Blood of the Cosmos: the second book in Kevin J. Anderson's Saga of Shadows trilogy.
An epic space opera of the titanic conflict of several galactic civilizations against a life-destroying force of shadows, a dark cosmic force that has swept through the undercurrents of the human interstellar empire.
The intertwined plots, overflowing with colorful ideas, a large cast of characters, and complex storylines, span dozens of solar systems, alien races, and strange creatures.
As the second book of the trilogy opens, the humans and Ildirans, having narrowly escaped annihilation at the hands of the Shana Rei and their robot allies in Book One, are desperate to find a way to combat the black cloud of antimatter of the Shana Rei. The mysterious alien Gardeners, who had helped them previously, turn out to be a disaster in disguise and because of them, the world tree forests are again in danger. The allies believing they have found a way to stop their dreaded enemies, a new weapon is tested, but it's a horrible failure, throwing the human race and its allies to the brink of extinction.
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About the Author
Kevin J. Anderson is the author of more than 120 books, 52 of which have appeared on national or international bestseller lists; he has over 23 million copies in print in thirty languages. He has won or been nominated for the Nebula Award, Bram Stoker Award, The Faust Award, the SFX Reader's Choice Award, the Scribe Award, and New York Times Notable Book.
Kevin has co-authored thirteen books in the Dune saga, including Mentats of Dune and Sisterhood of Dune, with Brian Herbert, in addition to the Hellhole Trilogy. Kevin's epic science fiction series, The Saga of Seven Suns, is a 7-volume opus that topped international bestseller lists.
More than two dozen of Kevin J. Anderson's novels have appeared on national bestseller lists; and he has over eleven million books in print worldwide. His works have been translated into over 22 languages including German, Japanese, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Hebrew.
For a book signing during the promotional tour for his comedy/adventure novel AI! PEDRITO!, Anderson broke the Guinness World Record for "Largest Single-Author Signing," passing the previous records set by Gen. Colin Powell and Howard Stern.
Kevin worked in California for twelve years as a technical writer and editor at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, one of the nation's largest research facilities. At the Livermore Lab, he met his wife Rebecca Moesta and also his frequent co-author, Doug Beason. After he had published ten of his own science fiction novels to wide critical acclaim, he came to the attention of Lucasfilm, and was offered the chance to write Star Wars novels.
The novels in his Star Wars Jedi Academy trilogy became the three top-selling science fiction novels of 1994. He has also completed numerous other projects for Lucasfilm, including the 14 volumes in The New York Times bestselling Young Jedi Knights series (co-written with his wife Rebecca Moesta). His three original Star Wars anthologies are the bestselling SF anthologies of all time.
Kevin is also the author of three hardcover novels based on the X-Files; all three became international bestsellers, the first of which reached #1 on the London Sunday Times bestseller list. Ground Zero was voted "Best Science Fiction Novel of 1995" by the readers of SFX magazine. Ruins hit The New York Times bestseller list, the first X-Files novel ever to do so, and was voted "Best Science Fiction Novel of 1996."
Kevin's thriller Ignition, written with Doug Beason, has sold to Universal Studios as a major motion picture. Anderson and Beason's novels have been nominated for the Nebula Award and the American Physics Society's "Forum" award. Their other novels include Virtual Destruction, Fallout, and Ill Wind, which has been optioned by ABC TV for a television movie or miniseries. His collaborative works include ARTIFACT (Forge Books; May 2003), a thriller written with F. Paul Wilson, Janet Berliner, and Mathew Costello; and DUNE: THE BATTLE OF CORRIN (Tor Books; August 2004) written with Brian Herbert, Book 3 of their acclaimed Legends of Dune trilogy, and the sequel to the bestsellers DUNE: THE BUTLERIAN JIHAD and DUNE: THE MACHINE CRUSADE.
Kevin's solo work has garnered wide critical acclaim; for example, Climbing Olympus was voted the best paperback SF novel of 1995 by Locus Magazine, Resurrection, Inc., was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award, and his novel Blindfold was a 1996 preliminary Nebula nominee. Anderson has written numerous bestselling comics, including Star Wars and Predator titles for Dark Horse, and X-Files for Topps.
Kevin's research has taken him to the top of Mount Whitney and the bottom of the Grand Canyon, inside the Cheyenne Mountain NORAD complex, into the Andes Mountains and the Amazon River, inside a Minuteman III missile silo and its underground control bunker, and onto the deck of the aircraft carrier Nimitz, inside NASA's Vehicle Assembly Building at Cape Canaveral. He's also been on the floor of the Pacific Stock Exchange, inside a plutonium plant at Los Alamos, behind the scenes at FBI Headquarters in Washington, DC, and out on an Atlas-E rocket launchpad. He also, occasionally, stays home and writes. Kevin and his wife, writer Rebecca Moesta, live in Colorado.
Read an Excerpt
Blood of the Cosmos
The Saga of Shadows Book Two
By Kevin J. Anderson
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2015 Wordfire, Inc.
All rights reserved.
The universe was vast and full of wonders — some too marvelous to understand, some too terrifying.
In an empty wasteland of space, far from any star system, the ekti-X extraction operations worked at full capacity, a swarm of activity. Lee Iswander had found another cluster of mysterious bloaters that appeared out of nowhere, drifted aimlessly, then went nowhere.
No one but Iswander's crew knew that the protoplasmic sacks were filled with energy-dense ekti. The secret fuel-harvesting operations proceeded in the deep emptiness, light-years from any possible observers. Pumping rigs and extraction siphons descended on one bloater at a time like bizarre mechanical mosquitoes, sucking each nodule dry. They filled canister after canister with stardrive fuel and left the discarded husks to drift away. Iswander's crew, sworn to secrecy, loaded distribution tankers and delivered the stardrive fuel to hidden dropoff points, from which carefully vetted representatives would distribute the fuel to trading depots. No one else in the Confederation knew where ekti-X came from, and frustration was increasing across the Spiral Arm.
This bloater cluster would eventually be depleted, but Iswander's scouts had already located other drifting conglomerations in the dark spaces between the stars.
The green priest Aelin knew that it would never stop. He wanted to scream.
He had begged Iswander to cease his operations, but the industrialist would not listen to an eccentric, possibly insane green priest. They knew Aelin had been damaged, changed, through his recent ordeal among the bloaters. They considered him mad — and, objectively, Aelin couldn't dispute that.
But it didn't mean he was wrong.
His mind had been connected to the bloaters during one of their synchronistic energy outbursts, which revealed to him a tapestry that he could not begin to comprehend. Those revelations had altered his thoughts about everything. Aelin was certain the majestic bloaters were much more than mere "space plankton" to be wrung dry of fuel.
He had to do something about it.
On bare feet, the green priest crept through the operational complex that drifted near the bloater operations. Holding his breath, listening to the silence, Aelin ducked around corridors, intense and alert. The station had monitor cams, but he hoped no one was watching. The rest of Iswander's crew would be busy with daily production.
Half-naked, Aelin padded along the cold — always cold! — deck plates, making his way to the nearest docking bay. Like most green priests, he wore only a loincloth, refusing to abandon the traditions of his native planet, Theroc. Aelin's green skin made him stand out among other people, so he had to make sure no one spotted him. He needed to escape.
Lee Iswander's deputy, Elisa Enturi, was a ruthless watchdog — who had no love or sympathy for Aelin. He knew that. He couldn't let anyone see him ... particularly not her.
After his euphoric disaster, immersed in the soft, sentient awareness of bloater half-thoughts, Aelin had been lost in a catatonic state in the sickbay module, seemingly oblivious to the rest of the universe ... but he could still hear and absorb the words around him. Drowning in the new revelations that burned through his brain, he had not paid much attention to trivial, mundane things — but he still remembered.
Standing near his sickbay bed, Elisa had advised Lee Iswander in a voice like a rusty metal blade, "Just discard him, sir. With his treeling destroyed, he is worthless as a green priest. He's no good to us. And there's always a risk if he escapes. This man is unstable, unpredictable, and dangerous. Removing the threat is the wisest course of action." She didn't even bother to hush her voice.
Lee Iswander had watched his business empire crumble after a tragic accident on Sheol, but he was regaining prominence, thanks to the enormously profitable ekti-X operations. "No, we keep him with us," he told her. "I've known Aelin ever since he was a young man on Theroc. I brought him here to join our operations because he wanted to see the universe." His tone was firm. "He will stay with us, regardless of his eccentricities. That's my decision."
Despite the marvelous epiphanies pouring through his brain, Aelin had been well aware of their conversation.
As he left the sickbay, Iswander had added to Enturi, "We just need to be careful. Watch him."
And now, months later, Aelin was careful too.
Hearing voices down the corridor near the docking bay, he ducked into a storage cubicle, slid the door shut, and huddled inside. He waited while two off-duty extraction workers strolled toward their personal quarters in the habitation module. Aelin's heart pounded, and he held his breath, but the two women walked past the cubicle, talking about a game they planned to play with friends that night.
When they were gone, Aelin slipped out and darted down the corridor to the docking bay, where several short-range Iswander vessels were there for the taking. He could steal a scout pod, fly away from the admin complex, and make his way out to the nodules that floated like islands in a sea of stars.
This was the second large bloater cluster exploited by Lee Iswander. The first had been a serendipitous discovery found outside an unremarkable star system. That initial cluster, and the accompanying Iswander operations, was nearly destroyed by the Shana Rei and the black robots, but then the shadow cloud had simply withdrawn, ignoring the extraction operations after all.
Afterward, the rest of the bloaters underwent a fantastic metamorphosis into enormous solar-sailing creatures that soared away and left the befuddled workers behind. Through his raw nerve endings and exposed thoughts, Aelin had felt joy and freedom as the bloaters took flight across the cosmos. Even so, none of the Iswander workers believed that the marvelous gas sacks were anything more than unusual phenomena.
Afterward, Lee Iswander had found another cluster and begun the massive extraction operations again, harvesting bloaters, slaughtering them. ...
Creeping along, Aelin reached the docking bay hatch. He glanced through an observation port and waited with increasing tension while one worker refueled a scout pod that had returned from an inspection tour of the operations. Yes, that was what Aelin wanted. He didn't need to go far — just out to the bloaters to make contact again.
Despite his tolerance, Iswander was obviously worried that the unstable green priest would try to escape to the nearest civilized outpost. Because he could reveal the nature of the ekti-X operations, Aelin was a threat to Iswander Industries. If other Roamers knew how simple it was to extract stardrive fuel from bloaters — in contrast with their difficult and expensive operations harvesting ekti from gas-giant planets — Lee Iswander would be ruined.
Aelin had no desire to sell his secrets, though — nor even to escape. He just wanted to be out among the bloaters, where he could bathe in their thoughts, absorb their revelations. This was much deeper than the mental community that green priests shared when connected to the sentient trees in the worldforest.
The worldtrees stored thousands of years of data, experiences, and memories. When he first passed through the transformation to become a green priest, Aelin had imagined that the verdani mind must be the most magnificent manifestation in the universe. But he had sensed something about the mysterious drifting bloaters, and he had flown out among them, curious. Carrying a small potted treeling and oblivious to the danger, he had tried to connect with the bloaters via telink. The responding surge had incinerated his treeling and overloaded his mind.
Thanks to that connection, though, Aelin now felt the constant, wordless pain emitted by the bloaters. They were so much more than he had ever guessed before. ...
Inside the docking bay, the refueling technician strolled away from the inspection pod, logged his work into the station database, and exited the launching bay. When the hangar was empty, Aelin opened the hatch and darted across the open deck.
The entire extraction field was a high-security operation, but internal Iswander security was less rigorous. Aelin ducked into a spherical inspection pod. He could feel the strange calling inside his mind, the titanic and incomprehensible presence represented by the bloaters. He was sure that if he touched them again, he would receive all the knowledge he needed. He would understand what they were.
He felt a great burden and responsibility as well. Only he could make Iswander Industries stop the painful slaughter.
After sealing the pod's hatch, Aelin powered up the engines, felt the craft vibrate around him. He keyed in the activation code that would open the atmosphere field to let him fly away from the complex. He needed to be out among the bloaters before anyone knew he had gone.
Efficient air pumps drained the chamber, but just as Aelin tried to raise the pod from the deck plates, a sequence of warning signals flickered through the cockpit controls and alarm lights flashed on the metal walls. The atmosphere barrier field strengthened, blocking his exit, and air flooded back into the bay. Amber lights strobed all around him.
The green priest frantically worked the piloting controls, but overrides deactivated them. The pod settled onto the deck and came to rest as the engines shut down. Aelin sat helpless and dismayed in the single seat.
Three Iswander security guards rushed into the docking bay, followed by Lee Iswander himself, tall and lean. His dark brown hair was neat, his temples frosted with gray. He looked distinguished, commanding — and displeased.
Unceremoniously, the guards unsealed the pod's hatch and grabbed Aelin's bare green arms, hauling him out. He struggled, but only halfheartedly. He yelled to Iswander, "You must let me go out there!"
"No, green priest — I don't need to do that at all." He sounded disappointed, even paternal. "I won't let you jeopardize our operations."
Aelin thrashed, but the guards held his arms firmly. "Your operations are endangering the universe! You are spilling the blood of the cosmos. You don't know what you're doing."
Iswander raised his eyebrows. "We're becoming the preeminent supplier of stardrive fuel throughout the Spiral Arm. The success of my operations proves that I know what I'm doing."
Aelin said, "Please — you don't understand the damage you're causing! I can feel their pain."
Iswander spoke in a wistful voice. "I remember a long time ago, after you broke your leg treedancing on Theroc. Even while you were recovering, you made your way out of the tree city and sneaked aboard one of my commercial ships. I could tell that you had big dreams, Aelin — I thought you were a kindred spirit. That's why I took a gamble and brought you out here to be my personal green priest." He placed his hands on his hips, and his voice became harder. "But my patience is running out — don't make me regret my decision."
He gestured to the guards. "Take him back to his quarters and keep him confined. If he resists, have medical sedate him."
Aelin's muscles went watery as the guards pulled him away. His connection with the bloaters remained: he could feel them dying, but he could do nothing about it.CHAPTER 2
Another huge load of ekti-X delivered to Ulio Station, and another gigantic profit for Kett Shipping — Xander Brindle decided that was a good enough excuse for a celebratory drink in the star balcony bar with his partner, Terry Handon.
Ulio Station was a popular hub, an interstellar flea market where hundreds of traders exchanged wares outside of Confederation control and therefore without any inconvenient tariffs or taxes.
More than fifteen years ago an old Roamer entrepreneur named Maria Ulio had begun gathering starships that were damaged during the Elemental War: huge Ildiran warliners battered by the faeros or hydrogues, wrecked Manta cruisers from the Earth Defense Forces, abandoned colony ships, burned-out trading vessels — all collected in a large salvage yard.
Maria's crew worked on the ships, repairing the ones that could be salvaged, converting the others into habitation complexes. Over the years, more and more people brought their ships to the scrapyard; wanderers came there to work, and they stayed; traders found it a convenient place to meet. Ulio Station grew like a coral reef of accumulated ships, some permanently docked, others just passing through.
Xander considered Ulio Station a bustling and energetic complex filled with a mix of people, costumes, traditions, and — Terry's favorite — a variety of ethnic cuisines. While Xander had been born aboard a starship and grew up eating processed galley food, Terry had a more discriminating palate. And since Xander cared about his partner, he could tolerate fine food for the good of their relationship.
After their ship, the Verne, had picked up a full cargo load of ekti-X from the secret Iswander drop-off point, they flew directly to Ulio Station, which was always their best place to sell stardrive fuel. Because ekti-X was cheap and in such demand, the Verne began receiving frantic bids as soon as they came within comm range. While Xander flew about in search of a docking berth among Ulio's clustered ships, Terry studied the bids, nodding in satisfaction. "We never have trouble selling our cargo here."
OK, their competent computerized companion, or compy, announced crisply, "Ekti-X is far less expensive than stardrive fuel extracted by traditional skymining operations on gas giants. And its energy density is greater than standard ekti. Therefore, our commodity remains in demand."
"The demand isn't waning," Xander said. "And I doubt it will."
In fact, the Iswander Industries fuel was flooding the market, which caused great consternation among the Roamer clans who saw the devaluation of their traditional ekti operations. As they struggled to make a profit, countless Roamers pressured Xander and Terry for any insight into how and where Lee Iswander got his ekti-X so cheaply.
Xander just laughed off the questions, and Terry was naturally tight-lipped; none of the other secondary Kett vessels had any direct contact with Iswander whatsoever. Others could question them all they wanted, but nobody had any clue where ekti-X came from. Their Iswander contact, Elisa Enturi, refused to reveal anything; Terry and Xander would simply deliver a cargo and reap a large profit for Kett Shipping. ...
The two men completed their business in less than an hour, selling the entire cargo for ten percent more than the original asking price. Xander now strutted beside his partner as their compy marched in the lead. Terry held on to OK's smooth polymer shoulder, letting himself be pulled along; an antigrav pack kept his motionless feet suspended just off the deck.
Paralyzed from an accident in his youth, Terry couldn't use his legs, but that didn't pose much of a problem in zero gravity. For convenience, Xander kept the Verne's grav generators switched off, and the two of them were perfectly at home floating aboard the ship. At Ulio Station, however, many of the docked vessels and passageways throughout the ship cluster had gravity at various levels, so Terry relied on OK to tow him along.
Xander saw the nostalgic shine in his partner's eyes. "Does it feel good to be home? Or are you glad you made your way out of here?" "Well, I'm glad I found you," Terry said with a smile. "This place doesn't feel completely like home anyway. Ulio changes every week as ships come and go, while others dock and stay forever." He sighed. "It hasn't been the same since Maria flew off to parts unknown."
As a teenager, Terry had worked at the station as a starship mechanic; he floated around with a jetpack and an environment suit, tinkering with the external stardrive engines of any wreck that came in for repair. He was so nimble and competent at his job that his coworkers hadn't even realized at first that he couldn't walk.
Excerpted from Blood of the Cosmos by Kevin J. Anderson. Copyright © 2015 Wordfire, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I already know this will be epic!
Published June 2, 2015, by Tor Books Blood of the Cosmos is the second novel by Kevin J. Anderson in his Saga of Shadows series, a science fiction space opera following the exploits of humans and Ildirans from the Saga of Seven Suns. Blood of the Cosmos continues the story of the saga of shadows with explosive action and riveting characterization. Then there are the numerous plot twists that just create insurmountable tension in the storytelling. It’s remarkable how it works together to build the story, all the added layers between the characters and the story. After the last novel so much has happened. Anderson has brought in a new race of aliens, and with this comes a new opportunity to explore the story and the universe that it resides in. There’s so much happening, just like in the previous novel and the originating source, Saga of Seven Suns, but again, the amount of detail that goes on does not weigh down the story, it creates a story that is easy to follow. However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t require careful reading. So much is happening and the switch between characters helps the story maintain a clear view of the story while allowing for the passage of time to become clear. Days, weeks, even months are passing through each character segment so much is happening between those moments that Anderson has to summarize and recap. And he does it effortlessly. Anderson summarizes everything without weighing down the story with useless details. He captures everything that has happened with just enough detail to give the story more substance. It’s an amazing story, well told and structured. Even more impressive is the characterization. These characters continue to grow, they have their own inner turmoil, all of which give the individual characters more depth and evolution, propelling them forward. Given the story itself, the characters are already going through so much and giving them individual stories, individual problems gives them more substance and more place in the story. They have personalities, each one unique, making for a powerful read. All in all, this is an amazing novel with amazing characters and adventure. It’s richly told and full of such perfect detail that submerges the reader in the story, and the universe it’s in. (★★★★☆ |A)
Could not put the book down.
So awesome. A very interesting twist at the end. And, Eternity's Mind? Wonder what that is. I cannot wait for the third book. Make it good, like you always do.