Star Road: A Novel
  • Star Road: A Novel
  • Star Road: A Novel

Star Road: A Novel

by Matthew Costello, Rick Hautala

View All Available Formats & Editions

A rebel and an outlaw lead an unsuspecting group of adventurers on a secret mission across the vastness of space, in Matthew Costello's Star Road

Ivan Delgato, a former leader of a rebel group called the Runners, is released from jail on the condition that he carry out a secret mission for the World Council. His assignment is

See more details below


A rebel and an outlaw lead an unsuspecting group of adventurers on a secret mission across the vastness of space, in Matthew Costello's Star Road

Ivan Delgato, a former leader of a rebel group called the Runners, is released from jail on the condition that he carry out a secret mission for the World Council. His assignment is simple: stay under cover, but do absolutely anything necessary to reach the planet Omega IX and offer the renegade Runners clemency if they surrender---which may be complicated since Ivan's brutally violent brother has taken lead of the Runners in Ivan's absence.

In search of the Runners, Ivan catches a ride out to the wildest reaches of the galaxy via a mysterious transportation system, the Star Road. His fellow passengers on Star Road Vehicle-66 are a suspicious group, all with their own hidden reasons for traversing the star road. As the travelers contend with increasingly deadly encounters, it isn't long before suspicions build against Ivan.

And as the Runners must choose one brother over the other, on a planet filled with ancient secrets, those who survive will confront a mystery that changes the Star Road, and humanity, forever.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Political intrigue diminishes the benefits of advanced alien technology as Costello and the late Hautala (1949–2013) infuse a Wild West atmosphere into space travel. Squabbles over the right to travel the Star Road, which reaches across the galaxy and perhaps beyond, pit the rebelling Runners against the dominant World Council in armed combat. As rebel leader Ivan Delgato’s imprisonment fails to end the violence, SRV-66 takes flight to distant outpost Omega Nine with several secretive passengers, including World Council agent Bill Nahara, attention-seeking walking camera Sinjira Renku, soulful Seeker Ruth Corso, and hitchhiker “Gage Mitchell” (who is actually Delgato in disguise). Clashes of opinion and ethical debates are augmented by frequent hints of looming crisis. Costello (Missing Monday) and Hautala (Nightstone), both experienced horror authors, emphasize this future’s brutal nature with the introduction of Road Bugs, which literally consume vehicles traveling the Star Road. The emphasis on the unexplored evokes the vision of classic science fiction, neatly packaging this espionage novel in a speculative wrapper. (Jan.)
Kirkus Reviews
Pulp science fiction from Costello (Vacation, 2012, etc.) and recently deceased (1949-2013) Hautala (The Demon's Wife, 2013, etc.), their only collaboration. The idea readers are asked to swallow--and it's a large ask--is that space is threaded by a Star Road, a sort of blacktop in hyperspace, constructed by vanished alien Builders, patrolled by voracious Road Bugs that will eat you if you pull over, that humanity has learned to navigate in vehicles resembling rocket-propelled, airtight Humvees. Even more absurd, the ramps that lead to the Road's gateways begin and end on planetary surfaces. Anyhow, the repressive World Council has decreed that it's in sole charge of the Star Road. The rebellious Runners oppose the Council and insist the Roads should be open to all. Runner head-honcho Ivan Delgato has been captured; unfortunately, his brother, Kyros, has taken over, and he's a lunatic intent on causing mayhem. So the Council releases Ivan from jail with the agreement that he head for planet Omega IX, confront Kyros and offer the Runners a deal. The action never falters as what starts out as a routine drive for Star Road Vehicle-66's lively crew and passengers rapidly turns into a video game–inspired nightmare, with hairsbreadth escapes, dastardly plots, heroic rescues, gnomic utterances, monsters, love interests, guns and violence, aliens, and Raiders of the Lost Arkstyle tests of nerve and analysis. Younger readers--the gamer crowd--might well find this amusing and thrilling. The more mature audience will likely be annoyed at the daft concepts but also bemusedly charmed by the authors' ability to pull rabbit after rabbit out of the hat. All in all, something for everyone.

Read More

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
10.10(w) x 7.00(h) x 1.30(d)

Read an Excerpt





Captain Marie Rioux stood by a railing overlooking the massive hold of the mining ship Seropian. The cargo ship had been designed to do one thing and one thing only: to carry the rare ores found on distant, desolate planets back to an ever-hungry Earth and its colonies.

Rioux watched as one of the mine’s ore ferries landed and dumped its supply of ore. Another small ferry ship floated outside, waiting to enter the airlock system, and still more were waiting below, on-planet, loaded and ready to link up with the cargo ship in geosynchronous orbit.

All day long—though who the hell remembered how long a day was here—the mining ships traveled from planet to cargo ship and back to planet.

Rioux had to wonder if this was what she had trained for all those years.

The excitement of space travel?

Certainly not here, sitting in the middle of nowhere, waiting until the cargo ship’s giant belly grew full, and then making the trip to the way station, to the Star Road, and finally home. Well, not “home.” A smelting plant on the Lunar Base Fourteen.

But close enough to home to count.

Over and over, this routine made her romantic notions about being a space captain seem … absurd.

I’m a damned truck driver, she thought.

The tedium was matched by a constant urge to get the hell away from here, back to where there were green growing things and the normal days and nights of Earth.

The small ore ferry below had finished dumping its load and started its return trip to the surface of Thalos.

Moving along … Good.

All Rioux could think was, Hurry. Fill me up so I can leave this God-forsaken place.

Because if there was ever a place the God had forsaken, it was the dismal planet below.

*   *   *

Sam Hatch looked up as another ferry moved away from the ore processors, engines blasting as it passed over the great grinding conveyors that brought the ore to the ferries.

Each ferry carried tons of ore up to the cargo ship that circled like a hungry bird of prey above the small, red-stained planet called Thalos.

The Seropian was up there, he knew. But damned if he could see the ship or even the stars through the clouds of red dust churned up by the mining operations.

When that cargo ship was full, it would leave to be replaced with another.

And another.

He looked at the open wound of the mine itself. Huge trucks crawled back and forth over the rubble. The giant diggers, like ancient, lumbering dinosaurs, endlessly moving into caves and then down, below the surface, back to the deep shafts where teams of miners armed with explosives and tools hunted for new veins of minerals.


The mining operation was an endless machine.

So far, this planet, whose home star wasn’t even visible from Earth, appeared to be rich with the rare ores and heavy metals that could be used to make everything from the World Council’s computers to the good citizens’ sex toys.

Giant lights covered the area, so there was no visible difference between the broiling days and the frigid nights. And the red dust shot constantly into the air as if the planet itself were wounded … a bleeding cloud created by the miners’ endless digging.

Hatch was satisfied.

All was running smoothly. Unlike the miners—whose contracts were tied to how long they worked—his depended on meeting his weekly quota.

The faster he got the ore, the sooner he would get to leave this hellhole.

Then he’d get six months of R&R.

On a beach somewhere. Palm trees. Blue water. Drinking, ogling women in and out of bikinis, and forgetting about this ugly rock, the grinding noises, the dull-eyed miners, and the constant pressure to transport more and more ore.

Everyone appeared to be working as fast as they could. The machines’ mindless efficiency seemed matched by that of the men. All of them—men and machines—covered with the red stain of the planet.

But could he really tell?

Are the loads full?

Do the workers stop to bullshit, eating up precious minutes?

The whole operation of filling the cargo ship just couldn’t go damn fast enough for Hatch.

He turned away and walked over to the miners’ camp to have a few shots. And maybe see if any of the miners decided to go buggy tonight. Because some did go buggy. For some, it wasn’t a question of if … but when.

*   *   *

Hatch took the shot glass and downed the dark rum in a gulp.

The woman behind the bar hadn’t been picked for her beauty. But he supposed that a patron with enough booze would hit on her, drunk and wearing thick enough beer goggles to make him see double.


Look, she has a twin sister.

Before that patron keeled over and had to be hauled back to the miners’ quarters and tossed into a narrow cot, where the noise of the miners’ snoring was like a rocket engine’s roar.

“Another,” Hatch said, slamming his empty shot glass onto the counter.

“Don’t dent the wood,” the bartender said as she refilled him.

And as he took the second drink, Hatch looked around the bar.

Nice and quiet. Off-duty miners sitting at tables, talking about the day, making jokes.

This drill bit broke … that grinder shattered … this guy fucked up planting the explosives and almost blew his team to hell.

Others indulged in the biggest sin of all—talking about home.


Holidays. Kids. Wives. Food.


Now that kind of talk would definitely turn you buggy, Hatch thought. Though it was in his mind 24/7, too. Even here, on this planet with its fifty-six-hour rotation, everyone operated on Standard Earth Time and thought about their home planet constantly.

Good thing the operation here was outfitted with an infirmary stocked with enough class-A drugs to sedate a city. No one could run this job without that safety net, even though the booze was usually enough to keep things in check.

He liked having a belt or two, and then standing there with his handguns at his side, wearing his weapons like some goddamned sheriff. It had worked in Dodge and Tucson in the 1800s. Maybe it would work here.

The only other guns were in the hands of the security guards who were posted at key spots with pulse weapons. You certainly wouldn’t want any of these miners running around with guns.

The barroom door opened, and Parker—his assistant who watched the tonnage, who really knew how much ore was being moved—came in.

He scanned the room for Hatch, caught his eye, and then hurried over.

Before he could speak, Hatch did.

“Parker. I’m off-duty. Whatever the hell it is—”

“We got a jam up on the ship, Mr. Hatch.” Parker’s eyes looked frantic. “Last ferry got engine trouble.”

“Shit,” Hatch said.

That would lead to a line of ferries burning fuel, waiting to get into the Seropian’s hold.

Eating time, screwing the day’s quota. Making me fucking lose money.

“Great. Terrific. What are they—”

“Captain Rioux has her team working on it. Shouldn’t be too long. But you said—”

“I know what I said. I want to know about any delays.”

Before Parker could reply, Hatch turned away and nodded at the bartender—a tilt of the head signaling he wanted another hit.

A quick pour from the bartender, and he tossed the rum down, letting it burn his tongue and throat.

“You did your duty. Now get back to it.”

It took Parker a few seconds to realize that he was being told to go.

And Hatch went back to what he thought would be his last drink of the day before crawling back to his private quarters to shower and sleep and dream about any damn place other than here.

*   *   *

Rioux paced the bridge of the Seropian.

The dead ore ferry still blocked the entryway for the line of others waiting outside.

How long was this holdup going to be?

She had a good engineering team. They’d find the problem and get things moving again.

But it would take time.

She could imagine that down below, Hatch was not pleased at all.

Well, too bad, she thought.

She looked at the bridge crew, all young … raw, inexperienced. Most of them were only on their second or third tour. Still excited at being in deep space.

The reality of what this really was hadn’t sunk in yet.

The utter boredom.

She checked the time and decided her workday was over. The ore ship would be repaired. Eventually. Nothing much to do. Watching and pacing the bridge wasn’t going to make them work any faster.

But then, something held her there.

Maybe just the need for one last look before she left for the night.

The sounds of the bridge—the beeps and pings mixed with bursts of static from solar flares of the system’s star—all turned into meaningless background chatter. One monitor displayed the immobile ferry blocking the cargo bay while others showed the red planet below, the stars outside in strange constellations, and the distant, shimmering strand of the Star Road.

Other screens filled with endless streams of ship’s data. Heating, cooling, oxygen, and gravity levels.

All good. All okay.

Might as well turn in, she thought.

Fahir, her communications officer, suddenly spoke up, breaking the silence.

“Captain. I’m picking up something.”

Rioux wheeled around to face him.

Something, Lieutenant?”

“Signal’s coming in. Can’t see how many yet. They’re masking their ID.”


“I’m trying to raise them, but they’re not responding.”

Rioux turned to the navigation station. Miller, a woman half Rioux’s age, looked up, her inexperience reflected in her eyes.

“Miller, can you plot their course?”

The navigation officer nodded, already working on it.

“Got it, Captain,” she said. “They’re vectoring right toward us. Five vessels.”

Then Fahir turned to her and said the one word that crystallized everyone’s biggest fear these days.


Can’t be, Rioux thought.

Not this far in-system.

And not when their goddamn leader is on trial on Earth.

The Runners are finished. That’s what people say.

“Runners aren’t going to raid a mining operation,” Rioux said.

She tried to project calm even though she didn’t know what the hell was going on. With that ore ship crippled in the bay, they were an easy target.

“Nearest Road portal is … how far?”

“Four AUs away, Captain,” Miller said.

Rioux shook her head. “Why the hell would anyone come this far in-system? They can’t be Runners.”

But that forced the question: Then … who are they?

One monitor tracked the five ships, coming in quickly, heading toward the Seropian. Until, close enough, the first images appeared on-screen.

Rioux moved closer to the monitor.

And saw: a gunship and four smaller raider escorts.

She thought: Why all that goddamn firepower? Heading here?

And then—

They can only be Runners.

Rioux turned to face the crew on the bridge. From this point on, everyone would hear her voice, loud and clear. She hit a button on the security display, and the quiet of the bridge was shattered by the blaring of a Klaxon. Emergency lights flashed on scores of consoles.

“Battle stations,” she said. “All hands to battle stations. Prepare for—”

She shook her head.

Battle stations?

Stalled in space with the open cargo hold, the ship was unable to take defensive maneuvers. All that was left was for the Seropian to take the first hit, while everyone waited to feel the shattering vibrations of that first blast.


Copyright © 2014 by Matthew Costello and Rick Hautala

Read More

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >