Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Stark Divide by J. Scott Coatsworth - Blog Tour with Review and Exclusive Excerpt

Publisher: DSP Publications
Author: J. Scott Coatsworth
Cover Artist: Aaron Anderson
Length: 284 Pages
Format: eBook, Paperback
Release Date: 10/10/17
Pairing: MM
Price: 6.99, 16.99
Series: Liminal Sky (Book One)
Genre: Sci Fi, Space, Gen Ship, Apocalypse, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer


Some stories are epic.

The Earth is in a state of collapse, with wars breaking out over resources and an environment pushed to the edge by human greed.

Three living generation ships have been built with a combination of genetic mastery, artificial intelligence, technology, and raw materials harvested from the asteroid belt. This is the story of one of them—43 Ariadne, or Forever, as her inhabitants call her—a living world that carries the remaining hopes of humanity, and the three generations of scientists, engineers, and explorers working to colonize her.

From her humble beginnings as a seedling saved from disaster to the start of her journey across the void of space toward a new home for the human race, The Stark Divide tells the tales of the world, the people who made her, and the few who will become something altogether beyond human.

Humankind has just taken its first step toward the stars.

Book One of Liminal Sky


DRESSLER, SCHEMATIC,” Colin McAvery, ship’s captain and a third of the crew, called out to the ship-mind.

A three-dimensional image of the ship appeared above the smooth console. Her five living arms, reaching out from her central core, were lit with a golden glow, and the mechanical bits of instrumentation shone in red. In real life, she was almost two hundred meters from tip to tip.

Between those arms stretched her solar wings, a ghostly green film like the sails of the Flying Dutchman.

“You’re a pretty thing,” he said softly. He loved these ships, their delicate beauty as they floated through the starry void.

“Thank you, Captain.” The ship-mind sounded happy with the compliment—his imagination running wild. Minds didn’t have real emotions, though they sometimes approximated them.

He cross-checked the heading to be sure they remained on course to deliver their payload, the man-sized seed that was being dragged on a tether behind the ship. Humanity’s ticket to the stars at a time when life on Earth was getting rapidly worse.

All of space was spread out before him, seen through the clear expanse of plasform set into the ship’s living walls. His own face, trimmed blond hair, and deep brown eyes, stared back at him, superimposed over the vivid starscape.

At thirty, Colin was in the prime of his career. He was a starship captain, and yet sometimes he felt like little more than a bus driver. After this run… well, he’d have to see what other opportunities might be awaiting him. Maybe the doc was right, and this was the start of a whole new chapter for mankind. They might need a guy like him.

The walls of the bridge emitted a faint but healthy golden glow, providing light for his work at the curved mechanical console that filled half the room. He traced out the T-Line to their destination. “Dressler, we’re looking a little wobbly.” Colin frowned. Some irregularity in the course was common—the ship was constantly adjusting its trajectory—but she usually corrected it before he noticed.

“Affirmative, Captain.” The ship-mind’s miniature chosen likeness appeared above the touch board. She was all professional today, dressed in a standard AmSplor uniform, dark hair pulled back in a bun, and about a third life-sized.

The image was nothing more than a projection of the ship-mind, a fairy tale, but Colin appreciated the effort she took to humanize her appearance. Artificial mind or not, he always treated minds with respect.

“There’s a blockage in arm four. I’ve sent out a scout to correct it.”

The Dressler was well into slowdown now, her pre-arrival phase as she bled off her speed, and they expected to reach 43 Ariadne in another fifteen hours.

Pity no one had yet cracked the whole hyperspace thing. Colin chuckled. Asimov would be disappointed. “Dressler, show me Earth, please.”

A small blue dot appeared in the middle of his screen.

Dressler, three dimensions, a bit larger, please.” The beautiful blue-green world spun before him in all its glory.

Appearances could be deceiving. Even with scrubbers working tirelessly night and day to clean the excess carbon dioxide from the air, the home world was still running dangerously warm.

He watched the image in front of him as the East Coast of the North American Union spun slowly into view. Florida was a sliver of its former self, and where New York City’s lights had once shone, there was now only blue. If it had been night, Fargo, the capital of the Northern States, would have outshone most of the other cities below. The floods that had wiped out many of the world’s coastal cities had also knocked down Earth’s population, which was only now reaching the levels it had seen in the early twenty-first century.

All those new souls had been born into a warm, arid world.

We did it to ourselves. Colin, who had known nothing besides the hot planet he called home, wondered what it had been like those many years before the Heat.

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5 out of 5 stars
The Stark Divide is the first in a new science fiction series. While this story does feature LGBTQ characters it is not a romance.

Can we talk classic science fiction? Because that is exactly what The Stark Divide reminds me of as I read it... well no I didn't just read it, I devoured it, pretty much in one sitting.  I grew up reading classic sci-fi and fantasy before I even discovered romance. So how I judge most books is along the lines of what my favorite elements are in a sci-fi or fantasy story. This story combined all those elements of my favorites like Pamela Sargent's Earthseed, and especially Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Scarborough's Ship Who Sang series. 

First we have a dying Earth and a people who need options to survive, setting up that classic dystopian/post-apocalyptic world feeling. Then we have space exploration with a twist in these large ships that fuse both sentient systems with mech and bioware, and then they take it to another level by crafting the beginnings of a new planet that is also a sentient being. A FULLY aware sentient being who has feelings, and emotions, and knows what is going on. Lex completely and utterly grabbed me.. a PLANET became one of the main characters of the story and that's when I about vibrated off my chair because that is my kind of science fiction story. There are so many other elements that make this story so good and so very addictive, at least for this reader. 

So I raved a bit about the non-human aspects of this story first... Now I'll delve into the human aspect just so you know that the story is more than space and sentient planets. As I said above this isn't a romance, but it does have a strong LGBTQ element and at least one long term m/m couple. The human aspect is more about telling the story of a dying planet, finally destroyed by war, and learning to live with the bare bones that is a new society on a new planet. They are the catalyst for many of the events that happen throughout the story, including the creation of Forever. That is another one of those things that make a good science fiction story highly readable, to have a strong human element that moves the story forward along with the incorporation of the tech and space discovery, etc.

I'll admit that when the author was telling me about the bones of this story I was excited because it sounded like a perfect read for me.  I was definitely not wrong there and I really can't wait to see what's will happen next in this world.  I'll stop raving there and highly encourage you to read this book. 

This one I am highly recommending for all those that love classic well written science fiction stories. 

Excerpt – Seedling

For my guest post, I thought I’d share a scene from “The Stark Divide”:

Ana clipped her tether to the cord that towed the seed and pulled herself hand over hand toward it, well aware of her precarious position connected to the superstrong cable, woven from carbon monofilaments. That alone gave her a small degree of confidence, but this whole thing was way outside her job description.
She tried not to look at the overwhelming vastness of space all around her and instead concentrated on that cable.
Behind her, the Dressler continued on through empty space on its way toward a rendezvous with the asteroid. If she lost contact with the line, there would be no way for the ship to come back for her.
Especially with the ship-mind currently deposited in a work bin in the ship’s hold. Damn you for that, Hammond.
She had to be careful.
The stars shone steady and brilliant around her, and ahead she could see the small pinpoint of light that was Earth, so far away.
She approached the seed as quickly as she could, and soon it loomed before her, a dark, richly textured brown hull where the sun shone on its rough surface and pitch-black on the other side. It was shaped like a huge football, round in the middle and tapered at each end.
Inside it, a whole new world was genetically encoded.
At last she reached it, stopping her forward momentum with her hands, imparting negative velocity to its mass. It wasn’t enough though. She’d need to use her suit propulsion to slow it further. She positioned herself parallel to its bulk and triggered a slow burn.
The seed had halved the distance since she had started off from the ship. She didn’t have much time.
Its advance slowed almost imperceptibly. She ratcheted her suit propulsion up to max, and at last she seemed to make a dent in its forward momentum.
She was cutting it close.
Then her suit ran out of propellant. It wasn’t made for a sustained thrust like this.
The mass of the Dressler loomed up behind her. It wasn’t going to be enough. “Buckle up in there,” she called over the comm system. “This thing is coming in hot!”
She let go of the seed, scrambling to unclip the tether.
She couldn’t get a grip on it, and time was running out. If she couldn’t free herself, she would be crushed by the weight of the seed as it pushed into the air lock wall. It might not have any weight out here, but it still had all its mass.
She pulled the cutter from her belt and went to work on the tether, making short work of it.
Relieved, she pushed away from the seed as it glided into the lock, bumping the side and settling down perfectly.
Only now she was slowly drifting away from the ship as it continued on ahead of her.
There was nothing to grab onto.
Desperate, she grasped for the edge of the lock, but it floated away from her, ever so slowly receding. She started to hyperventilate. I’m going to die out here.
“Keep calm, Ana! Deep breaths.” Hammond’s voice came to her over the comm system.
“I can’t….”
“Keep calm and throw the cutter. Throw it backward!”
She stared at him through the platform bubble, uncomprehending for a moment, forgetting to panic. Then she realized what he meant.
For every action, there was an equal and opposite reaction. Basic physics.
She turned and threw the cutter away from her, back the way they had come, with all her might.
She inched closer to the ship. Oh please, let this work.
Determined now, she began stripping things out of her utility belt, throwing them one by one behind her—her all-purpose tool, her pistol grip tool, and finally the rest of her tether.
“That’s it,” Hammond called. “Almost there.”
She needed one more thing.
All that was left was her air tank. All or nothing.
She held her breath and detached the shiny metal tank and thrust it away from her, twisting back to grasp the edge of the air lock.
Contact. Her hands caught the edge of the air lock. She heaved herself inside and slammed her hand on the button to close the air lock’s outer door.
It slid smoothly three-quarters of the way and then jammed.
A piece of wood from the seed had lodged in the track and was blocking the door.
No closure meant no air.
The world was starting to swim around her as she ran out of oxygen.
She kicked at the offending debris, once, twice, three times, her breath rushing out of her with the effort.
At last it dislodged, spinning out into the blackness of space.
She was out of air. She couldn’t breathe.
The door snapped shut.
Ana passed out and collapsed as oxygen slowly began to fill the chamber

Author Bio:

He decided that it was time to create the kinds of stories he couldn’t find at his local bookstore. If there weren’t gay characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.

His friends say Scott’s mind works a little differently – he sees relationships between things that others miss, and gets more done in a day than most folks manage in a week. He loves to transform traditional sci fi, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something unexpected.

Starting in 2014, Scott has published more than 15 works, including two novels and a number of novellas and short stories.

He runs both Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with his husband Mark, sites that bring queer people together to promote and celebrate fiction that reflects their own lives.

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