The Stars Now Unclaimed - Tor/Forge Blog



Let’s Go to SPACE with Our Favorite Crews!!!

We all have dreams and one of our biggest ones? To go to SPACE!!! We want to touch the stars, see the aliens, get lost in the void—you know, the usual space dreams. But to fulfill our deepest wish, we need a chaotic crew to get us there. Check out our favorite space cohorts here!

Image Place holder  of - 18Unconquerable Sun by Kate Elliott

Growing up in the shadow of her mother, Eirene, has been no easy task. The legendary queen-marshal did what everyone thought impossible: expel the invaders and build Chaonia into a magnificent republic, one to be respected—and feared. But the cutthroat ambassador corps and conniving noble houses have never ceased to scheme—and they have plans that need Sun to be removed as heir, or better yet, dead.

Image Placeholder of - 75The Last Watch by J. S. Dewes

The Divide. It’s the edge of the universe. Now it’s collapsing—and taking everyone and everything with it. The only ones who can stop it are the Sentinels—the recruits, exiles, and court-martialed dregs of the military. At the Divide, Adequin Rake, commanding the Argus, has no resources, no comms—nothing, except for the soldiers that no one wanted. They’re humanity’s last chance.

Placeholder of  -63In the Black by Patrick S. Tomlinson

In a demilitarized zone on the border of human space, long range spy satellites are mysteriously going quiet, and no one knows why. Captain Susan Kamala and her crew are dispatched to figure out what’s going on and solve the problem. That problem, however, is a mysterious, bleeding edge alien ship that no human vessel could hope to match in open conflict. But, it’s not spoiling for a fight. Now, the Captain and her Crew must figure out how to navigate a complicated game of diplomacy, balancing the needs of their corporate overlords, and the honest desire for a lasting peace between the two races, all without letting a long standing cold war turn hot.

Poster Placeholder of - 27To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini

During a routine survey mission on an uncolonized planet, Kira finds an alien relic. At first she’s delighted, but elation turns to terror when the ancient dust around her begins to move. As war erupts among the stars, Kira is launched into a galaxy-spanning odyssey of discovery and transformation. First contact isn’t at all what she imagined, and events push her to the very limits of what it means to be human. While Kira faces her own horrors, Earth and its colonies stand upon the brink of annihilation. Now, Kira might be humanity’s greatest and final hope . . .

Place holder  of - 5All Systems Red by Martha Wells

In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety. But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern. On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is. But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

book-9781250186119The Stars Now Unclaimed by Drew Williams

Jane Kamali is an agent for the Justified. Her mission: to recruit children with miraculous gifts in the hope that they might prevent the Pulse from once again sending countless worlds back to the dark ages. Hot on her trail is the Pax–a collection of fascist zealots who believe they are the rightful rulers of the galaxy and who remain untouched by the Pulse. Now Jane, a handful of comrades from her past, and a telekinetic girl called Esa must fight their way through a galaxy full of dangerous conflicts, remnants of ancient technology, and other hidden dangers. And that’s just the beginning . . .


$2.99 Ebook Deal: The Stars Now Unclaimed by Drew Williams

The ebook edition of The Stars Now Unclaimed by Drew Williams is on sale now for only $2.99! Get your copy today and prepare for the third book in the series, The Firmament of Flame, before it goes on sale on February 4.

Image Placeholder of - 80About The Stars Now Unclaimed:

Jane Kamali is an agent for the Justified. Her mission: to recruit children with miraculous gifts in the hope that they might prevent the Pulse from once again sending countless worlds back to the dark ages.

Hot on her trail is the Pax–a collection of fascist zealots who believe they are the rightful rulers of the galaxy and who remain untouched by the Pulse.

Now Jane, a handful of comrades from her past, and a telekinetic girl called Esa must fight their way through a galaxy full of dangerous conflicts, remnants of ancient technology, and other hidden dangers.

And that’s just the beginning . . .

Order Your Copy

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This sale ends 12/31/2019.


How to Sell Your Friends & Family On Genre Fiction

With A Chain Across the Dawn coming in May, we’re revisiting author (and bookseller!) Drew William’s brilliant post on convincing the readers in your life to try genre.

Placeholder of  -63Written by Drew Williams

So: you read genre novels. Maybe you devour space opera science fiction, maybe high fantasy is your thing, maybe you couldn’t imagine living without the visceral thrill of spine-tingling horror. The point is, you love the books you love, and you want to share them with the people you love, because that makes you feel good, and you think if they just got over themselves, they’d love them, too, and that would make you feel even better (because you would have been able to measurably improve the lives of your loved ones, with the added benefit of being right). But every time you suggest something along genre lines, the reactions you get are usually something like: “I don’t know… spaceships, though?” or “I feel like scary stuff is just scary,” or “Does this have, like, wizards in it? Because I don’t… wizards.”

As a genre author and bookseller for nearly 20 years, I’m here to help.

Because I agree with you: the objections most people have against genre fiction (whether they’d admit it or not) tend to be buried in 1950s era moral panic, the sort of thing that led to the creation of the Comics Code and Joseph McCarthy. (Am I saying that if Joe McCarthy had just read more of his era’s genre works, he wouldn’t have been what he was? Yes. Yes I am.)

The sense that genre work is “juvenile” or somehow less “mature” than stories about white bread nuclear families quietly hating each other across dinner tables is one that’s dogged narrative art for quite some time, and not just in books (hence why The Dark Knight didn’t get nominated for an Oscar, and Black Panther probably won’t), but it seems more pronounced with novels: even your friends and family that have no hesitation flocking to the multiplex to see the latest Star Wars movie might balk at reading a novel with a starship on its cover, or a wizard and a dragon dueling on a mountaintop, even if it’s the sort of thing that would look absolutely bitchin’ airbrushed on the side of a van.

There’s a reason for that, and it’s a simple one: since roughly high school or so, most of us have been conditioned to think of books as vegetables, something we consume more because they’re good for us than because we enjoy them. That’s utter nonsense, of course (if you don’t enjoy the book you’re reading… stop. Stop reading it, and find another one; you’ll get significantly more out of something you like than something you’re forcing yourself to consume) but the idea still has a great deal of traction: books are important, and important things can’t be fun. The concept that something might be both can be difficult for some people to grasp thanks to being forced to read Moby Dick or Silas Marner in eleventh grade, and that dissonance is what I’m trying to address.

The first step is to find out what your family member does read (if they don’t read at all… that’s a different row to hoe, and a much harder one), then tailor your recommendation for something that plays to their strengths. Does your Aunt stick to historical literary fiction, because learning about history makes her feel like her reading is “worthwhile”? Then start her off with something along the lines of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, which is both historical literary fiction and a spellbinding tale of magic and romance. Does your father love to watch science fiction movies, but will only read thrillers like Lee Child? Then consider someone like Richard K. Morgan, who writes neo-noir detective novels that also deliver big idea science fiction (also, you’ve got a good entry point with him in the Netflix adaptation of Altered Carbon, but I’ll get to that in a moment). Is your sister big on political engagement and ripped-from-the-headlines narratives? Then Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach might be your best bet. Most genre novels aren’t just fantasy or horror or sci-fi – they’ve usually got one foot in other genres, as well. Figure out where that crossover is with what your loved ones already read, and you’ve got an angle to work from.

If they still balk at this step, whip out the big guns: turn to the classics. Fahrenheit 451, Frankenstein, The Handmaid’s Tale, pretty much all of Poe’s or Wells’ or Verne’s works— these are all considered “classic” novels, the sort of thing that regularly get assigned in high schools, and are still great reads. Once that’s done, you can work your way towards the more well-established names in classic genre fiction: Ursula K. Le Guin, Isaac Asimov, Octavia Butler, the sort of luminaries that even those who don’t read genre stuff have at least heard of, and know carry a certain level of literary cachet.

Film or television adaptations can help, as well (like the Altered Carbon adaptation I mentioned earlier): it somehow becomes “acceptable” to read a novel by George R. R. Martin or Stephen King once that specific work has been made into a film or TV property. After all, it’s common knowledge that a book is always better than a film, so if you like watching Game of Thrones, you’re more likely to be willing to read it, too. And once they’re that deep, you can reel them in with similar works: maybe Joe Hill for the Stephen King readers, Daniel Polansky or Steven Erikson for the Game of Thrones fans, that sort of thing.

If you want a different angle of approach, lean in to the ‘all genre work is inherently juvenile’ thing: plenty of people who wouldn’t read V. E. Schwab will read J. K. Rowling, just because one is intended for children— and therefore “allowed” to have genre trappings— and the other isn’t. And once you’ve got them started on juvenile genre work, it’s usually pretty easy to push them towards more adult stuff (this is also easier if you start them with an author like Jonathan Maberry or Dan Wells, both of whom write separate series for juvenile and adult audiences). With fantasy in particular, this can be a good track to take, since a good deal of older fantasy writing— things published before the advent of “juvenile” fiction— straddle that line anyway; Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword and David Eddings’s Belgariad come to mind as novels that start off “feeling” like juvenile works, but grow in maturity and complexity the further in you get.

Just remember: if all else fails, force them to read either The Princess Bride or The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy— sit there and stare at them the whole time, if you have to— and if they hate those… you’re probably tilting at windmills. Not everyone will love genre fiction, after all. Also, some people are just terrible. People who hate those two books, specifically.

Order Your Copy of The Stars Now Unclaimed

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Top Five Space Battles

As we prepare for the release of A Chain Across the Dawn, the sequel to Drew William’s 2018 debut The Stars Now Unclaimed, we revisit Drew’s guest post about  the most epic space battles of page and screen. A Chain Across the Dawn is on sale May 7!

Poster Placeholder of - 94Written by Drew Williams

Conflict is an inevitable part of humanity; we’ve been waging war since one clan of Neanderthals looked at another clan of Neanderthals and said, “Hey, their caves are nicer than ours and closer to prime hunting grounds. Let’s go jab at them with our spears (which we just invented yesterday), then take their caves for ourselves.” Utopian science fiction aside—which is a fine genre in its own right, but not at all germane to the subject at hand—it seems inevitable that war will follow us into the stars. And moral hand-wringing over the spiritual cost of violent conflict aside… space battles are frickin’ awesome. So, without further ado, the five coolest space battles of all time:

5) Starship Troopers (Robert Heinlein)

So, yes, even with the first entry, I’m bending the rules a bit, since the vast majority of Heinlein’s seminal novel doesn’t actually occur in space: most of it is urban combat against an aggressive alien enemy (and not the mindless “bugs” of Verhoeven’s 1997 film, which, though a brilliant satire and a fascinating look at how a director can completely invert the politics of his source material, is more a pastiche of what came before than anything particularly inventive in its own right, at least where the actual battles are concerned). Still, in terms of influence, it’s hard to get past Heinlein’s “grunt’s-eye-view” of future combat: his titular troopers would pave the way for every gung-ho space marine that followed, from the overconfident grunts of Cameron’s Aliens (mirroring the American engagement in Vietnam), to the icy-cool sociopath at the heart of Twohy’s Pitch Black (mirroring the injustices of America’s own penal system), to damn near every sci-fi video game protagonist from Halo’s Master Chief to Gears of War’s Marcus Fenix (mirroring the fact that… shooting big-ass science fiction guns at inhuman aliens is cool as all hell).

4) Cowboy Bebop – “Honky Tonk Women” (Shinichiro Watanabe)

You can say a great many things about Cowboy Bebop, but the first word that’s going to come to mind is always going to be “cool”. The jazz-infused neo-noir anime that follows the adventures of a disparate pack of loners somehow roped into serving together (though rarely enjoying it) on the titular starship is like science fiction Miles Davis: what should be a bunch of different, chaotic elements working against each other emerges as a wildly improvisational-seeming masterpiece, instead. Picking an episode for this column was difficult, as there are a wealth of great dogfights to choose from, but I ultimately went with “Honky Tonk Women” not just because of the ship-to-ship combat—both exhilarating and phenomenally pretty, as all the dogfights in Cowboy Bebop are—but of the zero-g stand-off at the climax, a clever usage of gravity and inertia that plays up the “space” part of the show’s “low-rent bounty hunters… in space” premise. Bebop excels at both the designs of its craft—witness the juxtaposition between main character Spike Spiegel’s dragonfly-like ship, aggressive and thrusting, versus Faye Valentine’s rounder, more versatile craft, one signifying a character who likes to end a fight as quickly as possible, the other his opposite number, who excels at adapting to whatever circumstances she finds herself in—and in the sheer sense of speed the anime lends its dogfights, both of which are on great display in “Honky Tonk Women”.

3) Battlestar Galactica (2004) – “33” (Ronald Moore)

You can make the argument that “Pegasus” (or perhaps the mid-season follow-up two-parter, “Resurrection Ship”) is actually the high-water mark for the Battlestar Galactica remake’s space combat, and you probably wouldn’t be wrong: “33” isn’t so much a “battle” as it is a “rout”. But that’s what makes it work so damned well: not all fights are won, at least not by the “good guys”. Technically the first episode of the series following the miniseries debut, “33” finds the last remnants of humanity in a desperate flight from the AI zealots intent (or so it seems) on their utter destruction. Episode director Michael Rymer uses a veritas handheld filmmaking style to really sell how exhausting the constant pursuit is for the characters on board the various ships in the fleet, how the greatest ally humanity’s AI opponents have is not their mechanized strength or lightning-quick intelligence, but the frailty of the human condition. When your opponent doesn’t tire, doesn’t rest, doesn’t quit, the physical limits of what the human body can take come into play, and humanity’s constant flight from the overwhelming force of their foes—who arrive 33 minutes after the fleet jumps into a new system, after every… single… jump to hyperspace—becomes a white-knuckle descent into tension and anxiety for the viewer, almost as much as it is for the characters.

2) Challenger’s Hope – “The Fish Attack” (David Feintuch)

There are two common directions to take with space battles, in terms of “metaphor your audience can easily grasp”: WWII Pacific Theater dogfights (single pilot fighters or small crew bombers launched from the aggressive “safe” envelope of heavily armed carriers) or Age of Sail naval engagements. (The third most common metaphor, “the starship as submarine,” is best exemplified by The Wrath of Khan, the sixth entry in this five-entry list.)

David Feintuch’s Seafort series takes the Age of Sail option, structuring not just his battle sequences but his entire space-faring society around an interstellar stand-in for the Napoleonic Wars-era British Navy, complete with a strictly regimented class system, a military service defined by “honor” and “duty”, and a level of emotional repression that only a society based on the British Empire during the Regency could manage. In the stand-out sequence of Challenger’s Hope (the second volume in the seven book cycle that mirrors C. S. Forester’s Hornblower novels, in which we follow the protagonist up the ladder of command throughout the series), the crew of the Challenger – their ship already deeply damaged, almost certainly not able to see them safely home – come face to face with the completely alien threat that has hounded them throughout the novel: a species of organic, space-faring creatures that utterly confounds everything they know about the galaxy. The sheer level of tension Feintuch creates purely through dialogue is one of the most exhilarating things you’ll ever read. The Captain recites Psalm 23 in his mind (“the Lord is my Shepherd”) acting as a counterpoint to the terrified screams of his crew that echo back and forth across the bridge and over an open comm channel, making an intense juxtaposition between the surety of faith and the chaos of the battle raging around their seemingly doomed vessel.

1) The Last Jedi – “The Bombing Run” (Rian Johnson)

I mean, let’s be honest: the question was never “would a Star Wars sequence” make this list but, “which sequence – from which film – would be chosen?” I could have gone for the trench run in the original film, because that’s the sequence that set the bar not just in the Star Wars universe, but in every other Star Wars-influenced space opera universe to come, otherwise known as… all of them. I could have gone for the opening waterfall shot of Revenge of the Sith, because yeah, I’m a prequel defender, and there’s no better sequence out there in terms of selling the scale of a space battle. I could have proved my Star Wars bonafides by choosing the season 3 finale of Rebels, because… well, mostly because it’s fantastic.

But in terms of what Star Wars does, the bombing run on the dreadnought near the opening of The Last Jedi is roughly five minutes of absolute perfection. Populated almost entirely by characters we’ve never met and (as of yet) don’t know the significance of, Johnson crafts a stunningly structured short film full of tension, pathos, bravery, and loss. It lets him simultaneously pay homage to the sort of films that inspired Star Wars space battles in the first place (films like Tora! Tora! Tora! and The Wings of Eagles), and begin to develop the themes that will play out in ways large and small across the rest of the picture. As the annihilation of the bombing wing plays out around it, a single bomber makes its way to its target area and the destruction of the supercraft preparing to kill off the entire Resistance comes down to one woman, injured and likely dying, desperately kicking at a metal strut to will her ship to succeed in its mission, no matter the cost. Whatever medal it was that Luke and Han received at the end of A New Hope, she absolutely deserves its posthumous award, as there’s no greater sequence of valor, determination, or sacrifice in the entirety of the Star Wars canon, and that’s what makes a great battle sequence: not the design of the ships or the maneuvers of the fleets, but the characters involved in the action and what the fight means to them and to the galaxy around them if they fail.

Plus, the whole sequence is… just… stupidly pretty.

Order Your Copy of A Chain Across the Dawn

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New Releases: 4/2

Happy New Releases Day! Here’s what went on sale today.

Kellanved’s Reach by Ian C. Esslemont

Image Place holder  of - 30The incessant war between the bickering city states of Quon Tali rages. So engrossed are the warring lords and princes in their own petty feuds that few notice that an upstart mage from Dal Hon has gained control of the southern seas.

Kellanved could not care less about any of this petty politicking or strategy or war. Something other and altogether more mysterious has caught his attention and he – together with a reluctant and his decidedly skeptical friend Dancer – traverse continents and journey through the Realms. But this ancient mystery that has so captivated Kellanved is neither esoteric nor ephemeral. It involves the Elder races themselves, and more alarmingly, the semi-mythic Army of Dust and Bone.

Surely no one in their right mind would be so foolish as to embark on a journey from which none have returned? Well, no one except Kellanved.


Prettyboy Must Die by Kimberly Reid

Image Placeholder of - 44When Peter Smith’s classmate snaps a picture of him during a late night run at the track, Peter thinks he might be in trouble. When she posts that photo—along with the caption, “See the Pretty Boy Run,”—Peter knows he’s in trouble. But when hostiles drop through the ceiling of his 6th period Chem Class, Peter’s pretty sure his trouble just became a national emergency.

Because he’s not really Peter Smith. He’s Jake Morrow, former foster-kid turned CIA operative. After a massive screw-up on his first mission, he’s on a pity assignment, a dozen hit lists and now, social media, apparently. As #Prettyboy, of all freaking things.

His cover’s blown, his school’s under siege, and if he screws up now, #Prettyboy will become #Deadboy faster than you can say, ‘fifteen minutes of fame.’ Trapped in a high school with rabid killers and rabid fans, he’ll need all his training and then some to save his job, his school and, oh yeah, his life.

The Stars Now Unclaimed by Drew Williams

Poster Placeholder of - 81Jane Kamali is an agent for the Justified. Her mission: to recruit children with miraculous gifts in the hope that they might prevent the Pulse from once again sending countless worlds back to the dark ages.

Hot on her trail is the Pax–a collection of fascist zealots who believe they are the rightful rulers of the galaxy and who remain untouched by the Pulse.

Now Jane, a handful of comrades from her past, and a telekinetic girl called Esa must fight their way through a galaxy full of dangerous conflicts, remnants of ancient technology, and other hidden dangers.

And that’s just the beginning . . .


New Releases: 8/21/18

Happy New Release Day! Here’s what went on sale today.

Assassin’s Run by Ward Larsen

Place holder  of - 92 Ward Larsen’s Assassin’s Run revives globe-trotting, hard-hitting assassin David Slaton for another breathless adventure. When a Russian oligarch is killed by a single bullet on his yacht off the Isle of Capri, Russian intelligence sources speculate that a legendary Israeli assassin, long thought dead, might be responsible. However, David Slaton—the assassin in question—is innocent. Realizing the only way to clear his name is to find out who’s truly responsible, he travels to Capri.

The Fated Sky by Mary Robinette Kowal

Image Placeholder of - 51 Mary Robinette Kowal continues the grand sweep of alternate history begun in The Calculating StarsThe Fated Sky looks forward to 1961, when mankind is well-established on the moon and looking forward to its next step: journeying to, and eventually colonizing, Mars.

Of course the noted Lady Astronaut Elma York would like to go, but there’s a lot riding on whoever the International Aerospace Coalition decides to send on this historic—but potentially very dangerous—mission?

So Say We All: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Battlestar Galactica by Edward Gross & Mark A. Altman

Image Place holder  of - 63 Four decades after its groundbreaking debut, Battlestar Galactica — both the 1978 original and its 2004 reimagining ? have captured the hearts of two generations of fans. What began as a three-hour made for TV movie inspired by the blockbuster success of Star Wars followed by a single season of legendary episodes, was transformed into one of the most critically acclaimed and beloved series in television history. And gathered exclusively in this volume are the incredible untold stories of both shows – as well as the much-maligned Galactica 1980.

The Stars Now Unclaimed by Drew Williams

Placeholder of  -72 Think big guns, smugglers, epic space battles, and a telekinetic girl with all the gifts.

Jane Kamali is an agent for the Justified. Her mission: to recruit children with miraculous gifts in the hope that they might prevent the pulse from once again sending countless worlds back to the dark ages.

Hot on her trail is the Pax—a collection of fascist zealots who believe they are the rightful rulers of the galaxy and who remain untouched by the pulse.


Invisible Planets ed. by Ken Liu

Poster Placeholder of - 95 Science fiction readers the world over have recently become familiar with Ken Liu’s Chinese translation work via The Three-Body Problem, the bestselling and Hugo award-winning novel by acclaimed Chinese author Cixin Liu. Ken Liu has now assembled, translated, and edited an anthology of Chinese science fiction stories, the most comprehensive collection yet available in the English language, sure to thrill and gratify readers developing a taste and excitement for Chinese SF.

Judgment at Appomattox by Ralph Peters

Written with the literary flair and historical accuracy readers expect from Ralph Peters, Judgment at Appomattoxtakes readers through the Civil War’s last grim interludes of combat as flags fall and hearts break.

A great war nears its end. Robert E. Lee makes a desperate, dramatic gamble that fails. Richmond falls. Each day brings new combat and more casualties, as Lee’s exhausted, hungry troops race to preserve the Confederacy. But Grant does not intend to let Lee escape. . . . In one of the most thrilling episodes in American history, heroes North and South battle each other across southern Virginia as the armies converge on a sleepy country court house.


The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark

In an alternate New Orleans caught in the tangle of the American Civil War, the wall-scaling girl named Creeper yearns to escape the streets for the air – in particular, by earning a spot on-board the airship Midnight Robber. Creeper plans to earn Captain Ann-Marie’s trust with information she discovers about a Haitian scientist and a mysterious weapon he calls The Black God’s Drums.

But Creeper also has a secret herself: Oya, the African orisha of the wind and storms, speaks inside her head, and may have her own ulterior motivations.


Akashic Records of Bastard Magic Instructor Vol. 4 Story by Hitsuji Tarou; Art by Tsunemi Aosa

Arpeggio of Blue Steel Vol. 13 Story and art by Ark Performance

Saint Seiya: Saintia Shō Vol. 3 Story by Masami Kurumada; Art by Chimaki Kuori


Excerpt: The Stars Now Unclaimed by Drew Williams

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Placeholder of  -10 Jane Kamali is an agent for the Justified. Her mission: to recruit children with miraculous gifts in the hope that they might prevent the Pulse from once again sending countless worlds back to the dark ages.

Hot on her trail is the Pax–a collection of fascist zealots who believe they are the rightful rulers of the galaxy and who remain untouched by the Pulse.

Now Jane, a handful of comrades from her past, and a telekinetic girl called Esa must fight their way through a galaxy full of dangerous conflicts, remnants of ancient technology, and other hidden dangers.

Think big guns, smugglers, and epic space battles.

And that’s just the beginning…

The Stars Now Unclaimed will be available August 21st, but we’re so excited about it that we’re offering two chances to win an early copy! Check out the excerpt below and then enter here or here.

Chapter 1

I had Scheherazade drop me on top of an old refinery, rusted out and half-collapsing. Around me the stretch of this new world’s sky seemed endless, a bright sienna-colored cloth drawn over the stars above. I watched Schaz jet back off to orbit—well, “watched” is probably a strong word, since she had all her stealth systems cranked to high heaven, but I could at least find the telltale glint of her engines—then settled my rifle on my back and started working my way down, finding handholds and grips among the badly rusted metal.

It’s surprising how used to this sort of thing you get; the climbing and jumping and shimmying, I mean. On a world free of the effects of the Pulse, none of that would have been necessary—I
would have had antigravity boots, or a jetpack, or just been able to disembark in the fields below: scaling a three-hundred-foot-tall structure would have been as easy as pressing a button and dropping until I was comfortably on the ground.

Now, without all those useful cheats, it was much more physically demanding—the climbing and jumping and shimmying bits—but I didn’t mind. It was like a workout, a reminder that none of that nonsense mattered on the world I was descending toward, and that if I wanted to stay alive, reflexes and physical capability would be just as important as the few pieces of tech I carried that were resistant to post-Pulse radiation.

By the time I made it down the tower I’d worked up a decent sweat, and I’d also undergone a crash course in the physical realities of this particular planet: the vagaries of its gravity, of its atmosphere, that sort of thing. Most terraformed worlds were within a certain range in those kinds of measurements—on some, even orbital rotations had been shifted to roughly conform to the standard galactic day/night cycle—but it’s surprising how much small differences can add up when you’re engaged in strenuous physical activity. A touch less oxygen in the air than you’re
used to, a single percentage point of gravity higher or lower, and suddenly everything’s thrown off, just a bit. You have to readjust.

I checked my equipment over as I sat in the shadow of the refinery tower, getting my breath back. Nothing was damaged or showing signs of the radiation advancing faster than I would have expected. I had a mission to complete here, yes, but I had no desire to have some important piece of tech shut down on me at an inopportune time and get me killed. Then I wouldn’t be able to do anyone any good.

As the big metal tower creaked above me in the wind, I kept telling myself that—that I was still doing good. Some days I believed it more than others.

After I’d recovered from my little jaunt, I settled my rifle onto my back again—a solid gunpowder cartridge design common across all levels of post-Pulse tech, powerful enough that it could compete with higher-end weapons on worlds that still had a great deal of technology intact, low-key enough that on worlds farther down that scale like this one, it wouldn’t draw undue attention—and set off across rolling plains of variegated grass.

This world was very pretty; I’d give whoever had designed it that. The sky was a lovely shade of pinkish orange that would likely shift into indigo as night approached. It perfectly complemented the flora strains that had been introduced, mostly long grasses of purple or green or pink, with a few patches of larger trees, mostly Tyll-homeworld species, thick trunks of brown or gray topped by swaying azure fronds. Vast fields of wheat—again, of Tyll extraction—made up most of the landscape that wasn’t grassland; that made sense with the research I’d done before having Scheherazade drop me off.

The research told me that this world had been terraformed for agricultural use a few hundred years ago or so; it had seen only mild scarring during the sect wars, which meant it was a little bit perplexing that the Pulse had knocked it almost as far down the technology scale as a planet could go—all the way to before the invention of electric light.

Still, trying to understand why the Pulse had done what it had done was a fool’s errand: I’d seen systems where one planet had been left untouched, another had been driven back to pre-spaceflight, and the moon of that same world had lost everything post–internal combustion. There was never any rhyme or reason to it, not even within a single system—the Pulse did what it did at random, and looking for a will behind its workings was like trying to find the face of god in weather patterns.

I knew that much because I was one of the fools who had let it off the chain in the first place. That’s why I was here: trying to right my own wrongs. In a very small way, of course. I was only one woman, and it was a big, big universe. Also, I had a great many wrongs.


Copyright © 2018 by Drew Williams

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