By S.E. Anderson
Heya Bookworms! Today’s post is a little different – because I’m going to tell you a little bit about my new release, my debut novel, Starstruck. It’s a funny, quirky space story about aliens, anxiety and adulthood. And so far, people are really liking it!
“S.E. Anderson’s debut is a hilarious galactic romp with loving nods to Hitch Hiker’s Guide to Galaxy but with a voice all its own. It’s quirky, fun, and utterly enjoyable.” ~Dragon Award-nominated author, R.R. Virdi of The Grave Report and The Books of Winter.
“It’s witty, it’s fast paced, and it’s delightfully tongue in cheek. […] If you like The Doctor, Hitchiker’s Guide or Space Shennanigans, you’ll like this book. Can’t wait to read more.” ~ L. Burke
“My only question is WHEN CAN I READ THE NEXT BOOK?!” ~ C. McGough
“I think anyone who is a fan of things like Doctor Who, Douglas Adams’ trilogy, or even Firefly would feel right at home with this one.” ~ H.
“I’ll be definitely picking up the second book in this series. S.E. Anderson is a skilled writer, and Starstruck’s pages burst with personality, action, and humour. A must-read for science fiction fans.” ~ M. Dyer
But as the author, it would be very odd of me to review it. Though I have said a little bit about it before, right here! So instead, I’m just going to share with you the prologue. Enjoy!
The commander raised his binoculars and surveyed the desert. The bleak landscape spread out for an eternity before him, flat as far as he could see, broken only by the crumbling buildings of the city. “Where are you?”
“Um, sir. W-what are your orders?”
The commander drew in a sharp breath. His second might only be a kid—on his first posting, no less—and maybe he hadn’t seen the kind of action that kept the commander awake at night, but he had to keep his face straight. If he thought that skirmish with the fugitives was an actual attack, he was kidding himself. Besides, the men counted on them for strength and guidance, not fear and weakness.
His team waited in silence on the roof beside him. Most were looking anywhere but at the commander, avoiding eye, or any other kind of contact. He did not blame them.
“I want you to find those fugitives.” The commander’s order flew off his tongue like sparks from a fire. “They must be within the city limits or someone would have spotted them.”
“But, sir, we searched the burg, and there was no sign of them.”
“Then look harder,” the commander hissed, raising the binoculars again. He scowled at the empty wasteland. It was the same as always, as it had been for months … well, until today.
“Maybe they’ve, um, braved the desert?”
The commander resisted the temptation to slap him. How his superiors thought the boy ready for the post was beyond him. Maybe it was meant as a slight, giving him children to command, like he was a babysitter rather than a decorated war hero. “Can you see them out there?”
His number two swallowed. “Um, no, sir.”
“Then they’re not there, are they?” The commander shifted his gaze back to the horizon, daring the universe to put the fugitives in his field of vision. “They’re in the town. They can’t be anywhere else, which makes me wonder what you are still doing here.” He turned and glared at his number two. “Find them.”
A call from the street below made him lower his binoculars. He marched to the edge of the roof and looked down at the cracked pavement, ignoring his second-in-command as the boy scampered off to follow his orders. A soldier looked up at him, clutching a rifle against his chest like a shield.
“They’ve been sighted, sir.” His voice cracked. “They’re making a run for it on foot, but they’re not moving very fast. They’ve taken to the desert, by the east bridge.”
The commander spun on his heels, turning from his perch to make his way to the staircase. He gave a curt nod to each of the men standing by, gesturing for them to follow. He would need every soldier assigned to this middle-of-nowhere dump he had been defending for half a century. The atmosphere had been quite cheerful until today, the day when everyone under his command learned what it meant to be tested.
But they’d been seen, finally, and he could take as long as he wanted to get to the East End. The desert was eternal, without shelter or cover until one reached the mountains, and that took at least three days by ‘craft. If they were on foot, all his men needed to do was to keep them in sight, and he would have them.
He ran through the list of rewards he would receive for capturing the elusive pair. Money? Land? A promotion would be in order; he deserved that much, at least. Somewhere nice, somewhere where the sun shone, instead of burning like fire on his constantly covered-up skin. There was a little place he liked not too far away, with sandy beaches and a deep ocean, a post that required plainclothes rather than camouflage.
He marched through the ghost town, realizing how high the sand had risen since his first day all those years ago. It had been a vibrant place back then, with a market on this very street and flags flying from the windows. Now, all that remained were crumbling memories; the rising sands were devouring what lingered. Soon, all they would leave would be a gigantic dune—the only dune for thousands of miles.
“You have them?” he asked as he reached the squadron at the east bridge. The soldiers huddled in a mass, each trying to mask their fear. The broken bridge had all but crumbled away, leaving a cement perch over an ocean of sand, a perfect vantage point from which to see … well, more sand. Only today, just for a change, there was something else out there.
Each of his soldiers bore a mark from the so-called attack: a red-raw neck; a lump or two growing on their head; a small mark in the shape of a cigarette burn, accompanied by the scent of scorched clothing and skin. Their wounds were minor, however, which meant he would capture the two most wanted criminals in the universe without losing a single man. He did wonder how they had managed to get through the fight with such light injuries, though. According to legend, the fugitives could kill hundreds in a single minute—some even said the blink of an eye—though he was sure the stories were exaggerated.
The felons dashed across the arid desert. They wore desert clothes, loose layers of cotton wrapped around their bodies to help them blend in with the sand. The man’s turban was coming undone, fluttering in the wind he created by his sheer speed. The woman danced lightly across the sand beside him; unhindered by the wrap, she was so graceful, she almost floated in the air. It was enough to make the commander freeze as he watched her shrinking from view.
“I have them in my sights, sir,” the sniper announced. His finger hovered above the trigger. The commander found himself staring at it, that lonely digit, reveling in how something so simple could bring such vile things to an end. The rest of his companions stood further back, eyes wide with terror, faces contorted with fear, and legs paralyzed by both. This man had no welts on his arms, no marks or bruising on his neck. No wonder he could still think clearly. The commander ran a hand over the burn on his right wrist, sliding his sleeve to cover it.
“I see them.” He grinned at the sniper, his binoculars trained on the two figures. “Shoot to incapacitate. Then have a retrieval squad pick them up.”
The sniper fired a single shot. A loud, piercing sound broke the silence. Almost instantly, the man fell to the ground, a red spot spreading from the middle of his back, soaking through his cotton garb. The commander sneered. Just minutes away from glory.
His sneer faded when the man stood up; he didn’t seem to notice the bullet, even though the splotch of blood spread. The man fled across the desert unhindered by the wound, his feet pounding rhythmically. “Shoot him again,” the commander ordered, mortified. He clutched his burn as if he could reflect the pain back tenfold upon those who bestowed it.
The shot rang out, seemingly louder this time, but the man kept running, despite fresh blood saturating his shirt. “Again.” Finally, losing his temper he commanded, “Kill him!”
This time, the bullet hit the small of the man’s back, but he didn’t fall. Instead, his hand reached across his back, as if to swat a fly, smearing the blood without slowing his stride.
“This is clearly the wrong approach,” the commander said, forcing himself to keep his composure, though fury flooded his words. “Arms at the ready.”
“What, all of us?” a soldier asked.
“Yes, all of you,” he snapped, raising a hand in the air. “Ready … aim …”
The soldiers had barely raised their guns when the targets just … disappeared. They had not fallen, nor had they escaped upward. The commander scrutinized the landscape, but there was no trace of them; in their place, an unfurled turban floated to the ground in the breeze.
The commander’s fury burst the dam of self-control, and he howled. He ripped off his helmet and slammed it on the ground. It hit the pavement and rebounded, ramming into his shin. He felt none of it; his anger eclipsed his pain, the fury burning through his veins like acid, stronger and hotter than he had ever felt before.
Everything he had heard about them, everything he wished he hadn’t known but had learned to fear about them … it was all true, and there was no better truth than the one he had seen with his own eyes. One second they were there, just out of reach, the next, gone. Just … gone. Bullets didn’t even slow them down. No wonder they had a knack for evading the law.
No wonder they needed to be taken down.
For the first time in his life, the commander dropped his head into his hands, a sob ringing across the empty wasteland, heard only by the cowards behind him. He picked up his helmet, and, seeing the burn marks upon it, shouted words into the desert that his men could not understand. Then, without thought, he tossed it into the desert, watching the dented metal tumble in the air, before falling into the sand and lodging itself there to be covered up by time. With that, the commander fell to his knees, rubbing his webbed fingers over his irritated, sunburned scalp.
They had escaped once again. And with them, his dreams.
Goodbye, promotion and plainclothes.
And he had so wanted that quiet posting on Earth.
There you have it! Do you want to read more? The first FIVE chapters are available right now, for FREE. Check it out right here!
And if you’d like to buy the book, well that’s easy too! You can find it right here, on amazon.