First published in 2006 by Black Heron Press, Day's intense debut opens in the year 2027 with the world on the verge of economic and environmental collapse as nations wage war over a rapidly diminishing oil supply. Army engineer Eduardo Torres accidentally discovers plans for a quantum battery, which could solve Earth's energy crisis. Instead of sharing it, Torres sets up his own rogue state, builds a fleet of starships and takes them through a wormhole to the Holzstein System, only to be attacked first by other humans and then by what appear to be aliens determined to destroy humankind. Though marred by a few technological improbabilities, this well-written, decidedly grim novel is replete with strong, thorny characters, fast-paced action sequences and rich descriptions of human folly and true heroism. (May)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
A Grey Moon Over Chinaby Thomas A. Day
Army engineer Eduardo Torres is caught up in the world's raging oil wars when he stumbles onto the plans for a quantum-energy battery. This remarkable device could slow civilization's inevitable descent into environmental disaster, but Torres has other plans. Forming a private army, he uses the device to revive an abandoned space colonization effort in an ambitious
Army engineer Eduardo Torres is caught up in the world's raging oil wars when he stumbles onto the plans for a quantum-energy battery. This remarkable device could slow civilization's inevitable descent into environmental disaster, but Torres has other plans. Forming a private army, he uses the device to revive an abandoned space colonization effort in an ambitious campaign to lead humanity to a new life in a distant solar system.
The massive endeavor faces many challenges before the fleet finally embarks for the Holzstein System many light-years away. But even as the feuding colonists struggle to carve out homes on alien worlds, they discover that they have not left their old conflicts and inner demons behind.
Nor are they alone on this new frontier. Awaiting them are inhuman beings who strike without warning or explanation--and who may spell the end of humanity's last hope.
Epic in scope, yet filled with searing human drama and emotion, A Grey Moon Over China is a monumental science fiction saga by an amazing new talent. Its original publication by Black Heron Press was named one of the "Best Books of 2006" by Kirkus Reviews.
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A Grey Moon Over China
By Thomas A. Day
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2006 Thomas A. Day
All rights reserved.
There were times on the island, late in the summer of 2027, when I thought I could hear the sun hissing off the ground. It was the same noise that the insects made in the jungle, out there on our miserable little cluster of Pacific islands, misbegotten and nameless somewhere south of the Marshalls, and it pressed down on me like the dust that hung in the air and stained it yellow.
But if I closed my eyes, I could imagine the noise was the sound of water, instead. On some days there was only the sun, hissing down on the islands and the ocean, but on the afternoon Sergeant Polaski was to arrive it was the sound of water, cool and clear in the shadows. I was standing on the rutted ground by the runway, remembering a picture I'd seen of a river in Las Serranías del Burro, when the cough of his airplane intruded, rough and dry on the still air.
It backfired again and throttled down over the jungle, then shuddered onto the dirt runway in a cloud of smoke. When it had rumbled by I closed my eyes again, unwilling to give up my thoughts to a man whose arrival would surely end what little peace I'd found here.
The plane turned and taxied back, then waited out in the sun with its engines idling. Minutes passed.
I opened my eyes. The airplane shimmered in the heat while its crew wrestled a crate down a ramp into the dirt.
When I turned in the direction of the voice I found myself looking into the barrel of a revolver, gripped in the hand of a short, blond man with a pale, unremarkable face and expressionless grey eyes.
He let down the hammer. "That's not real bright, Torres, standing out in the dirt with your eyes closed." The crew pushed the ramp back up into the plane.
I hated Polaski. Hated him and loved him. I hadn't seen him since 1st Engineers, where we'd served together until the unit was disbanded. It was broken up after Polaski killed an officer with an anti-tank round — broken up mainly because the MPs couldn't decide who'd done it. Polaski himself fingered a half-breed Samoan named Tulafono for it; it was the day after Tulafono had beaten me with a tire iron for swearing in Spanish.
Polaski was kicked back to sergeant in a demolitions unit, but I'd kept warrant officer and was sent to join the forward units in the Pacific. Now Polaski was here, too, evidently as part of an Army plan involving heavy demolitions. It was a plan I didn't like because I knew nothing about it, which was why I'd picked Polaski up at the airstrip in the first place. That, and the hint of anticipation I'd felt when I first heard he was coming, the sense of a change in the wind that I didn't yet understand.
"What are they planning for these islands, Polaski?"
"Nothing you need to know about." With a shriek from the brakes the plane jerked forward again, a wavering blob of silver in the heat, and left behind a cloud of smoke and the crate, dumped on the runway like the stool of a great bird. "It isn't going to work, anyway," he said.
The engines spun up and the plane bounced around over the ruts, then rose tiredly up over the jungle.
"What isn't?" Polaski didn't answer.
"I heard we're looking for someone," I said.
Still he didn't answer. I was almost wishing he'd gone, too, leaving me to my thoughts of how to get out of the war, how to get away and find a place of my own. How to get off of the planet altogether.
"Do you have a priest named Katherine Chan?" he said.
"The crate's for her. Let's go, I'm in a hurry."
Polaski and I had been picked up off the streets in Army sweeps at the age of fourteen, then sent to Technical Warfare School. For a country with too many immigrants, too little oil, and an aversion to drafting its own citizens, conscription as an alternative to deportation had become just another of the Army's growing number of dirty secrets. The four-year Tech-War School, itself a secret and open only to the conscripts with the most potential, was designed to provide regular Army units with technologically sophisticated soldiers, able to fight in the Pacific with little support.
Polaski called us the "Shorts"; in addition to whatever the Army thought of as intelligence, it had picked us for endurance, and in the end that had meant squat and tough. So we were squat, tough, smart and educated, and something of an embarrassment: Greater knowledge of the war hadn't always brought the Army greater loyalty.
"I need to see your captain," said Polaski. He'd taken over my truck by the runway, and now its electric motors hissed and spat as he ran down trees and rocks in the jungle.
"We haven't got a captain," I said
"You need to see Bolton."
"No. We get them from Airmobile on the big island."
The jungle dropped away with a smack of high grass on the hood and a dry scraping sound as it dragged along underneath. We were in the big clearing by the beach, next to the helicopter pad and the mess canopy with its leaning, rusted poles. Scrub grass and rows of bungalows stretched away to the jungle on the far side.
Polaski dropped me off and drove away to find Michael Bolton. But before he'd gone fifty yards, a familiar furry streak raced in from the side toward the truck's front wheels — McGafferty's dog, low to the ground and barking for all he was worth.
Polaski swerved sharply. But he swerved toward the dog, not away from it, as though hoping the dog would overshoot. But it was a miscalculation, and with a sound muted by the distance into a soft thumping, the dog's body tumbled out from underneath the wheels and lay still in the dirt. Polaski kept going.
"At least you could stop and look!"
I shouted at him again and looked for a rock to throw, but it was too late. He was gone across the clearing.
The dog was dead. Its back and neck were broken and it bled from half a dozen wounds. I stroked its muzzle with the back of my hand and pulled out a rock that had lodged in its mouth with the broken teeth. I moved him away from the track, then trudged back to the mess.
The air under the canopy was heavy and still, punctuated only by the wet sound of sunflower husks spat across the floor by Sergeant First Class Tyrone Elliot. He was leaning back in a chair with his feet up on the table, a tall, powerful Southerner with mild eyes and black stubble on his dark face. His jaw was broad and square with thick muscles bunching in his neck as he chewed. Deep lines ran from the corners of his eyes and down past his mouth, as though he'd been tired for a long time. The hands on his knees were big and still.
He didn't say anything for a while, but sat and chewed and watched the receding back of Polaski's truck.
"So your old buddy Polaski's here," he said finally. He rummaged in his pocket for more seeds. "So maybe we'll forget to tell him about the water, what do you think?"
"Polaski's all right," I said. "He gets things done."
"He should have stopped, though."
Elliot launched himself out of his seat to slam his hands together overhead, then just as suddenly sat back down and wiped them on his fatigues. "Polaski's crazy, Torres. I been with him in the 89th. He ain't all there, you know, and he don't see you when he look at you. He's mean, boy, and he's crazy. You stay away from him."
"It's the war that's mean, Tyrone."
"Don't stick up for him."
"It's the war, Tyrone. The whole planet. It's gotten so bad I don't even know any more when I'll wake up puking blood from some new wonder we've dumped in the water. You saw what happened to the lieutenant."
"Yeah, I know." He spat another shell. "Anyhow, nothing we can do about it. Or you back to thinking about getting off?"
"Of course I'm thinking about getting off."
Far off, I was thinking. Off-planet with someone like Katherine Chan, someone still in one piece. As far and as fast as an engine could carry us, away from the memories that followed me everywhere I went. Memories of Mexico and hunger, memories of boats filled with children and the stink of death. Broken dogs, broken children. Memories of the frozen pavement in Chicago, memories of my father hanging from the wires in the desert ...
"Uh-uh, no sir." Elliot stuck another seed in his mouth. "Ain't no one gotten off this old ball of trouble for a long time, except rich folks in their tin cans up there. U.S. quit on the space tunnel years ago, I keep telling you. And no one ever built drones smart enough to send through it, anyhow. So that's that. Rich folks is stuck in their cans, and you and me is stuck in 42nd Engineers digging out holes to piss in. So you take what you got, Torres, which is a fine afternoon and something to chew on. Here, have some."
I swatted at a fly. "What's the Army planning for these islands, Tyrone? Polaski won't say."
"You tell Polaski to piss off. Word I got is you're the only one he pays any mind to, anyway. What's happening on these islands is that Army and Air Force is going to try something funny on those skinny little atolls east of here, except folks is saying it ain't going to work."
"Bolton says we're looking for someone."
"Yeah, but that's different. Been going on a long time. DoD's looking for one of their smart-boys, went and slipped out on 'em. DARPA fellow with plans for counter-BCs that's going to save all our asses. He took 'em a year ago, and now Army's saying he's out here somewhere and we got to get him back before all this other big shit comes down."
Out here somewhere? Out here was twenty-one barely charted volcanic ridges and cinder cones off the shipping lanes and airways, which from above looked mostly like dried rabbit shit with green mold on it sticking out of the ocean. Before the war it had been a mecca for transoceanic racers, religious cults, and rich bastards on the outs with latest regime in Cambodia or the Philippines, but now there was almost no one. Out here was a hundred forty-seven half-dead, insect-ridden combat engineers who prayed every morning not to be noticed for one more day by the enemy or by our own battalion, eighty miles to the north on the island with the big air base. So why would someone hiding from the American military be out here? Like a flea hiding between the bear's claws, it was either really dumb or really smart.
And we had to get him back before what came down? Too much was happening — the Army poking around after leaving us alone for a year, heavy equipment for the MI priests suddenly showing up on our eighty pitiful acres of dead grass and rusting tin, talk about heavy demolitions ... and now Polaski back. To do what I told him to? Not likely. I was an Army hardware engineer, no more. I took care of the island's machines, from the cooling rods in the big antennas to the drones we put up at night to listen in on the Japanese. I tuned them and I studied them, and I spent my nights alone with them and the sounds of the jungle, not wanting to sleep. And that was all.
Polaski's truck skidded to a stop in front of Bolton's bungalow across the clearing. Smoke trailed from the motors. He strode through the grass and jumped onto Bolton's porch.
"Tyrone?" I said.
"Why would anyone steal the plans to counter-biologicals?"
He was quiet for a minute.
"I been hearing a long time," he said, "how you're one of the real smart ones, Torres. I think maybe you got yourself a good question there. Japanese sure as hell don't need to defend against their own shit, huh?"
"Why's Polaski here, Tyrone?"
He shrugged. "Blow something up, I expect. It's what he does."
Clouds scudded along the horizon over the ocean. I tried not to think about Polaski, and tried to remember the daydream he'd interrupted, instead.
There'd been a time when missions to the stars had been planned by the western nations, out through America's "space tunnel." It was a moon-sized torus near Venus that was supposed to pass the ships onward, along with their cargoes of colonists and seed and livestock embryos. The project had died from poverty and warfare, but it was those same trees and horses I'd been thinking about that morning. Trees and horses and Katherine Chan, and a piece of land far from Earth and the war. All of it impossible.
"Well," said Elliot, "I guess I don't know what demolition's got to do with MI folks, after all, now that I think about it. But you might have noticed the priests had something to do with a bunch of sonic diggers out behind Bolton's bungalow."
"Yup. Big suckers."
* * *
Elliot's voice, far away. The dog snarled and pushed its face in through the spokes of the wheel, in under the wagon where I'd crawled.
"Jesus Christ, boy, wake up. What the hell's the matter with you, anyway?"
I was four, and the dog's teeth were red and its breath was hot on my face. Its neck was bloody with open sores. Dogs behind it fought each other and tore at the entrails of an infant they'd dragged away from its carreta, away from its sleeping parents in their tin and cardboard house. My mother and father were nowhere. The little girl's unseeing face jerked in the dust and blood spattered under the wagon. Helpless men across the road shuffled their feet and threw rocks at the dogs.
"Come on, Torres."
There was foam in the dog's mouth, under its lip where it curled back from its teeth.
"Shit, what's the matter with this boy?"
Later that morning I sat with Polaski on the slope of an island to the east of the company camp, watching the glare of the sun from under my eyelids. It reflected off the straits between the island where we sat and a deserted peak rising from the ocean two miles away. I was trying to keep from slipping down the stony hillside while I pressed my hands over my ears to keep out the roaring behind me. Two days had passed since Polaski's arrival.
The sound changed pitch again, then surged from the roar into a howl, setting my teeth on edge and sending new pain into my temples. It warbled lower for a moment only to seize on a new frequency and lash out again, tearing the air apart with its shriek and bringing a sweat to my forehead.
On the island across the straits, angry jets of smoke tinged with purple shot into the air each time the digger found a frequency that worked, leaving behind a smoldering socket where tons of earth had been disintegrated. Now and then Polaski let the digger dip its massive barrel too far, and its beam swept across the ocean to send a wall of steam curling into the sky. It settled across us later in a cloud of humid air that mingled with our sweat and stung our eyes.
Squatting on its thick legs behind us, like a tank without treads, the digger probed with its beam higher up the far island until it found a new weakness in the rock, then leapt into its screaming again. The clanging of its cooling pump was like the metallic thumping of a cat's tail as it hurled itself into its kill.
"God damn it, Polaski, turn that thing off!" Having Polaski take potshots for fun was more than I could stand. The noise was like an alien presence inside me that stole my concentration and dragged me closer to a pit I needed all of my wits to stay out of. A pit I'd slipped into that morning and stayed in until Elliot had finally kicked me awake.
"Jesus Christ, boy!" he'd shouted. "Wake up!"
Foam in the dog's mouth, the wagon collapsing with the dog's head still caught in the spokes ...
Polaski hit the switch in his lap. The digger choked in mid-wail and spun down, muttering and spitting and grumbling in its disappointment. The armor on its haunches clattered, then with a hiss and a crump as the armature locked up, the machine was quiet and Polaski and I were left alone with the flies and the sun.
On the blackened ruin of the island across the straits, gullies glowed red and ragged pits steamed along the waterline. I struggled to my feet and climbed the hillside to sit next to Polaski.
"So aside from target practice, Polaski, how come you dragged me out here?"
He squinted at the pitted island with one eye closed, judging his work.
"We have to take test shots once the surface warms up." He squinted with the other eye.
"It's warm," I said. Polaski had asked Bolton to have me assigned to him, but I didn't want to be there.
"Another two hours," he said.
Excerpted from A Grey Moon Over China by Thomas A. Day. Copyright © 2006 Thomas A. Day. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
THOMAS A. DAY works as a forensic software and intellectual property analyst, serving as an expert witness in high-stakes technology litigation. He lives with his wife and two sons in Portland, Oregon.
Thomas A. Day works as a forensic software and intellectual property analyst, serving as an expert witness in high-stakes technology litigation. He is the author of A Grey Moon Over China. He lives with his wife and two sons in Portland, Oregon.
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In 2027 the world environment has been poisoned to the point of no return and consequently the global economy stands on the verge of total collapse as alternate fuels have either failed or been ignored while the oil supply is nearing depletion. War over oil and water has made for strange bedfellows as for instance a Pacific Rim alliance ties Japan and California together in combat with much of the remaining mainland American states. --------------- Army engineer Eduardo Torres finds the solution when he uncovers plans for a quantum battery that if shared would save the planet. Instead, he decides to keep the technology setting up his own "nation" by buying a mercury force. Following up on an abandoned plan to colonize space, Torres builds starships and enters a wormhole to the Holzstein System. However, he is not welcomed as another humanoid race and aliens attack his fleet.----------- This grim look at the near future paints a bleak horizon as the earth is consumed by the liquid wars. The cast is powerful and realistic as Darwinism wins over creationism with survival of the most diabolical. Torres and other key characters are not likable, but that is one of the key points of this gloomy cautionary tale in which Thomas A. Day lucidly insures his players are not romantic heroes. With a wild well written military in space clash of cultures that enhance the argument how sentient are we as a species if we commit increasingly faster pandemic suicide. GREY MOON OVER CHINA is a super science fiction thriller warning us that time is running out on mankind.------- Harriet Klausner
Winner of the publisher's 2006 award for social fiction, this science-fiction/futurist work deals with global conflict between major world powers over increasingly scarce energy sources. Japan and California battle the United States. In the complex plot, a group of disaffected persons who have stolen the plans for an energy device that would alleviate the energy crisis and end the conflict instead use it to extort from the warring powers a space flight to an abandoned space colony so they can be free of Earth. But the paradise they envisioned holds greater dangers for them. With a background in the technology and computer fields in the areas of artificial intelligence and software development, Day writes with a technical knowledge giving the narrative a sense of realism and plausibility while at the same time draws credible characters evincing recognizable motives and behavior. The layers of plotting and unexpected turns make for an engaging, dramatic tale.