This ebook contains a new afterword by the author!
With a plot inspired by chaos theory, fully realized characters, and plenty of twists and turns, this exciting hard SF adventure will keep readers on the edge of their seats.
John Bandicut and several aliens and artificial intelligences have been thrown together by a force greater than themselves to prevent cataclysmic disasters on an interstellar scale. Now, before they can take a break after a world-saving mission, they are pulled into a waystation that is being threatened by highly destructive gravity waves.
The waves are part of a much larger problem. Something is causing stars to become unstable and go prematurely nova--they're being murdered. When the waystation is destroyed by the gravity waves, Bandicut and his crew barely escape on a jury-rigged ship. Their destination is a star nursery in the Orion Nebula, where sentient stars are being driven to destruction by an artificial intelligence bent on remaking the cosmos in its own image.
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About the Author
JEFFREY A. CARVER's most recent novel, Eternity's End, was a finalist for the Nebula Award. He's written more than a dozen novels, including his critically acclaimed novelization of Battlestar Galactica. He lives in Arlington, Massachusetts.
Jeffrey A. Carver’s novel Eternity’s End was a finalist for the Nebula Award. The author of more than a dozen novels, he lives in Arlington, MA.
Read an Excerpt
Volume Four of the Chaos Chronicles
By Jeffrey A. Carver
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2008 Jeffrey A. Carver
All rights reserved.
The company sped across the light-years for what felt like an eternity, enclosed only by a faintly glimmering force-field bubble. Behind them they had left an ocean world; ahead was the unknown. Inside the star-spanner transport, John Bandicut felt a distinct sense of time and space passing by as a physical stream — stretching ahead of them, flowing around and behind them. He watched as the stars outside the bubble streaked past against the backdrop of space.
Ik, the Hraachee'an, was the first to notice the gradual appearance of a ghostly, rose-colored nebula ahead. Soon after Ik pointed that out to the others, Bandicut observed the star field crinkling, as though someone were rippling the fabric of space like clear cellophane. A moment later a shock wave rocked the star-spanner bubble. "What —" rasp rasp "— was that?" cried Li-Jared, several of the Karellian's words dropping out in translation.
Whatever had hit them blazed golden around them, and for a moment they all seemed to turn transparent and luminous. Bandicut could scarcely breathe.
*Entering new flight regime. Approaching interstellar waystation.*
Bandicut blinked at the words of the translator-stones embedded in his wrists. Interstellar waystation?
"Something's changing ahead," said Ik.
Bandicut pressed his face to the front of the bubble. "I think I see it — some kind of shadow ahead, between us and the nebula."
"Hrah. It looks like a channel of some kind."
Antares pressed close behind Bandicut, her breath warm on his cheek. "How could there be such a thing in space?"
No one had an answer, but what had looked to Bandicut like a patch of shadow grew larger quickly, then abruptly wrapped around the bubble like a tunnel. Suddenly they were flying like a high-speed train through a not-quite-solid tube, which began to glow with a pale blue light.
They felt a series of soft jolts, as though the star-spanner bubble were decelerating in discrete increments. With no further warning, it glided into a platform that reminded Bandicut of a subway station on Earth. The bubble softened and vanished with a twinkle. Bandicut and the others looked at each other. "I guess we're invited to get out," Bandicut said. His two robots went first, clambering out onto the surface and pronouncing it solid and apparently safe. Together with his companions, Bandicut followed them onto the platform. It was a strange and wonderful sensation to feel something solid beneath his feet again. /What do you think, Charlie? I mean Charlene?/ he asked silently, speaking to the quarx — presently female — in his head.
/// I think we're about to meet someone. ///
/Oh?/ He turned. A new robot was floating toward them. Or perhaps a holo-image of a robot. It was tall and vaguely humanoid. A silver band encircled its head where eyes might have been. Small clusters of sparkling jewels floated independently along the band — apparently the robot's eyes, moving to focus on all the members of the company at once. "My name is Jeaves," it said in a deep voice that sounded both human and familiar. They had heard that voice during their passage in the star-spanner. "Welcome to the Cloudminder Interstellar Waystation. I have been asked to serve as your host, though I am a visitor here myself. The station is largely uninhabited at this time."
"Hrah," said Ik. "Where are —?"
"I'll explain everything once we're inside, and do my best to make you comfortable here," Jeaves continued. "Including servicing your robots, if you like."
"Yes, we —"
"I have many questions for you, as I'm sure you do for me. But before we can enter the station proper, I must ask you all to stand by just a little longer. I believe you are familiar with the normalization procedure?"
"Of course," rumbled Ik. The others muttered agreement. On Shipworld, the vast structure outside the galaxy where the four had met, each had gone through normalization — a mysterious application of alien technology that adjusted their physiologies for local food, air, and so on. It had happened again when they'd gone to the ocean world.
/// John, I get the feeling this isn't going to be just a pit stop ... ///
Bandicut missed the rest of the quarx's words. He suddenly felt light- headed, and was enveloped in a cottony glow. He started to call out to his companions. But the glow blurred not just his vision but his thoughts and his balance. He felt himself falling, his thoughts leaking out into the light ...
JEAVES PROCEDURAL DIARY: 3126.96.36.199
Preliminary debriefing of the newly arrived company is complete. I performed the procedure during a light trance-state induced during normalization, with the assistance of the translator-stones each member of the company carries.
The company includes representatives of four organic species, each from a different homeworid (John Bandicut, Human of Earth; Ik, Hraachee'an; Li-Jared, Karellian; and Antares, empathic Thespi Third-female). In addition, there are two robots of Earth manufacture — Napoleon and Copernicus — enhanced to the point of sentience (but not by their original makers). They seem to share a personal bond with John Bandicut. Finally, there is one noncorporeal symbiote — Charlie (or Charlene) the quarx — resident in John Bandicut's mind.
The group came together on Shipworld, and by all accounts, distinguished themselves during the crisis brought on by the boojum incursion. (Report on boojum crisis available in Shipworld archives.) Due to urgent need, they were dispatched immediately afterward to assist with a situation on the ocean world known as Astar-Neri, in the Sagittarian arm — where they prevented a deep-sea entity known locally as the Maw of the Abyss from destroying an undersea civilization. Their discovery of the true nature of the Maw — a damaged, near-sentient stargate — is recorded separately in a detailed report.
The success of this just-completed mission owed largely to their exceptional teamwork and negotiating skills. The broad spectrum of their intelligences, empathy, courage, and problem-solving abilities make this company a formidable agent of change. Compared with other operatives who might be called into service in the Starmaker crisis, this company in my judgment offers by far the best hope for success. Plus, of course, they are here now, and available. With the instability in the Starmaker Nebula growing at an alarming rate, time appears to be critical.
All members of the group emoted a desire for extended rest and relaxation — hardly unreasonable, given their recent service. I can certainly allow them a day to rest and adjust to their new surroundings, which I have attempted to shape for their comfort. However, given the urgency of the situation, I have little choice: I must move quickly to persuade this group to join us in the Starmaker mission. The consequences of failure could redound far beyond the nebula ...CHAPTER 2
The robot's holographic image floated like a ghostly silver mannequin above the dull red cavern floor. "I trust you have enjoyed your respite, however brief," he said to the assembled company. "A day and a night isn't much. But now we must speak of a matter that cannot wait. A matter of great urgency."
Bandicut groaned. The quarx had been right. This wasn't just a pit stop at the waystation. Li-Jared answered first, though. "A new job?" he snapped, his electric-blue eyes sparking with anger. Vaguely simian in form, the Karellian paced energetically over what looked like the floor of a water-carved sandstone ravine in the middle of a desert. Somewhere beneath all that rock was the deck of the space station. "Has it occurred to you," Li-Jared drawled, "that we might not want a new job?"
We certainly do not, Bandicut thought. Not anytime soon, and certainly not dropped on us the way the last one was. They had just spent a pleasant evening in idyllic surroundings, eaten good food, and even been fitted with new clothes while their old ones were cleaned and mended. They had slept in comfort, and awakened to stroll through several carefully maintained environments, each in a different section of the station. Had all of that been a softening-up for this moment? He felt an echoing feeling from Antares, who stood at his side.
"Hrah," agreed Ik. The tall, bony Hraachee'an stroked his sculpted, blue-white head with long fingers and turned both ways to note the reactions of his companions. "After what we have been through, we thought we had earned some time to relax and ..." Ik paused, raising his hands, at a loss for words.
See to our own needs? Bandicut thought, completing Ik's sentence. Yes. They had just saved a world. And had done plenty more before that.
"I understand," said Jeaves. The holo of the robot's cylindrical body extended its arms toward them in an apparent gesture of conciliation. The sparkling eyes in the band around its head came together to become just two eyes. They softened. "But the need is urgent. You are the only ones in a position to —"
John Bandicut shook his head. "We've heard that bef —" he started to say. But he was interrupted by a sudden shudder that passed through the ground, shaking them all. "What the —?"
"Please wait while this passes," Jeaves said sharply as the shaking continued. "This will likely be the equivalent of a mild seismic quake on a planetary surface. It should end soon."
"Uhhll, seismic quake?" said Antares, her voice tinged with uncertainty. "I don't understand."
Bandicut gripped her arm to steady her. "It means the ground shaking — maybe pretty hard." Right now, it was starting to feel as if a freight train were passing by. "Jeaves, what's causing this?" He looked up. Overhead, an enormous clear dome protected them from the vacuum of interstellar space. It reminded him of domes on Shipworld, a pretty solid place; but they were not on Shipworld. As the ground continued to quake, he wondered about the strength of this dome.
Li-Jared swung his gaze from left to right. "What the hell is —" bwang "— going on, Jeaves?" he echoed, with a froglike twanging sound that seemed to emerge from deep in his throat.
Over the rumbling, Jeaves said, "It's a hypergravity shock wave. It's part of the problem I was telling you about. We've been getting them intermittently for some time, but they're growing in frequency and severity."
"When's it going to stop?" Bandicut yelled, waving a hand uselessly against the dust now rising from the ground.
"Soon, I hope," Jeaves answered, raising his own voice to a shout. "It's a disturbance in spacetime, propagating through n-dimensional space. Once it passes, I'll show you where it came from."
Li-Jared was scowling, which on a Karellian face looked something like a leer. "This doesn't have something to do with the Maw of the Abyss, does it? We thought we'd gotten away from the Maw!"
"Not that we know of —" Jeaves began. His words cut off when the station shuddered harder, and the ground heaved violently, knocking all four of the company into the dust. The ground bucked in waves. Bandicut cursed, sliding on his elbows and knees, trying to protect Antares, who had fallen half under him. Jeaves shouted something he couldn't hear. But he did hear the cracking of stone walls. Then he heard Jeaves's words, amplified: "... into the shelter! Get into the shelter!"
Bandicut could barely lift his head. Shelter? What shelter? Then he saw a row of blazing marker lights leading down into a deep cut in the ground ...
"Quickly!" Jeaves shouted, and Li-Jared yelled, "This way, Ik!" and hauled on the Hraachee'an. Bandicut did likewise with Antares; they couldn't stand up to run, but together they crawled toward the opening, falling through after Ik and Li-Jared, and nearly on top of them.
A light came on as a door slid shut. They untangled themselves enough to realize that they were still bouncing up and down, but less violently and on a padded surface. They were apparently in a sealed emergency shelter not much larger than the star-spanner bubble. Jeaves reappeared in their midst — a smaller projection — and asked, "Are you all right? Is anyone injured?" When no one seemed hurt, he continued, "You can ride out the shock wave here. This is the worst we have experienced — and I must tell you, it alarms me."
"My robots!" Bandicut called. "Are they all right?" The last time he had seen Napoleon and Copernicus, they'd been heading off to another sector of the station for servicing.
Jeaves flickered. "We're experiencing broken communication to that area. But the service bays are well protected."
/// They're being seen to by the shadow-people. I'm sure they're in excellent hands, ///
the quarx murmured silently, in Bandicut's head.
/I know, I know./ The shadow-people, fractal-creatures who looked like torn shreds of darkness and appeared to have no material form, were the ones who seemed to keep things running on Shipworld — and apparently here, too. /But still ... /
"How much longer?" Li-Jared asked in a voice quavering from the vibration, and maybe from fear.
Jeaves did not answer at once. The shaking seemed to lessen, as though it were being muffled. "We are trying to create a compensation field around the shelter, so we can talk," Jeaves said finally.
"When is it going to end?" Antares asked.
"I don't know. None has lasted this long before."
Bandicut squeezed Antares's hand. The Thespi female leaned against him, her long auburn hair falling against his shoulder, and together they settled back against the padding to ride it out. He felt her anxiety vibrate through him along with the continuing shudders of the quake. He slipped an arm around her shoulder to reassure her.
"You said you would tell us where this was coming from," Ik said.
"All right, then, let's start," Jeaves answered. "Please look up." As he spoke, the light in the shelter dimmed, and the ceiling and upper walls seemed to disappear, replaced by the night sky. To Bandicut, the view looked like a clear sky on a dark night on the North American plain. A great, breathtaking swath of the Milky Way arched across the field of view — except that the star patterns were all unfamiliar. "I need to tell you something about the neighborhood this waystation is located in," the robot said. "We are about twenty-four thousand light-years from the center of the galaxy."
"In the disk plane?" Li-Jared asked.
"Yes. Now notice the nebula." The view rotated about thirty degrees.
It was hard not to notice the wispy, ethereal cloud of glowing gas and dust floating slightly offset from the band of the galaxy. Bandicut raised his hands and held them side by side. They didn't quite cover the glowing cloud.
"We are presently a few hundred light-years from the nebula," Jeaves continued. "It is known locally as Starmaker. But you may know it by another name, John."
Everyone turned to look at Bandicut. He peered up at the cloud and the star patterns, then shook his head.
"It is well known on your homeworld," said the robot. "In fact, it is visible to the naked eye from your northern hemisphere. But we're seeing it from what you would think of as the back side. Your astronomers call it the Great Orion Nebula."
Bandicut drew a sharp breath. "The Orion Nebula?" he whispered, stunned. "My God." Of course he knew it; in the constellation Orion the Hunter, it was the middle "star" in the sword hanging from the Hunter's belt. A profound feeling of homesickness overtook him. Not since his exile from Earth's solar system had he seen anything that offered even this much connection with home. Now ... he had a place again in the galaxy; he knew where he was.
Jeaves was still talking. "The Orion Nebula, besides being located some fifteen hundred light-years to this side of John's homeworld, Earth, is one of the great star-forming nebulas of the Milky Way galaxy."
Bandicut breathed out again. /Fifteen hundred light-years. Still a long way home./
/// Yes, but we're closer now than before. Didn't we guess Shipworld was about fifteen thousand light-years? ///
/Yah./ It had been a wild guess, though. All they really knew was that the enormous artificial habitat known as Shipworld floated somewhere outside the Milky Way, above the galactic disk. He and the others had lived there for a comparatively short time, before being hurled back into the galaxy to the Neri world.
He suddenly realized that Antares was holding a steadying hand on him.
/// You're trembling, John. ///
Was he? "I'm fine," he murmured aloud. But there was no hiding his feelings from the empathic Thespi. Antares could read his emotions perfectly.
Excerpted from Sunborn by Jeffrey A. Carver. Copyright © 2008 Jeffrey A. Carver. 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.
Table of Contents
2 Mission Unwelcome,
3 Ed and the Stars,
4 Food for Thought,
5 Unscheduled Departure,
6 Triton Station,
7 Almost Like Home,
8 Deadly Encounter,
9 A History Lesson,
10 Packing for Departure,
11 Dreams Awaken,
12 Two Minds,
13 Approaching the Star,
15 Out of the Star,
16 Earthward Bound,
18 Traveling in the Dark,
19 A Deadly Detour,
20 The Mindbody,
21 Ready to Break,
22 Through the Gap,
23 The Translator Speaks,
24 Into the Heart of Starmaker,
25 Ik's Stones,
26 Distant Memories,
28 Boarding Party,
30 Against the Flow,
31 A Visit to a Star,
32 In Flight,
35 Into the Sun,
36 In the Fire of a Star,
37 Plunge Into Darkness,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I have read all four books in the Chaos series and have found them to be delightful reading. The series follows the adventures of a group of futuristic "Musketeers" out to save the universe only they are not really sure what it is they are supposed to do, and how they are to do it. It is well written and makes a great read!
I love the Chaos Chronicles series, and this book is the best one yet. It's a solid story, keeping up the non-stop pace of the previous three books but never repetitive. The author took me on a wonderful ride with his remarkable imagination--I could taste and see and feel these exotic places in deep space and time, riding along with the wonderful cast of characters (human, alien, robot, solar, energy beings...) It's not just adventure, there's a winsome loveliness to some of the characters, and deepening friendships and some intriguing new characters as well. I love that our hero Bandicut isn't just a magical superhero but someone who has greatness thrust upon him and does his best, depending on his friends even as they depend on him to lead. A real gem!
Earthling John Bandicut is bone tired after being exiled from his home planet, saving his world and subsequently two others. World saving is a tiring vocation. He currently travels through interstellar space with other exiles including one residing inside his head; they are a band of aliens from all sorts of orbs. John looks forward to rest when they reach their destination, a space station in the Orion Nebula sector.
However, he and his cohorts soon learn of a pandemic conspiracy to eradicate the sentient stars residing in this part of space. Struggling with communicating with the intended victims, John and his friends put off R&R to prevent genocide at a time when his homeworld also faces a major threat.
This is a superb outer space thriller starring a misunderstood hero and his alien peers. The cast is vast so except for John none seem more than two dimensional yet those key players provide keen perspectives as point of view changes inside of the non-stop action. Jeffrey A. Carver returns to his Chaos Chronicles universe for the first in a decade with an exciting throw back science fiction thriller.
This was a great read, but you must read the first series 1 - 3 as this ia a continuation. Leaves you wondering what the next adventures will be.
Jeffrey Carver writes with imagination, fast action, vivid imagery and fully developed characters. The Star Rigger series was throughly entertaining and the Chaos Chronicles are even better. I highly recommend both series but also recommend starting from the beginning to get the full benefit of Carver's talent. Please Mr. Carver, don't make us wait so long for #5!
Great characterization; read all of this series and live it with them.
Liked the story and the characters. Could not put down. Waiting for the next in the series.
Great followup to series waiting on book 5 the reeds of time,
I have read all four of the Chaos Chronicles and loved the stories as well as the characters. I look forward to the next book.
The Chaos Chronicles was great, fun and exciting.....but Sunborn on the other hand I found very hard to get into. I found myself skipping paragraphs at times when the action changed just to keep the story going because it felt like the author was just trying to fill space and that it stopped the story dead. The Julie Stone chapters now, I found them to be more interesting then the main story line its self and I wont say too much but I did like the way that everything and everybody came full circle at the end.
I found the first three books in the series interesting but this one was too far removed from humanity that relating to the characters and events was impossible. It was also too much to be asked to believe that an antogonist responsible for the destruction of stars and planets wouldn't have easily killed our heroes. I'm all for cosmic plots but at least make them somewhat believable.