Book Review: Dark Space Universe – The Enemy Within by Jasper T. Scott

“Perhaps Jasper’s greatest gift is his ability to yank readers out of their stream of thought by introducing a plot twist that leaves them flopping on the river bank …”

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Jasper T. Scott is an accomplished science fiction author evidenced by the tens of thousands of books he has sold over the last few years. His stories include plenty of action and suspense, but they aren’t dominated by it. Philosophical and spiritual issues are neatly woven into his plots. He doesn’t preach to the reader—far from it. Instead, he creates situations that allow the reader to raise questions in his or her own mind.

I’ve always been impressed by his respect for science in his fiction. For example, in his most recent trilogy, Dark Space Universe, the shape and extent of the universe is a plot point that he develops based on current scientific theories, and in an interesting way.

Perhaps Jasper’s greatest gift is his ability to yank readers out of their stream of thought by introducing a plot twist that leaves them flopping on the river bank saying, “I didn’t see that coming.” Yet, the hints were always there. Chubby Checker has nothing on Scott.

Dark Space Universe – The Enemy Within, Book 2 in the series, is scheduled to be released on August 17, 2017. As a structural editor, I had the great pleasure of reading an early draft and will say this, “It’s a great book, six stars, at least, and maybe Scott’s best, yet.”

So, get caught up. Buy Dark Space Universe (Book 1) or read it for free with Kindle Unlimited here.

Exodus by Jasper T. Scott – Review

First the Blub:

THIS INTERSTELLAR VOYAGE MIGHT BE OUR LAST

With androids in control of Earth, and humans relegated to colonies on Mars and the outer planets, tensions are rising, and war looks inevitable. Looking for a way to escape the looming conflict, Alexander and Catalina de Leon board the Liberty with 70,000 other colonists on a voyage to Proxima Centauri, but it’s going to take them nine years to reach their destination, and a lot can happen in that time. As the trip progresses, everything that can happen does, and what was meant to be a monotonous voyage becomes a fight for survival against mysterious forces that threaten not only the passengers and crew, but the entire human race.

Review:

Scott brings a philosophical glint to all of his books, which puts them a step above the typical in my mind. He’s not an erudite lecturer, however. The novel is gripping and full of twists and surprises. The action scenes are heart thumping and suspenseful, and human interactions are believable, often humorous and sometimes emotional. Readers of Scott’s Dark Space series will enjoy the tie-in to that story line, but new readers won’t be hampered by the references at all. I got a kick out of the not-so-subtle allusion to the UFO community’s ideas.

Conclusion:

A hearty 4 ½ starts.

Disclosures:

I had the pleasure to be a structural editor on this novel but I am under no obligation to review it.

The Peanut Encounter #amwriting

Peanut.pngA peanut shaped planetoid came into focus on Sci-Tech Mason’s optic viewer. She compared the sensor information to her data cache and mentally engaged a comm-link, “LT, we’re there.”

“Thank you, Connie. I’ll join you soon.”

Lieutenant Jasper Gregson sat at a foldout desk in his quarter’s editing a message to his wife. He sat back and read it one more time.

It’s been six months since I took command of PC-109. I have to admit I was nervous as hell to have a command on my own, even a lowly Patrol Craft, but I’ve loved it. My crew’s great. We’ve arrested three smugglers and destroyed a pirate base without killing a soul.  I’m proud of them.

The crew is cross-trained, of course. Our long distance missions require it, but some perform better than others in their secondary roles. Ensign Connie Mason, my exec, could handle the boat by herself if she had to, but she couldn’t hit Phobos with an asteroid from a hundred yards. Don’t tell her I said it, though. Pilot-Navigator Trout is green, but he shows promise.

Gunnery Sergeant Emily Rutherford, could hit a watermelon at a hundred miles and make an AU drive purr with her smile, but she couldn’t pilot the boat through a hole the size of Sol.

Medic and comm-tech, Dave Klunker, is quite a character and good for morale. He’s a trusted medic and knows the comms, but he shines as a volunteer cook and makes a mean rodent chili. In a world of Nutripaks, he’s a godsend; however, don’t let him near the engines.

Chief Machinist Mate, Stephen Duggan, has been a great resource to me. I respect his experience and counsel. He can do it all to hear him talk, and he probably could if he didn’t scare the crew with his manner. Everything he says sounds like a snarl, but he’s a puppy in wolf’s clothing. And, get this he’s a confirmed vegan—no rodent chili for him. Oh, and he’s amazing with a rail cannons. All in all, I’ve got a tight-knit crew, ready to do their jobs.

I can’t say much about our mission because Mars Confederation is paranoid about security these days. I don’t expect it to be very exciting, though.  Hug the girls for me. I’ll see you soon.

Love, J.

Jasper sent the message and hoped it would clear MC security.

***

Jasper walked through the bulkhead door and said, “At ease.”

“Why do you always say at-ease when you enter the bridge LT?” Trout asked.

“Connie, is our PN as naive as his question?”

“I’m afraid so LT.” PN Rob Trout had been onboard only a month. He stared at Connie trying to figure out how he’d screwed up this time. “Trout, let me explain. If the LT joins us and doesn’t say at-ease, one of us better say captain on the bridge and come to attention.”

“But LT, you’re not a steel-neck,” Trout said.

“Your next CO might be, and it would reflect poorly on me if you’re a screw-up. What’s our status, Connie?”

“Active scans limited to five hundred miles, as ordered. The planetoid meets all expected criteria for 5152. No scan or communication signals have been detected. We’re a hundred miles away and snuggling an M-type asteroid ten times our mass.”

“Thank you, Connie. Turn off active scans but maintain passives.”

“Aye, sir.”

Jasper opened the boat-wide comm-link. “Klunker, Rutherford, and Chief Duggan link up and listen in.” Their acknowledgments flashed on his optic-viewer. “Mars Confederation believes that Earth Federation plans to establish a forward observation post in the Belt on planetoid 5152,  a.k.a. Peanut. If they do, it will breach the Luna Treaty. It’s our mission to observe and report to Ceres by point-to-point hyper-pulse if we encounter the EF.”

“LT, we’ve only got a hand-full of kinetic torpedoes and the quad-rail cannon. What do we do if EF shows up in force?” Trout asked.

Connie spoke first, “Change your underwear.”

***

Connie activated the general alarm and comm-linked Jasper.  “LT, it’s my best guess that a large ship is four to five hundred miles out, standby for gravimetric and optic analysis.”

Jasper had taken his command chair before Connie stopped talking. “Klunker standby for Connie’s data feed and triple check your target intersect. You may not have time to adjust the Ceres coordinates if things go sideways. And, include a no-reply-command. I don’t want EF to know we’re here.”

“Aye, aye sir.”

 

The gravimetric analysis proved Connie’s educated guess to be wrong.  A fleet of ships was a thousand miles out and closing fast. “Connie, can you identify the individual ships?”

“Not yet, LT. They’re moving too fast for my analyzer. Give me thirty minutes. They should slow enough by then, provided Peanut is their destination.”

“This isn’t a simple observation post,” Jasper said.

“The EF has never liked Mars and the Belt being independent,” Connie responded.

“True, but Earth’s bureaucrats had accepted it because it was cheaper than war. Something has changed,” Jasper said.

 

Connie fought to keep her voice professional. “LT, we’re facing a reinforced Fighter-Bomber Carrier group. Eight ships in all, the carrier, plus a light cruiser, four destroyers, and two supply ships.

“Emily, how many ships can you disable?”

“I’ve got six remote torpedoes. If I have time to position the torps accurately, I should be able to take out six,” Emily said.

“That’s too risky. Reserve one of them. Target the carrier with three, and create as much confusion as you can with the other two.”

Emily smiled and answered, “Give me some time to study the threat board and I’ll soon have them turning in circles looking for their butts.”

“Chief, how close to our asteroid can we be when we engage the AU drive?”

“By the book, LT?” Chief Duggan asked.

“Hell no, Chief! MC sent us on a suicide mission, but we aren’t going to die if I can help it.”

“Give me three miles and you can engage the AU, but we might miss Ceres.”

“We’ll worry about that later. Klunker, add the following to the hyper-pulse message: ‘Sit-Rep: Lt. Gregson: EF deployment is an attempt to blockade Ceres, Vesta, and Ganymede from reinforcing Mars. Mars is the primary target.’”

“Aye, LT. Will they believe you?”

“I hope so because Mars is about to be thumped hard.”

“The point-to-point is ready LT,” Klunker reported.

“Send it.” Jasper noticed Connie’s comm-link blinking again. “Go Connie.”

“LT, there’s a second fleet appearing on the scans.”

“Connie! That’s not funny.”

Connie laughed. It relaxed her and everyone else.

Jasper opened the boat comm-link. “Alright everybody, the ballet begins. Stay calm and follow the plan until it turns to crap, then do what you all do best, improvise.  Standby for H-hour minus 75, and on my mark engage the diversionary measures.” Jasper said.

“Aye, sir. H-hour, minus 75, acknowledged,” Emily said.

On his mark, two torpedoes, under nav-thrust control only, floated away from the boat at modest velocity. They were unlikely to be noticed by the EF. At least, that was the plan. Little by little, the torps would flank the left and right sides of the EF forces and reduce the range to their targets in the process.

Time crawled for the Jasper.

“Connie, update the EF position,” Jasper said twenty minutes later. He could look at his optic viewer but wanted to hear the information.

“Wait one…they’re 283.5 miles from our position. The flotilla is slowing more than expected, and the carrier should arrive at Peanut at H-hour plus 10. The lead destroyers are ahead by 15 minutes.”

“Emily, I need a new fire-solution.”

“Aye, LT…”

“Emily?”

“Sorry LT. I have a new solution. I need to release the carrier torps 15 minutes early, and to increase the nav-thrust acceleration by 5%.”

“Won’t that put Peanut in the way?”

“Not if I switch to a conical launch pattern. Peanut will provide cover for a time and the torp attack angles will be difficult for their defenses.”

“Make it happen.”

“Aye, sir.” Emily released the attack torpedoes ten minutes later. They formed a cone as they neared their prey.

***

H-hour minus one minute, Connie called out. Trout stood by to engage his docking thrusters so that PC 109 could float away from its more massive neighbor. And Duggan took his battle station at the quad-cannon.

“On my mark,” Jasper said.

Emily exploded the left-flank torpedo with a shaped beam that sent a wall of debris from an iron rich asteroid toward a supply ship. As she hoped, it didn’t take defensive maneuvers. However it, and its sister ships slowed down. Her second shaped beam sent a small mountain toward the Cruiser on the right flank, again no defensive reaction because the explosion had been blocked from their sensors. So far so good, Jasper thought as he watched his monitor.

But it didn’t last. Twenty miles from Mr. Peanut, six EF MB-51 fighters launched and passed the planetoid at high speed, apparently on a recon mission. PC-109 was doomed if the MBs spotted them. “Emily, we’ve got bees looking for our pollen, can you initiate your attack on the carrier?”

“Not yet, LT. I need five minutes or their point defenses will block my attack.”

“Can you divert an attack torpedo to take out the bees?”

Emily studied the threat board. “No sir, but I could use our reserve torp.”

“Not yet,” Jasper said. He’d feared she’d say that. He meant the final torpedo to create a diversion so they could engage the AU drives before the carrier took them out. Timing would be tighter than a new cadet’s sphincter because the AU needed three minutes to power up.

“Emily, get ready to…wait-one. Go, Connie.”

“Four of the fighters have peeled off. It looks like they’re going to investigate Emily’s distractions. The remaining two are slowing and fanning out. They’re actively pinging and brighter than sparklers at a Mars Day party on our sensors. ”

“Do you see them Chief?”

“Aye, LT. They stand out like my wife’s nipples in a cold shower.”

“Focus Chief. Your job is to deflate those nipples before they can attack.”

Emily’s cone torpedoes were floating toward their launch points. Once ignited it would be a competition between her timing and the EF crew’s training. PC-109 cleared the three-mile point, and Jasper initiated the AU warmup.

“Trout, launch a camera drone programmed to observe Peanut for an hour and then return to Ceres.”

“Aye, sir. Drone is away.”

The ship shook as Duggan engaged an EF fighter. The attack run began when the AU started to warm up. Emily saw it and launched her final torpedo, but not at the fighters.

“Trout, get us out of here,” Jasper ordered.

“I’m not in position for Ceres.”

“I don’t care. Engage the AU as soon as possible.”

The final torpedo exploded. A brilliant sphere of red, green and violet formed as thousands of armor-piercing chunks flew from the torpedo and vaporized an ice asteroid that blinded the carrier’s sensors and took out one MB at the same time.

Chief Duggan watched the second fighter’s approach, anticipated where it would be, and fired a barrage of iridium alloy slugs. The fighter launched a missile an instant before it turned into a yellow ball of plasma. “Incoming,” he yelled. The AU engaged as he caught his breath only to lose it again under the AU’s acceleration.

***

“Where are we, Rob?” Jasper asked.

“Captain, you didn’t call me Trout.”

“No, I didn’t. You’re Rob on this boat from now on. You did well.”

“Thank you, sir. We’re equidistant between Mars and Ceres. What are your orders?”

“As much as I’d like to go home, Mars needs our help. Set a course for Port Phobos.”


(c) 2016 David P. Cantrell contributor and staff member of EWI

Five Star Review: Deep Space – Armageddon (Book 6 in a series)

DS6 CoverI just completed the advanced readers copy (ARC) of Deep Space-Armageddon Jasper T. Scott’s conclusion to his epic six book space opera. The final version will be available on September 4, 2015 at Amazon. I’m jumping the gun a bit and posting my review here first.


I read Jasper T. Scott’s first Dark Space novel shortly after it was published in 2013 and waited impatiently for each sequel since then. I’ve never been disappointed. In fact, Scott has improved as a writer, particularly his prose.

In DS-6 we follow Ethan Ortane and his extended family on their separate paths to find the truth behind Omnius, the AI controlling humanity. Billions have accepted the Paradise offered by Omnius, but not everyone has. Ethan is reluctantly pulled into the resistance movement that seeks to dethrone the AI that would be God. But, should Omnius be destroyed? Would humanity really be better off, or would mankind be evicted from the Garden of Eden once again?

There is plenty of action, tragedy and mystery to keep the reader involved. Scott is a Maestro of cliff-hangers and he uses them well to keep the pace accelerating. This is a long book, somewhere over 600 pages, but I never tired of it. Actually, I found myself reading faster and faster—the last 30% flew by.

I highly recommend the book and the entire series. You could read this book on its own and enjoy it, but you’d miss a great deal. The epic started with Ethan and Alara and ends with them. They go on a wild ride that I was glad to observe. And, take heart, if you start at book one you won’t have to wait two years to finish the ride.

 

Alara’s Defense

“I do.”Gavel

“Please state your name and occupation for the court,” the Honorable Judge, Rafael Ortiz said.

She nervously cleared her throat. “Rose North, Doctor of Anthropology at Southern New Mexico University.”

Judge Ortiz was not a large man, shorter than many women were, still he commanded his District Court with a sharp mind and a quick gavel. “Thank you doctor. I trust you understand the purpose of these proceeding?”

Rose looked at the courtroom full of reporters and fanatics, turned to the judge and said, “To save Alara from a life of misery.”

Boos and cheers arose from the spectators. Cameras flashed. TV lights flooded the room as reporters gave their interpretation of events.

“Very dramatic Dr. North, but unhelpful,” Judge Ortiz said. The cacophony of sounds and lights repeated. The judge quieted the crowd with an angry bang of his gavel. “I warned you! Marshals, clear the court room of spectators and press.”

Rose watched the marshals do their job, minutes later two tables of attorneys remained. She took a sip of water just as the judge stared at her.

“I’m sorry Your Honor. I didn’t mean to cause a commotion, I answered from my heart.”

Judge Ortiz smiled at her. “Actually, your response was perfect. I needed an excuse to clear the room. The circus was too distracting. I’ve heard experts try to define what makes human beings unique for weeks. It’s a morass of conflicting concepts. Humans use tools, but so do chimps, otters and birds. Humans have emotions, they’re sentient, but elephants, dogs and dolphins show emotions. Humans leave artifacts, as do prairie dogs and woodpeckers. Humans have language, similar to ants and bees. What is your take?”

“I’ve lived with Alara since I found her three years ago. The university claims she’s an animal and their property because I found her on a sponsored expedition. I disagree, I found her because I reacted to an accident, which was beyond the scope of my employment. If I’d saved a human child they wouldn’t claim ownership.”

“But, you didn’t save a human being. The question is what did you save?” Judge Ortiz said.

Rose paused, ran her fingers through her hair, and sighed before saying, “We define human beings as members of the species homo sapiens, creatures with a large brain to body ratio, characterized by language and tool use. I saved a being, admittedly not human. But, she has a larger brain mass ratio than humans, learned English in six months and arrived in an interstellar spacecraft. This is a being, not human, but a being nonetheless. If you have doubts talk to her.”

“Good idea doctor, you’re excused, but I want you to remain in the room. Marshal Dunwoody, please bring our guest to the witness box.”

Dunwoody wasn’t happy dealing with the creature, but did his job. The creature’s head sat below the witness box rail. Realizing the judge wouldn’t approve he took three law books from the defense table to provide a booster seat and looked to the judge.

“Thank you Marshal. Alara, do you understand why we are here?”

“I do.”

“Can you explain it to me?”

“Yes I can. I’m here to determine earth’s future.”

Alara’s Conclusion

spaceneedleTraffic looked normal. Peeking through closed blinds limited the view, but it was better than not looking and safer than raising them. Maybe the warning had been wrong. Marshal Dunwoody hoped so.

Rose stopped when she saw him. She’d become quite taken with him over the past month. He was nothing like the men she worked with at the Institute. They were either studious science types or wide-eyed dreamers. He was a man of action. She smiled thinking about her first impression of him. It wasn’t very favorable—things change, sometimes for the better. “Why are you so enamored with the view James? It’s not as if you haven’t seen it a hundred times before.”

James turned and smiled at the young woman. He found her attractive, although her teeth were crooked, her hair was mousy and her body was less than perfect. “Hi Dr. North I didn’t know you were watching me. How is Alara?”

“She’s sleeping. Her feelings of anxiety subsided as she listened to the odd melody she recorded on my IPod.”

“Alara is odd in many respects.”

“I suppose so, but I find her endearing like a baby panda bear. She certainly has triggered my maternal instincts since I found her at the wreckage site.”

“I’ve noticed, and you’ve been a ferocious mother to boot. I’m amazed that you won her recognition as a sentient being in the Federal Court and kept her alive at the same time. You’re a woman of distinction.”

“Stop it James. I’m no such thing. I just want Alara to have a home. She has a tender soul and deserves it. You’re the hero, protecting us from the self-righteous enforcers of ignorance. Alara, as naïve as she is in our world, knows that you’re willing to risk your life for her and me.”

The sound of screeching tires forced James to the window.

“The Enforcers are here. I count four vehicles. Hurry, wake Alara and go to the safe room. Lock the door. There’s a ladder to an underground passage in the closet. You’ll find an old drainage system at the bottom, turn right and run. You’ll pass several tunnels on your left with an S shape above the opening. Ignore them until you find a broken S, you’ll know it when you see it. Take the tunnel to a ladder. At the top, you’ll find supplies, keys to a vehicle and a GPS device that will direct you to a safe house. The car is in the garage. A cell phone at your destination will contact the Marshal’s office, just press the 7 key; they’ll take care of you.”

“No, you must come with us,” Rose pleaded.

“I can’t. I have to protect your escape. Please take Alara to safety. Don’t argue—there’s no time for it.”

Tears flowed, but she followed his instructions, and hearing an explosion followed by gunshots she locked the safe room door. Alara held her back from the closet.

“We must go Alara,” Rose said.

“No! We must not go until James is safe.”

“I want nothing more than James’s safety, but you come first. Please don’t make it harder than it needs to be.”

The small, fluffy humanoid started to grow and glow. The safe room crackled—it scared Rose, but she trusted Alara and didn’t panic. For an instant, the room became as bright as a lightning bolt. When her eyes recovered, James stood next to her. She couldn’t help herself; she grabbed him, and kissed every part of his head she could reach.

“Can you two hear me?” Alara asked.

James and Rose responded with a giddy laugh.

“Good. It’s time to go. I think the idiots out there have recovered from James’s disappearance and are about to set an explosive at the safe room door. I’d like to be far away when it goes off.”

They scrambled down the ladder. James carried Alara on his shoulder like a toddler. She whispered into his ear as they ran for the broken S, “Congratulations human, you passed the test.”

James wanted to know what Alara meant, but he had a more pressing problem. Finding the broken S was more difficult than he anticipated. As the drainage culvert grew darker, their paced slowed to a walk.

“Shouldn’t we move faster James?” Rose said.

“I can’t see much and my flashlight would be a beacon. I can’t go faster.”

“I can see quite well James,” Alara said. “Move as fast as you can, I’ll watch for the broken S.”

They sped up and covered several hundred yards before Alara stopped them.

“There’s no tunnel here Alara,” James said.

“There’s one behind us,” Rose said.

“Why didn’t you stop us sooner?” James asked.

Alara pushed away from James’ shoulder and turned her big eyes toward his. “I said I could see well in this place. I didn’t say I had eyes in the back of my head.”

James had to laugh and wondered if Alara intended to be funny.

The cramped tunnel required them to crouch but they made good time. The tunnel curved parallel to the culvert a hundred feet in. James felt more secure and slowed to a walk to avoid too much sound. Finally, they came to the ladder.

James and Rose needed to stretch and rest before leaving their sanctuary and took the opportunity to use the bathroom. When Alara also took advantage of the toilet, James was inquisitive. “Do you know anything about her, ah—plumbing?”

“No. She is very hirsute,” Rose tittered.

“She is isn’t she? Her fur is beautiful though. My first thought was of a large koala, but with big eyes and the coat of a golden retriever. It’s like she was designed to appeal to humans.”

They packed the supplies in the back of the Dodge crossover. It had an integrated booster seat that thrilled Alara because she sat high enough to see well. James was glad the windows were dark. The GPS directed them to Ogden, Utah a twelve-hour drive from Seattle.

“Get comfy ladies we’ve got a long drive.”

“James?”

“Yes Alara.”

“It is time for the next part of my job. We must go to the United Nations in New York.”

“What is your job?” he asked.

“I’m the Inspector Envoy of the United Planets of Space. I’ve concluded that your planet should be offered an opportunity to join our union,” Alara said.

“Somehow I’m not surprised, and I think you’ll do great in New York. Everybody loves getting a package from UPS.”


David P. Cantrell is an author and member of the Edgewise Words Inn staff.