Jack Spartan Varaci Runner
by K. Edward Mallory

"The stars were no longer points of light but slightly jiggling smears and swirls and oscillating mirages in varying places."

Earth, or Tirra as it is known in the Galactic Trading Alliance, is a bit of an anomaly to the rest of the universe. Warring amongst themselves and lacking faster than light travel despite being otherwise technologically equal in many ways, Tirra is relegated to nothing more than a fueling and mining outpost where contact with humans is forbidden. Jack Spartan is a talented thrill-seeker who is part of the latest space shuttle crew when a wave of pressure causes him to black out. With his crew missing and his shuttle in pieces, Jack is somehow picked up by a freighter and sold into slavery. Making allies with convicts and other outcasts, Jack uses his wits and his survival skills to make an escape, acquiring a ship and a crew of his own as he searches for his Earth crew and a way home.

The author’s intent is to go the hard sci-fi route, injecting technical and scientific details into the narrative in order to ground this fantastic journey in the real world. The journey and adventure of this book are deep, spanning lush jungle environments and the dangerous alien beasts that dwell there to the emptiness of space and the diplomacy and bureaucracy which Jack must navigate as an unwanted element. The author’s storytelling style combines sharp, snappy dialogue with technical explanations that make the machines just as integral to the action as the characters. Spartan can live up to his name with his military training and keen mind, but his will to beat the odds and his open demeanor toward strange new life forms give perspective to the choices he has to make. Science fiction fans who like a bit of politics and intrigue mixed with a lot of technical know-how will fall right in step with this introductory voyage.

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