Tuesday, May 6, 2008

"Spider Star"

Mike Brotherton is a professor of Astronomy at the University of Wyoming, Laramie and the author of two novels, Star Dragon and Spider Star.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Spider Star and reported the following:
Page 69 of my second science fiction novel, Spider Star, is told from the point of view of Sloan Griffin, a member of the Specialist Corps in training to be a space explorer. She's a tough but secondary character, letting us see how the arcology of New Colchis on the colony world of Argo is responding to the activation of an alien doomsday device that has been accidentally triggered. It's a little slower than other parts of the book, setting scene and character building rather than advancing the plot much. As the action moves from Argo to the world of dark matter, the Spider Star, where the technology behind the doomsday machine originally came from, the strangeness and pace both accelerate.

Spider Star is a scientifically informed tale of humanity juxtaposed against a challenging, alien galaxy where threats obvious and subtle lurk. The page captures someone letting that realization sink in. And that aspect of the story is really just a metaphor for our own world which has threats great and small, obvious and subtle, both for the individual and our society as a whole. There are various sorts of doomsday scenarios that we as humans on Earth might trigger ourselves, unknowingly, too. We turn off thoughts, however, of nuclear exchange during the Cold War, for instance, or terrorist attack today, and get on with life. It's a big dangerous world out there, and we haven't been given a guidebook.

The book's two main characters, Manuel Rusk and Frank Klingston, represent two approaches to how to approach unknown challenges. Manuel is young and aggressive, looking to make his mark, but not as careful as he should be. Frank is older, a protective father, who needs to overcome his cautious nature to achieve success. Both approaches have their merits, but require a measured balance.

Page 69:

Still, she had her own speculations about Manuel and his mood. In the past, she would have expected him to spend time with her after such a difficult experience, but maybe they weren't as close as she thought they were. Or times were worse than they'd ever had been since. He'd been steadily building distance, albeit not a tremendous amount, since he'd been named head of the Castor 6 mission.

As she strolled along the slidewalk, still tired and achy under the full Agotian gravity, she watched the people on the slide and the ones along the mall, in front of the shops and seated at the restaurants. Everyone on the planet had to be under stress. Were they acting normally? Could she just look at them, and tell that things were different?

Griffin considered a couple leaning toward each other at a table in front of a pizza parlor. Young, maybe still teenagers, a blonde-headed boy and a dark girl. Their hands lingered together on the table, but they weren't holding hands despite the conspiratorial closeness of their heads. Maybe they weren't lovers, and she was seeing sexual tension? Or maybe they were siblings? Then they were gone, carried away by the never-pausing slidewalk. Another couple, middle-aged, stood staring at a window display showcasing holographic clothes flashing over two mannequins. Was it desperate shopping? Or was it normal?

What could be normal now?

She'd seen the surface of a moon explode. Didn't they understand it could happen here? Right here? With only hours' warning?

Maybe they did. Maybe they didn't. Maybe they were in denial, willfully or not. Or maybe it could be characterized in a more positive light. Maybe it was defiance.

But what else could they do? Hide in their apartments? Shriek in terror and run about pulling at their hair?

And it was a very nice day, heading into evening. Sunlight...
Read the prologue and first four chapters of Spider Star. Learn more about the author and his work at Mike Brotherton's website.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue