This week’s other featured books, “Inheritance,” by Evelyn Toynton and “It Turns Out Like This,” by Stephen Coyne, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the authors name on our Author’s page.
THE BOOK: The Guardian
PUBLISHED IN: 2019
THE AUTHOR: J.D. Moyer
THE EDITOR: Don D’Auria
THE PUBLISHER: Flame Tree Press
SUMMARY: In the year 2737, Earth is mostly depopulated in the wake of a massive supervolcano, but civilization and culture are preserved in vast orbiting ringstations.
Tem, the nine-year-old son of a ringstation anthropologist and a Happdal bow-hunter, wants nothing more than to become a blacksmith like his uncle Trond. But after a rough patch as the only brown-skinned child in the village, his mother Car-En decides that the family should spend some time on the Stanford ringstation.
Tem gets caught up in the battle against Umana, the tentacle-enhanced ‘Squid Woman’, while protecting a secret that could change the course of humanity and civilization.
The Guardian, sequel to the The Sky Woman, is a story of colliding worlds and the contested repopulation of a wild Earth. It is Book 2 of the Reclaimed Earth series but can be read as a standalone novel.
THE BACK STORY: After I completed The Sky Woman (my first novel that I considered publishable) I originally planned to write a slew of short stories with the intention of publishing in my favorite magazines such as The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and eventually becoming an active member of the SFWA. My creative mind had other ideas; all my ideas were still happening in the world of The Sky Woman. So I dove right into the sequel, which turned into The Guardian.
The first draft took about eight months, subsequent drafts much quicker. I was happy to sign both novels to Flame Tree Press and I’m hoping and planning for a third book in the trilogy: The Last Crucible.
I did eventually get to those short stories (including The Equationist published in F&SF) and I’ve had a great time participating in the SFWA and attending the Nebulas conferences.
WHY THIS TITLE?: Tem is a guardian of Earth settlements, including his home, but also guarding a powerful, potentially world-changing secret, in the form of a simulation algorithm that he learned from his aunt. She had been guarding this secret for years but unburdens herself by teaching it to Tem, who must decide what to do with it, and who he can trust.
WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? The Reclaimed Earth series is anthropological science fiction, and there aren’t many authors writing in that subgenre. I hope that fans of Mary Doria Russell, Octavia Butler, Margaret Atwood, and Kim Stanley Robinson would also enjoy my books.
Review in Analog SF
“Complexity and moral ambiguity enough to make this a serious, engrossing story” — Don Sakers, Analog SF
Read reviews on Goodreads
“A well paced ride that is rich in adventure, charismatic three dimensional characters, sci-fi details, and convincing plot twists.” — Elise, Goodreads reader
“A well-told story reminiscent of Ursula K. LeGuin or Karen Lord.” Review of The Sky Woman (Book 1 of Reclaimed Earth) by Don Sakers, Analog SF
AUTHOR PROFILE: I live on Oakland, California with my wife, daughter, and mystery-breed dog. I didn’t start writing in earnest until I became a father, and I had a few careers and adventures before that. I produced electronic music, ran a music label, and co-hosted San Francisco’s longest-running and most popular electronic music happy hour. I was an extra in one of the Matrix sequels, at one point worked at a dolphin cognition researcher, acted and hawked food at the Renaissance Faire, and practiced and taught martial arts and fencing. Ultimately I gave up a life of DJing at clubs to spend more time at home with my family, write novels, and play Dungeons and Dragons with my friends.
AUTHOR COMMENTS: The depopulation/repopulation cycle has always interested me, and that’s at the core of the Reclaimed Earth series, as is the idea of radical long-term climate change. The graph of human population on Earth hasn’t always gone up; we’ve had some serious setbacks from supervolcanoes, war, and illness. And it’s likely we have more of that coming, though the biggest dip yet may come from a combination of birth control, family planning, economic pressure, and lifestyle preferences (which is vastly preferable to a dip from food shortages, war, or epic disasters).
In this scene early in The Guardian, Tem overhears his family fighting about the plan for him to spend time on the Stanford ringship:
Tem returned home to find Farmor Elke sitting at the table, scowling.
“Where’s Mother?” he asked.
“Out back. What have you got there?”
“Trout. Look how big this one is!”
Farmor Elke grunted, unimpressed. His grandmother’s eyes were pale blue, like Father’s. Farmor stood, took the three fish, and laid them carefully on the cutting block. “Car-En had a talk with me. Your mother says she wants to take you to the ringship.”
“Just for a visit,” Tem said. “To meet Mormor and Morfar.”
“A visit? Is that what she said?” Farmor Elke sat back down. Despite her age, she moved smoothly and quickly, not like an old person. More than once she had chased Tem down to cuff his ear. Elke often pointed out that she only punished Tem when he deserved it. Her own mother, Mette, had thrown rocks at children for no reason at all. Then one cold autumn morning, long before Tem had been born, Mette was found in the woods, frozen stiff. Nobody had been sad about that – not even Elke. This was hard for Tem to imagine. He loved his own mother dearly, and his father nearly as much. He even loved grumpy Farmor Elke.
“What’s this?” Mother had come in, and was looking at the trout on the cutting block.
“Dinner,” said Tem. “Please?”
“The boy is resourceful,” said Farmor Elke, as if he wasn’t there. “You’re happy here, aren’t you?” she asked, turning to face him.
“Of course I am,” he said. He kept his eyes on Mother. Something was wrong.
“That’s not the point, is it?” Mother said to Farmor.
“I have no idea what the point is,” Farmor said.
“There’s a larger world out there.”
“So? What does that matter?” Farmor Elke snapped. His grandmother’s voice always had an edge to it, but she rarely raised her voice. She was truly angry, not just irritated. “He has everything he needs here. His parents, his grandparents, plenty of food.”
“He needs to learn,” said Mother sternly.
“I’m right here,” Tem said. “What’s this about?”
“He is learning,” Farmor retorted. “His uncle will teach him steel; his aunt, letters; his father, archery. You can tell him whatever nonsense you like about the stars and floating ships. What else is there?”
“I’m right here,” Tem repeated, more loudly. “Stop talking about me like I’m not here.”
“He’s never met my parents. Or my friends. He knows nothing about life beyond this village.”
“You left your parents behind,” Farmor said. “And your friends.” Tem thought this was cruel to say, even though it was true. Mother had had good reasons, even though he didn’t understand completely, and suspected that he hadn’t been told the complete truth of the matter. But that was Farmor Elke: her honesty verged on cruelty.
“It’s not too late for him to meet them,” Mother answered. “And he can make up his own mind about if…about when he returns.”
“Careful,” Farmor said. “You might slip and say something true.”
“Stop talking!” yelled Tem, striking the table with his fist. Mother and Farmor started, and stared at him. “I’m right here! What’s this about? Why are you arguing?”
“We should wait until his father returns,” said Farmor Elke, ignoring him. Mother’s face tightened.
Tem stomped to the ladder and climbed to the loft. Soon he heard and smelled the trout frying in butter. He heard Farmor Elke leave (without saying goodbye, but that was not unusual), and soon after that Father returned from the hunt. Father had killed a boar, Tem overheard. Farbror Trond would clean it and bury it over hot coals to slowly roast overnight. Despite Happdal’s growing population, the woods were thick with game. Hunting parties rarely returned empty-handed.
Tem waited in the loft for Mother to call him down for dinner. Waiting became sulking; his parents started eating without him. They spoke quietly to each other. About him, he supposed. He inched close to the edge so he could eavesdrop.
“Would you be safe there?” father asked. “The man who tried to kill you – would he try again?”
“I’m not scared of Adrian,” said mother. “I never was. I stayed here to be with you.”
“What about the intervention rule? I thought the sky people weren’t supposed to interfere with the lives of villagers.”
“Tem is both a villager and a sky person by birth. And there’s no rule against villagers visiting ringstations, as far as I know. Per Anders is already on The Stanford, after all. Surely you could visit because you’re my husband and Tem’s father. And Non-Interventionism was never meant to be a permanent policy. It’s simply a precaution until repopulation officially starts. Which it probably has – it’s been ten years.”
Tem scooched back from the edge. Visiting the ringship did sound like a good adventure, but in truth he did not care if he went or not. He didn’t know his mormor and morfar, so he could not miss them. Farmor Elke was right – he was happy in the village. He was happy to pump the bellows until his arms burned and his hands ached. He was proud of the thick calluses that covered his palms and fingers.
What was everyone upset about?
When he heard them clearing the plates, he ventured down the ladder.
“There’s my son!” said Father. “Were you hiding up there in the loft? We saved you a trout. Thank you for catching our dinner.”
“You knew I was up there.”
“Yes, I did. And you wanted to stay up there, so we let you.”
Tem ate his fish in silence. Mother patted his head. He wanted to ask her what she and Farmor Elke had been fighting about, but he couldn’t find the words.
Here’s another excerpt, from Chapter 6, where Lydia and Shane attempt to rescue the researchers from the village of Kaldbrek:
Lydia and Shane hid in the spruce forest about ninety meters back from the bonfire, watching through infrared binoculars. Three of the insect drones, much closer to the fire, were sending them visual feeds.
Alexi Rosen was dead, murdered in a gruesome ritual. He’d been stripped and tied facedown to a wooden cross, his back ribs gaping open on each side of his spine. His lungs, pulled through the open wounds, hung limply alongside his ribcage.
A few drunken men still loitered about the clearing, but most had dispersed. One of the long wooden tables had been overturned. A mangy dog sniffed at the scraps.
How long had Rosen suffered? It was impossible to know. His bioskin had stopped transmitting data twenty minutes after the message from Xenus and Adrian. He’d been dead when they’d arrived. Lydia could only hope he hadn’t suffered for long.
“Look,” said Shane. Three old women approached Rosen. They untied him from the cross and covered his body with a swath of burlap, handling his heavy corpse easily. Once he was wrapped they carried him away. The dog trotted after them.
Lydia checked the bioskin telemetry from Aaron De Laurentiis, Rosen’s research partner. The other researcher was still alive. His vitals signs – adrenaline, heart rate, and blood pressure – were all dangerously elevated. She called up a top-down display in her m’eye; De Laurentiis’s location showed as a blue dot. He was only one-hundred-twenty meters away, just west of the clearing.
She lowered the binoculars and turned to Shane. He pointed toward De Laurentiis’s position. “I’m sending in the drones now.”
“Patch me in.”
The drone feeds appeared in her m’eye. The insectile robots were closing in on a sturdy wooden structure with no windows, guarded by two men holding heavy spears. Three meters and closing. One meter. Abruptly the view went dark – the tiny drones were squeezing in through cracks in the wood. Moments later the visual feed returned: two figures, a man and a woman, both bound hand and foot, a reflective glint of silver from the man’s uniform.
“The bioskin – that’s him,” she whispered. “What should we do?” Shane didn’t answer. Lifting the binoculars again, she surveyed the clearing. The bonfire was dying. The remaining men had either left or fallen asleep in the tall grass.
“The woman…who is she?” Shane asked.
Lydia refocused on her m’eye. The bound woman was asleep on her side, turned away from the drones (the insect-bots were now perched on the wall, perfectly still). “I don’t know, but I’m guessing she’s in trouble. Maybe she stole something, or slept with the wrong person.”
“I thought these villagers didn’t care much about infidelity,” Shane said.
“I don’t think it’s a crime punishable by death, but someone might have gotten jealous.”
Shane grunted. “If she’s locked up with De Laurentiis, it’s serious. I’m guessing tomorrow night there’s going to be another ritual.”
“So you think we’re safe for the night?”
Shane shook his head. “We’re nothing like safe. We’re going to end this now and get out of here.”
They pulled the close-fitting bioskin hoods over their heads. The skins color-shifted as they moved; with the camouflage and the darkness they were nearly invisible. Shane carried his dart rifle; Lydia held her disruptor in her right hand and a utility knife in her left. She followed closely behind Shane, crouched low and moving quietly just as he had instructed.
Shane moved quickly, staying in the cover of the trees until the last possible moment. Lydia checked the time in her m’eye: 2300 hours. Not that late, but most of Kaldbrek had gone to bed. They passed the bonfire undetected, closing in on the wooden structure where De Laurentiis was held captive. She could see the guards now with her own eyes. Shane knelt and aimed his dart rifle. It was a long shot – over fifty meters. One of the guards crumpled. The other straightened up, looked around,
then lowered his spear in their direction.
“Quick,” whispered Lydia, “before he alerts the others.” Shane aimed carefully, taking his time. The remaining guard shouldn’t have been able to see them at this distance, not in the dark, not with their camouflaged bioskins, but he was moving toward them. No, he was sprinting toward them, pulling back his shoulder to hurl his spear.
Shane fired. The guard kept running for a few seconds before his grip slackened. He dropped the spear and crouched, hands on knees, breathing heavily. He stood, drew a knife from his belt, and staggered toward them.
Shane swore under his breath, then leapt to his feet and ran toward the guard. At ten meters he fired his neural disruptor. The guard collapsed. Shane stood over the body, pointing the disruptor, until he was sure the man was down. Shane waved Lydia over and she joined him, heart pounding against her sternum.
The guard was still alive – that much she could see with her infrared. He’d wake within the hour, or much sooner if he was resistant to the dart sedative. “Let’s move,” she said. Shane was already entering the windowless wooden structure. She followed cautiously, disruptor raised. Shane was sawing away at De Laurentiis’s bindings.
“Help,” croaked Aaron De Laurentiis. Thin to begin with, he now looked emaciated. But he was alive. The bioskin had told them as much, but she felt a flood of relief seeing her old friend with her own eyes. De Laurentiis squinted at her.
“It’s Lydia. It’s good to see you, but stay quiet for now.”
Shane helped De Laurentiis to his feet. The researcher looked shaky. Her m’eye indicated that he had a fever; she would check for infection when they got back to the hovershuttle. Dehydration was also likely.
“Where’s Rosen?” De Laurentiis asked. “They took him away.”
“Can you walk?” Shane asked. De Laurentiis nodded.
Lydia looked at the other captive. “What about her?” The woman was bound and gagged, but had rolled over to face them. She was small-framed for a villager. In the dark it was impossible to make out her features, but somehow she looked familiar.
“Not our problem,” Shane said.
“Who is she?” Lydia asked.
De Laurentiis shrugged. “We couldn’t talk. We were both gagged.”
The captive woman tried to say something through her gag.
“We should free her,” Lydia said.
Shane shook his head. “Non-intervention. You know the rules. We have to leave. Now.”
The woman thrashed on the ground, yells muffled by her gag. Shane shot her with the disruptor. She went limp.
“Was that necessary?” Lydia asked.
Shane was already heading out the door, practically carrying De Laurentiis. As soon as Shane was out of sight, Lydia knelt and cut the rope binding the woman’s ankles and wrists. She folded the utility knife and left it next to the prisoner’s limp body. Whatever the woman had done, she didn’t deserve what had happened to Rosen. No one did. She felt sick at the thought of telling De Laurentiis that Rosen was dead, and had been tortured. She ran and caught up with the others.
LOCAL OUTLETS: Eastbay Booksellers on College Ave. in Oakland always stocks all my titles.
WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT:
The Guardian is available via Powells Books, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and many other outlets. Purchase from Powells Purchase from B&N Purchase on Amazon
PRICE: $6.29 on Kindle, $14.95 paperback, $20 hardcover, audiobook free with Audible trial
CONTACT THE AUTHOR: I’m reachable via my website jdmoyer.com, and my DMs are open on Twitter (@johndavidmoyer). I’m always happy to chat with readers — please drop by and say hi!