Dune update

Over the weekend I have been away on plane flights and had evenings alone in bed and breakfasts which has given me time to get further into Dune.

What a book!

The flaws in the father’s character are becoming apparent, and the interactions with the local Fremen are adding an extra dimension to the tale.

It is such an engaging book, I think of it like a microscope which is gradually zooming in closer and closer to the inevitable war and dangers on the planet of Arrakis. Detail and nuance is getting more and more….well detailed! and Nuanced!

There is no turning back for any of the characters, only forward into the desert.

Love it.

Smugglers of Earth – 4

The Nexus Space Station sat in orbit 400 kilometers above the planet of Bendaiir. The size of a small town, The Nexus was large enough to hold 500 people comfortably in its 4 quarters. Much smaller cruise ships and freighters came and went at regular intervals. Delivery ships docking to the mothership. Every few minutes, the Nexus fired its massive boosters to keep from being pulled down out of orbit by old earth’s gravity. Attached behind the body of the Nexus was a sort of interstellar trailer with hundreds and hundreds of bright blue capsules of varying sizes. Like a massive tray of eggs being pulled behind the ship.

At the helm of the Nexus, Captain Maddox was leaning over a communication device growing increasingly frustrated at the reception. “Hello? Marlon? Smuggler 1, do you read?”

“It’s the storm sir, they say it’s the storm of the century. Likely to go on for many hours still.” Marcus the engineer was pushing buttons and reading lists of code from the multiple screens on the dash board as he spoke. “I think it threw our co-ordinates off too. Last reading we had of the Smuggler, he was at the bottom of Colm Naiir. We wanted to port him to the top for the view.”

The Nexus was created in a moment of crisis. In the year 2200 The Bantam Civilization opened a portal to old earth, leaving the planet open to a classic Bantam siege. First the large, strong and alien Bantams had negotiated with the frightened humans, taking minerals and metals by the ship load through the portal, enriching a few humans and draining the planet at an alarming rate. Then water and food became their priority.

Desperation grew on old earth but any resistance by humans was quashed by the Bantams with advanced weapons and magic. Lakes dried up, forests turned to farmlands with no human access. The Bantams intended to bleed the planet dry.

In a panic, the UN and all banking organizations of old earth diverted all funding to a full scale planetary migration. Humans managed to find a habitable planet, pack up and leave with startling success and haste. What they left behind was the animals.

Increasingly endangered and prized throughout the galaxy as rare hostages, pets, and zoo exhibits – old earth’s biodiversity was on the edge of disappearing. Old earth’s red list of endangered animals had hundreds of species with less than 5 individuals accounted for. Nexus was created to smuggle the most endangered animals to safety. The most advanced weapons and transportation technology made the Nexus a formidable ship, able to move freely through the Milky Way. Blue pods cryogenically froze the most endangered animals of old earth, ready for space transport and introduction to the manufactured biospheres of new earth. But first, the animals had to be found and saved. The strategy was to smuggle the animals away from captivity and have them ported up to the Nexus. Sometimes the animals were captive on old earth. Often they were in the far flung planets of the Milky Way. Planets such as Bendaiir with its shepherd trolls.

Captain Maddox let out a frustrated sigh and bowed his head, “I guess all we can do is wait it out then?”

Marcus nodded, “That, or maybe he can use a card. If not, those trolls will get more and more rowdy. Not good smuggling conditions though, and a potential danger to the asset.”


I have started to read Dune.

I am 10% of the way in (according to kindle!) and it is fantastic so far. Like a fine painting, the author is adding layer upon layer to his characters. I can already see the influence it has had on other work such as Game Of Thrones.

My plan is to work through all these books, taking as long as it takes – because this is enjoyable to me. No deadline, no cutoff. Just a bunch of excellent books to read. Without doubt this will have an influence on my own writing. For that I am also excited.

Smugglers of Earth – 3

Sodom. Pronunciation: /ˈsɒdəm/

  1. A town in ancient Palestine, probably south of the Dead Sea. According to Gen. 19:24 it was destroyed by fire from heaven, together with Gomorrah, for the wickedness of its inhabitants.
  2. Collective noun for a group of shepherds.

If a shepherd troll offers you help, turn and run the other way.

As the leader of a filthy sodom of shepherd trolls, Lughar had delusions of grandeur. He forced his followers to treat him like a king. On hot summer days, he ordered the female shepherd trolls to fashion rich goat skin canopies to shade him from the sun. In winter they had to bed with him as often as he wanted and feed him warm goats milk on tap. He permanently had a crown of goat bone on his head and a cloak of goatskin hanging down his back. Bigger than the rest of the shepherd trolls, he crushed any opposition, flattening their skull with his bare hands. Many an uprising had resulted in blood and splintered bone staining the plains of Colm Naiir. Lughar felt as though he owned all of Colm Naiir and the Nea Tor. In reality he probably only owned a few goats and held one very valuable prisoner.

Lughar sniffed and wiped water from his nose, and what a nose it was. Disproportionately large for his face, in fact it made up most of his head. The nose started at his forehead and protruded out four or five inches, only rejoining his face at the top of his chin. Needless to say he had a good sense of smell. With his nose being so large, his mouth was distorted and squashed to the left side of his face like a cubist painting. Huge warts and nose hairs poked out of his nostrils and the rest of his body was hairy and dirty and slimy as you might expect a troll to be. This night he was also soaking wet, and excited about the storm of the century.

Lughar and his sodom were debaucherous on storm nights. First they cast a hex on the campfire to keep it going all night, turning the flames emerald green. To celebrate the storm of the century they had chased their herd of goats around the campfire trying to get them struck by lightening. When that didn’t work the shepherd trolls cornered the herd in the sticky mud. Picking victims one by one the trolls would drag the goats by the hind legs to open space away from the herd. Many goats had already been killed. Dismembered and physically abused in the plains, their bodies were left in the puddles to rot. All of them were terrorised and the goats sensed they would be lucky to make it through the night. There was no chance of escaping the torture, but they might not drown or get eaten if they huddled together and accepted the punishment when it came. It delighted the trolls to have their way with the goats in the mud.

The storm of the century was looking like it would last all night. Ideal for trolling. Lughar had his eyes set on a small kid suckling furiously for comfort from its mother. Swigging the last of his whiskey from his pot, Lughar started to approach his next victim. Then the night took a turn.

From high up above, there was a high pitched thunderclap and then there was silence. To the trolls’ dismay the storm of the century disappeared into thin air. No more rain, no more lightening, no more thunder. The terrified goats looked up and found they could not turn their heads back down. From tense, frightened animals the goats became calm, even happy at what they saw. The beauty of the clear night sky calmed them.

Smugglers of Earth – 2

(Note: This post follows on from “Smugglers of Earth – 1“)

Immediately the card leapt from Marlon’s hands and flew like a bullet down the Tor. Marlon jumped to his feet and peered out into the rain to watch the card fly through the stormy night. Seeing the arc of its flight, the hairs on Marlon’s neck stood on end. He loved the cards most of all.

As it neared the bottom of the hill the card turned smoothly and climbed straight upwards through the rain, leaving a trail of light in its wake. On a direct collision course with the clouds above, the storm roared and thundered anew. The card was completely unaffected by the tempest and held its course. It sped up, flying higher and higher aiming straight at the lightening and the thunder and the angry clouds. From the top of the hill it looked like a tiny missile heading towards an enormous alien mothership. This made Marlon scream as loud as he could, “Go you good thing! Go! Go! Go! Yeeehhaaaaaaaaa!!!!!” The card issued a deafening crack as it broke the sound barrier right before it hit the clouds. After that, all was silence. No more lightening, no more wind, no more rain. Only a single voice on top of the Tor. Marlon was still yelling with excitement.

Marlon kept whooping and shouting and cheering as he turned his head straight up towards the sky. He was so excited each time he threw a card, all he could do was shout like a chimp. Up above, the clouds dissolved before his eyes. The storm of the century had been neutralised by the card, as if someone threw a bucket of water on a camp fire. Looking up Marlon saw clear skies and the sight of the heavens took the scream from his mouth. Completely silent, he fell. The smuggler saw a perfect night sky. Like thick, creamy velvet he felt he could almost scoop up the blackness in between the stars. Dark galactic ice cream, he thought it would probably taste like licourice.

The Milky Way stretched out and twinkled forever. There were shooting stars blazing all around, and far to the east the rainbow colours of a nebula cloud glistened against the darkness. To the North, on the horizon a faint aurora pulsated.

Marlon kept his eyes on the skies for as long as he dared, a big smile stretched on his face. He knew that if he looked for too long after throwing a card, he risked going crazy, bewitched by the beauty. He had heard stories of men turning into skeletons, their skulls pointed up to the sky, smiling even as they starved to death just to stare at the beauty above. With effort, he pulled his head down, wiped away the water from his face and turned his eyes back to where he had been searching, at the bottom of the Tor on the plains.

With the help of the stars, Marlon could now see close to the horizon the place he was looking for. It was a slight rise in the plains, and at the base of the rise a small fire was burning. From the top of the Tor this was nothing more than a dot of light. It looked like another tiny star on the ground, except it was noticeably green in colour and flickering on the plains. Eyes straight ahead, the smuggler blew a kiss to the velvet sky above and started his descent of Nea Tor. Shooting stars rained all around him but the night remained silent. Silent that is, except for the old rain water which squelched in his boots with every step.

Smugglers of Earth – 1

The start of a beautiful thing is often something bleak.

Dominating the otherwise flat land of Colm Naiir was a tall hill called Nea Tor. It rose steeply from the plains like a breaching whale. It was so big some called it a mountain, but instead of snow it was capped by a massive slab of rock. In the sunshine this looked like a large limpet on the snout of the whale. Now at night, in the storm of the century, it was invisible. Everywhere was howling wind, pouring water, driving rain, black and cold. It had been like this for the last four hours. Every few seconds or so a lightening bolt would light up the sky revealing the long sheets of rain pelting the Tor. If you had sharp eyes and you were looking in just the right place on the rock when lightening struck, you might also have seen a silhouette, a small dark figure standing at the very peak. A smuggler.

Marlon’s jacket collar was folded up around his neck and face, so high that it was impossible to see his nose. A smuggler’s trench coat made of thick leather, the jacket was over five feet long hanging down his legs, with never ending pockets on the inside and tribal patterns punctured into the leather on the outside. In the dry it was incredibly warm but it was not waterproof without a spell, and Marlon had run out of spells before he started climbing the Tor. All he had left in his pockets was a small pack of cards, which were soaked. Marlon’s dark brown eyes were trying to scan the landscape below him. The rain and wind pressed into his bones and plastered his hair across his face. From the limpet he would have had a view for many miles on a clear day, but with the storm of the century throwing buckets of water in his face, the task of finding what he was looking for was hopeless. He sighed and bowed his head. So. Much. Rain. His neck and his spine and his legs had a torrent of water flowing over them from his head to his feet. Lightening cracked above his head making him dip down onto his knees. The wind was picking up strength and it now hurt his face to look up from his collar.

Hunched on his knees he made up his mind and reached into the deep smuggler’s pockets of his coat. He pulled a playing card out. Immediately, the card began to shine in his hands in the night. Marlon searched his memory for the correct words. He had learned them in the same place he had gotten his jacket. That was a while ago, but after some thought he found that he still remembered. “Stars, show your fire. Let light see my black and deep desires.” A single voice in a storm on top of a mountain.