The Pursuit of the Pankera is a 2020 science fiction book by Robert A. Heinlein which is a parallel version of The Number of the Beast. The Number of the Beast and The Pursuit of the Pankera follow the same characters; Deety, Zeb, Hilda and Jake, who are ambushed by the alien called Black Hats, but escape in a vehicle that can travel through different planes of existence. When Robert Heinlein published The Number of the Beast in 1980 he created a parallel version of what would have happened if Zeb, Deety, Jake and Hilda were taken to another universe besides what had happened in the 1980 book and that story is called The Pursuit of the Pankera.
I have read many sci-fi books but nothing stands out as a unique continuation of a story quite like the The Pursuit of the Pankera. This book is an unparalleled science fiction thrill ride that is crafted to entertain the reader. Most authors write about parallel universes as an idea to begin a plot, but parallel universes are a part of the plot here and Robert Heinlein explores the idea vividly. He first wrote about a parallel universe and then went ahead and wrote a parallel version of the parallel universe story he had introduced to his readers. Which makes sense, I suppose, as this is exactly what the parallel worlds theory would suggest. Heinlein is able to imbue a feel of classic science fiction, propelled by action scenes, which the genre has righteously deemed ‘Heinlein-esque’. The feel of deep science fiction with thought-provoking theories and hard hitting action is on brilliant display here. Everything that made me a hardcore Heinlein fan so many years ago has resurfaced here.
The book was written in 1977 but published in 2020. The author wrote two parallel novels about parallel universe but released one in 1980. The two books share the same start but they diverge and the characters are transported to two different parallel universes. The Pursuit of the Pankera is a bold literary experiment and the results are astonishing.
Hardcore science fiction fans may rejoice, but all others must not fear, I found this book to be easily digestible considering the scientific ideas utilized throughout the book. A few bits of jargon, but I found them to be good mood setters. This is still a human story that builds up and tests some fascinating characters. A suspenseful and thought-provoking classic science fiction story that will delight anyone looking for a gripping space adventure.
Pages: 545 | ASIN: B082838YYY
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I really enjoyed the depth of your two female lead characters. How do you continue to develop your characters throughout your series?
Each character must deal with both personal and external conflicts that shape them as individuals. In the fourth and final book of the Beyond Saga, Beyond Existence, Maya must find a way to regain her optimism in the face of the losses she’s suffered and despite the occupation of human space by a group of powerful aliens.
I really enjoy David Weber’s Honor Harrington series. Have you read those books? Those books also have a strong female lead. Are there any books that serve as inspiration for your writing?
I’ve read book one, On Basilisk Station. It was good, and it’s flattering that my writing sometimes gets compared to Weber’s. Like Honor, Brooke and Maya are strong female leads. But I came up with Beyond Cloud Nine prior to reading On Basilisk Station, so I can’t say I have too heavily influenced by it.
Collectively, I’ve been influenced by many different books, shows, movies, and video games. I’ve listed some of them on this page: https://www.gregspry.com/influences.php. On the background page for each of my books’ web sites, you can read about what influenced the creation of that particular book.
Here’s a link to the BC9 background page: https://www.beyondcloudnine.com/Background.aspx.
Where does the Beyond Saga takes it characters in the next book and how do you see the story evolving in the future?
The fourth and final book in the series, Beyond Existence, takes everything that’s happened in the first three books and weaves it all together. The aliens that Maya encountered in the past in book three conquer human civilization in a manner reminiscent of Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke. Maya must travel to different time periods and alternate universes to figure out a way to end the occupation by an alien race so advanced that they’re practically gods compared to humans.
My next book series will be set in the distant future in an alternate universe and different galaxy and will only loosely relate back to the Beyond Saga.
After years of pushing the boundaries of interstellar spaceflight, Commander Maya Davis is ecstatic when she is promoted to captain. But her enthusiasm wanes when she discovers that her new assignment is a one-way mission.
After taking command of the space-time vessel Yesterday, Maya must travel back in time to discover how and why a piece of 23rd century technology appeared 200,000 years earlier. It’s an exciting opportunity–except for the one-way aspect. The best minds of her time say it’s impossible to return to the present.
Trapped in the distant past, Maya must choose between a peace that could condemn humanity to perpetual slavery, or a fight for freedom that involves deception, rebellion, and mass murder. Whatever she decides, her actions may very well erase an entire civilization from history.
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Pegasus follows captain Thorn as he and his crew embark on a fateful trip that will leave their ship sabotaged. What were some themes that you felt were important to highlight in this story?
This story is set about a hundred years in the future after a series of global conflicts that has destroyed governments and devastated the natural environment. But it’s not a bleak, dystopian future. My main viewpoint was that after things settle down, the Earth begins to heal itself and the survivors find a way to work together to make the world a better place. But people being people, there are still those who want to exploit the environment for their own gain. This is what’s happening on the moon, and it’s the discovery of this damage that drives the story. At one point, Thorn is standing on the moon looking at Earth; this beautiful, fragile, and completely unique jewel in the vast blackness of space, and he realizes how precious it is. It’s the only home we’ve got, and we’ve got to protect it. The theme is further explored on a smaller scale as this crew of very different people realize they have to work together if any of them are to survive.
Thorn is a laid back, hard-on-his-luck man full of quirks and a relatable backstory. Was there someone that served as inspiration for his character? How did he change as you wrote the story?
This is the first in what I hope will be a series of books. In my other series, David Larkin is the nearly perfect hero; smart, strong, brave, and almost always right. My wife observed that Larkin is who I want to be, and Thorn is who I really am. She might have a point. Thorn doesn’t consider himself a hero; he’s just a guy trying to do a job. He is sometimes selfish, sometimes cranky, and resentful of these people he’s forced to live with in a very confined space. But over the course of the story he comes to appreciate the different skills that these people can contribute to their mutual survival, and when he loses a crew member, he is truly touched and deeply saddened.
Steven Wilson, a huge part of the success of Justin Thorn’s mission, is a character I would like to see further developed. What was your initial idea behind his character and where do you see him going in the future?
Thorn readily admits that he doesn’t have a lot of technical knowledge, and Steven contributes skills that Thorn lacks. He’s a bit of a geek, very smart, with a lot of knowledge and a creative way of applying it. He’s the brains of the outfit. In their second adventure together, Steven will once again find a creative solution to a life-threatening situation to hopefully save everyone.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
My next book is entitled Intrepid, and this time Thorn and Steven are going to Mars to attempt to rescue the scientists at the outpost there. But when they arrive, things go horribly wrong and the survivors must find a way to get their crippled ship back to Earth, millions of miles away. It should be out by the end of the year.
Captain Justin Thorn is hired to transport equipment and supplies to a mining colony on the moon. When they arrive, Thorn and his crew discover a shocking secret that could jeopardize all life on earth. On their return ship they find that their ship has been sabotaged, leaving them unable to return to Earth without burning up in the atmosphere. Trapped in orbit and with time and air running out, they attempt a daring maneuver that could either save their lives or kill them all.
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Beyond the Horizon follows Ensign Maya Davis during humanity’s first interstellar exploration. When you first sat down to write this story, did you know where you were going, or did the twists come as you were writing?
Both / all of the above. Before I start writing a book, I always have a premise in mind. I usually have a good idea about how the novel will start and end. I pretty much know where I want to go because I have a high-level plan for the themes I want to explore in a given book series. However, even though I’m pretty clear on the beginning, end, and a handful of scenes in between, I don’t often know how I’m going to connect the dots until I’m in the act of writing.
For example, in Beyond the Horizon, I knew I wanted to use some clever aspects of time travel to drive and resolve some of the conflicts in the book. However, it actually wasn’t until the second or third draft that I came up with Maya’s clever realizations that help save the day. The rough draft of the story had a number of unresolved plot issues.
Maya gets a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore interstellar space while her aunt Brooke suffers with inner turmoil regarding her past. What were the morals you were trying to capture while creating your characters?
One of the fundamental tenants of my writing is to craft conflicts that pit morally-ambiguous agenda vs. morally-ambiguous agenda. I don’t write about good vs. evil because, in my opinion, that’s not representative of real life. Plus, good vs. evil is too black-and-white–too straightforward. Writing about the gray areas of life yield much more dynamic conflict.
One of the specific questions that underlies the theme of the books in the Beyond Saga is do the ends justify the means? It’s not a new dilemma, but it’s one that shall never have an easy answer.
The one thing that matters to Brooke as much as her career or flying is her niece, Maya. Thus, Brooke will stop at nothing to rescue her niece even though she has to take some morally questionable actions to accomplish that goal.
As for the Vril, the surreptitious terrorist organization manipulating things behind the scenes, they seek to ultimately save the human race. It’s not only a noble goal but a critical one. However, if the Vril intend to sacrifice another intelligent race to save mankind, is that taking things too far? Do humans deserve to survive any more than any other race? The catch phrase for the novel, “Extinction or genocide . . . us or them?” encapsulates this question.
In the face of all the moral ambiguity, Maya embodies the not-so ambiguous side of right. Shielded from the darker sides of society all her life by her Aunt Brooke, she believes in the good in people. She’s optimistic and excited about the future. The rest of the Beyond Saga is about her illusions being shattered. She has to find a balance between her optimism and doing what’s necessary when morally questionable acts are required for survival.
One thing I really enjoyed about this novel was the effort you put into describing the technological advancements. They were all interesting, ingenious, and well described. What was your favorite tech to write for and what was the inspiration?
There are quite a few pieces of fun yet plausible tech in the Beyond Saga. One of the reasons I write science fiction is because real possibilities for the real future are what get me excited.
For now, I’ll pick the wave gun. The handheld tool/weapon is definitely a next gen type of device. Powered by an antimatter battery, it’s capable of destabilizing/shattering matter at the molecular level, using sonic levitation to make things float, causing objects to spontaneously combust, and much more. The gun gets its namesake from how it uses different wave effects (sound waves, gravity waves, electromagnetic waves, etc.) to achieve its results.
The wave gun helps Maya out of some sticky situations in book 2, Beyond the Horizon. In book 3, Beyond Yesterday, the gun gains even greater significance because of what its capabilities could’ve been used for by aliens in Earth’s past.
Where does book three, Beyond Yesterday, in the Beyond Saga take readers?
Beyond Yesterday picks up ten years after the events of Beyond the Horizon. After Maya earns a promotion to captain, she takes command of the space-time vessel Yesterday and travels 200,000 years into the past to learn the origins of the piece of ancient human technology she found on an alien world (in book 2). Meanwhile, the consequences of Brooke’s spark (drug) use finally catch up to her. And the level of conflict between the two women reaches new heights as they take opposing approaches to the dilemma in the book.
Humanity’s First Interstellar Exploration
Ensign Maya Davis has had her sights set on the captaincy of a starship since she launched her first toy rocket into Earth orbit as a child. After four years of study at the new Interstellar Expeditionary Force Academy, Maya achieves her lifelong dream of exploring the stars. She earns a commission aboard humanity’s first deep space exploration vessel, New Horizons.
˃˃˃ A Desperate Situation
Not long after New Horizons departs the solar system, sabotage cripples the ship killing a third of the crew and stranding the expedition light years from home under the siege of hostile forces. Only junior officers are left to command the ship. Without knowing who she can trust, Maya must risk her life to get the crew home and prevent the genocide of the very exospecies New Horizons set out to contact.
˃˃˃ The Conspiracy Back Home
Forty-two-year-old civilian flight instructor Brooke Davis, Maya’s aunt and former UN Aerospace Defense pilot, receives a disturbing visit from a covert operative. The visit prompts Brooke to head to the Martian south polar ocean, where she learns how a secret society known as The Vril manipulated the current political and social climate into being. She also uncovers the society’s nefarious agenda regarding New Horizons’ voyage. With time running out, Brooke races to save her niece light years away.
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