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Troubled times had come to the small Terran Colony planet of Deanna – and having amusing names for its sun (Ramalama) and two moons (Ding and Dong) hadn’t made this quaint little world immune to bad things…
After the shock assassination of a visiting member of the imperial family, and with the three largest cities on Deanna overrun by fascist troops, the local government goes into hiding. With the media and interweb firmly under fascist control, perception and reality begin to take a turn for the surreal – and once the fascists have control of Deanna, the stage is set. War is on its way.
The quirky little colony of Deanna is about to be enveloped in a destructive civil war – replete with a supporting cast of heroes, villains, aliens, victims, perpetrators, volunteers, space battles, bovine torpedoes – and a little time travel on the side.
“High Steaks” is the sixth title in the Quantum Series by Christina Engela.
“Engela’s latest work is packed with humour, challenging ideas, and science-fiction on a grand scale. It transports readers to a truly original world, filled with bizarre and memorable characters. It tackles social issues while reading like a Terry Pratchett, with some western and sci-fi elements to boot.” – Matthew ‘Sand-Storm’ Fick.
- Published: April 03, 2019
- Words: 61,923
CHRISTINA WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU! A few nice words go a long way! Please leave your REVIEWS on Anobii, Apple iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Bol, Book Depository, eBookMall, FictionDB, Fnac, Foyles, Goodreads, !Indigo, Kobo , Lulu, Lybrary, Nook, Smashwords, Takealot, 24 Symbols – or wherever you see Christina’s books – or just send her an email via the Contact form!
“High Steaks” is the sixth title in the Quantum Series by Christina Engela – a writer described as “that rarest of authors – able to seamlessly blend together elements of dark horror and sci-fi to create stories that will stay with you long after the last page has been turned.” (Mark Woods, author of ‘Time of Tides’ and ‘Fear of the Dark‘). Her writing in the sci-fi genre has been described as “one of the most unique and captivating styles I’ve encountered in science fiction.” (Alex S. Johnson, author of The Doom Hippies.)
Of her characterizations, Sarah Rutledge Fischer of Focus Mid-South Magazine said “Like many of us, Engela has been frustrated with the representation of LGBT characters in mainstream fiction, where gay characters are often nothing more than superficially portrayed plot devices or worse, the object of satire and ridicule. Engela’s work breaks the trend. In her stories, a gay man may be the anti-hero or villain, but not because he is gay. A transwoman may fall in love with a cisgender straight man, and their relationship doesn’t revolve around her gender identity. LGBT characters, in Engela’s work, follow narrative arcs that occasionally intersect with their sexual or gender identity, but are more often driven by the human characteristics shared by all people—hope, fear, ambition, humor, and love.”
Set after the fifth novel (“Prodigal Sun”) “High Steaks” continues the saga of the ‘third rate’ Terran colony on the planet Deanna, and the diverse characters the reader has no doubt by now become familiar with. Old familiar faces rub elbows with brand new characters in “Prodigal Sun”, some heroes, and some villains. Readers will remember the crotchety old military veterans of the Skegg’s Valley Dynamite Fishing Club, and of course, Fred the Arborian.
The story so far:
“Prodigal Sun” begins the tale. Troubled times have come to the small backwater Terran Colony planet of Deanna. Having amusing names for its sun (Ramalama) and two moons (Ding and Dong) have not made the people of this quaint little world immune to bad things – not even having a small moon famous for falling down occasionally… and bad things are afoot indeed.
A powerful and very well organized, er – organization has set down roots on Deanna. Its operatives have lived among Deannans for two or more years, and have slowly spread the roots and tendrils of their evil underworld movement throughout local government departments, the SOD’s, the space port – even at Atro City University while the Chancellor of ACU is taking an unscheduled break (with the braking dolphins in the depth of the Landlocked Ocean).
Suddenly people began to notice skinheads everywhere. Was it a popular new hairstyle perhaps? Or something with a more sinister meaning? A prodigal sun has returned to Deanna, to settle a score, to get even, to take vengeance on a father who spurned him. Coincidentally, Shriff Peggy-Ann Muller notices an increase in rural lynchings and city-borne hatecrimes against minority groups on Deanna – LGBT folks, local aliens – typically Jimwaian’s – and it begins to get uglier.
After the shocking assassination of a visiting Prince at a public parade in Lupini Square, the Sheriff’s Office Deputies (SOD’s for short) who are either dead, ‘off the grid’, or just plain missing, and with the local government in complete disarray, there is nothing to stand in the way of Professor MacMillen’s bold plan – to take over the colony and wrest it away from the control of the Terran Empire!
The Planetary Governor, hiding inside the Governor’s Palace while surrounded by a veritable army, is in no position to put up any fight at all – without a functioning law enforcement department, all he has to back him is a couple of dodgy old security guards, a secretary and a PA who wheezes when he walks! The Terran military has no presence on the colony – well, except for those retired old codgers who chuck dynamite in the river every other weekend while wearing assorted bits of camouflage and call it ‘fishing’.
Young Danielle finds herself trapped inside a cordon created by a horde of strapping young soldiers who are keeping an eye out for people just like her, being weeded out and detained, searched, stripped of their possessions, and beaten. Where are they being taken to? What will become of her? And why, oh why didn’t she listen to her friend Marla’s warning to not go to the parade that morning?
Fred the Arborian enjoys socializing with humans, which is just as well, since he started working as a barma- um, barista at The Slipped Disk. He knows something bad is coming – something big and bad – and not just because of the tingling of his areal roots. The fight in the Disk might have something to do with his hunch – the fight between three skinheads who barged into the Disk – and a vampire called Marla De Bris.
In the meantime, in the offices of that mysterious and clandestine society calling itself The Time Saving Agency, time agent extraordinaire Johnathan Scrooby ponders one of his biggest life decisions yet. To intervene… or not to intervene. And if so, how? Whatever he decides to do, you can bet on the renowned bounty hunter Beck the Badfeller – and his fiancee’, former CIA (Colonial Intelligence Agency) agent, Cindy-Mei Winter having a role to play.
And so, with McMillen and his thugs in apparent complete control of Deanna, with the space port on lock down and hostile ships in orbit, all communications links to the rest of the Empire severed – and all the key pieces on the board primed – the stage is set for “High Steaks”.
[*** SPOILER ALERT! ***]
Danielle Grauffis, a young transwoman living in Atro City, is caught in a cordon of DSL paramilitary troops searching for “deviants” and people belonging to groups which the DSL has classified as “threats”. As the fascist DSL and their paramilitary wing, the Deannan Republican Army (D.R.A) work to consolidate their hold on the sparsely populated planet, Danny is sent to a concentration camp called “Xanadu” which has been set up between the three largest cities on Deanna – Atro City, San Fedora and Fortitude.
Sheriff Peggy-Ann Muller finds herself trapped inside the Governor’s Palace on Lupini Square, with an assortment of people the fascists would very much like to get their hands on – including Governor Landry and the mayors of Atro City and San Fedora. When one of the Governor’s security detail holds them at gun-point, it becomes crystal clear just how far the fascist conspiracy has infiltrated the small colony’s infrastructures.
Meanwhile, Johnathan Scrooby – a time agent with a conscience – moves two pieces on the board into place. Gary Beck (a.k.a. Beck the Badfeller) and his fiance’e Cindy-Mei Winter – both already famous on Deanna in their own right – appear out of nowhere within the barricade to lead Peg and her companions safely out of harm’s way. Fortunately, Scrooby has loaned Gary and Mei some highly advanced time-shift equipment to go with the training given to them at the Time Saving Agency – which makes it all relatively painless and much easier. Knowing the future, and having had some time outside of time to work it all out, gives them a definite advantage.
Secret vampire, Marla De Bris searches for her friend Dannielle Grauffis, but when Marla concludes she is likely caught by the D.R.A., Marla makes her way to the Vampire Underground to seek the counsel of Uncle Vernon. Instead, she is dragged into a meeting of the Vampire Council and handed an important mission – to find the Governor and to forge a temporary alliance between Deanna’s Vampire Community and the local Terran government. Accepting the assignment with trepidation, Marla decides to combine her mission with her search for her friend. Shortly after beginning her search, she links up with Fred the Arborian, and they decide the best place to start looking for Danielle would be on the Graffis family ranch outside of Atro City.
While “Prodigal Sun” progresses at a steady and at times, blistering pace over a number of days, “High Steaks” takes place more or less over a period of 24 hours!
In the midst of all the actvity, Timaset Skooch and his fiance’e Dorian Wintermuller mount an escape bid to get off Deanna. They brave the deserted and dangerous night time streets of Atro City under Martial Law and crawling with DRA patrols, to get to the spaceport – which has been closed down to prevent anyone from leaving the colony. Once they reach the spaceport – not entirely without incident, they find themselves rescued by Jonn Deire and the moribund crew of the loderunner Celeste! Once reunited, it is like old times, and Tim is introduced to the upgrades and improvements that have been made to the quirky old ship!
The Celeste takes off from the spaceport – which is cut off from space by an energy shield deployed by the D.R.A – and leaves by the only weak point in this blockade: through the spaceport terminal building itself! Having successfully escaped, demolishing the terminal building in the process, the Celeste reaches orbit – only to be intercepted by Angel One, the D.R.A’s brand new flagship! By employing an unlikely strategy centering around the cargo of redhorned wildebeest the Celeste happened to be carrying, the Celeste manage to disable the fascist’s flagship and its two sister ships as well!
Tracey Ferris, a bounty hunter who became stranded on Deanna (“Prodigal Sun”) finds herself a stranger in a strange land with no friends and nowhere to go to – except possibly for Jenny Grauffis. She journeys to the Grauffis ranch, arriving more or less at the same time as Beck and Mei and their entourage on board an unusually menacing mode of transportation called ‘the Ambusulance‘!
Brandon Carver, the independent contractor (i.e. “merc”) who came to Deanna to be the trigger-man for the D.R.A. finds himself joining Special Operations Squad 13, led by Captain Yuriel Nurris, as a special consultant. Their mission? To exterminate or capture the vampires in Atro City. Once this goes spectacularly wrong, Carver finds himself at the tender mercies of Vernon Carridene in the underground levels beneath the city’s Blood Bank, and awaits his fate.
Beck and Mei meanwhile, acting on the plan worked out with Scrooby, have been quickening the pace of developments by bringing all the recruits for Deanna’s new loyalist army to the Grauffis ranch – including the Skeggs Valley Dynamite Fishing Club and a rather colorful and interesting old man called “Sarge”, who promises to make all the difference. After all, if these things still have to happen, why not make them happen faster? Getting the army ready sooner will enable the rescue of thousands of people being held in Xanadu and bring this nasty business to an end faster.
“High Steaks” draws to a close with the formation of the Deannan militia on the Grauffis ranch, supervised by the ousted Governor Landry and the recently un-retired General Smythe, who have drawn up plans to rescue the prisoners held at Xanadu before beginning a campaign against the fascists at San Fedora, Fortitude, and then Atro City. But first, Sarge needs to provide the militia with some much-needed refresher training. And there is one more volunteer who much to his own surprise, finds himself adding his name to the list of recruits…
The already familiar regular characters in “the Quantum Series” continue their adventures in this latest book!
To get a better idea of what this story is about, read What Readers Can Expect In “Prodigal Sun”, “High Steaks”, “Fortitude” & “The Last Hurrah”.
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