I switched my first published book, The Deep Dark Well, to KDP Select about a month ago, making Amazon the exclusive marketer of this novel. From 09/07/2012 to 09/11/2012 it will be offered for free on Kindle. I really like this book, and consider it one of my best. Written in 2004, just after I had gone through a divorce that really hurt, I submitted it to the three publishers that accept unsolicited work in my genres and received two very detailed rejections that praised the book, the plot, the characters, the setting. The problem was neither publisher thought it would make a ton of money, probably because it was classic science fiction. I still believe that people want to read this kind of scifi, thought publishers and agents don’t agree. I set the book aside for many years, then brought it out for agent submissions when I started down that path. Then a final polishing before self publishing. And reading the book that I had not read in years gave me the impression that this was a damned good novel. I put it out on Amazon without really understanding formatting, but fixed that problem. I have gotten three reviews so far, one three star and two five stars, though the three star was as heavy on their praise as any. But after selling about seventy copies of the book I have yet to get past three reviews. So if you want to read a damned good classic science fiction novel in the tradition of Niven and Anderson, get the book for free and come back to the Amazon page to leave a review. Here is the blurb I use for the book on Amazon:
An Adventure Forty Thousand Years in the making
Pandora Latham was just a country girl from Alabama turned Kuiper Belt Miner. The last thing Pandi expected was to run into a ship from the future on the outskirts of Sol system. Even less expected was that the ship would fall apart while she was inside it, the Universe correcting the paradox. The wormhole in the center of the ship beckoned, and Pandi jumped through, forty thousand years into the future. She arrived on a massive station built around a black hole. Once the center of a Galactic Civilization, the station was used to generate wormhole gates linking the Cosmos. The empty station is a memorial to the civilization that once was.
One survivor, an immortal being called Watcher, remains, guarding the secrets of the station from those who covet its advanced technology. Watcher, lonely from his self-enforced exile, befriends Pandi. Soon the woman from Alabama discovers that there is more to Watcher than is apparent on the surface. What was Watcher’s part in the fall of civilization? The answer to this question will determine whether Pandora Latham survives in this world, or becomes just one more death added to the trillions who went before her.
Grand adventure in the tradition of Larry Niven and Poul Anderson, set in a far future in which many struggle for supremacy, and one woman from the past will decide the winner.
And the book trailer: The Deep Dark Well.
And the three reviews in their entirety:
Azog (3 stars):
Not too bad. I am in agreement with the product blurb, in that I was often reminded of the great grandmasters of sci-fi like Asimov and Niven. Set in far distant future, when galactic empires have risen and fallen, leaving barely a memory of their existence. Massive engineering on incomprehensible scales. There are also nods to some of the great writers within the story.
The story was well-paced. It wasn’t a frenetic page turner like some action novels, but I don’t think there was any moment where I felt bored with the story. Mysteries are introduced in such a way which made me wanting to keep reading. The major actors were introduced in a manner which felt natural, and the overall backstory developed over the course of the novel. I would certainly like to read more of this story.
So why three stars if I enjoyed it so much? There were some minor editing errors, typical typos and such. But the typesetting (or text formatting, since it’s an e-book) needs to be addressed. The text changed fonts in various places, at random times. This threw me for a mental loop, since font changes such as this are often used as a story-telling device, e.g. perhaps to indicate a computer speaking. But there did not seem to be a reason, as the text would change size and font from one paragraph to another. Paragraphs were also either indented too far, or not at all. It may sound like a minor nag which I’m harping on, but typesetting is as fundamental to the book as editing and the story itself.
Janet D Ballard: A Fun Read. (5 stars)
This is classic space opera, with the science updated to modern specs. Admittedly I have a bias because I cut my teeth on E E Doc Smith, James Blish and others of this genre. I finished it in one read. I hope the author does more like this, as this type of book has become uncommon in the last few decades. Another review mentions some problems with the publication that are more of the nature of editing and “typesetting”, and while those are obvious, they did not detract from my overall satisfaction with the book.
Runningbear: Dancing Madly Backwards, then forwards again. (5 stars)
I enjoyed this one all the way through, and the beginning didn’t give a hint at where it was going to end. I especially like the way Dandridge introduces limitations on the end-time hardware. Star Trek’s easy technology is just that, easy. This book presents tremendous technologies, but each have their limitations and even hazards, something all to true in life. High speed sub-light travel with the downside of braking to deal with, not something dealt with in traditional sci-fi much. The author left open the possibility to follow the characters for further adventures. I hope he follows up on this. Great read with more solid detail than is typical.
And finally an excerpt of that solid detail:
The huge cylinder rotated into place. The wormhole com link made the distance between it and its control center meaningless. The wormhole sensor link made the distance between it and its target meaningless. The unit powered up, energy flowing along the millions of kilometers of power cables within the cylinder. Gathering at the conversion chambers. Power spiked to maximum, as the beam of gravitons, the messenger particles of gravity, streamed through the expanding wormhole sensor link. Target, the Nation of Humanity battle cruiser Dolphin.
* * *
The engineering crew of the Dolphin were about their normal business. Basically their business was to be there when automated systems malfunctioned. Or when damage occurred during battle that needed to be repaired quickly. Currently all fusion generators were on line, powered up to three quarters full. All that was needed for alert status. It was always good policy to keep a reserve. The matter/antimatter generators were off line at this time. That much energy was only needed when the space destroying drive was on line.
Crewmen and women were dressed in their battle gear, hard composite armor panels over environment suits, proof against most of the types of hard radiation one might find in a space battle. Helmets were for the most part detached, hooked to belts or set on stands near duty stations. Everything was running smoothly and efficiently. Inertialess drives were tuned perfectly, energy storage packs at full charge. Cooling systems were damping the heat of fusion reactors to the radiators on the skin of the ship.
Everything was running smoothly and efficiently, until disaster struck without warning. The first inkling the engineers had that something was wrong was when objects sitting on shelves or workstations began to slide and fall to the floor. Within moments these same objects were flying through the air, followed by helmets and other heavier objects. Then the crew had to grab onto whatever was at hand, or be pulled across the floor toward a gravity source much greater than that generated by the ship’s artificial field.
The central fusion center was hit the worst, and the first. The large room was sucked free of atmosphere, a roaring wind pulled into the high center of the chamber. Crew grabbed for helmets, then quickly for holds to keep from being pulled along with the air. The environmental systems struggled to dump enough air into the room to keep it stable. Not enough, not nearly fast enough.
Here objects were swept into the point, to disappear in a flash of light. To disappear from sight, but not from the Universe. A helmet swept in, obliterated in an instant. A crewman was pulled in, his screams over the intercom squelched at the instant of his contact with the point, though it took a moment for the gory mess of a disrupted body to be pulled in as well.
Survivors belted themselves to whatever was available, using the safety straps provided on their environmental suits. These were the witnesses to the next phase of the destruction. Braces pulled loose in silence from the nearest fusion reactor, crumpling like tin foil as they struck the point source, to disappear. The closest crew followed, belts tearing, or bodies and suits coming apart under the inexorable pull of gravity. Only those furthest from the source were to survive, for now, though the pain of tidal forces brought screams of agony over the ship’s intercoms.
Matter was squeezed together by the terrific concentration of gravity. Even compressed beyond the resistance of the electron shells. Charges flowed from protons, turning all into a mass of neutrons swathed in a thin shell of electron liquid. Gravity increased as more gravitons entered the mix, informing time and space of the existence of mass that didn’t really exist.
The point source began to move, forward, pulling in more and more matter, as it crushed its way through the bulkhead to the next compartment.
* * *
“Commodore,” yelled the engineering liaison from his station. “We are under attack.”
“From what?” asked Elishas. She was still trying to puzzle the data on the anomalies sent from the flagship. And there had been no warning of any kind of attack.
“We don’t know,” answered the officer. “But it’s tearing the engine rooms apart.”
“On screen,” she ordered. Immediately an image formed, of a distortion of glowing air, swinging swiftly through the antimatter reactor room. Objects flew in blurs into the object, ripped from their places. A cooling pipe tore loose as they watched, to disappear in a flash.
“If it ruptures one of the antimatter storage tanks,” said the hushed voice of the navigator.
Yes, thought Elishas. If it ruptured an antimatter storage tank the Dolphin would be reduced to a great number of small particles moving from the center of the explosion with great speed. Then the point was through the next bulkhead and moving forward. The bridge crew breathed a sigh of relief. A short-lived sigh.
“It’s coming forward,” cried the science officer, echoing the thoughts of others.
The ball of neutronium was indeed coming forward, growing more massive with each traverse of a chamber, pulling crew and equipment into its embrace. The ship shuddered from the assault as bulkheads began to buckle. The view screens followed its progress. To the relief of the commodore it stopped, in the exact center of the ship. Already a thousand tons of matter had been compressed. A small proportion of the ship, to be sure, but still a threat.
Billions of kilometers away the graviton beam was switched off. Instantly the source of gravity that had pulled the thousand tons of matter into a microscopic neutronium sphere disappeared. Matter could not exist in such a concentration without sufficient force pulling it together. There were still sufficient charges within the ball to generate the natural repulsive forces of like charged matter.
Within a nanosecond of the removal of force the ball exploded outward, particles reaching an appreciable fraction of the speed of light. This explosion in itself would have destroyed the vessel beyond recognition. The rupturing of the antimatter storage tanks, followed closely by the destruction of the negative matter pods, assured that little in the way of matter was left to clog the lanes of space.
* * *
Dolphin flared as a brilliant light on the view holo, followed an instant later by the form of the Tiger Shark. Bridge crew covered their eyes instinctively, though the display would never reproduce light powerful enough to damage eyesight.
“What happened?” demanded the admiral, his mouth dropping open at the spectacle of the complete destruction of two of his vessels. No warhead he knew of could have destroyed them so quickly, or approached so invisibly.
“Should we move the squadron back?” asked the captain nervously.
“Yes,” said Gerasi, his voice hushed. “At flank speed.”
“Helmsman,” yelled the captain, “full speed astern. Transmit orders to the rest of the squadron to do the same.”
“Stop us when we are another billion kilometers out,” ordered the admiral.
“You don’t intend to run from this display of power?” asked the captain incredulously.
“We don’t even know what it was,” answered Gerasi, strength creeping back into his voice.
“The gravitation anomaly spiked just before the destruction of the two vessels,” said the wide-eyed science officer. “Ejecta consisted of neutrons, gamma particles and microscopic particles of matter. It will take some time to completely analyze the remains from this distance.”
“We sure as hell are not going to get any closer to that thing until we figure out what happened,” said Gerasi. And what then. He couldn’t go back to the home system empty handed, especially with the loss of two capital ships. But what good to sacrifice all the vessels. All the crews.
“Transmission coming through,” said the com officer.
“Put it on,” ordered the admiral.
The creature appeared on the holo. No longer looking frightened. Its voice no longer trembling with fear.
“How did you like my little pyrotechnic display?” it asked, a smile cracking its narrow face.
“You were responsible for this?” yelled Admiral Miklas Gerasi, waving a fist at the holo. Of course the creature would not be able to respond for over an hour round trip transmission. He couldn’t wait till he had the creature in his grasp, able to communicate by means of voice and pain, instantaneously.
“Of course I was responsible for this,” said the creature. “Oh, don’t look so shocked, my dear admiral.”
“You, have instantaneous communications?”
“Of course,” it replied. “Only primitives such as yourselves do not.
“I had hoped that all of your little ships would have stepped into my parlor. Then I would not have to worry about watching your vessels, filled with semi intelligent monkeys capering about their controls. Now you have been warned. Stay away from the Donut. If you approach closer than two billion kilometers you will never again see the stars of your home. Bring this warning back to the men who sent you. This is my space, and mine alone, and I do not intend to share it with any half evolved protohumans.”
“And what name shall I give my Patriarch, when he asks who gave this ultimatum to an admiral of his fleet?”
“Tell him Vengeance gave the ultimatum. Tell him Vengeance awaits whatever he might send to test my resolve.”
The holo went blank before Gerasi could reply. The admiral stared into the display of stars that took its place for a moment.
“Halt the squadron,” he ordered.
“You don’t mean you believe him about the two billion kilometer limit?” asked the captain with a shaking voice. “The crew will not like being so close.”
“He would have destroyed us already if he meant to,” said the admiral. “Besides, who commands here? The crew, or me?
“I want an analysis on the remains of the two vessels he destroyed,” said Gerasi, as he left his seat and headed for his day cabin. “Keep me informed.”
I hope that many people will pick up what I consider to be a damned good read this weekend for free at Amazon, The Deep Dark Well. And please come back and leave a review.