Tim Pratt is joining us today to talk about his novel The Forbidden Stars, the conclusion of this Axiom trilogy. Here’s the publisher’s description:
The ancient alien gods are waking up, and there’s only one spaceship crew ready to stop them, in this dazzling space opera sequel to The Wrong Stars and The Dreaming Stars.
Aliens known as the Liars gave humanity access to the stars through twenty-nine wormholes. They didn’t mention that other aliens, the ancient, tyrannical – but thankfully sleeping – Axiom occupied all the other systems. When the twenty-ninth fell silent, humanity chalked it up to radical separatists and moved on. But now, on board the White Raven, Captain Callie and her crew of Axiom-hunters receive word that the twenty-ninth colony may have met a very different fate. With their bridge generator they skip past the wormhole, and discover another Axiom project, fully awake, and poised to pour through the wormhole gate into all the worlds of humanity…
What’s Tim’s favorite bit?
The Forbidden Stars is the third in my space opera Axiom trilogy about a crew of human, posthuman, and alien do-gooders trying to stop a species of ancient slumbering malevolent might-as-well-be-gods from waking up and murdering all other intelligent life in the galaxy.
But really, the series is about the characters. In the first book I focused on the love story between the captain of the White Raven, Callie Machedo, and biologist Elena Oh, awakened from centuries of cryo-sleep (timeslip romance! Sort of). Book two dug deeper into the character of the ship’s XO and doctor, Stephen Baros, and his membership in the Church of the Ecstatic Divine (devoted to community-building and experiencing the presence of god by taking really good psychedelic drugs).
For the third book, I wanted to highlight two characters who were more enigmatic in the first volumes: Drake and Janice, the pilot and navigator/comms specialist. Drake is easygoing and optimistic, while Janice is acerbic and believes in preparing for the worst, and while they provide a lot of enjoyable commentary, their histories were a bit mysterious. In earlier volumes I revealed that Drake and Janice were in a terrible shipwreck in an asteroid field years before the series began. They were horrifically injured, and would have certainly died in the bleakness of space… but they were discovered by a group of unknown aliens, who picked them up and put them back together again. In a way.
The aliens saved their lives… but Drake and Janice were so badly hurt there weren’t enough viable body parts left for one body, let alone two. As a result, Drake and Janice were combined into a single body, pieced together from bits of their former forms and augmented with technology far beyond anything humans understood. The result doesn’t look much like other humans do. The aliens, who couldn’t (or wouldn’t) communicate with Drake and Janice in any meaningful way, put them a ship and sent them on their way once the procedures were done.
Drake and Janice disagree about the intent of the aliens: Janice thinks they were mad scientists, sadistic butchers who decided to play with the nearly-dead humans they found like toys. Drake thinks they were benevolent healers, their good intentions hampered by the fact that they’d never seen a human before, and had no idea how to repair them properly — he thinks the aliens didn’t even realize Drake and Janice started out as two individuals.
Drake and Janice share a body, but maintain their own separate personalities and ability to communicate as individuals (they do experience a little bit of bleed-through in terms of emotional states, though). The trauma of their experience has, of course, changed them immensely.
In The Forbidden Stars, I decided to reveal how much it changed them. When my crew encounters the same aliens who rescued/tortured Drake and Janice, I took the opportunity to write an extended flashback that almost works as a self-contained story, revealing Drake and Janice as they once were. We get to see them bantering as friends, surveying an asteroid field, encountering tragedy, and even get to see their experiences (as garbled and fragmented as they were) on the alien ship. In so doing, I got to reveal some pretty cool things about their history and how their experiences transformed them, beside the obvious physical changes… and I answered the question once and for all about whether the aliens they encountered were sadists or saints. That section is my favorite part of the book — it’s story I waited three years to tell, and one I hope my readers will find moving and illuminating.
TimPratt is a Hugo Award-winning SF and fantasy author, and has been a finalist for World Fantasy, Sturgeon, Stoker, Mythopoeic, and Nebula Awards, among others. He is the author of over twenty novels, most The Forbidden Stars, and scores of short stories. His work has been reprinted in The Best American Short Stories, The Year’s Best Fantasy, The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror, and other nice places. Since 2001 he has worked for Locus, the magazine of the science fiction and fantasy field, where he currently serves as senior editor. He lives in Berkeley, CA with his wife and son.
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