This column will explore books that have something to do with Los Alamos and its surroundings, whether because the book is by someone who lives here, or lived here, or worked here or because of the subject matter.
Author T. Jackson “Tom” King
The sci-fi novels of T. Jackson King are a great place to start, because I met him signing books in, of all places, Smith’s Food and Drug Center in White Rock.
It doesn’t get much more local than that. It also just goes to show that interesting writers can turn up anywhere.
How did King end up in White Rock? It’s a love story. He met Cathy Wiget, a teacher at Chamisa Elementary School, fell in love and gained both a first reader and a new home. King moved to Los Alamos in 2009 and the two married in 2010.
King published two new novels in 2012, “Star Vigilante” and “The Gaean Enchantment.” In addition, his first novel “Retread Shop” was re-released in a new edition.
“Ancestor’s World” was also re-released in 2012, but I haven’t read it yet. King is the author of six novels in all, with several more on the way.
In addition to being a writer, King is an anthropologist. This gives him a lot of insight into how a society structured very differently from the one we live in might function.
“As an anthropologist, I ask myself what could human society have in common with an alien culture? Well for starters, there’s the need for food, there’s sex and there’s greed,” he said. “I disagree with scientists who say we won’t have anything in common with aliens. I think there will be interesting people on other worlds that we will appreciate knowing.”
King suspects we’ll meet a lot of weird and wild types of aliens, and in all probability, we’ll be the new kids on the block, dealing with societies that have been in space long before we arrive.
Why is King attracted to this genre?
“One reason I love sci-fi is because it’s a literature of hope. Sci-Fi assumes a future for humanity. A lot of modern literature is alienated from the theme of hope. I think human nature finds a way to keep on keeping on,” King said.
In King’s books, you’ll get an adventure, some mysteries to be solved, battles featuring some cool weapons and a love story – to a greater or lesser degree depending on which novel you choose to read.
But my favorite thing about all three of Jackson’s novels is that he works hard to answer the inevitable questions that come with the territory in a “what if” novel in a way that makes sense and hangs together. And interesting questions they are, as you will see when I describe the books.
So which of King’s novels should you read first?
For a fast-paced adventure with cool tech, choose “Star Vigilante.” This novel is the story of three outsiders. Eliana is the artificially produced child of two species who are sharing a world, humans and tree-dwelling Derindl.
Matt Dragoneaux is a cyborg, upgraded beyond the mere human by his enhancements and his Combat Suit, but also alienated from others because of his differences.
And then there’s Mata Hari. Mata Hari is Matt’s ship, or the AI that lives inside his ship. She’s the product of a vanished race and has been roaming the galaxy alone and lonely until she rescues Matt. Now they form a team, hiring on to help those in need—for a price. All three of these characters challenge and play with the notion of what it means to be “human.”
The world of the book is a stark one, a sort of anti-“Star Wars” universe where it’s every planet for itself and the intergalactic governing body, aptly named the Anarchate, only interferes if things are really getting out of control.
Can three outsiders bond together to save Eliana’s planet from eco-destruction at the hands of a ruthless mining enterprise?
The Gaean Enchantment
For magic, a quest, and a new battle around every corner, go with “The Gaean Enchantment.” In this novel, earth has entered a new phase as it cycles through the universe.
In this phase, some kinds of “magic” work, but tech is rapidly ceasing to function. In the world of the book, incantation and sympathetic magic function through connection to spirit figures who might be described as gods. The interaction of these figures with the modern world is one of the aspects I enjoyed most.
Another interesting feature is the skills that turn out to come in handy in this new world. Sword-fighting learned in the Society for Creative Anachronism, and the ability to form a strong community and rely on each other, learned in the LDS Church are examples.
The protagonist and his band of fellow travelers are on a quest to save his children, trapped in an urban nightmare on the east coast.
For weird aliens, and I do mean weird, choose “Retread Shop.” The story takes place on a galactic trading base, where hundreds of species try to gain the upper hand for themselves and for their group.
Some traders choose to ally themselves with alien traders, mostly it seems, because they are intensely curious by nature. Sixteen-year-old Billy is the sole human on the Retread Shop, stranded when his parents and their shipmates perish. His struggle to survive and thrive as a Merchant forms the core of the story.
What really makes the ride fun are the aliens he teams up with, including two who are plants. It’s herbivores vs. carnivores, herd species vs. loners, mammals vs. insects and so on.
How will these species interact, as they must to trade? Just to give you a taste, one of Billy’s cohorts is a sapient bush who travels by means of a magnetized floating disk and speaks by the chiming of its metallic leaves.
The wild variety of physical types is only matched by the extensive array of cultures, which makes for a very entertaining read.
King is a very prolific writer, so if you enjoy his work as I do, you have a lot to look forward to. He has two new novels for 2013, “Stellar Assassin” due out this month and “Star of Islam” in May. “Turning of the Tide,” the sequel to “The Gaean Enchantment,” is due 2014 and King also promises a sequel to “Star Vigilante” sometime soon.
Visit King’s Amazon page at www.amazon.com/author/tjacksonking to find his novels in print and as e-books. You can find out lots more interesting information on his website at www.sff.net/people/t-