Title: Prelude to Sorrow
Author: Andrew P. Weston
Genre: Science Fiction
Fight or Die.
The task force dispatched to eradicate the Horde menace on far Exordium failed, and for those few left alive, the tenet by which they have survived for so long resounds as never before.
Now marooned, out of time and out of place, the survivors lick their wounds and struggle to recover while the Horde gather their strength for a final strike that will change the course of history forever. The fate of the galaxy – and more – hangs in the balance.
But fate, it seems, isn’t done with the Ninth, and our heroes find themselves forced to mount a last-ditch attempt to end the threat once and for all. If they fail, the beginning of the end will claim everything they hold dear.
Prelude to Sorrow – the stunning conclusion to the IX saga.
A lurid flash accompanied a strangely disassociated sensation of falling. Then an impact rocked Marcus to the core, snapping his head back so violently that it almost sent him sailing into oblivion. By Pluto’s beard! What in the . . . ?
Racked by pain, Marcus did his best to ride the distressing swell coursing through his body. As the vengeful tide began to ebb, he flopped over onto his back and lay there, gulping like a fish, waiting for coherence to return.
Around him, a discordant sonata of bangs, crashes, yelps of surprise and growls of anger alerted him to the fact he was not alone. He smiled a bloody smile. I’m glad others are here to share this joy with me . . . Wait a minute. Others . . . ?
It all came back:
The Ninth’s heroic last stand in the face of certain death—an act embodying the true nature of the Legion—and a clear statement to the Horde that none would live to tell the tale; the stab of realizing he’d never see the one he loved again; a deeper impalement, that of betrayal, as it was revealed who had sided with the enemy; horrified suspense as droves of ogres thrashed about on the cusp of a transmutation that would induce thousands more of their kin into being; the sudden reversal of gravity; hurricane forces slamming everyone into the roof and shredding equipment and strata alike; creation made manifest within the maw of a cosmic paradox, a glittering wormhole of prismatic reflections, redolent with power and purpose; the crushing finale as actuality turned inside out, spreading their atoms across the plane of eternity and squeezing them out of existence.
A rubber band effect snapped Marcus’ mind back to the present. So where are we?
Denying the protests radiating from each of his vertebrae, Marcus used the legs of an overturned chair to drag his weary husk into a more or less upright position, and surveyed his own little pocket of purgatory.
Although most of the open space was filled by a maze of mangled computers, generators, and all manner of unrecognizable scrap, sparse illumination was nevertheless afforded by a number of ghostly holographic projections interpenetrating those few workstations and monitors that had somehow managed to remain intact. I know this place. It’s the control chamber we . . . But that was destroyed . . . wasn’t it? By their scant light, Marcus could see that, like him, many of his men had been unceremoniously dumped atop various piles of debris—some in ones and twos, others in a mass of tangled limbs and lost dignity. Regardless of their predicament, each mound quivered with kicking feet and probing fingers, and much to Marcus’ relief, increasing volumes of complaint or query.
“Oh, my back!”
“What in Hades’ name happened?”
“Gods, man, get your knee off my balls. I don’t want to spend the rest of my afterlife walking with a limp.”
“Is this it? Did we perish?”
“This doesn’t look like any description of the underworld I’ve ever heard of.”
“Will you move your blasted knee? How will I ever be able to father children again?”
“You can’t now, fool. We’re . . . dead?”
“I wouldn’t be so sure. Where’s Charon? Where’s the Styx come to that? This . . .”
Ignoring them, Marcus attempted to make better sense of the apparent conundrum. His consideration was drawn to the blinking lights and subtle background hums issuing from some of the machines along the far wall.
We still have power and some of those consoles look operational. But how? Where is the energy coming from?
An odd slurping sound from the shadowed apex of the cavern made him look up. There, a barrage of giant saclike bubbles congregated, floating about and jostling each other as their rippling sojourn brought them into frequent contact with their neighbors. Most were opaque and undulated wildly, as if full of cavorting hares. Several more translucent examples hovered lower, and possessed a phosphorous glow that distinguished them from the rest.
One such spherule flared. Bursting with a loud pop, it drenched the vicinity in a shower of effervescent spray and more than a dozen unhappy soldiers. Falling to the floor in an untidy heap, some were knocked senseless, while those retaining their consciousness displayed such confusion that it was quickly apparent they had no comprehension of where they were or what was happening.
A tang of ozone drenched the air and Marcus felt a telltale rush of wind. A vacuum? He began to rise. Did these anomalies protect us in some way? But if so, how were they formed, and . . . ?
“General!” Somebody had spotted him, triggering a rush of questions.
“Sir, where are we?”
“Where are the golden meadows? Shouldn’t we be able to see them in the distance? All there is here is darkness.”
“General, what’s happened to us?”
“And what of the ferryman? There’s no river?”
“How will we reach paradise?”
Marcus struggled to his feet and raised his fist, giving everyone a target on which to engage their scattered wits. Projecting his voice so they could all hear, he responded to the last person first. “I don’t think we’ll be seeing the Elysian Fields just yet.”
“But why, sir?”
That point echoed around the room several times before Marcus motioned for silence. “Don’t you get it?” He turned on the spot and spread his arms wide. “I may be mistaken, but I’ll bet my retirement in Gaul, Arden, and anywhere else you’d like to wager that we’re not actually dead yet.”
What’s the first binge-worthy book you read and why was it a must-read?
There were several such books that struck me in the same way when I started to collect books, but one noteworthy example that came along a little later on was “The Many-Colored Land” by Julian May. I found the concept fascinating. That the mavericks of a future Earth could escape their perfectly ordered society by journeying through a one-way portal, six million years into the past. Thinking they are going to start a simpler life, they are horrified to discover the Earth is dominated by a superior alien species who subjugate humanity and enslave them. It’s an excellent framework, as we are introduced to many of our ancient legends and tales through their adventures. And even better, the story comes full circle, becoming a Mobius-loop that connects the past, present and future in a never-ending tale of hyper-connective actions and consequence that can never be broken. Awesome!
What makes your featured book a binge-worthy read?
Prelude to Sorrow is binge-worthy in that it brings an epic series to a conclusion, thus setting the scene for it to begin all over again . . . with the tiniest of adjustments. And that’s the thing. The heroes and heroines of the IX series are also locked in a Mobius loop of temporal possibilities, one that plays out, again and again, like the ripples in a pond. Each ‘run’ affects those that follow on afterward, affecting them, interconnecting them, and helping each successive adventure zero in on the ultimate climax. It was a great series to write. And a thoroughly satisfying ending too.
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Andrew P. Weston is a Royal Marine and Police veteran from the UK who now lives on the beautiful Greek island of Kos with his wife, Annette, and their growing family of rescue cats.
As creator of the critically acclaimed IX Series, along with Hell Bound, Hell Hounds, and Hell Gate, (novels forming part of Janet Morris' Heroes in Hell universe), Andrew has the privilege of being a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, the British Fantasy Society, and the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers.
When not working, he also devotes some of his spare time to assisting NASA with one of their remote research projects, and writes educational articles for Astronaut.com and Amazing Stories.
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