This fast-paced virtuoso exercise in world-building is the third novel (after 2007's Queen of Candesce) set in Virga, a 5,000-mile wide balloon with a central artificial "sun" and many nations clustered around their own smaller suns. Admiral Chaison Fanning, imprisoned for a daring raid that foiled an attack on his home nation of Slipstream, is rescued by his wife, Venera, but finds he's now regarded as a traitor. Fighting alongside Antaea Argyre, a mysterious woman from the dark far edges of Virga, Fanning learns more about the universe outside and the powers of Candesce, the central sun. Virga is wonderfully imagined, with itinerant gravity sellers, floating farms in nets of dirt, and battles in which one town invades another as buildings smash together and people gather at windows with homemade weapons. The intrigue surrounding a brewing revolution and the threat of invading forces carry readers quickly through this adventure and on to the next installment. (Aug.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Pirate Sun: Book Three of Virgaby Karl Schroeder
Return to Virga, a bubble universe artificially separated from our own future universe, and the setting ofSun of Suns and Queen of Candesce.
Chaison Fanning, the admiral of a fleet of warships, has been captured and imprisoned by his enemies, but is suddenly rescued and set free. He flees through the sky to his home city to confront the ruler/p>/i>/i>
Return to Virga, a bubble universe artificially separated from our own future universe, and the setting ofSun of Suns and Queen of Candesce.
Chaison Fanning, the admiral of a fleet of warships, has been captured and imprisoned by his enemies, but is suddenly rescued and set free. He flees through the sky to his home city to confront the ruler who betrayed him. And perhaps even to regain his lovely, powerful, and subversive wife, Venera, who he has not seen since she fled with the key to the artificial sun at the center of Virga, Candesce.
With Pirate Sun, Schroeder sets a whole new standard for hard science fiction space opera.
At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.
Praise for Sun of Suns (Kirkus Reviews Best of 2006; An RT Book Reviews Top Pick)“Outrageously brilliant and absolutely not to be missed.”Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“I loved it. It never slowed down. The background is fascinating and the characters held my attention. It reminded me a little of The Integral Trees, with technology a little more advanced.”Larry Niven
Praise for Queen of Candesce:“One of our most ingenious devisers of exotic, fantastic settings as well as a spinner of ripping yarns.… Schroeder's world-building, storytelling, and character-drawing chops seem strong enough to give even Known Space run for its money.”Locus
Read an Excerpt
Book Three Of Virga
By Karl Schroeder, David G. Hartwell
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2008 Karl Schroeder
All rights reserved.
THEY HAD PROVIDED him with two torturers today.
Chaison Fanning put out one hand to stop himself in the doorway, aware that the prison guard behind him would kick him into the room in a second or two. "Gentlemen," he said in as even a tone as he could muster, "to what do I owe the honor?" Neither answered, but it didn't matter; just hearing himself speak civilly counted as a victory. With luck, that brief moment might sustain him through whatever was about to follow.
Chaison flew the rest of the way into the interrogation room before the guard could kick him. "Against that wall," said the man who usually questioned him. Chaison didn't know this individual's name, but thought of him as the reporter because of the identification tag clipped to his uniform. The embossed white square announced that its wearer was part of the JOURNALISM DIVISION. A piece of tape obscured the name. At first Chaison had thought the tag was a joke of some kind; he had learned otherwise.
Curled up in the weightless black of his cell at night, Chaison's thoughts often turned to killing the reporter. They were fragile, weak fantasies — faint hopes, really, often shattered by panic as he awoke to find that he had drifted into the center of the little chamber. His flailing hands would find no purchase on wall, ceiling, or floor. In such moments there was nothing solid to be touched in any direction, no proof of his own existence but a scream; no face in his mind but that of his nameless torturer.
Yet he refused to scream, though other men in other cells did. Sometimes their voices brought him back to himself. A few nights ago he'd been drifting in the all-consuming dark when suddenly he'd heard a young voice calling out in the night. At first Chaison had thought his mind was playing tricks on him, because he recognized the voice. But he'd shouted in reply, and the other had answered.
That was how Chaison had learned that one of his crewmen was imprisoned with him. The knowledge had spread like fire in him, giving him a new sense of purpose. That knowledge had emboldened him to greet his tormentor just now.
"Put your hands in the cuffs," said the reporter from his position near the room's single barred window. Chaison wiped a smear of mold off the palm of his hand. In a building like this that had never known gravity, the stuff accumulated everywhere; this patch stood straight out from the doorjamb like fine white fur, just as it coated the walls of his cell. The new man closed the rusty rings over his wrists and Chaison steeled himself for a sucker punch or something that would soften him up for the coming questions. To his relief, the man just met Chaison's eyes briefly, then hopped lightly across the cell to position himself behind the desk podium with the pale-faced chief torturer.
The badge on his gray uniform read, HELLO, MY NAME IS. Underneath this somebody had scrawled 2629.
"Here's the one you wanted to see, Professor," said the reporter. He seemed a bit nervous. Flipping open a thick dossier, he held it out to the light from the window. "Chaison Fanning, former admiral of the fleet of Slipstream. Our most important guest."
"Hmmpf." The visitor took the file carefully and thumbed through it. He glanced at Chaison again, silver cloud light glinting off his wire-frame glasses. He seemed out of place here; he did, in fact, look a bit like a literature professor Chaison had once had.
Chaison cleared his throat. "I don't understand," he said, unable to hide the bitterness in his voice. "I've given a full deposition. You know everything."
"No, we don't!" The reporter glared at him murderously. "Did they clear you to read my articles in the Intelligence Internal Journal?" he asked the visitor. "He's been cooperative up to a point and I've been able to make most of my deadlines. But there's a crucial piece of information he's holding back. He's very disciplined, he exercises constantly in his cell, jumping from wall to wall, doing isometrics ... Seems willing to die rather than give us this last thing he knows. I've had some trouble finishing the last article in the series. I assume that's why you're ...?"
"Mm, I'm not here to fault your work, you were always a good student," said the professor in a bland tone. "But let's start with the basics. It says here you ..." He read for a moment, then raised his glasses and looked again. "Did this really happen?"
"Officially, no," said the reporter with a sigh. He watched in evident disappointment as the other flipped through the dossier with an expression of increasing incredulity. After a minute or so the professor pulled himself together and looked up at Chaison.
"You attacked and crippled our fleet," he said.
"With six ships?"
Chaison shrugged modestly. He allowed himself a slight smile.
"How was this accomplished?"
"The better question," said Chaison, "is why you never heard anything about it."
The reporter reached behind himself and unclipped some nasty darts from the board next to the window. Chaison tried to swallow past a suddenly dry mouth.
"Hang on," said the visiting professor, putting a hand on the reporter's arm. "Let's all be civil for the moment. I presume that I wasn't cleared to know about this attack," he said to Chaison, "because it's a national embarrassment."
Chaison eyed the reporter, then said, "Your people launched a sneak attack on my country. I caught your fleet within your own territory and decimated it."
To put it this way was to sum up a gambit of high desperation, take the exhilaration of battle, the panic, and shouted orders on the bridge of a smoking ship that dripped blood into the sky as it maneuvered in pitch blackness at two hundred miles an hour — to take all of that and reduce it, obscenely, to simple history. Impossible; the remembered sound of bullets hitting the hull, thick as rain, woke Chaison every night. At random times on any given day, some quality of light might easily take him back to that bridge, where men's faces were lit only by the instruments and the roiling darkness outside the armored windows flashed into incandescence every few seconds, as this or that ship exploded in the night.
"Amazing." The new man was too absorbed in his reading to notice that Chaison had slipped into a reverie. "It says you used something called 'radar' to maneuver your ships at full speed in cloud and darkness. Apparently we recovered several working devices from the wreckage of your ships." Now he looked puzzled. "So why do we need you at all? Is there some secret to operating this radar that he's not telling us?"
"Well, no. And yes," said the reporter. "They work just fine. They just ... don't do anything."
The professorial visitor sighed and tilted his glasses up to rub his eyes. "Explain, please."
Chaison had fought every inch against admitting even these details to the reporter, despite the fact that Falcon Formation's engineers already knew them. They had the wreckage of several of Chaison's ships to examine, after all; they could put two and two together. Yet even though Chaison had in the end bit the words of admission out one by one, in a blur of delirium and pain, he would gladly fight the questions again. There were still facts for which he would die rather than reveal.
The reporter seemed eager to show his former teacher his investigative skills. "Radar's a well-known technology," he said. "It just doesn't work. It's like those, what-you-call 'computers' and other electrical-onics things. Their operation is permanently jammed by the sun of suns."
In his life Chaison had met few people who knew that there were higher technologies than the simple steam- and fuel-powered mechanisms they'd grown up with. Fewer still knew that it was Candesce, the vast self-contained fusion sun at the center of the world, whose radiation rendered radar and similar systems inoperable anywhere in Virga. Chaison himself, nobly born and educated at the best schools, had only understood this in an abstract sort of way, until a year ago.
The visitor shook his head and frowned. "You're saying Candesce makes radar impossible. Then how did he get it to work, unless ..." His eyes widened.
"Unless he's been inside Candesce," said the reporter with a nod. "Or knows somebody who has. Maybe the home guard ..."
"But the home guard's neutral!" The professorial man shook his head rapidly, rubbing at his balding scalp with one distracted hand. "They exist to defend Virga from outside threats, they don't intervene in internal affairs!"
"That's what I always thought," said the reporter, with the air of a man who's recently come into possession of a great and secret truth.
Chaison almost laughed. Weren't interrogators supposed to keep their speculations from their victims? These two shouldn't even be talking in front of him, much less debating the facts of his case.
"This is what he won't tell us," said the reporter. "How did Slipstream get around Candesce's jamming field? Did they shut it off? Did they find a way to shield the ships from it? You see, I've been trying to wrap up my series for months with an appeal to the navy to develop this capability. It was no ordinary attack. If we knew this — if we had this ability —"
"Yes, I see." The professor met Chaison's gaze. It was odd, though: Chaison didn't see the lizard-like coldness in that gaze that he'd come to expect from the faceless apparatchiks of Falcon's brutal bureaucracy. Was this man here to try a new tactic — kindness, perhaps? — in hopes of prying these last, most crucial facts from Chaison?
It wouldn't work. If it had been a matter of saving his own life, Chaison might have told them everything. Even if it had been the integrity of his own nation, Slipstream, that was at stake, his will might have failed him; he was starting to hate Slipstream, or at least its government, for abandoning him to Falcon.
But the one whose life would be threatened if Falcon knew his secret was Venera, Chaison's wife. It was she who had discovered how to gain entrance to the sun of suns, she who knew how to temporarily shut down its suppressive fields. While Chaison had plummeted his ships into Falcon Formation's skies, Venera had entered Candesce during its night cycle and, at a predetermined moment, flipped whatever switch controlled the fields. Chaison's ships had one night and one night only to use their radar to ambush and destroy Falcon's invasion force. As Candesce shrugged itself awake, Venera had thrown the switch again and left.
At least, he assumed she had left. The plan was for them to meet up again at their home in Slipstream. Chaison had been captured after plunging his flagship into Falcon's new dreadnought like a dagger into the flank of a monster. He only hoped Venera'd had better luck getting out of Candesce.
He was rehearsing the lies and half-truths he would give these men, as he'd been taught in the admiralty, when something flicked past the window. He and the reporter both looked, but whatever it was, was already gone. Probably a bird or one of the thousands of species of flying fish that drifted through the clouds here on the edge of civilization.
Oddly, the visitor's eyes flicked to the window and then he said, rather loudly, "Well, we'd best get started with the serious questions, then."
The reporter grunted and turned to the wall of implements and devices behind the podium. The visiting professor chose that moment to grin openly at Chaison.
And then he winked.
"He really hates being burned," mused the reporter. "Too bad the furnace isn't working today. We could try ..." Somewhere nearby there was a heavy impact, a thump that Chaison felt rather than heard. The building oscillated slightly.
The reporter frowned and turned just as something shot past the window. For an instant a blurred line hung there; then with a crunch and a snap of dust the blur resolved into a heavy iron chain. It stretched taut across the window, quivering slightly.
The reporter gaped at it. "What is that?" At that moment his mild-looking visitor tossed the dossier aside to reveal a wicked-looking blade in his hand. With well-practiced economy of motion, he plunged it into the reporter's back.
As the reporter pawed at the tools of his trade, twitching his life out in silence, his killer undid the manacles that bound Chaison to the wall. "He and his kind have debased our profession," he said to Chaison. "It's become diabolical, really. I'm told there was a time when we reported what we learned to the people. Can you believe it? So don't question my motives. — Not that a little cash incentive isn't a helpful motivator at times."
"What are you doing?" asked Chaison weakly.
"I should think it was obvious," said the professor. "Earlier, while I had the room to myself, I weakened your restraints. Let me show you." He yanked on one of the straps and it came out of the wall. "The story will be that you took advantage of the chaos to kill Kyseman, here. I doubt anyone will question that too much, after everything else that's going to happen."
Kyseman. The name rang in Chaison's head as he climbed off the rack. He rubbed his wrists. "What's going to happen?"
The professor just smiled. "Hang on," he said. Then he wrapped both his arms around the podium.
The unmistakable crackle of gunfire sounded through the window. Chaison jumped over to it and just as he touched the lintel another length of chain whipped past, tightening against the stonework and throwing chips and dust into the air. He looked past it.
A squat, barrel-shaped ship hove into view. It was peeling away from the prison wall, jets straining, as dozens of tracer rounds drew lines in the air around it. Chaison barely had time to say, "Oh —" before the ring of rockets around its waist lit and it jumped away.
The chain flickered out, an iron link between ship and building. The blare of the rockets was insanely loud; in seconds the little ship had disappeared behind billowing smoke and flame. And as the chain hauled on the stonework, the weightless prison began to turn.
"Do they have a toy called a yo-yo in your country?" asked the visitor. Chaison caught the windowsill as it began to move away from him. "It's very simple," continued the visitor. "You wrap a string around something and when you pull the string, the thing spins. It's a principle you can apply to anything, really ..."
Chaison turned to him, grinning. "This place! It's not one building, it's five or six —"
The visitor was laughing now. "Make that eight. Various blockhouses and small jails that were towed here and nailed together to make a bigger structure. Not very stable. Prone to coming separated in strong winds — did you know that? Probably not, they don't advertise it to the prisoners. But your rescuers," he nodded to the window, "they found out."
The sky was spinning past, the little ship fast disappearing past the building's corner. Chaison craned his neck to watch it. "Who are you?" he asked. "And who are they if you're not one of them?"
"I told you," said the interrogator with a shrug, "I'm merely upholding the sanctity of my calling. I received a request to attend an interview, and at first I thought it came through official channels; by the time I learned otherwise, the cash incentives attached to it had ... convinced me to do the right thing.
"As to who they are," he added, jabbing a thumb at the window, "I really don't know. All I know is that they were very specific about who they wanted broken out of this hellhole." From the hallway came shouts and the thud of men bouncing off the walls. Chaison and the professor both turned to look, but nobody opened the door.
Chaison turned back to him. "What do I do?"
"Just stay here. Your people will send someone along in a few minutes — when they circle back. This room is in one of the least well-secured blocks. We calculated it'll be the first to go."
Chaison nodded — then thought of something. "Wait — one of my countrymen is here too. One of my original crew. I can't leave without him."
The professor shook his head. "Oh, no. Absolutely not. I forbid it. You're to stay here, otherwise the plan won't work."
Chaison glared at him. "You don't understand. He's just a boy, and it's my fault that he's here. I can't leave him."
The clouds outside were moving past with startling speed now, and Chaison felt centrifugal force pushing him against the window. Creaks and groans sang through the prison's structure.
Chaison jumped to the door. He pulled it open. "Are you coming?"
The professor grimaced and shook his head. "That would be suicide. You broke out of your bonds, remember. I had nothing to do with it."
Admiral Chaison Fanning turned to go, then glanced back. "I suppose I should be grateful," he said, gesturing at the lifeless body of the chief torturer. The visitor smiled, but he hadn't caught Chaison's meaning; much of the satisfaction Chaison might have felt at his torturer's death had drained away the moment that the professor had said his name.
No longer a monster but a man, dead Kyseman rolled over in the air, seemingly to sneer at Chaison one last time. Chaison turned away and climbed into the slowly tilting hall.
CHAIN HISSED ACROSS stone and with a final twitch, let go. With grand gestures the whirling prison began to come apart: first its spidery docking arm flung itself out, piers grasping at cloud before it detached and sailed away; then hundreds of barrels and crates broke free of the simple twine that had tied them next to the service entrance. They flew scattershot, two smacking into the warden's catamaran just as a mob of outraged prison guards was trying to board it. One barrel shattered the windshield and the other knocked off an engine.
Excerpted from Pirate Sun by Karl Schroeder, David G. Hartwell. Copyright © 2008 Karl Schroeder. 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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Karl Schroeder lives in Toronto, Ontario.
KARL SCHROEDER lives in Toronto, Ontario. He is the author of Ventus (New York Times Notable book for 2001),Permanence (winner of the 2003 Prix Aurora Award for best Canadian SF novel), Lady of Mazes, and the Virga Series, beginning with Sun of Suns.
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In Virga, Admiral Chaison Fanning learns no good deed goes unpunished. His bodacious foray prevented an assault on his orb Slipstream; he was imprisoned for his actions, but he is liberated by he assumes his daring subversive wife Venera who when he was first captured he saw fleeing. Returning to his town, to his amazement, Fanning is considered a traitor by those he saved; he expected the ruler who initially betrayed him to paint him as such but not his neighbors. As revolution, civil war, and outside invasion threaten the Virga spheres, he fights alongside Antaea Argyre, who is from another orb of the "system" near its edges. There he begins to understand there is much more to the universe than just what is connected to Virga's central sun Candesce. As with the first two books of the Virga chronicle (see SUN OF SUNS and QUEEN OF CANDESCE), it is the variety of town-spheres that make for a complex exciting science fiction saga in which anything seems possible under the sun (of Candesce that is). The story line is fast-paced from the onset as Fanning, though scorned and swiftboated continues to do what he thinks is the ethically right thing for the good of his people. His escapades never slow down as Karl Schroeder provides a strong outer space opera thriller. Harriet Klausner
In Virga, Admiral Chaison Fanning learns no good deed goes unpunished. His bodacious foray prevented an assault on his orb Slipstream he was imprisoned for his actions, but he is liberated by he assumes his daring subversive wife Venera who when he was first captured he saw fleeing. ---- Returning to his town, to his amazement, Fanning is considered a traitor by those he saved he expected the ruler who initially betrayed him to paint him as such but not his neighbors. As revolution, civil war, and outside invasion threaten the Virga spheres, he fights alongside Antaea Argyre, who is from another orb of the ¿system¿ near its edges. There he begins to understand there is much more to the universe than just what is connected to Virga¿s central sun Candesce. ---- As with the first two books of the Virga chronicle (see SUN OF SUNS and QUEEN OF CANDESCE), it is the variety of town-spheres that make for a complex exciting science fiction saga in which anything seems possible under the sun (of Candesce that is). The story line is fast-paced from the onset as Fanning, though scorned and swiftboated continues to do what he thinks is the ethically right thing for the good of his people. His escapades never slow down as Karl Schroeder provides a strong outer space opera thriller. ---- Harriet Klausner