The Suns of War – Prologue (Serial Story)

Hello Readers,

This year for the serial story I’m going to be continuing an old story from 2016. I’ve edited and added information.

Enjoy!


Prologue | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12


Prologue: Sailing the Rubble of Galaxies 

“Nice of them to design these cells with portholes,” admired former security commander, Nessa Muldune. It seemed like a strange waste of outer hull but she appreciated being able to see the stars.

“Shut up, traitor,” sneered her jailer, his whiskers twitching with smugness. Lieutenant Alfred’s disdain was a relief after the months of him awkwardly hitting on her. “We’ll be at New Mars soon and you’ll get what’s coming to you.”

The United Martian Empire (UME) Camlann was a brand new Starcruiser class ship, with a crew of twenty-three. Her mission was to explore the outer edges of the galaxy for resources that could help in their war against the Ares Republic.

“Alfred, take a walk.” Doctor Anson’s commanding tone ensured he knew it wasn’t a suggestion.

Waiting until they were alone, Nessa said, “Peri, if you’re here to tell me how much you’ve always hated me, you’re an hour late for the parade.” Her tail wanted to tuck between her legs as she remembered the half dozen crew that had come to berate and insult their former commander.

The doctor’s hairless face broke into a smile. “You’re an idiot Muldune, but I don’t hate you. I agree with what you did, but they expect us medical types to be Peacers.” It was one of the worst insults for a Martian to be called a Peacer. Peace would only happen when the Empire’s enemies were all dead. Any other opinion was heresy.

The Doctor shook their head in either annoyance or amusement. Nessa couldn’t tell, humans were hard to read, and added, “I’ve looked over the logs and I’m going to testify for you at your court-martial.”

“Don’t be an idiot. It’ll just get you thrown into whatever hole they put me.”

“Doubt it. There are perks to one of my fathers being an Admiral. I’m not the only one who thinks the Captain went too far this time.”

Lifting her hand, Nessa said, “No. Shut up. Until we’re safely in dock on New Mars, I don’t want to hear about it and I don’t think you should talk about it either.” Pointing at her furry ears and then the walls, Nessa added, “What you’re saying could be taken as the M word and you know how the Captain doesn’t like that word.” The last person to hint at mutiny had been spaced without a trial. Her multiple commendations, stellar military record, and Red Star of Honour were the only reason Nessa wasn’t sleeping with meteors.

”Fine, but you’re not alone and I wanted you to know that.” Peri smiled again and turned to leave.

“Thank you, old friend.” They’d served together since Nessa’s first tour of duty when she was barely out of kittenhood at fifteen.

Alfred strode back in and started saying crude things about the Doctor. Nessa ignored him; doing the same thing she’d done countless times since she’d been put in here. She went over the incident to see what she could have done differently.

They were pushing the limits of known space when they’d gotten a distress call. It was ancient code. When they arrived at the coordinates they found three ships; an Ares Bird-of-Prey, an ancient frigate and a third ship they’d never seen before.

The ancient frigate was giving off the distress code. It must have been five hundred or more years old. Nessa’s first mistake was to suggest that the frigate might have star-maps that could lead them back to Earth. The Captain had laughed at her and mocked her for her silly superstitions. He was one of the many Martians who were convinced all sentient life had evolved on New Mars.

They’d hailed the Aresian ship and received no answer, but when they hailed the unknown ship, it answered with what sounded like a riddle.

Myrddin searches for Arthur

The message repeated itself as if it were a recording. When the mysterious ship opened its gunports, the Captain had ordered her to open fire. She hesitated and she still didn’t know why. It was like she froze. The Captain had thrown her to the side and fired on the ship himself.

It had done nothing, their weapons didn’t even leave a mark on the ship. The Captain was furious and ordered her to fire on the Aresian ship. Their stardrive was powered by antimatter and the explosion should wipe out all three ships.

That’s when she’d ruined her career by saying, “Sir, we can’t. If those aliens are powerful enough to take a full blast from our ion cannons, we need to get access to their tech, not blow it up.” And she’d made it worse by adding, “Not to mention that the frigate could hold the key to finding our original home world.”

“New Mars is our home world, you Peacer trash. Take the traitor to the brig.” To the security guards’ credit, they both looked uncomfortable jailing their commanding officer. The captain had blown up the Aresian ship and the frigate with one hit. The alien ship had given off one unintelligible message before it exploded. The Camlann barely made it out on time, despite its cutting edge stardrive.

She was now on her way to a court martial. If she was lucky, a life sentence on some mining asteroid. If she was unlucky, she’d be put in the Colosseum for sport.

Nessa felt the telltale wobble of the Camlann’s stardrive powering down. She was excited, despite the situation, to see the planets of the New Mars system; the crown jewels of the empire.

The ship shook violently and all she could see out the porthole was an asteroid field. Something was wrong.

“Brace for impact. We seem to have gone off course.” The Captain’s voice sounded calm, almost bored.

Nessa felt sick. There’s no way they’d been off course. Out her porthole, all Nessa could see was darkness and rocks. Where were the planets? Where was the sun? 

A large semi-spherical chunk of rock flew towards the ship. As it got closer, she could see the ruins of a city flying toward them. 

The Captain’s voice came back on, “Oh Gods! What have they done!” He was no longer calm.

Read Chapter 1 (Coming Soon)


While you wait for the next chapter, check out the previous serial stories:

Travel to Mars

Although we cannot yet travel to Mars on vacation (or the moon, for that matter) there is a location on Earth that has doubled as the red planet in more than one movie.

Sunset on the Wadi Rum Desert in Jordan. Picture from www.wadirum.jo
Sunset on the Wadi Rum Desert in Jordan. Picture from www.wadirum.jo

The barren red desert in the South of Jordan, near the border of Saudi Arabia, certainly doesn’t look like it belongs on Earth. Several filmmakers have agreed, and shot no less than three movies with the desert as the landscape of Mars, including Red Planet (2000), The Last Days on Mars (2013), and The Martian (2015). It has also been used as an alien planet in Prometheus (2012), and the Egyptian landscape in several other movies, including Lawrence of Arabia (1962).

Aqaba and Petra are nearby (at most a full day trip), and you can camp out under the stars on this desert. There are tours that include all of the above.

If you want to feel as though you are on Mars, Jordan is the place to visit. No spacesuit required.

If you’d like help booking this trip. You can contact Jennifer Desmarais through Orleans Travel. jennifer.desmarais@orleanstravel.ca


References

http://www.wadirum.jo
http://www.lonelyplanet.com/jordan/petra-and-the-south/wadi-rum
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wadi_Rum#Filming_location

A Princess of Mars – Book Review

A princess of Mars is the first of eleven books in the Barsoom series. I’ve also heard it called the John Carter of Mars series.

This is a classic Science-Fantasy, published in 1912. Like other Mars novels from that time, almost all its scientific assumptions about Mars have been disproved.

This novel created and still personifies the Sword and Planet Genre.

The author, Edgar Rice Burroughs, is best known for his Tarzan series. However, his science fiction has had an influence that can still be seen in newer authors. He had an amazing way of mixing science fiction and fantasy without making it feel forced. His influence can be seen in many of the “New Wave” science fiction authors like Laguin, Zelazny, or Moorcock.

Below is my review. For more information on how and why I review books read my post here.

Characters

This book only has two main characters. John Carter is veteran of the American Civil war and possibly many others, he refers to himself as a Virginian Gentleman. He’s a fighter and an impressive one. He looks thirty and has lived at least a hundred years. Interestingly doesn’t remember his childhood.

Where John Carter is impressive, his character arc isn’t. The only thing that changes is his understanding of Mars and his relationship status. That being said, he is an interesting and entertaining narrator/character. There is no doubt that he is a hero and he’s an entertaining guide to Barsoom.

The second main character is Mars, or as the natives call it Barsoom. There is more ink dedicated to her than to anyone else in the novel. A dying world with interesting and detailed cultures, the real character arc is Mars’. She goes from a war torn, segregated, and dying world to a united(ish) kingdom, but still dying. It’s a beautifully described world. At some points I preferred the world building and Martian history more than the actual story.

There are plenty of secondary characters some of which are fun others are down right boring. Overall, they feel unimportant next to John Carter.

The weakest character, as in most adventure stories from this time, is Dejah Thoris. Or the love interest. She’s less of a person and more of a goal for the protagonist. He treats her well but she has all the personality of an inanimate object.

I give it a 3 out of 5 for characters. Even though most of the characters are uninteresting, they are also unimportant next to the awesome John Carter and the brilliant Barsoom.

Writing Style

The book is written in first person, John Carter is writing his memoirs in the form of a letter to a friend. With few exceptions we are always dealing with John Carter and the way he sees the world(s).

The style is dry and at times, a little disconnected. When I say dry, I mean it felt academic. It’s a feel and style that was used a lot in that time and he does make it interesting.

One of the things that kept the book from feeling like a long Barsoomian discourse on history was the fact that it was so disconnected. The story would get a little dry and suddenly we’d be learning the history behind the Green Martians firearms. I’d get bored with the history and suddenly John Carter is kicking someone’s ass. It was a nice way of keeping the reader interested and informed.

I give the style a 3 out of 5. I guess I’m just a sucker for a first person narrative.

Story

It’s difficult to tell which tropes the author is using and which he invented. At its base, this is an “Other World” novel, sometimes called “Portal Fantasy” or “Trapped in another world”. It’s a common story structure with immense customization. I’m not sure you can say it was influenced by The Time Machine or by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland but they are definitely pulling from the same source material. Most likely, whether the authors did it on purpose or not, these stories are heavily influenced by old fairy myths.

Once John Carter arrives on earth (after an extremely bad portrayal of Native Americans) the story becomes a loose narrative of his journey around Barsoom. The only story motivation is survival. In the third act he is moved to action and almost single-handedly changes the face of Mars.

There are a lot of coincidences throughout the book that stretch believability along with John Carter’s inability to make a mistake. Other than the typical “White is right” and “Women are only good at being pretty” this book does have a few interesting messages. It’s definitely championing emotion, especially love, as what makes us human and what makes the difference between right and wrong.

An interesting essay could be comparing the cruel, barbarity of the Green Martians with that of the Humans in Aldus Huxley’s Brave New World and trying to associate it with their similar reproductive methods.

It could change with the rest of the series but the weakest part of this book is the story. I give it a 2 out of 5.

Fun

Was this book fun? Yes, Yes and yes. Maybe it’s the little boy in me (I’ve been meaning to get that removed) or the adventure lover but this book was a joy to read. It helped that it was tiny by comparison to other books of it’s genre. It made the bare-bones plot and history lesson seem quick and move along without getting dull.

A few modern Authors could learn something about Story/world-building from Burroughs I give it a 5out of 5 for fun

Overall

Overall, if you like swashbuckling and classic science fiction than I’d recommend you read A Princess of Mars. However it does suffer from it’s age and wouldn’t make it into my top ten best books.

I’ll probably pick up The Gods of Mars at some point and see what happens to John Carter. Most of the novels are available from the Gutenberg Project for free, can’t go wrong there.

Overall it was enjoyable but not amazing. I give it a 65% enjoyability score.