The Rhine is an exciting space opera following a dramatic chain of events set off by the Free Mars Now movement. What served as sources of inspiration for you while writing this book?
The Harmony series is based off of a 15 year old TV script that I wrote about Martian independence, the novel form is its third incarnation. That script was inspired by the TV show Babylon 5. I wanted to explore Mars more thoroughly; what is the impetus for the movement for independence, who are the leaders, what is their endgame?
We follow three very well developed characters in this story where their actions intertwine. What were some driving ideals behind their characters?
Mat is the ‘everyman’ or ‘average guy’ that suddenly finds himself in circumstances beyond his control, and in this capacity he is simply ‘reacting’ to what is happening. This was a deliberate design of character. Every one of us can relate to being ‘tossed’ into something that we must deal with- circumstances not of our own choosing. This also works as a forge for our own character, who we really are will come out. I think of all character archetypes, this is my favorite.
While it may be said that the UN (in my story) is the catalyst- their oppression of Mars setting everything in motion- the character of Alexandria is the one that sets the story off. She is my ‘grey’ character; a family woman, yet ambitious. In her case I wanted to explore those traits, how to balance ‘work’ and family. She loves her family, and seeing a world in the grip of government powers that live for greed, she decides to do something about it.
As the Governor of Mars, Shultz is completely dedicated to his people, but as the story progresses we see he’s in over his head. We hear so much about bad politicians, I thought I would shift the paradigm and make a good one.
You’ve built an intricate world in this book, between Earth and Mars and the corporations. What was the funnest part about building this world?
For me it’s the visualization. In a previous review of the book it was stated that I ‘lavish on detail’, and the reason for that is that I just write what I see. If Shultz and Jung are in his office talking, I imagine the office’s sights and sounds and smells. The same holds true for the Sadie’s corridors and cabins, or Apex’s boardroom.
This is book one in the Harmony series. Where will book two pick up and when will it be available?
Harmony Book 2: ‘Year of the Child’ picks up two months after the events in ‘The Rhine’, opening with Misaki. I expect it to be available by November 2019.
The colony depends on Earth businesses for goods, but Earth is run by an imperialistic United Nations whose regulations and sanctions are overbearing.
Increasing tensions are only exacerbated by suspicious pirate attacks in the Belt. It is rumored the attacks are the work of the Free Mars Now grassroots movement or privateers paid by the Martian government in defiance of the UN. Recent victims of a pirate attack, Mat and his crew aboard the Sadie, discover evidence that could prove the rumors true.
With the UN squeezing the colony for every dime they can get, and Shultz looking to better the Martian situation, there are deals to be made. No one knows that better than Apex Mining’s CEO, Alexandria Reinhardt, whose Board of Directors has ordered her to sell their ore to the Martians despite a UN embargo. Her plans are more ambitious than simply ignoring government decrees, though.
Will the Free Mars Now movement find a way to release the colony from their 100-year lease to Earth? Can Shultz find a way to work with Earth companies without angering their government? Does Mat possess enough evidence to prove Mars’ disloyalty? And … in the past what happens when you push a distant colony too far?
The Martians have been ‘enslaved’ by earth for many years and they want their freedom back. It’s rumored that a movement has been formed to rebel against the UN. A movement thought to be behind the pirate attacks in the Belt including one on the Sadie. Matt and his crew may have found proof of this rebellion. The question remains though, is the evidence enough? Will it prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the rebellion is led by Martians? Can Governor Gerhard Schultz find a solution to the difficult situation? Can the governor find reprieve for Martians without going against the UN? How will Apex Mining CEO go about being forced to go against the government?
One of the most enjoyable things about this book is that it is quite relatable. While the real United Nations is (probably) not like the one in the book. One can still compare the colonialism in the book to the neocolonialism that is rampant now. One can find the similarity in Alexandria’s position with that which is faced by many people in her position. The Rhine is both interesting and entertaining while speaking to many modern issues.
R. L. Dean is impeccable and his skills at painting word pictures is on full display. He easily pulls you into his story, and before you know it your in the deep end of a thought provoking science fiction novel. This is a thrilling novel that kept me engrossed from the moment I met Matt to the very end. This science fiction story, although set in the future and in space, is still believable, which is something I always look for in my sci-fi stories.
Matt is a good leader that gets along with his crew but also remains firm and well respected. Alexandria, like any other child who takes over from their esteemed parent, is misunderstood and underestimated. She is admirable in the way she handles Edgar. R. L. Dean is able to balance the characters just enough to understand who they are while still keeping an air of mystery around them.
Everything from descriptions to dialogue are succinct and engrossing. Or it could be that the book was so immensely enjoyed that the discrepancies faded into the background. I loved experiencing the ride with Matt, Yuri and Haydon, and it was enlightening to be in the boardroom with Alexandria giving glimpses into her home life.
At the heart of it, this book is about freedom and how to achieve it. Would you like to achieve freedom through aggression or would you like to be more civil about it?
Pages: 273 | ASIN: B07LD2CQ11
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Intrepid continues to follow Justin Thorn as he struggles to make his way back to Earth on a damaged ship while fighting many of space’s deadly hazards. What were some themes you felt you had to carry over from Pegasus and what were some things you wanted to do differently in this book?
I wanted to expand the universe in which the story takes place by sending the crew to Mars this time instead of the moon. In Pegasus they could at least see Earth, but now they’re millions of miles from home in a crippled ship, so the perils are much greater. It increases the level of danger and makes the stakes so much higher. We’d already established in the first book that there is a scientific outpost on Mars and that Thorn’s former girlfriend is a scientist there. What would he do if he found out that she was in danger? How far would he go to try and save her? Not only is she in danger, he’s risking his life and his beloved ship to try and rescue her.
There is a rich backstory in this book, wars and dissolution have rearranged much of old Earth. How did you set about developing the backstory for this book?
Many stories set in the future feature a world that’s bleak and depressing, with people struggling to survive in a world that’s falling apart. Often the world has become a kind of a junkyard. I wanted to create a future that’s more hopeful. Even though there have been series of conflicts that brought us to this point, it’s a world where life has become much simpler. With large cities gone and the population significantly smaller, Earth has begun to repair itself, and the air and water have become less polluted. I feel it’s a more hopeful vision of the future, but not because technology has saved us, but because we’ve let nature take its course.
When developing a series, readers often know that the main character is immune from deadly danger. How did you solve this problem in your book to keep the tension high?
I knew that in order to make the danger feel real, some of the characters had to perish. I didn’t want the reader to get too comfortable with anyone because at any moment any character could be gone. Thorn himself is put in real danger several times, and I think there’s always the possibility that he could die as well, and someone else could take over as pilot and captain of his ship.
Will you continue the Justin Thorn series with a third and possibly fourth book? If so where do you want those books to take Justin?
This book was originally intended to be the third in the series. In the second one, Thorn was to come into possession of something that a lot of people want and are trying to acquire. It was supposed to be one long chase as Thorn tries to figure out why these people want this thing and how to stop them. Unfortunately, I didn’t what that thing was, so I decided to do the third book instead. It wasn’t until I was halfway through Intrepid that I realized what the object was that everyone was after, so the next book continues the story that’s set up in this one. And the third book then sets up a fourth.
All contact with the scientific outpost on Mars has been lost. The Federal Space Administration is sending the spaceship Intrepid on a desperate rescue mission, and they’ve commandeered Captain Justin Thorn’s ship Pegasus to use as a shuttle to the surface. But when they arrive on Mars, things go horribly wrong and the ship is severly damaged. Now millions of miles from home, the survivors must find a way to get themselves and their crippled ship back to Earth before their food and time run out.
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Ken Cressman’s book, Intrepid, is a futuristic adventure set mostly in space. We follow main character, Justin Thorn, and his engineer friend, Steven Wilson, as they take on a mission they never could have seen coming. Wars have broken out over race, religion, and even sports teams, dividing the United States. Martial Law has been declared. Military branches have dissolved, and the leftover scraps have been joined together to form the Military Defense Force. Justin, a former MDF pilot, has an anti-gravity capable ship named Pegasus pieced together from former military aircrafts, and the feds want it. Justin won’t let his ship leave without him. He volunteers to set out toward Mars. The mission is unclear. They will either fix faulty communication devices, rescue the nine people on the planet, or retrieve bodies. One of the nine is Justin’s ex and the love of his life, and all they know is there has been no communication between Mars and the Space Agency for months.
This is an edge-of-your-seat kind of book. Whatever can go wrong, does go wrong. A whole different set of obstacles is present during space travel than here on earth. Gravity, anti-gravity, air pressure and breathability, depleting food and fuel levels, meteor showers. It seems like every time things start going smoothly, something goes catastrophically wrong. Between Justin and Steven, they might as well have MacGyver on board though. They put their heads together to take on every problem that arises. The problems leave you woeful for the exhausted characters, but it keeps the excitement high. Risks are high, but so are rewards.
Justin is a loveable character. He is sort of a self-made man. He was a pilot with the military, but is now self-employed. He has taken advantage of the latest technology, and has built a ship equipped with anti-gravs (anti-gravity). He basically has formed a transport service, zooming goods around the globe. He does have space experience, and that comes into play when the Mars mission presents itself. He is also loyal. He doesn’t want to take the job if it means leaving Steven, his engineer and general know-it-all and problem-solver, behind. He also feels the need to be part of the team that goes to check on Kelsey, a member of the Mars research team who is also his former girlfriend and current love. Justin bravely puts his life on the line more than once for the good of the crew and the mission.
The book is packed with cutting-edge futuristic technology. Maia is also on board. Maia is an artificial intelligence computer system. Maia is ever-present and a pivotal tool when obstacles arise. Cressman does an excellent job of explaining the more technical parts of the book, including Maia. Technological advances are broken down where someone who is not scientifically or technically inclined can understand everything easily.
The element of the unknown also plays a big role in Intrepid. Space is vast and unimaginable without a million problems. The crew has no idea what they will find when they get to Mars. Will the research team all be dead? Will they find anything at all? Will there be a simple fix to their communication equipment? Will they walk into some sort of ambush? Will anyone make it back to Earth alive? The reader will find themselves questioning every next step as they follow the crew on their mission.
Ken Cressman makes everything so relatable and readable. It is technical at times, but the technology is effectively explained. I was all but biting my nails as the story progressed. I’d like to read more Cressman work.
Pages: 286 | ASIN: B07BB6R7YR
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Return of the Sagan follows a bookish young man as he wrangles his crew on a mission to save Earth and humanity. What served as your inspiration while writing this story?
As a prehistoric archaeologist, I have long dreamed of exploration of the cosmos and the past. My fieldwork centered on digging into the deep past for which no written records have surfaced. I can’t begin to explain how overpowering it is to uncover mysteries through digging and analyzing artifacts. It is a job that takes considerable time and patience as if you dig to deep, you can easily destroy valuable information. We only get one shot, so we have to be careful. For those interested in archaeology, I encourage them to see if local museums or colleges are operating excavations and having volunteer days – that way you can experience archaeology and avoid damaging/losing critical information. As for studying the cosmos, my wife already told me I can’t go to Mars 😞
As for the timing of the novel, my beloved Uncle Paul Leary was battling cancer so I wrote the story with him as a main character. He was able to read some of the story before he passed. My writing could never do justice to the lovely man that Uncle Paul had always been. We all miss him terribly.
Francis is a book worm that loves to quote his favorite authors. Is this an extension of yourself or did you have to research these quotes?
Totally me. Francis is named after my brother, Francis Aloysius O’Donnell. He was my parents’ first child who died at birth. I have often wondered what he would be like. Given my brother Ned and I (along with my sisters Moe and Sandi) can quote fantasy and scifi books all day long, it just seemed to fit that Francis would also be a bookworm like the rest of us. Mom and Dad were veracious readers and constantly encouraged us to read whenever we had the chance. Probably my favorite quote all-time is from Tolkien: “not all who wander are lost.”
The re-population of some of the world’s endangered animals was beautiful to visualize. What scenes did you have the most fun writing?
The mastodons and dire wolfs. I am a prehistoric archaeologist, and my specialty is in the woodlands of North Eastern North America. The people I studied lived side by side with Mastodons and the only reasonable prehistoric predator to suit the story, prehistory and climate was the dire wolf. After the book was published was when I saw Game of Thrones, a show I adore. I got the first season as a gift and then proceeded to watch the first three seasons over the course of two weeks. I then read the books after. I wish I would have encountered GOT before I wrote my novel as I would not have included dire wolves. I have referenced other extinct species from North America in my books before, particularly giant sloth, but for a predator in SAGAN, I would just conjure up something other than wolves because of GOT, though wolves are prehistorically accurate for the area and dire wolves would really be the only predator to fit the circumstances in the story. I did very much enjoy Francis’ stand on the bridge – total throwback to the Bridge of Khazad-dum. When I was a kid, my older brother Ned was devastated when Gandalf fell in the Fellowship of the Ring. Thankfully he read the next book quickly and was ecstatic to say the least. Gandalf’s stand was just so moving. When I got to the bridge standoff in SAGAN, I couldn’t help but make that connection.
Do you think you will write more stories about the crew of the USS Carl Sagan, or continue Francis’s story in some way?
I already have plans to write the story of the initial crew of the Sagan that left Earth centuries earlier. As for Francis, I have contemplated his leading the building of a ship and a subsequent sea voyage, but I have many other projects that need to be finished first.
300 years ago, USS Carl Sagan blasted off from overpopulated Earth in search of survival. Returning to Earth, the USS Carl Sagan finds humanity now extinct and Earth populated by deadly, once extinct pre-historic predators.
What disaster eradicated mankind? Was it man-made or of natural origin? One thing for certain: survival for the USS Carl Sagan and its crew will difficult at best, as while humans are no longer inhabit the Earth , they left behind deadly machines to guard the airspace against space invaders. The commander and the crew of the returning Earth ship will have to overcome those unexpected fool-proof sentries. And the machines are not the only obstacles for the travel-weary men and women of USS Carl Sagan to overcome. If they want to re-inhabit Earth.
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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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Adam’s Stepsons follows Dr. Heimann as he designs the perfect soldiers for the United America’s in their war against the Martian colonies. What was your inspiration for the setup to this interesting science fiction story?
At the time I wrote the kernel of the story, I was working in a used bookstore and devouring all the short stories and novels by Phillip K Dick and Robert Heinlein that I could lay hands on. I was (and still am) fascinated by questions of “what is reality?” but I was (and still am) also intrigued by the question “who am I?” not only in terms of shared realities and perceptions but also ethnicities, religions, and personal relationships within the family. The sense of self is inextricably bound with community and history; my own family history, for example, is filled with generation after generation of soldier in nearly every major conflict since the 1680s. So I knew that I wanted the story of Dr. Heimann and his clones to take place during a military conflict of some sort. The US made it to the Moon first, so I figured any Moon Base would be set up by a future version of the US. But the rising powers of India and China would necessarily lead to competition and colonial expansion elsewhere in space. So I based the UAAF on the Moon, India on the ISS, and China (basically) on Mars. But something has gone wrong, as it usually does, and that sets off the conflict.
I should point out that, when I initially plotted the story and sketched out the characters, Dolly the Sheep hadn’t been announced, Battlestar Galactica was a late ’70s TV show starring Lorne Greene, and “The Clone Wars” still consisted of a single line spoken by Obi-Wan Kenobi. So as much as I’d love to say that I got the idea for soldier clones from the current zeitgeist, the underlying premise of Adam’s Stepsons actually predates the trend. My high school library had beat-up copies of Nancy Freedman’s Joshua, Son of None, and Ben Bova’s The Multiple Man, so it’s likely I internalized elements from those stories and subconsciously reproduced them in my own story.
Dr. Heimann and one of his cloned soldiers, Seth, have an intriguing relationship that becomes very deep. What were the driving ideals that drove the characters development throughout the story?
Dr. Heimann prides himself on his scientific bent of mind, but he struggles to cope to grips with the fact that he basically has no family left, and as Seth grows and begins to develop a real emotional attachment, the doctor desperately tries to push away the feelings he had for the person Seth is clone of. Meanwhile Seth has been trained (“brainwashed,” as the doctor puts it) to be an efficient killing machine, and his need for order compels him to seek out and eliminate anything unknown or unreasonable. Yet he, himself, can’t help feeling strong conflicting emotions, first toward the doctor and then toward his fellow clones. Both characters are driven to discover, deep down, who they really are as people, outside their rigid societal roles as scientist and soldier. Dr. Heimann knows that Seth is not his real son, but can’t help treating his stepson’s clone familiarly because it reminds him of what he has lost. Seth has been “programmed” not to think of anything other than army orders, but he can’t shake the sense that there is more to who he is as a person. Finding out he is a clone, and who his “brothers” are, is the trigger for the final confrontation.
Science fiction has always asked the ‘what if’ questions, but I feel that your novel went a step further. What were some ideals you used in building your story?
My original intention was to investigate not just the “what if” of human cloning (i.e., how would this be done? how would the clones grow physically and mentally?) but also the “what is self?” to a cloned human being. The scientists argue that personality is partly inherited and partly environmental; so if you were to make several different clones of one person and then controlled the information input, they would all become the same person. But personality also consists of emotional attachments made with other human beings on a deeper social level. Human beings are social animals; we need other humans to survive and thrive, and without others we have no clear sense of who we are and what our purpose is. So in order to examine this in a futuristic setting like a clone facility on the Moon, I needed to have a reason for making clones in the first place, plus other people who would provide the clones with that social environment. Once that was established, the real question became “Is what we’re doing morally ethical?” The military paying for the clones display classic cognitive dissonance, by using people they claim are not really people but know they actually are, in order to win what they call a morally righteous war but actually is destroying their entire society. Yet the General clearly also feels a sense of internal conflict, feeling obligated to protect every member under his command, including the clones, and also knowing through his friendship with Dr. Heimann who the clone really is and how this might affect his friend. Ultimately, I was interested in making sure none of the characters were typical “scifi” stereotypes, that they had ideals but were deeply flawed people, and ultimately would find themselves trying to make the best of what basically could turn out to be a lose-lose situation in the end.
What is the next book that you’re working on and when will it be available?
Right now I have a couple of projects I’m working on in various stages, but the one most closely related to Adam’s Stepsons is a metaphysical science fiction series set mostly on Mars. The first book is called Bringer of Light; a crew of ethnically diverse and somewhat misfit asteroid hunters recovers an extra solar object from beyond the solar system, experiences physical and spiritual changes, and ultimately becomes the new leaders of the united Mars colonies as they break away from the old political chaos of Earth and form a new society. The story combines hard science with various mystical systems of belief, ethnic and religious sense of self and identity, and international/interspacial political intrigue. I’m about a third the way through the initial draft; the aim is to finish writing by the end of summer 2017, and have an edited, polished manuscript done by spring 2018. The next two books (Defenders of Aeropagus and Return to Omphales) have already been outlined and plotted.
Dr. Johann Heimann designed the perfect soldiers: superhuman in strength and intelligence, immune to sickness and disease, programmed to lead the United Americas to a quick victory in the Mars Colony War. But Heimann didn’t anticipate the military’s unrealistic demands, or his own emotional responses to his creations. And now Number Six is calling him “Father”! What exactly is going on during the clones’ personality imprinting cycle? As Heimann starts his investigation, Number Six grows in confidence and self-awareness…and both discover the project hides a secret even Heimann, himself, doesn’t suspect…
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Adam’s Stepsons by M. Thomas Apple is an interesting science fiction piece. We follow Dr. Heimann who designs the perfect super soldiers for the United America’s in their war against the Martian colonies. Heimann quickly discovers that he did not anticipate the brutal efficiency of the military, nor the attachment that arises from his creations. These clones are not only the peak of what the human form can do, they actually transcend humanity through intelligence and strength. They are the weapon that the United Americas will use to crush the rebellion on Mars. Dr. Heimann is shocked when one clone, Six, begins to call him “Father” and then the can of worms truly opens.
Apple’s novel is almost painfully short, only because I wanted to have more to read and dive into. He anticipates the future of inter-solar system colonization and the struggles that can arise, such as this between the United Americas and the Martian colonies. He does not neglect the complicated matter here or the scope considering the Terran governing force is losing the war and needs these clones to pan out.
The struggle between scientist and soldier is an old one, but one that takes on a new twist with the rise of cloned super soldiers. Apple goes along the lines of Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, but does not seek to critique war itself. Instead, the author goes further and asks whether these soldiers are “truly” human or are they just “equipment” as the military officer Marquez calls them.
The conflict deepens even further when “Seth”, clone number six, as Dr. Heimann calls him when no one else is around, begins to call him “father”. The book bounces between the POV’s of the scientist and Six, which is interesting because as the book goes on Heimann becomes more and more unstable and uncertain of his mission of designing soldiers, who resemble the people that their genetic material comes from. Six, or rather, “Seth” becomes increasingly more confident in his abilities and his intelligence. All of this leads to a climax that may polarize readers, but one that will still make the reader ponder on far after they have finished the novel.
Overall, I enjoyed Apple’s prose. It reads crisp like that of Asimov or Heinlein, but I am still unsure if the short length of the work was appropriate. There is a lot of dialogue and not enough actual “action” going on throughout, so I was expecting more digging into the rich themes of personhood and philosophy of the soul. I realize that may be asking too much.
Adam’s Stepsons is a fun addition to the long canon of science fiction that dares to ask the “what if” of the future. It also seeks to ask the “should we, if we can” question that not enough science fiction is retrospective enough to ask. A good read for any science fiction lover, especially of the Heinlein or Asimov variety.
Pages: 92 | ASIN: B06XJRT8CS
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