For a young space scavenger, reclaiming the Word that was abolished years ago becomes a matter of afterlife and death when the secret police are tipped off.
About the Author
By day, Steve Rzasa works as your local technical services librarian in Buffalo, Wyoming. By night, Steve dons his spacesuit and authors speculative fiction. Steve has written several books, including his debut novel, The Word Reclaimed, which finaled in American Christian Fiction Writers' Best Speculative Fiction award in 2010. He and his wife, Carrie, have two boys whom he is teaching to love all things sci-fi and superhero.
Read an Excerpt
Arapaho Star System
Solitude was easy enough to accomplish here. He was crouched in his bunk with his nose buried in his delver, reading history articles pulled off the Reach information network. The cabin hatch stood shut and the mellow jazz of a man named Duke Ellington played in the background. Getting alone wasn't the issue.
The problem was that it could never be maintained for long aboard the six-brace vessel Natalia Zoja.
The intercom buzzer jolted Baden out of his reading.
"Baden?" his dad called.
He ignored it. Baden wanted nothing more than to stay locked up in his cabin. It was four by five meters of his private space. He'd taken great pains to scrounge enough goldenrod paint to add some color to the four different shades of grey. There were storage bins crammed into every available square centimeter — under his bunk, clamped to the bulkhead, embedded around the hatch. There'd be even more space for him to sprawl out if he didn't have a closet-sized shower and bathroom off to one side, but Baden viewed that as nonnegotiable.
"Baden!" His dad sounded upset — so what else was new?
Baden tossed the delver onto his desk, where the handheld electronics pad landed amidst a pile of data chips. He stretched his arms and ambled across the cabin in six steps. "What's wrong, Dad — no one to yell at?" He punched the response key. "Yeah, what?"
Not surprisingly, his dad's initially sour tone did not improve. "Get up to the bridge. We're five minutes from tract shift. I want a diagnostics run on the communications system and the sensors, got it? They need to be checked before we arrive at Muhterem."
And how are you, Dad? Good. Oh, me? I'm just fine. Baden sighed and ran a hand through his unkempt brown hair. No matter how he combed the unruly stuff, it would not cooperate. "Sure, I'll be right there. Just give me a minute to —"
The intercom clicked off. Baden stared at the unit open-mouthed, his sentence lost. He scowled. "Just give me a minute to drop-kick you into a black hole."
Baden retrieved the delver from his desk and shoved it into the largest pocket on his tan coveralls. He cut the music from his media player with an angry stab of a finger and headed for the passageway.
The corridor looked like the rest of the ship's interior — bluish grey metal, small lights evenly spaced on the deck and ceiling, hatches interspersed among access panels and equipment lockers. Scratches marred every surface. Wires hung in bundles, seemingly haphazard.
Baden's cabin, along with the rest of the crew cabins and the galley, was a deck below the bridge in the forward section of the 150-meter vessel. Baden passed the galley, trying hard to ignore the aroma of the last meal, even if it had been rehydrated from a canister. He started up the spiral stairwell, making sure he went as slowly as possible. No need to impress him with punctuality at this point.
Shen Renshu barreled past him, knocking him aside.
"Renshu, blast it," Baden said. "Watch where you're going!"
"Sorry," the man said, huffing and puffing. "I gotta get to the engine room yesterday."
Renshu was twice as old as Baden but a head shorter. He was a military veteran whose knack with starship drives had earned him the chief engineer's post years ago. Shades of grey illuminated his jet-black hair and made his eyes shine. He held a delver in his solvent-stained hand and shoved a tool into his cloth bandoleer laden with equipment.
"Simon — uh, your dad — wants me watching the reactor when we exit," he said, a broad smile creasing his Asian features. "You know how he is about my baby."
"You mean his baby."
Renshu waved the delver dismissively. "Eh, let's let him think that. We all know who she likes best. Simon can keep doting on her."
"Yeah, I wish he was that way about the crew," Baden said, continuing his climb.
He looked back down, catching a fleeting whiff of the coarse, metallic smell of the engine spaces he always associated with Renshu. The older man stared at him, his eyes intense but compassionate. "Give him a break, kid."
Baden shook his head. "What do you think I've been trying to do for the last two years? He'd better get over it. Even I got over it."
Baden emerged from the stairwell and climbed the steps to the command deck. "How's it going?"
His dad, Captain Simon Haczyk, sat slumped against the blue cushioned helmsman's chair. He wore coveralls similar to his son's, with a dirty leather jacket over it. Baden always thought looking into his dad's face was like looking into a mirror, plus twenty-some years and with minor differences — a sharper nose, squarer jaw, and searing grey-green eyes instead of Baden's solid brown ones. He got those from his mother.
"What took you so long?" Simon said, turning to face Baden.
"That glad to see me, huh?" Baden said.
He would have found the face-off awkward except for two things: they'd had it countless times before, and there was no one else on the bridge. Baden took in the narrow space, which always brought to his mind a drink canister lying on its side. The bulkheads were painted the dullest taupe, which Baden figured his dad liked because the shade was so boring it kept everyone focused on their instruments.
The half-cylinder had three stations — Simon's seat at the helm, the navigation station to its right, and a comm/weapons station a few steps behind nav. Comm/weaps was a simple combination of a basic comm repeater and a pair of targeting screens, plus a small hologram emitter for real-time tracking of incoming and outgoing weapons fire.
Helm was the most complex station. From there, whoever was sailing Natalia Zoja — using the single-handed, curved drive controls — had full access to the six orange switches and double-lever needed to activate the Raszewski generator that let the ship leap from star to star. Several smaller duplicates of the nav screens and a backup comm console made it the perfect captain's post.
Just looking at the array of controls made Baden dizzy, even as he eyed it with jealousy. His dad had never let him sit there.
Baden looked at his dad. "I stopped to talk to Renshu."
"Is he on his way to the engine room? I told him —"
"Yeah, he's going."
Simon coughed. "Well, uh, sit down and strap in. We'll be making the transition in about a minute."
Baden slid into the navigator's seat next to his dad. He flipped a few switches, bringing the sensor arrays online.
A three-dimensional representation of the Arapaho system, complete with planetary orbits, appeared on the nav station's central monitor. It was the largest of four screens Baden had to oversee.
Baden marked Natalia Zoja's position — a green triangle on the board — and requested tract data. Rough spheres appeared on the board, showing the three touch tracts surrounding Arapaho's sun. Each tract led to a different star system. The bulging Raszewski sphere at the center of Natalia Zoja was the mechanism that was going to help them make the correct tract shift. The little green icon representing their ship sat about in the center of one of those zones.
"We're in the bag," Baden said. "Coordinates set for the tract shift to Muhterem."
Simon switched on the intercom. "All hands, prepare for tract shift. Repeat, all hands prepare for tract shift." He turned the intercom off and glanced at Baden. "Alarm Blue."
"Got it," Baden replied. He reached for the third of four buttons on the console above and to his right. As he pressed it, pale blue flashing lights illuminated the bridge. Baden fixed his straps, making sure the connectors were secure.
Simon switched the intercom. "Renshu?"
"I'm here, Skipper."
"How's the singularity look?"
"Formed up and ready to go once the masts are up. She won't disappoint."
"Sounds good. Bridge out."
Simon reached for his six orange switches, flipping each one on. A tremor shivered through the deck plates and the hull as six widely spaced portals around Natalia Zoja's generator sphere split open.
Keeping one eye on the hologram suspended to his right, which showed the entire ship, Simon tapped a white button. This sent a signal to all six pairs of braces, or masts — hence the name "six-brace" — and forced the loosely spaced molecules of polymers between them to lengthen and solidify. Twelve slim tendrils of ExForm material, no more than a hand's breadth in diameter, extended out from the hull.
Baden smiled. He knew that at the dark core of the ship, Renshu's computer was now informing him that the masts were properly conformed to create the rift in space-time that would, for a brief moment, connect two points that were light-years apart. Baden could almost see Renshu manipulating his controls.
Sure enough, on the hologram display a blinking green light lit up within the heart of the Raszewski generator. Hidden from human eyes, wreathed in the tendrils of energy throbbing from its own core, a miniscule artificial quantum singularity pierced an immeasurable tear in the fabric of the galaxy.
Simon nodded and turned to his son. "Ready?"
"Yes, sir," Baden replied, tossing a mock salute.
Simon snickered and reached for the generator's field controls. He eased back on the double handle.
Baden braced for the discomfort of the transition ...
He felt his breathing slow.
Everything seemed frozen.
There was a deep silence ...
Then, on cue, the ship shuddered, lurching violently to starboard. Baden grasped the sides of his chair and spat a curse.
"Easy," Simon said. "Just a little rough."
And there, below the green triangle on the main monitor, the brilliant sun of Muhterem appeared. It looked so real to Baden that he wanted to reach out and feel the star's heat. It was not all that much different from Earth's own sun. And just a few seconds ago it had been more than ten light-years away.
"That wasn't so bad," Simon said contentedly.
Baden pretended to vomit, complete with sound effects, but was disappointed when Simon refused to chide him for the childlike display.
Instead, his dad flipped the intercom. "Renshu, how's the reactor?"
"Didn't feel a thing, Simon," Renshu said, his voice sounding rougher than usual over the comm. "I told you she'd treat you right. I've got a coolant leak on the port side auxiliary generator, though."
"Is that bad?"
"Not unless we turn the generator on. Then the whole works will explode. Engine room out."
Simon chuckled. Baden watched him grasp the curved face of the main drive controls in his right hand, gently pressing forward. The antimatter engines' subtle thrum rose an octave as Natalia Zoja eased forward.
Baden felt the slight shift in the ship's gravity field as the compensators came on, allowing the ship to accelerate at several dozen times the rate the human body could otherwise withstand.
"She sounds good," Simon said.
Baden smiled at his dad's affection for the ship. He turned his attention back to the central navigation screen and programmed the sensors for a continuous sweep of a sphere one light-minute from the ship. He watched for any sign of ships, especially pirate vessels. They preyed upon ships leaving the sun-door. This soon after a jump, a star's radiation played havoc with scanning equipment. Pirate ships, masquerading as merchant ships, could strike with impunity. But most of space was a void. So it didn't surprise Baden when the first few sweeps turned up nothing.
"Looks clear, Dad," he said.
Suddenly the proximity alarm erupted, making Baden jump in his seat. Red warning lights flashed on the navigation console, demanding attention. Baden stifled a curse as he saw the bright red diamond on the display.
"What in blazes is that?" Simon demanded.
"Engine flare, unidentified merchant navastel," Baden said in clipped tones, using the spacer slang for a sixteen-masted cargo vessel. His eyes flitted from one display to the next, mind whirring as he ascertained what the computer was trying to tell him. "Moving quickly, along the planetary plane, and ... Hey, he's after someone!"
"There's a smaller vessel directly off his bow, but he's closing the gap."
Simon slapped his console. "Pirates! Has to be. Are you sure?"
"Yeah, I'm sure," Baden growled. On one of his auxiliary screens, he saw three blinking dots leave the merchant vessel and proceed toward the smaller ship. He felt the bottom drop out of his stomach. "Dad, they're shooting! Three missiles in space."
Simon frowned. He slapped the intercom button. "Renshu, stand by for full thrust."
Renshu paused, and when he spoke it was a in a growl. "You've got it, Captain. Should I pass the word?"
"Do it," Simon snapped. "Get suited for damage control. We're running that pirate scum out of here."
He smacked the intercom off, then hit it again. "Emi!"
"I'm right here."
Surprised, Baden spun in his chair. Emi Akai, their medic and gun master, depending upon the current need, was coming up the stairs. Her lithe body slipped into the chair behind Baden and she had the weapons controls online in no time. "Targets?" She could have been asking for a menu.
"Baden!" Simon snapped.
"Right, uh, one navastel, bearing eight five, mark one zero three. Five light-seconds out. The targeted vessel has point defense but ..." Baden grimaced at the scanner screen ... "one of their missiles got through."
Silence fell. Baden's stomach tightened as he watched the flickering cloud of grey triangles expand on his targeting monitor — a debris field. His dad continued to push forward on the drive controls, apparently ignoring the fuel consumption rate.
Baden didn't think it would work. But suddenly his scanner showed the pirate ship accelerating away from the crippled ship.
"They're blasting out of there, Dad," Baden called. "Big thrust flare, and their velocity jumped. Think they saw us coming?"
"That was the point," Simon said. "Anything on the ship they hit?"
Baden stared at the screen, trying to find the words.
"Uh, sorry." Baden cleared his throat. "We have ... There's a debris field."
Emi turned toward him. "Life signs?" she asked quietly.
"I can't tell, not at this range." Baden looked up at her, then back at the screen.
Simon nodded vaguely. "Well, we should ..." He sighed. "Let's check it out."
* * *
Natalia Zoja spun slowly on its axis until it was facing opposite its original heading. Baden's dad fired the main engines, slowing the ship's velocity as it closed with the debris cloud. As the remains of the ship grew larger on the main monitor, Simon switched over to the chemical rockets so as not to endanger any possible survivors with hard gamma radiation from the main drive.
On the bridge, Baden could see the expanding cloud of debris glittering amongst the stars framed in the main monitor. The fragments surrounded a torn, battered lump that was the remains of the vessel the pirates had sacked.
Simon eased his ship into a course parallel to the debris field, keeping his speed steady and the electrostatic navigational shields active. The light shielding, which drew little power from the ship's reactor, would deflect debris and eliminate collisions.
Baden stared at the field.
"Do we have any Rodents left?"
The meter-long probes, distinguished by a cluster of antennae at the front tip, were fully automated and the salvager's robot of choice for sifting through wreckage.
"No," Simon said. "Renshu put 102B in the shop a few days ago, and that's the last of the four operational." He shrugged. "Not worth the money we paid for them."
"Oh." Baden watched the blips on his nav screen as the computer dutifully tracked the biggest potential impact threats. "What do you want to do?"
Simon scratched his chin thoughtfully. He stared past Baden, past the stairwell, to the rounded hatch. "Want to go for a swim?"
Baden mulled it over. Did he really want to spend more quality time with Dad?
"Come on," Simon said. "If I harass you too much, you can always shut off the suit comm."
Baden nodded. "Okay, deal."
Baden donned his helmet and stepped into the inner segment of the airlock on the upper deck at the back of the bridge, adjacent to the stairwell. He moved stiffly, body straining against the eggshell-white ceramic armor ringing the outside of his suit. Baden knew it wouldn't be ungainly in microgravity, but inside the ship it was a colossal pain.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Word Reclaimed"
Copyright © 2016 Steve Rzasa.
Excerpted by permission of Gilead Publishing.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Here is how I feel about cliffhangers: AAAAAAAAAUUUUUUGH! It doesn't help that I am still nursing a feeling of rawness over the lack of resolution in Bryan Davis's Masters and Slayers. I had to take my raw self wading into Steve Rzasa's space opera The Word Reclaimed, suspecting more and more that this story was too big for its 460 pages. I was right. Actually, the first thing to strike me about this book was that it is big. And I was reading a file on a Kobo, so I'm not talking about physical size. The list of significant characters and their ships/home planets/family groups in the book's front matter was almost overwhelming (to the point where I wonder if it would have been better placed in the back of the book where prospective readers couldn't see it and faint before they even get into the story). Thankfully, I didn't faint, and I did get into the story. The Word Reclaimed is a space opera (think Star Wars with Nazis and fewer aliens) set in the year 2602, when the people of Earth have colonized four other major worlds and united under a kingdom called the Realm of Five. The kingdom has long been benevolent, but Kesek, a secret police force in charge of enforcing a treaty of tolerance across religions, is anything but-and their power with the king is growing. One of Kesek's biggest roles is the capture and destruction of religious texts, including the Bible, the Qu'ran, and the Hindu Sutras. So when a surly teenager named Baden, son of an Expatriate merchant and member of the crew of the Natalia Zoja, salvages a Bible from a pirate wreck, it's bound to change his life-but in ways he can't imagine. From the moment he comes across the Bible, Baden begins to see visions and hear voices. At the same time, the Verge family-a family of warriors from the planet Starkweather-are called into action to put down an alleged rebellion on an outlying planet called Bethel, one of the last Christian colonies in the Realm. Cadet Trainee Alec Verge is given the chance to go along with his father, Lt. Colonel James Verge, and other stories relatives, including his aunt, Commander Colleen Verge-who, as it happens, is also dreaming dreams . . . The crew of the Natalia Zoja and the deployed troops from Starkweather will meet up eventually as treachery brings them into the battle of their lives-and the beginning of a battle for the Realm-and as a God who seems to be seeking them brings them into a battle for their souls. Marcher Lord Press publisher and editor-in-chief Jeff Gerke gives this background info on the MLP website: "Steve's space opera is truly an epic. Though there are dozens of characters, many of whom are superficially similar-space marines, deep space navigators, young cadets, trained assassins-I was somehow never confused who was who. That, in and of itself, is remarkable. Then add a brilliant story of deep treachery, a crumbling monarchy, forbidden faith, and a warrior family's pride-all set against the recovery of a book so dangerous that the secret police would wipe out a world to obtain-and you've got a recipe for incredible speculative fun. But the thing was very long. Like 170,000 words long. I started looking for a cliffhanger around the midpoint. We ended up finding a great one." You bet they did. But don't let that stop you from diving in-Book 2, The Word Unleashed, is already out. - Rachel Starr Thomson, author of The Seventh World Trilogy, www.worldsunseen.com
I won Steve's book through a blog contest, and being a Sci-fi/fantasy fan I was excited to see what his writing was like and where his story would take me. The cover threw me because it doesn't begin to give an inkling to the depth that Steve shares in his story. This is a book about religious persecution on a grand universal scale. There are really bad guys, then there are bad guys that you want to like because they have been deceived and once they realize it they are torn as to which way they should go. Then there are the "good" guys who don't really know that they are the good guys, but they are just following where this "book" leads them. Just as in persecuted countries in our world today, people are hungry for the truth, for the Word of God. In Steve's world the Word has disappeared, all but one full copy - and believers are hungry for it because they want to know how God wants them to live. I was wonderfully surprised at the depth in the story, the skill in the writing, and how much I am looking forward to reading the sequel. I highly recommend this book.
Review by Jill Williamson Baden assists his father aboard their six-brace vessel the Natalia Zoja, salvaging wrecks in deep space. One day Baden makes a great find: a Bible. Any book is a relic, but this one is banned by Kesek, the secret police. Baden's dad wants him to get rid of it, but it's Baden's salvage and therefore, his rightful property. Before he can decide what to do, pirates come after them. They know Baden has the book and they want it. Meanwhile, a political and religious war is brewing throughout the Realm of Five and the Natalia Zoja is headed straight for it. A cross between Firefly and Star Trek, Rzasa pens a story filled with a great cast of characters and some sweet space battles. His Realm of Five is imaginative and well thought out and his space ships are mind boggling. Plus, the story has a deeper thread that I found compelling. A world without the word of God. It intrigued me how Rzasa depicted people trying to hold onto the hope of a creator without his word to guide them. I was totally impressed. This is a clean, exciting read that anyone who loves space epics will enjoy. Looking forward to part two.
Wow - what a Christian syfy. It is authentic in nature - with the atmosphere in todays environment - who knows what the future holds for us - Religion is being stomped on in places - it is dramatic when you have one regime that governs and it governs with an iron fist. It also is fearless when Baden who found a rare book (the Bible), which starts a conflict in the regime. It is intense in how you have to choose your life or your love for GOD. So, what happens? Will Baden and his family and others over throw the regime? will the regime win with the iron grip? does Baden win? Listen ya'll it is so worth the buy. You will love it. I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Rzasa excels at science fiction world-building. His action is intense and tightly worded. Merely comparing this to Star Trek or Star Wars would not do justice to the well constructed battle scenes and plot twists. While the book is fast-paced and high intensity, it does not have any bad language or unnecessary violence that most science fiction is known for. The spiritual thread in the book could be a problem for some readers, but Rzasa handles it very well. The whole concept is based in a universe where religion is banned and Baden finds a copy of the Bible. But the way that the Gospel is woven into the plot is pretty effortless and does not draw away from the story's intensity. Very good for adult and young adult readers.
Baden Haczyk may seem on the surface to be a run-of-the-mill, surly teenager with a grudge against life, the Universe, and especially his dad, Simon, the captain of the Natalia Zoja, but as The Word Reclaimed unfolds, Baden fleshes out into quite an interesting character. Baden, Simon, and the crew of the Natalia Zoja find themselves on the run, escaping pirates and Kesek, the long arm of the Emperor's secret police, who have outlawed all religious books, and are waging a campaign of extermination against those who try to preserve them, and all because Baden rescues a copy of the Bible from the wreckage of a space ship that was attacked by pirates working for Kesek. Join Baden as he seeks to discover the meaning of the Holy Book that has fallen into his hands and decipher the enigma that is Jason, Baden's sometime protector and would-be thief of his new treasure. In the meantime, the Natalia Zoja heads for an out of the way planet called Bethel, and a firestorm of epic proportions. I give this book two thumbs up. Reading level: for YA and above; a very readable tale that flashes by, page after page as the plot/s unfold in unexpected ways!
Steve Rzasa paints a picture of the future, all religious texts are outlawed, especially the Bible. Baden works aboard his father's ship as a scavenger of a sorts, scavenging what he can for themselves that the pirates leave behind. One day, Baden finds a book. He find a Bible in the wreckage of ship that had been pursued and destroyed by 'pirates.' Baden is ecstatic, finding a book means money, since none had been printed for two centuries. The paper itself would be worth a fortune. Reveling in his good luck, Baden starts reading and is fascinated...until it starts talking to him. On the run from Kesek police, Baden is determined to find out more from the book. This book has everything, action that will leave you gripping the book white-knuckled, machines that will make you say "I want one of those!", but the only bone I pick with this book is that it introduces a whole new character and plot line halfway into the novel. Despite this, this is definitely on my re-read list and recommend list.
This is a good speculative fiction, considering there are not too many written from a Christian perspective. Rzasa knows his stuff when it comes to describing his complicated space world. However, about 130 pages into the book, he brings in a whole new set and group of characters to consider. This gets a little boring, as you are so used to the previous setting that you want to skip through it. Also, some of the key characters simply drop out of the story right before the new set in shown, and they never reappear. My rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Consider buying at a bookstore.
This was a fantastic story of from start to finish. Steve Rzasa has created far future space epic which has elements any action/adventure or Sci-fi fan will love. The story follows two main plot lines: one involving a merchant captain and his crew who discover one of the last remaining Bibles and the other a royal military family enmeshed in an intriguing political power struggle. These dual plot lines gives amble opportunity to explore the amazing universe of characters Rzasa has created which collide climatically at the end of the book to give rise to even greater adventure for the books to come. The merchant captain plotline has a very Serenity like feel with its close family dynamics and a small crew. The royal family plot line is reminiscent of Mobile Suit Gundam complete with powered armor, massive space battles and a Royal alliance of planets battling Martian invaders. Not space aliens but human's who once colonized Mars but who are now displaced from their homeland and seek to reclaim it. Under all this great Sci-fi story and epic adventure there are some pretty deep themes. I could draw parallels with the Martians and their claim to Mars and the Palestinians and their claim to Jerusalem. The secret police known as Kesek, or Royal Stability Force has hints of Hitler's Gestapo. All this brings a depth of gravity to the story while still remaining entertaining throughout. Rzasa has made a terrific debut with "The Word Reclaimed". The suspenseful ending has me pawing for the next book in the series already. Excellent book.
I really enjoyed the Word Reclaimed. It is something akin to Asimov's Empire meets Star Wars meets God's Smuggler (a non-fiction book about efforts to smuggle Bibles into Eastern Europe). An unusual mix, perhaps, but I think the book fuses it all together nicely. Clearly this is a universe that Steve has thought about (and probably dreamed in) for a very long time. It shows in the breadth of gadgets, characters, worlds and opposing factions. There are a number of different plotlines and all are interesting, but where the book shines brightest is when it follows the crew of the Natalia Zola-particularly Baden, the boy who (fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it) finds the last Bible in a universe where sacred texts are forbidden. The Word Reclaimed is book one of a two book series, so don't expect everything to tie up nicely quite yet. There is enough resolution to leave you satisfied, though.for now. I'm looking forward to seeing how it all plays out. Again, enjoyable book. I recommend it!