel in the Caladan trilogy by New York Times bestselling authors Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, we step into the shoes of Paul Atreides. A not yet a man in years, he is about to enter a world he could never have imagined.

Take the quiz and find out: Do you stand for House Atreides or fly your flag for House Harkonnen?


 

Buy Dune: The Heir of Caladan Here:

Image Placeholder of amazon- 2 Placeholder of bn -42 Image Placeholder of booksamillion- 72 ibooks2 13 indiebound

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Excerpt: Dune: The Heir of Caladan by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson

amazons bns booksamilliosn ibooks2 14 indiebounds

Dune The Heir of Caladan by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. AndersonIn Dune: The Heir of Caladan, the climactic novel in the Caladan trilogy by New York Times bestselling authors Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, we step into the shoes of Paul Atreides. A not yet a man in years, he is about to enter a world he could never have imagined.

The story that began with Duke Leto Atreides’s rise to power, then continued with the consequences of Lady Jessica’s betrayal, will now conclude with Paul becoming the leader that he needs to be on the way to his pivotal role as Muad’Dib.

Any Dune fan will devour this tale of a legend coming into his own.

Please enjoy this free excerpt of Dune: The Heir of Caladan by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson, on sale 11/22/22.


1

In his dim bedchamber, Paul lay awake on an unusually warm evening, his covers thrown aside. He felt very alone in Castle Caladan and adrift, uneasy that Duke Leto and Lady Jessica were far away and separated from each other. Gurney Halleck was gone, too.

But he was the heir to noble House Atreides, and he had to think like a Duke. He was about to turn fifteen, and Caladan was his responsibility, at least temporarily while his father was gone.

He knew that the Duke’s mission was of utmost importance, and he recalled the recorded message his father had left for him. “Watch this only if I don’t come back,” Leto had said, placing the shigawire spool in the young man’s palm. “I hope you never need to view it. You know why I’m doing this, why I’m taking such a risk.” And in the Duke’s expression, Paul saw a genuine realization of the danger to which he was exposing himself—willingly, for the sake of the Imperium.

Now, Paul tried to sleep in the uncomfortable heat, feeling sticky sweat on his skin. The day had been unseasonably hot without the sea breezes that customarily skimmed over the water and moderated temperatures along the coast. As bad luck would have it, the castle’s mechanical air-cooling system had failed at just such a time. Caladan engineers had inspected the mechanism, consulted manuals provided by the Ixian manufacturer, and apologized to the young man that repairs could not be completed without securing parts from off-planet.

Paul was not a delicate noble child, so he could deal with such discomfort, preferring to adapt to the weather and ignore it as much as possible, a human surviving the elements. Open windows and sea breezes were welcome to him. With the wilderness excursions he’d made with his father, the young man felt relaxed without being enclosed within a structure.

For security reasons, as well as the expected decorum of a ducal heir, he couldn’t be footloose and aloof. He had to play the part of a young nobleman residing in the ancient castle, ready on a moment’s notice to rule in Leto’s place. It was what his father expected of him, the same as old Duke Paulus Atreides had demanded of his own son a generation before.

To make his father proud, Paul would meet those expectations, but he rather liked the idea of doing things people did not anticipate.

The boy tossed and turned in the darkness, wiped perspiration from his brow. Finally, he swung out of bed and carried a sheet and pillow out onto the small balcony of his bedroom, where he lay down in his thin nightclothes. The tile balcony was hard and warm, still radiating heat from the day. With a sigh, he gazed up at the gently twinkling stars in the crystal-clear night.

Across his field of vision danced stars whose names he knew, the ones his father and Dr. Yueh had taught him—Seille, Ikam, Jylar, and many others, all part of the vast galactic Imperium. But none of the brightest stars overhead at this time of year belonged to powerful noble families. Caladan did not have a particularly favorable location—not physically close to the capital, Kaitain, and not on any major Heighliner shipping or passenger routes. Other Landsraad Houses had equally unfavorable locations, but some managed to excel even so. Paul wondered about the future of House Atreides, and what his part might be in that unfolding story.

As he lay there, he heard a fluttering of wings. One of his father’s trained hawks landed on the stone railing of the balcony. In the low light, the magnificent creature looked sidelong at him, then took up a sentry position, turning its head first one way and then the other.

Paul realized that the bird had not come here by coincidence. The head of Atreides security, Thufir Hawat, somehow knew that the young man had gone out onto the balcony, and he’d sent the hawk. The old warrior Mentat and his staff had been working with these birds in recent weeks, part of the falconry group maintained by the Duke. These specialized birds had surveillance equipment secured to their bodies.

Thufir worried constantly about young Paul’s welfare, complaining about the “unnecessary risks” the fourteen-year-old had been taking, such as climbing steep cliffs and flying aircraft into dangerous storms over the sea. Duncan Idaho had accompanied him on such risky endeavors, calling them maneuvers to stretch the young man’s abilities. He had sworn never to let Paul come to harm, but even Duncan had been concerned. “Perhaps we’re going a bit too far,” the Swordmaster admitted to the boy. “Thufir wants you to train, but within limits.”

The Mentat watched the Atreides heir like a hawk, figuratively and now literally.

Paul extended his hand to the bird on the rail. It watched him, then looked away, continuing its sentry duty. Paul could see the small lenses on its feathers, a transponder at its throat. No doubt, the old Mentat was reviewing images right now.

“Thufir, I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself on my own castle balcony.”

The transponder emitted a small, but discernible voice. “It is not possible to concern myself ‘too much’ with your welfare, young Master. If harm were to befall you under my watch, my abilities would be worth nothing. Now, I want you to have a restful sleep.”

Paul lay back on his pillow. “Thufir thank you for your concern.”

He used a Bene Gesserit mental exercise his mother had taught him to remove troubling thoughts, so he could open the doorway to sleep. His body was exhausted after another long day of training with Duncan.

With warm sea breezes around him and the hawk standing sentinel above him, Paul drifted into a slumber of darkness and solitude which shifted

gradually into a desert landscape, bright sun on hot dunes. He stood on an expanse of sand, squinting at a rock escarpment baked in the sun. In the dream, it was morning in that distant place, but already warm, portending another hot day.

A figure made its way down a trail on the great rock, moving athletically in a desert costume. At the bottom of the rock, opened a burnoose to reveal the elfin features of a young woman with skin darker than his own and hair matted with dust.

He’d seen her before in dream after dream, and the voice was familiar as well, drifting over him like a breeze from the desert. “Tell me about the waters of your homeworld, Usul.”

Having experienced this in many haunting variations, he felt it was more than a dream, and he always awakened in the middle of it. This time, he managed to remain in the other reality a little longer, but as his dream-self struggled to speak a response, to ask questions, the landscape and the intriguing young woman faded from view.

Much later at night, when the breezes turned damp and chill, he lay awake on the open balcony, again resorting to thought exercises. He counted the nobles in the Atreides line who had preceded him. The castle had stood for twenty-six generations on this commanding spot overlooking the sea, originally constructed by Earl Kanius Atreides. Not the first Atreides to rule Caladan, he had envisioned a great fortress on this rocky promontory, commissioning the grand blueprints when he was only nineteen years old, not much older than Paul was now.

Earl Kanius had seen the mighty castle completed in little more than a decade, along with the gardens and a thriving coastal village. Paul recalled a filmbook image of his ancestor’s face, and then thought of the successors of Kanius, counting each one all the way up to Paulus Atreides, his own grandfather, whose painting hung in the castle’s dining hall.

But when Paul tried to summon the next image in the line, his father, he could only summon a fuzzy, undefined outline. He missed the man so much and hoped he would come home soon.

He felt the weight of all the work done by Kanius and the other Atreides, all the planning they’d had to do and the decisions they’d made to empower their Great House. He finally drifted into a deep, troubled sleep.

 


2

The planet Elegy had lovely forests, rivers, and lakes, but it was not Jessica’s true home, and its beauty was not the same as the ocean world of Caladan. She tried to console herself with the thought—the hope—that she was merely a visitor here, and that she would return soon to Duke Leto and their son, Paul. But each day away from them made her more settled here, increasingly immersed in the life of Viscount Giandro Tull as his bound con-

cubine, on orders of the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood.

Troubled, she sat now in the compact but nicely appointed office that the handsome Viscount had provided for her. His small administration building was concealed from the manor house by a grove of lichen trees. Giandro’s own office was down the hall, and she watched a steady flow of functionaries hurry past her own, including a surprisingly large number of uniformed military officers. Despite all the appearances and the trappings of daily business, Jessica had now learned the nobleman’s true plans.

Only a few days ago, prowling secretly through the forests to watch Viscount Tull as he rode off on a fine thoroughbred, Jessica had spied him receiving a mysterious weapons shipment into a hidden underground bunker. That was how she’d learned that Giandro Tull was a silent supporter of the violent Noble Commonwealth rebellion.

That revelation changed everything about their relationship, but since he had arranged for her to go on her own mission to save Paul, Jessica owed the man a great deal. After she confronted Giandro, he had taken her into his confidence, but still did not reveal the deeply personal reason he had decided to support the overthrow of the Corrino throne. The two were still understanding their new roles, and alliances.

Jessica busied herself completing paper order forms for lichenweave fabrics, filling in a ledger book by hand—an outdated system, but she found it

refreshing. Duke Leto had done much of his administrative work by hand as well.

Trusting her, considering their shared deep secrets, Giandro had expanded Jessica’s role in his household, asking her to help with the ordering of supplies. She considered the assignment an excellent camouflage role, and he gave her the freedom to procure whatever she wanted. Out of nostalgia, Jessica tried to order a shipment of moonfish from Caladan, only to learn that the product was no longer available. She wondered what might be going on back at the place she still considered home.

Giandro Tull had thriving business dealings, some surreptitiously connected to the rebellion. And now that Sardaukar had searched and cleared his operations, he had grown bolder. Apparently, his overt support of Jaxson Aru had begun soon afterward. Jessica still didn’t understand why.

In the short time she’d known the nobleman, she had come to respect him, had even grown fond of him—within the limits that she herself had set up. Though he had publicly announced her as his concubine—which satisfied the Bene Gesserit and other observers—he displayed no romantic or sexual interest in her, or in anyone.

It was not the relationship many people thought it was, but it worked efficiently for both of them. Let others assume what they wished. Meanwhile, she would do anything necessary to change her assignment and go back to Leto and Paul.

She sighed. Under other circumstances, she might have accepted remaining with House Tull. But not after knowing Leto. In him, in the Duke of Caladan, Jessica had found as close to an ideal partner as she could imagine . . . even after the terrible quarrel that had broken them apart. Though she knew that Leto doubted her, her love for him remained strong. She had already stained herself in the eyes of the Sisterhood by choosing to give birth to the son Leto wanted, instead of the daughter she’d been commanded to bear. . . .

In the corridor outside her office, she heard something fall to the floor as a uniformed military officer rushed by. Glancing up, she saw him kneeling to gather papers he had spilled, stuffing them into a leather case. He was one of the soldier bodyguards who had joined Giandro out in the hills to receive the illicit weapons shipment. After snatching the papers from the floor, the man hurried to the Viscount’s office.

Jessica noticed that one of the loose papers had slid under her door, a technical drawing of some kind. She retrieved it, but the officer had already ducked into the Viscount’s office. She felt a chill as she glanced at the drawing—it appeared to be related to the hidden weapon shipments and a new military design.

Remembering the flustered urgency on the man’s face, she walked briskly down the hall to give him the missing document. She pushed past the clerk who guarded the Viscount’s office, who called after her, startled, as if he didn’t recognize the new concubine.

Hearing the commotion, Giandro opened the inner door, caught her eye. “Jessica! What is it?”

Inside, standing before the broad wooden desk, the flustered officer was arranging his documents.

Jessica held up the technical drawing. “I assume this is something important.” The officer looked up from the desk, horrified. “I’m, I’m s-sorry, my Lord!

An inexcusable lapse on my part.”

“But fortuitous.” Giandro ushered Jessica inside as he gave a reassuring nod to the confused clerk in the outer office, then closed the door for privacy. “We are lucky Jessica is the one who found the document, rather than someone who would do us harm.”

She looked down, playing demure. “I am not here to serve a political role.” She noticed the blue-spiral Tull crest in the middle of the old desk, partially obscured by papers.

“Spoken with the wisdom of a Bene Gesserit,” he said. “But of course I value your wisdom and opinions. This is Lef-Major Zaldir, one of our experts on a new project.” He gave the officer a meaningful glance. “Jessica is fully aware of our plans, and I trust her implicitly.”

Zaldir was both alarmed and surprised. “Even even about this, sir?”

“Even about this.”

Jessica had glanced at the drawing. “I am not familiar with this design. I saw the previous weapons delivery, though I wasn’t supposed to. Were these devices among them?”

Giandro gave her a warm smile. “It’s distressing that you spied on me, and more distressing that you succeeded, but in the end, it was serendipity. Having you aware of our efforts makes many things smoother for us.”

Zaldir took the paper back, inserted it into proper order. He looked anxious. “The first prototypes of the shield nullifiers are packaged and ready to be shipped off.” When he looked up at Jessica again, sweat beaded on his brow. “Does she . . . does she know about?”

“Yes, she knows the new shipment is bound for Jaxson Aru.”

Jessica covered her reaction. She hadn’t, in fact, known that. She lowered her voice. “That man’s penchant for grand and bloody statements is not to my liking.” On Otorio, Leto had been one of those innocent bystanders who barely escaped from the massacre. So many others had been killed, and the incident had greatly shaken him.

Troubled by her obvious reticence, Giandro gestured Jessica to a seat beside the Lef-Major. The antique chairs also bore the crest of House Tull. He frowned and said, “Though I support the Noble Commonwealth—for reasons that I consider sufficient—I don’t always agree with Jaxson’s tactics. I would prefer a less violent, yet more effective, approach. Hence, this new weapon design is for defensive purposes, rather than aggression.” He glanced around his private office, as if to double-check his own security. “This room is blocked and shielded. We may discuss freely. Lef-Major, tell her about the nullifiers.”

Though the officer still seemed uncertain to have Jessica brought into the circle of extreme confidence, Zaldir pulled the technical documents toward him. “These devices level the playing field and give our allies equal standing against a far superior Imperial foe.” Clearly more interested in the technical details than in military protocol, he grew more animated as he talked. “Our ingenious new nullifier can short out personal shields within a certain radius. Once such a device is activated, our opponents will be vulnerable to simple projectile weapons, needle guns, antique pistols—a vulnerability they will never expect. Imagine the invincible Sardaukar suddenly mowed down by mere bullets!”

Grasping the implications, Jessica nodded. The invention and use of personal shields had rendered all projectile weapons obsolete in major combat for thousands of years. No one would think to defend against such a thing. The introduction of Tull’s shield nullifiers would impose a fundamental change in warfare—again.

The Viscount scanned the report. “Of course, much more significant pentashields and house shields would not be affected. But, oh, what a surprise in personal combat!”

She nodded. “The Sardaukar won’t realize the rebels possess such defenses. If they ever do track down Jaxson Aru or his Noble Commonwealth base, they’ll charge forward in force.” She allowed herself the smallest smile. “Thus exposing themselves to destruction.”

During her recent secret trip to Caladan to save Paul, she had spoken with her son, but Leto was gone on a mysterious mission of his own. Bound by a promise, Paul had not revealed to her what his father was doing, but Jessica had gleaned hints from Giandro Tull that Leto might have made overtures to the rebels as well. It did not seem possible . . . unless Leto had some other reason for doing so.

Looking up, she saw the nobleman’s eyes dance, and he said, “We will send a shipment of the prototype shield nullifiers to a rendezvous point, where Jaxson can retrieve them for distribution to the rebels. I will include a message for him, so that he knows the true importance of these devices.”

Lef-Major Zaldir gathered his papers. “The unmarked crates are ready outside your stables, my Lord. Security will clear the area, so that you may record your message. We can encrypt and encode within a bonded ridulian crystal so that no one but Jaxson Aru may activate the recording.”

Giandro rose from his seat behind the antique desk. “Jessica will stand with me as I record. I want my new concubine at my side.”

Jessica felt a sudden flare of alarm. What if Leto did see the message, in his dealings with the rebel leader? “I would prefer not to be placed on public display, my Lord.”

He chuckled, not understanding her concern. “Not to worry, this will be the most private of communiqués.” He donned a brown military jacket with silver-and-gold epaulets and ribbing, then prepared the words for his message.

Copyright © 2022 from Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson 2022

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But What if You Added a Dragon? How Jenn Lyons Would Improve 6 Books

13Jenn Lyons is the author of the epic A Chorus of Dragons series, and she’s also one of the foremost dragonic scholars of the contemporary age. Here we consult her comprehensive knowledge of dragon lore to understand what SFF titles would benefit from the inclusion of one (or more) dragon(s).


by Jenn Lyons

I have a confession to make: I’ve never written a novel that didn’t have a dragon in it. Now, as I’m known as an epic fantasy author whose first series literally has the word dragon in the title, this may not seem like much of a confession, but please I understand: I mean all the novels. The unpublished novels that no one has ever seen, sitting in a metaphorical drawer.

Yes, the sci-fi novels too.

Why not, after all? Dragons deserve some love in any genre fiction story, whether that’s something set in a slightly speculative version of our world today to stories of the far future set in space. Raymond Chandler used to say that anytime he was stuck in a story, he’d have someone walk into a room holding a gun. Me? I have a dragon crash the party.

Works every time.

Now obviously, there are a number of sci-fi books which already contain dragons. The Dragonriders of Pern books by Anne McCaffery, Roadmarks by Roger Zelazny, and Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee are just a few books where the setting is scifi but my favorite monster is still in the house.

With that said, here’s a few sci-fi books that I feel might have been made just that tiny bit better by the introduction of a dragon:

The Kaiju Preservation Society by John ScalziThe Kaiju Preservation Society

No, don’t be silly. This already has dragons in it. John Scalzi just calls them something else. Respect.

 

 

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn MuirGideon the Ninth

It’s easy to look at Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir and accuse me of cheating by slipping a fantasy novel into the mix, but no, it turns that this story of necromancers, dead worlds, and the cost of resurrection is, in fact, sci-fi. That said, there’s enough magic flying around (or what looks like magic) to make the addition of a dragon not just thematically plausible, but easily justifiable. Who wouldn’t want to see a cadre of necromancers forced to deal with a dragon? (Probably a dead dragon. Yeah, let’s face it: this dragon’s absolutely dead. And angry about it.) Quite frankly, nobody in any Houses would’ve been surprised to find a dragon in the bowels of Canaan House. Maybe the only surprise was that there wasn’t one.

The Fifth Season by N. K. JemisinThe Fifth Season

N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth trilogy about a world regularly torn asunder by extinction level events (book one’s titular The Fifth Season) hardly needs a dragon. There’s more than enough fire from volcanoes and that one time someone opened a rift right across the entire continent, straight down into the world’s mantle. In fact, I suspect the biggest issue with a dragon in these books is the distinct possibility that no one would notice. Or if they did, would probably just give a resigned shrug as if to say “Sure, why not a dragon, too?”

All Systems Red by Martha WellsAll Systems Red

Given the nature of Martha Well’s stories about a very cranky SecUnit construct called Murderbot and its battles against far-future corporations (and its own feelings), I would absolutely want to see a dragon in one of these tales. A dragon that I suspect would immediately adopt Murderbot, because it too understands what it’s like to live in a universe where everyone assumes you’re only around to kill people and tear shit up.

I mean, yes, watching Murderbot fight a dragon would be awesome. More awesome? Watching Murderbot and a dragon fight something else.

Cibola Burn by James S. A. CoreyCibola Burn

I love the Expanse series, written by James S.A. Corey (the joint pen name of Daniel Abraham and Ty Frank). I’d love to say that I was into the books way before the TV show; that would be lying. I discovered the books because of the TV show, and immediately devoured everything that was out at the time (and continued to do so until the end of the series). Cibola Burn, the fourth book, takes places almost entirely on an alien world that humanity is attempting to colonize. It was the perfect opportunity to introduce a dragon, and I’ve got to be honest here: the authors completely missed their shot. Not a single dragon to be found anywhere. Not even a protomolecule entity shaped vaguely like a dragon. Disappointing.

And no, despite the name, Tiamat’s Wrath also has a depressing lack of actual dragons.

Dune by Frank HerbertDune

I know what you’re going to say here: Frank Herbert’s masterpiece doesn’t need dragons; it already has sandworms. But hear me out here. What if the Empire had tried to genetically engineer an alternative to sandworms? An alternative developed on another equally inhospitable planet more fully under the empire’s control, like say, Salusa Secundus? The experiment wouldn’t have worked, of course, but perhaps they ended up with something useful anyway, if only for having bad tempers and lots of sharp, pointy teeth.

All I’m saying is the Empire’s forces could’ve shown up on Arrakis with both Sardaukar troops AND dragons.

And those are just a few examples. Now I don’t expect authors to go rush out and write a bunch of sci-fi complete with dragons in it…

But why not?

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Excerpt: Sands of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

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Poster Placeholder of - 62The world of Dune has shaped an entire generation of science fiction. From the sand blasted world of Arrakis, to the splendor of the imperial homeworld of Kaitain, readers have lived in a universe of treachery and wonder.

Now, these stories expand on the Dune universe, telling of the lost years of Gurney Halleck as he works with smugglers on Arrakis in a deadly gambit for revenge; inside the ranks of the Sardaukar as the child of a betrayed nobleman becomes one of the Emperor’s most ruthless fighters; a young firebrand Fremen woman, a guerrilla fighter against the ruthless Harkonnens, who will one day become Shadout Mapes.

Please enjoy this free excerpt of Sands of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, on sale 6/28/2022.


The Edge of a Crysknife

*

Part I

I know that you have borne children, that you have lost loved

ones, that you have hidden in fear and that you have done

violence and will yet do more violence. I know many things.

Lady Jessica to Shadout Mapes

*

Chapter I

Blood covered her hands, and when it dried in the hot desert air, Mapes regretted the waste of water. But that couldn’t be helped—these men needed to die. They were Harkonnens.

In the heat of the deep desert, a huge spice harvester throbbed and thrummed as enormous treads crawled along the crest of a dune. Intake machinery chewed up the sand and digested the powder through a complex interplay of centrifuges and electromagnetic separators. The harvester vomited out a cloud of exhaust dust, sand, and debris that settled onto the disturbed dunes behind the moving machine, while the bins filled up with the rare spice melange.

The droning operation sent pulsing vibrations beneath the desert, sure to call a sandworm . . . and very soon. The noise also drowned out the sounds of Fremen violence inside the great machine.

In the operations bridge of the moving factory, another Harkonnen worker tried to flee, but a Fremen death-commando, a Fedaykin, ran after him. Disguised in a grimy shipsuit, the attacker had predatory and sure movements, not at all like the morose sand crew the Harkonnens had hired.

Though small and brown-skinned, young Mapes had fit in among the regular workers, as had her companions, but she didn’t laugh or joke with the sand crew, didn’t try to make friends with people she knew she would have to kill. Nevertheless, she and her companions were hired by uninquisitive company bosses. Too many crews had been lost as it was, some through desertion, others through accidents and catastrophic loss in the field. Mapes knew that part of those losses were intentional—thanks to freedom fighters like herself.

Her companion Ahar, a muscular man of few words but great dedication, slammed the doomed worker against a metal bulkhead and raised his crysknife—a milky crystalline blade ground from the discarded tooth of a giant worm—and drove the point deep into the man’s throat. The victim gurgled, but did not scream as he slid to the deck. Ahar had used an instinctive Fremen killing blow, one that brought quick and silent death, but wasted no more blood than was necessary.

Alas, today the commandos would not reclaim the water of these victims for the tribe. They had to kill the crew, destroy the spice harvester, and escape like dust devils in the wind. There was no time.

Mapes gripped her own knife, a razor-sharp weapon made of simple plasteel. Possessing a crysknife was a sacred honor, and her comrades in the sietch had not yet deemed her worthy of one, though she had already participated in more than a dozen raids.

Mapes was a firebrand, but Fremen women did not usually join the Fedaykin, the special death commando squads that were historically formed to avenge particular wrongs—and the very existence of these offworld oppressors on Dune was wrong. The Fedaykin had accepted Mapes in part because of her skill and tenacity, but primarily due to her legendary mother. Some saw Mapes as a new Safia, and they were willing to let her prove herself.

Now, the young woman pursued her second victim inside the noisy operations bridge. Five workers lay dead already, smearing the dusty metal of the deck with their blood. Although she was smaller than her target, the spice worker was afraid. She collided with him and knocked him against the bank of controls. He defended himself like one who had never been in a fight before. He flailed his hands to drive her off, and she slashed open his palm with the edge of her knife. He gasped and doubled over, more in horror than in pain.

“Why? Why are you doing this?” he bleated. “We paid your wages! We just harvest the spice.”

“You are Harkonnens,” she said. “All Harkonnens must die.”

The man swiped at her with his bleeding hand, flinging droplets of red through the air like precious rain. “Not a Harkonnen! Never even met Dmitri Harkonnen! Just an offworld hire brought in to work the machinery. My contract is up in six months.” He stared at his dead comrades on the deck. “None of us are Harkonnens.”

“You work for the enemy, therefore you are the enemy.” Without further conversation, she stabbed him and shoved him aside, then turned to work the controls. She shut down the main engines, and the lumbering factory ground to a halt in a valley between dunes. The intake scoop and the turbine blades creaked and froze silent; the gray-tan exhaust plume dissipated.

Increasingly urgent voices came over the outside commline. “Wormsign spotted. Range, four minutes, twenty seconds. Prepare for retrieval.”

Mapes considered just ignoring the call, but decided to continue the deception. She flicked on the comm. “Acknowledged. Preparing evacuation parties. Send in the carryall.”

Hearing a yell behind her, Mapes whirled as a uniformed factory worker threw himself at her with desperation in his eyes. She raised her blade to defend herself, but his feet stuttered and stumbled on the deck. Behind him, another man plunged a crysknife into his back, pushed deeper, harder until the worker crumpled.

She saw the rakish, handsome face of her rescuer, and her heart swelled. “Thank you Rafir, my love. I will reward you later when we are back home in the sietch.”

Her partner, heart of her heart, took charge of the Fedaykin band, who were now the only survivors on the operations bridge. “Hai ha—time to go! Our enemies are dead, and Mapes shut down the machinery. And a worm comes!”

The other Fremen took this as good news and cheered. “Shai- Hulud!”

“Shai-Hulud,” Mapes responded. The monstrous sandworm would do the rest of the work for them, cleansing the sands.

Leaving the dead behind with a whispered regret of wasted water, Mapes, Rafir, and their companions emerged from the roof access hatch to the open, dusty air, and climbed down rungs along the great factory’s hull. The smell of acrid cinnamon—potent, fresh melange—filled the air. An exposed spice vein formed a rusty stain across the sand, worth millions of solaris to offworlders. Now that fortune would all go back into the sands of Dune where it belonged. Outside, three groundcars rolled along the powdery surface, exterior teams rushing back toward the harvester for extraction and rescue along with the cargo. The commline was scratchy with static caused by the disturbed sand and dust, and the voices were tinged with fear. “A worm is coming. Less than three minutes! Why didn’t you sound the return call?”

An overlapping voice bellowed, “Chief, why aren’t you responding?”

A third said, “Carryall’s coming. I see it in the air. We can make it back to the harvester pickup point, but just barely.”

Climbing down the hot rungs, Mapes looked down at Rafir. They exchanged a smile as sharp as a crysknife’s edge. Reaching the soft ground, Mapes stripped out of the despised company uniform and tossed it into the hot desert wind. The other commandos did the same as if they felt soiled. Underneath, they all wore stillsuits that modulated their body temperatures in the heat and reclaimed all of the body’s lost moisture. Mapes pulled forth a line with connected noseplugs from her collar and connected them to her nostrils.

With spare, efficient movements, the Fedaykin circled behind the enormous machine and worked their way up the rising face of the nearby dune. Despite her size, Mapes kept up, and the team respected her. She had as much drying blood on her hands as her companions did on theirs.

Up in the sky, she spotted the glint of sunlight on metal, the rescue craft swooping in. The carryall was designed to connect with the spice factory and lift it to safety when a ubiquitous, destructive sandworm arrived. The three groundcars raced toward the factory, ready to be taken away, but the workers would find no refuge.

The band of Fremen climbed the crumbling dune face, not bothering to disguise the vibrations of their footsteps because there was simply so much background noise in the excavation area. On the sand crest ahead, Mapes could see a lone, huddled figure. Rafir spotted him as well. “Onorio is in position,” he said.

The carryall swooped in, a large framework with powerful beating wings. Mapes paused to glance at the sand workers scrambling out of their groundcars, waving their hands at the approaching rescue craft.

Out beyond the harvested area, she saw ripples in the sand, a swift behemoth coming closer and closer. It would be close.

On the crest of the dune, Onorio rose to his feet, discarding all pretense of camouflage. He shook dust from his tan cape and raised a long weapon, bracing it against his shoulder. An archaic device that one of the disguised Fremen had purchased from a rarities dealer in Arrakeen, considered nothing more than a useless curiosity in a city where most people wore shields. But out here in the open desert, shields were far more problematic, and the weight of a shield generator would be too much for a carryall and its gigantic load. Mapes paused to watch what the antique weapon would do. The rocket launcher coughed out a projectile that arced upward, deceptively silent, but when it struck the unshielded carryall, the explosion blossomed into smoke and fire. The retrieval craft broke apart, and smoking shrapnel thundered down like meteor strikes.

One of the fragments crashed into a groundcar, killing two workers who tried to dive out of the way.

The retreating Fedaykin reached the dune crest, and Rafir congratulated Onorio on his shot. Only three members of the harvester crew remained alive, and after the destruction of the carryall, they huddled in despair by their groundcars, knowing their fate when the great worm arrived.

Like a thick, tan storm-front, the ripples in the sand approached. The worm exploded to the surface, a leviathan of crusted rings with an open, round mouth as vast as the largest grotto in a Fremen sietch. The crystalline teeth lining its gullet looked like tiny silver thorns.

Drawn by the vibrations, offended by trespassers in the sand, Shai-Hulud ran amuck. Though transfixed by the sandworm’s strength and majesty, Mapes fully understood the danger. She felt like a shivering rodent, hypnotized by a viper about to strike.

Rafir touched her arm. “Come, we must use the tumult as our opportunity.” He released a deep breath before fitting his nose plugs and tightening his stillsuit fittings. “Our lives depend on it. We have to go to ground.”

The sandworm crashed into the motionless harvester, pulling the huge factory under the sands along with its full bins of melange. It also destroyed all trace of the ruined carryall, the abandoned groundcars, and the workers.

The Fedaykin rolled down the other side of the tall dune like discarded debris, and when they were far down the sloping face, they each checked their breathing tubes and mouth coverings, pulled hooded cloaks over their bodies, and wallowed into the sand.

Covered by a layer of dust, Mapes lay perfectly still, trying not to breathe, willing her heartbeat to slow. They had vanished into the sand, but the worm did not use eyes. She couldn’t see anything, but she knew her fellow Fremen were there, Rafir was there, and Shai-Hulud continued his blessed destruction.

Many hours later, after the worm retreated to the depths of the desert, Mapes and her friends would emerge. After nightfall and the rising of the two moons, they would make their way back to the sietch.

Mapes couldn’t wait to tell her mother of another victory against the Harkonnens.

Copyright © Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson 2022

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