In Dave Schroeder’s Xenotech Rising (Xenotech Support #1), first contact has been made in the form of aliens teleporting straight into the office of JP Morgan Chase and offering Earth a space in the Galactic Free Trade Association. Now, fifteen years later, Earth is bonkers with hyper-advanced alien technology, and when that tech breaks (or, more likely, when the user does something stupid to it), someone’s gotta fix it.
Enter Jack Buckston. As the head of Xenotech Support Corporation, he’s the guy to call when alien tech goes weird. Little does he know that what starts as a simple fix-it might tangle him in a plot that threatens Earth’s new place in the universe…
Okay, there are two things you need to know about this book going in: 1) Xenotech Rising is a sci-fi comedy, and 2) a lot of that comedy hinges on puns, dad joke humor, and geek references. Jack’s very first job in the book involves fixing an issue with “rabbot” lawn mowers that are replicating like rabbits at an organization called Widget Tech & Fabrication (or, WT&F). If that alone made you groan, you can put your wallet away now and go read something about taxes or whatever it is humorless pun-haters like to read about. Meanwhile those of us who thrive on silly wordplay will find a smorgasbord of nourishment here.
Even so, there’s more to the humor than puns. Xenotech’s is a setting in which one of Earth’s biggest exports is government session broadcasts repackaged as reality TV shows, and they’re so profitable that the most…erm…entertaining congresses have added extra chambers and extended sessions to maximize their on-screen time and profits. And even though Delta American Air-Space is first introduced as “the D’Am Company,” that introduction is immediately followed by a look at how airline travel even managed to remain A Thing in a universe where teleportation is also A Thing – and it all comes down to economics. Though it’s certainly a source of humor, the galactic economy is an elaborately imagined and genuinely intelligent part of this world.
Of course, with alien tech comes alien civilization, and the aliens in this novel are equally imaginative. They range from the Murm, which are tiny intelligent beetles with even tinier wormholes in their heads that allow their hivemind to communicate across galaxies (whew!), to the Dauushans, which are six-legged elephantine centaurs with three trunks that have three more trunks, which grant them the mobility they need to be one of the most high tech civilizations in the setting, despite their clumsy bulk (whewwww!). These don’t even scratch the tip of the iceberg as Xenotech’s alien races are concerned, and the unique characteristics of these races often shape the story in such a way that they’re inseparable from it.
The cast of characters is infinitely likeable, too. Jack is a regular guy who just wants to finish his jobs without some idiot getting in the way (so, relatable for anyone who works with the public). He’s also a perfect, if awkward gentleman to Poly, his tech- and disaster-savvy maybe-hopefully-girlfriend. Most notable to me, though, is Terrhi, a young Dauushan who, despite being one of the least human-looking and potentially least relatable of the alien species, ends up being one of the single most adorable characters I’ve ever read – and plays more of a role in the story than one would initially expect.
Most criticism that I have comes down to personal taste:
Its opening is slow-paced enough that it took several chapters for me to realize where the story was even going – but once the threads began to come together, I realized that everything had actually been set up from the very first chapter, which made the eventual “Aha!” moment that much more fun. 😀 Similarly, part of the climax goes long and seems to amount to “Well, it would be a waste to have an immersive virtual reality company in this book and not have an extended virtual reality video game battle, so…here’s some of that.” Still, even though it doesn’t contribute a whole lot to the plot, it’s still fun to read (even if some of its puns are shoehorned in way too hard, even for a book defined by puns).
The closest thing I have to a real complaint is that Poly’s insistent romantic advances on Jack become a little tiring. On the one hand, it’s refreshing to read a relationship in which the woman is the initiator. On the other, there was more than one scene in which I went, “Dang girl, he said no! How much clearer can he be?” 😐 It’s played mostly for humor, though, to accentuate the gentleman that Jack is, and ultimately the positives in their relationship outweigh this one small negative.
All this to say, if you’re in the mood for self-consciously dorky humor and unexpectedly complex sci-fi comedy, you’d do well to pick up Xenotech Rising. 😄
Note: Holo Writing is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and, as such, may earn a small commission from any product purchased through an affiliate link on this blog.
Hey, Gordian Division fans! If you’re on YouTube and would like a sneak peek at the upcoming sequel to The Gordian Protocol, head on over to The Weberverse for David’s reading of The Valkyrie Protocol, Chapter 1! 😄
…Or you could just watch it below. 😜 (And don’t forget, it’s coming October 6th, 2020 from Baen Books!)
Hey, readers! The sequel to The Gordian Protocol now has a release date, and as you can see above, it’s coming October 6, 2020 from Baen Books! 😀 Check out this awesome cover:
The stakes for our heroes were pretty high in Gordian, and now, in The Valkyrie Protocol, they haven’t gotten any smaller:
UNTANGLE THE PAST TO SAVE THE FUTURE.
Agent Raibert Kaminski and the crew of the Transtemporal Vehicle Kleio have made a shocking discovery out in the unknown reaches of the multiverse. They’ve stumbled across a temporal implosion that has claimed two whole universes, and neither Raibert nor his crew can figure out what caused this calamity other than it had something to do with reckless time travel.
The Kleio speeds back to their home universe of SysGov with this dire report, but an audacious plan is put into effect before they arrive. Old colleagues of Raibert’s from the Antiquities Rescue Trust, together with a version of Samuel Pepys transplanted from the 17th century into the 30th, have proposed an expedition into the past. Their goal? To branch the timeline by preventing the Plague of Justinian, one of the worst pandemics in human history.
Meanwhile, SysGov’s multiverse neighbor, the xenophobic Admin, is stirring. While their ambassadors put on a friendly show, the Admin is amassing a fleet of advanced, heavily armed time machines with SysGov firmly in the crosshairs.
Time is running out for Raibert and his team. But the crew of the Kleio won’t go down without a fight, no matter where—or when—the threat to their home comes from.
If you haven’t started the Gordian series yet, now’s the perfect time to catch up. 😀
For a limited time, The Gordian Protocol is available in a discounted pack in Baen Books’ May 2020 Book Bundle, where you can snag 7 books for $18 (Scroll to the bottom of the link to find the May bundle, but go fast, because it expires the first week of May).
It’s also coming April 28th in Mass Market Paperback, and of course, is already available in eBook, Hardback, and Audiobook form.
Finally, while you wait for Valkyrie‘s book birthday, enjoy this clean art of this cover, once again illustrated by the talented Dave Seeley! 😲
Jacob and David had a blast writing this novel together, and we look forward to you reading it, too! 😁
Hey, readers! Gadi Evron has put together a truly cool project over at Essence of Wonder, coordinating online events to give geeks, makers, hackers, and other technologically creative sorts a way to engage with exciting ideas during this isolated time of Covid-19 and social distancing – namely through panels hosted through Zoom conferences.
To that effect, on Saturday, April 11th @ 3pm EST, you should totally check out David Weber and Friends on Space Warfighting!
The panel will kick off with an interview with David, followed by a reading from one of his books, and David will then lead Christopher Weuve, Major Gen. (Res.) Professor Isaac Ben-Israel, Charles Gannon, and our very own Jacob in a discussion about space warfighting: What would it really look like? How would military and/or political strategy shift in an interstellar setting? How would space affect military R&D?
Attendance requires (FREE) registration, so be sure to head on over to the page and sign up! (Scroll down about midway to find the registration link.)
We hope to see you there! 😀
UPDATE: Here are the recordings!
If you’re not familiar with the Baen Free Radio Hour and love sci-fi podcasts, you need to GET ON THAT.
If you’re also a fan of The Gordian Protocol, Friday brought a reason to DOUBLE GET ON THAT:
Here’s part one of a 3-part interview with Jacob, David Weber, and Baen publisher Toni Weisskopf, led by Baen Editor Tony Daniel. (It also includes the latest installment of the audiobook serialization of Larry Correia’s Son of the Black Sword)!
Subsequent parts will be added as they’re posted, but if you’d like to follow them, you can subscribe on Apple Podcasts or listen in-browser on the Baen website.
Note: Holo Writing is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and, as such, may earn a small commission from any product purchased through an affiliate link on this blog.
In Robert J. Szmidt’s Easy to be a God, humanity has been expanding through the universe for 300 years, and not once has it encountered any other form of intelligent life – until a rough-and-tumble salvaging crew stumbles upon the 50,000-year-old remains of the first…and comes to regret it.
It’s not the last time humanity encounters alien life, though the next is significantly different – two civilizations that are still so planet-bound and primitive that humanity hesitates to interact with either, lest it negatively affect the development of the two. Trouble is, the two civilizations are about to engage in a war that could end up being genocidal for both, and some of the observers cannot let that stand. Acting under the name – and in the capacity of – Gods, they deliver messages and technology to the aliens under the humans’ watch, hoping to avert an atrocity.
In the midst of all this is Henryan Swiecki. He’s been assigned to thwart those interfering Gods, but his own situation is not so simple. He secretly agrees with the logic behind Gods’ actions, but if he fails, he’ll be sent back to one of the most psychologically oppressive prisons in human history, with no hope of escape. Between challenges to his morality and threats against his very life, he has quite a task ahead of him…
I read Easy to be a God on the recommendation of a friend and found it to be well worth the recommendation, but it’s a book that requires some effort. I had to read it twice to fully appreciate it, first because it’s divided into three wildly different parts that don’t seem to have any connection to each other until halfway through the book, second because it features two of the most truly alien cultures I’ve encountered in sci-fi. Neither of these are flaws in the long run, but if you don’t know to expect them, they can make for a challenging (and sometimes frustrating) first read. However, in the end, they all add up to quite an intriguing hard sci-fi novel.
The novel opens up on Nike Stachursky, a top graduate of the Federation Fleet Academy who, after some…ill-advised activity with the Admiral’s youngest daughter finds himself assigned to the Recycling Corps – a salvage unit with such a high casualty rate that it’s not-so-ironically referred to as the Recycling Corpse. There he finds himself amidst the ragtag crew of the FSS Nomad, beneath the coarse but weirdly charismatic Captain Henrichard Morrissey, as they search the wrecks of old battlefields for salvageable loot, and soon happen upon something altogether unexpected.
This section sets up a fun space adventure with a colorful, irreverent cast that could have easily carried through the whole novel, so you can imagine my disappointment when, just after the most exciting part of their own story, they’re dropped for a story and setting so alien that I first thought I’d accidentally opened up a different book (more on that later). Still, the characters make great use of what little time they have in the novel. Nike is a smart (if not exactly sensible) protagonist; Captain Morrissey is one of those odd characters who is a total asshole and yet so hilariously written that he becomes likable; and all the characters in between bounce off each other like a close-knit pirate family (which is essentially what they are).
It’s when their story takes a turn for the dark, though, that it becomes truly intriguing. What starts as the discovery of the “El Dorado” of spaceship hauls reveals that humans aren’t alone in the universe – and maybe haven’t been for a long time. Recollections of other salvage teams that were silenced after certain discoveries leads the crew to wonder if this perhaps wasn’t humanity’s first encounter with alien life – if the Federation has, in fact, known and been covering it up for some reason.
That dark thought aside, certain circumstances of the discovery lead the Nomad‘s chaplain in particular to have a distinct crisis of faith, with even darker implications for humanity.
Unfortunately, the novel never explores those characters or their discoveries beyond this point.
Instead it rockets without preamble into a meeting of the alien Suhurs, who are dealing with their own religious experience – a “Thunder Sower” gifted by the “Spirits of the Mountains” to one of the lowest-ranking members of their society (as opposed to a priest). Here Szmidt has created one of the most fascinating alien species and cultures that I’ve read about in recent sci-fi, with anatomies so unlike those of earth creatures that all Suhur sections necessitate multiple readings. Szmidt doesn’t hold the reader’s hand through these sections either, introducing the aliens with an avalanche of unfamiliar terms and expecting us to rely on context to figure out the relevant information. In retrospect, it’s a pretty cool way to make the reader realize, “Oh hey, these aliens are really alien, not just humans in prosthetics and makeup.” However, on the flipside, it did make for a frustrating initial read, especially since the shift comes out of nowhere following a group of characters we’ve grown to like and whose story has no connection to that of the Suhurs.
And especially since, immediately after, we’re introduced to yet another brand new set of characters. It was at this point on my first read when I began to wonder if any of the stories in this novel would actually connect, particularly because the fourth major shift seems to introduce another new character. (It doesn’t, just an established character using a pseudonym.) Fortunately, except for the first, most of the storylines ultimately do connect, but the abrupt way in which the novel as a whole is structured and the fairly slow reveals of how it all comes together might be enough to turn impatient readers off.
This is perhaps the novel’s greatest flaw; though it is an interesting novel, its very structure risks frustrating readers before they even get to the heart of the main storyline.
That storyline centers around Henryan Swiecki, who was a captain in the Federation Fleet before a corrupt officer allowed forty-two soldiers – including Swiecki’s brother – to die in a depressurization incident solely to hide evidence that he’d been involved in illicit dealings. When the officer escapes justice, Henryan takes it into his own hands, shooting him point-plank and killing him instantly.
This lands him in the Sturgeon Belt, perhaps the cruelest penal colony in the universe, with a warden so sadistically harsh that his prisoners routinely strive to commit suicide…but rarely get the chance in the colony’s tightly-structured and technologically-reinforced schedule (another element of the warden’s sadism). When Swiecki eases himself further onto the warden’s bad side, his punishment is to be in charge of preventing attempted suicides, which does nothing to endear him to the other prisoners – but what choice does he have when his failure results in unimaginable torture? The warden takes enormous pleasure in making Swiecki suffer in whatever way he can, physically and psychologically.
Which is why Swiecki is surprised to suddenly be summoned away from the Sturgeon Belt on orders that even the warden can’t ignore.
Under a new name, he’s been assigned at the space station Xan 4 to help with a secret project: The Federation Fleet has discovered its first (that is, “first”) two alien species and is observing them from afar – never interfering – as the Suhurs and rival Gurds prepare for what is sure to be a genocidal war. That’s not his only secret project, though. As mentioned earlier, the real reason he’s been summoned is to help root out the dissidents acting as Gods and interfering with the operation. His situation becomes even more complicated when Gods tries to recruit him, and he has to decide which he values more: his sense of morality, or avoiding the torture prison at all costs.
What follows is a complicated tale switching between the Suhurs and Gurds as they prepare for battle and Swiecki as he plays both Gods and the Federation to his advantage. At points, it’s almost like reading a spy novel with aliens. Though not as fun and likable as the human cast on the Nomad, Swiecki is capable and fierce, fueled by the disproportionate injustice done to him (and his brother and fellow soldiers), and determined that no one’s going to take advantage of him. If you’re looking to read about a character who takes no crap, he’s it, and you can’t help but cheer when he sticks it to anyone who tries to manipulate him.
All this said, Easy to be a God is ultimately a satisfying, entertaining read, albeit far from a leisurely one. It’s demanding of its reader; there’s a lot to unpack within its pages, and some readers will be frustrated by its structure and untied story threads. (As a small note, there are also enough translation quirks to notice – strange turns of phrase, unusual punctuation choices, etc. – which may be distracting for some). There are subsequent books, though, so one would expect that such threads are tied up in those. Unfortunately, as of this writing, the series seems to have gone out of print in English, but if you happen to come upon a copy, this one’s a challenging, recommended read.
Baen Books is a cool publisher in that it has a lot of options for fans who are really impatient for release dates. 😀
For example, there’s its eARC collection, for readers who don’t mind upcoming releases with a few typos. There are also the Monthly Baen Bundles, wherein you can buy a handful of upcoming Baen eBooks in one chunk for the nice, wallet-friendly price of $18!
The Gordian Protocol‘s eARC has been out for a bit, and now the final form is available in the May 2019 Monthly Baen Bundle, along with titles from other such authors as Larry Correia, Kasey Ezell, P.C. Hodgell, Elizabeth Moon, David Drake, Steve White, Charles E. Gannon, and Thomas T. Thomas!
Both will only be available until the book officially releases on May 7th, so if you want these versions, be sure to click fast!
*Also, thanks to reader David Macfarlane for reminding us that we hadn’t shared this yet! 🙂
Hey, readers! Our 2019 con season is kicking off this weekend at FantaSci in Durham, NC!
Here’s a list of our panel appearances and fellow panelists:
COLLABORATING WITH AN AUTHOR
FRIDAY, March 22nd @ 3pm – Camellia
Writing by oneself is a journey, but collaborating with an author is a whole other kind of adventure! We’ll discuss the perks and challenges that come about when two heads come together (sometimes literally).
Panelists: Jacob & H.P. Holo, David Weber
SELF-PUBLISHING FOR SHY PEOPLE
FRIDAY, March 22nd @ 4pm – Camellia
For many aspiring authors, being an introvert is almost synonymous with being a writer…but unfortunately, that doesn’t sell books. We’ll discuss how to get the word out about your writing when all you want to do is hide behind your favorite notebook.
Panelists: H.P. Holo
CARE AND FEEDING OF AUTHORS
SATURDAY, March 23rd @ 11am – Camellia
The role that wives, significant others, family and friends have in caring for the writers that we love so that they can focus on creating the stories that we love.
Panelists: H.P. Holo and other author spouses
WRITING BY THE SEAT OF YOUR PANTS
SATURDAY, March 23rd @ 1pm – Rose
Pantsers unite! Some writers like to chart their story’s course and follow it to the letter. We are not those writers. We’ll discuss tips for writers who want to wander…without getting lost.
Panelists: H.P. Holo, Christopher Woods, Rob Howell, Terry Maggert, and Jason Graves
CHAOS OF CREATION: BALANCING WORLD BUILDING WITH STORY
SATURDAY, March 23rd @ 6pm – Rose
Sometimes you create a world so vast, you can’t possibly fit it all in a readable story. How, then, do you decide what to keep? We’ll discuss how to write a fascinating world while keeping readers engaged through plot and character.
Panelists: Jacob & H.P. Holo
JUMP, JIVE, and WRITE: A DISCUSSION OF MUSIC AS CREATIVE INSPIRATION
SUNDAY, March 24th @ 9am – Rose
The great philosopher, Plato, once said that “music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.” Come hear a panel of authors discuss their musical influences growing up, as well as the songs, artists, and themes that drive their writing today.
Panelists: Jacob & H.P. Holo, Jason Cordova, Jason Graves, and Ian Malone
CRAFTING TIME TRAVEL RULESETS
SUNDAY, March 24th @ 11am – Magnolia (Main Room)
Time travel writing is fraught with paradoxes and endless potential for plot holes. We’ll discuss how to design a time travel system that doesn’t break your universe.
Panelists: Jacob Holo and Steve White
Schedule is subject to change so, check out the website or Facebook page for the most up-to-date info.
See you this weekend! 😀
Visit their blog for the full interview to read some insights on how Jacob and David met, how The Gordian Protocol came to be, how they worked together, and more!