Man, J. N. Chaney is one prolific writer. He has teamed up with so many other writers to bring more science fiction to my book library than any other author. Now he’s teamed up with M. R. Lerma whom I’ve never read, but if this team are as good are this first book in the Slip Runner series, then I’m going to enjoy reading everyone they write.
This is not a military sci-fi book which I normally prefer, but still it’s about a guy who had done something wrong, but isn’t really a bad guy. His name is Cole Riker who is 26 when he starts his prison sentence. This one time, he was a drug runner transporting something called Fade, a lot of Fade. He got caught and now was going to have to face some heavy prison time. He had been caught by Alliance forces which was better than having been caught by the Union or the Sarkon Empire. The Alliance was a combination of the Union and the Sarkon Empire and a band of Renegades from Earth led by Jace Hughes. Jace had managed to broker a treaty or an alliance between the Union, the Sakon Empire and his Renegades established on old Earth. This Alliance stood together against the Celestials in a war that killed millions. Cole Riker was a Renegade, but certainly not Jace Hughes.
Surprisingly, Riker wasn’t going to spend the rest of his years on a penal colony or securely looked behind bars. No, he got a notice one day after his incarceration that he had a visitor. His name was L. Rigby and he made Cole and offer he couldn’t really refuse. During the war, there had been a lot of destruction by both sides. It had occurred in space and on various planets and now was just junk either falling on planets or making navigation in space very hazardous. Additionally, the “junk” the Celestials had left behind were some high tech stuff that the new Alliance could put to good use. Slip Runners were paid by the amount of junk they collected and turned into depots for processing. If they found and tuned in Celestial tech, they found themselves very rich. But, the chances of that happening weren’t great since most everything by now had been picked over.
This is where Riker gets his offer. He’s going to become a Slip Runner for at least the next five years picking up space junk where they tell him and turning it in like he’s supposed to do. He’ll have a quota to meet and every time he does his sentence gets shorter. Not meeting his quota gets his sentence lengthened and if he’s not productive at all, he’ll go to a penal colony to break rocks! Cole Riker likes space and doesn’t like being cooped up. So, of course he’ll take the offer. They’ll even give him back his family transporter, the Nebulous, simply because it wasn’t worth much and no one wanted it or even to take the time to get it scrapped. Still, the Nebuluos, was his and that’s what the would do his Slip Runner job in for the next 5 to 6 years, maybe!
Five years later, we find that Cole Riker has been making headway on getting his sentence completed. Meantime, he’s taken on a crew member by the name of Deacon Smith. Deacon isn’t a criminal and he’s kind of required for anyone hauling Celestial junk since he’s an engineer and an assessor. He can tell what’s Celestial and what’s not. He gets paid a percentage and the Alliance had to approve his hiring. After four years together, they had been getting along pretty well. Still, there was one other arrangement that Cole Riker was not happy with. His ship-board AI was an advanced AI installed by the Alliance to monitor his every action. This AI (POE69 – Parole Office Enforcer 69) or POE for short, was a strictly by-the-book, no nonsense, egotistical non-human entity that Cole Riker hated, but had to tolerate. He could command it do certain things, but in matters pertaining to Riker’s sentence, the AI was the judge. The two had been bickering for the past four years!
So, where is this story going. Well, Riker gets some information that a new sector is opening up that hasn’t been cleared. There could be prime Celestial junk or even technology floating around in space near this planet or even on the planet itself. Riker needed to find a way to get in on this new sector from the start. The Alliance granted some Slip Runners a weeks head-start in exploring the area if they had the right connections. Riker didn’t have anywhere near those kind of connections, but then his Parole Officer changed. His new Parole Officer or Liaison Officer, as she preferred, was one Camilla Abernathy. And she was different! She actually treated Cole Riker like he was somebody and not just another criminal. Still, she didn’t cut him any slack, but she had connections, lots of connections, all the way back to Jace Hughes!
So, Riker eventually gets permission to access a sector of space not cleaned up in anyway. He realizes that with luck and the right collection of junk and more along the lines of Celestial tech, he could get his sentence greatly reduced or terminated. Only things didn’t turn out so well at first. He has a competitor in this business named Silas Eckert. Some how Mr. Eckert, who was also a criminal, but he had competed his sentence, was always tracking Riker and managed to take some of the same junk Riker was after a lot of times. But, this time that wasn’t going to happen since Riker didn’t figure Eckert new about this new sector. Things were looking up for Cole Riker, but the planet they were assigned to collect stuff from some how shut down the Nebulous just as they were trying to land. Some kind of signal was coming from the planet and it shouldn’t be there. So, the had to find its source and shut it down. That was something they could do until they found the alien!
Ok, so this is a great start to what appears to be a very interesting new series. I’m definitely going to be reading the rest of the books in the series starting with book 2, “Dark Peace”. It’s already on my reading list for 2023. I suggest you read along with me. Have a Happy New Year!