Some bad ideas go back a long way, and this one goes all the way back to the original home planet: Someone’s god told them they had a right to more territory – so they figure they can take what they want by divine right. In the far future among the colonized worlds of the galaxy, there’s a war going on between the majority of civilized worlds and a colonial theocracy. Trystin Desoll grows up fighting against religious fanatics and becomes a hero, a first-class pilot, then, amazingly, a spy. What do you do if you’re a relatively humane soldier fighting millions of suicidal volunteers on the other side who know that they are utterly right, and you are utterly wrong, with no middle ground? Trystin Desoll has an idea. THE PARAFAITH WAR. New to audio this month. Great narration, free of melodrama. More like animated reportage with acted dialogue than hyperbole. Has been compared to The Forever War, but is even more controversial in that science and religion clash in what is essentially mindless unending conflict. The author clearly sides on the green side: the opposition is all about destroying the environment in order to expand and conquer. Global warming takes on a new meaning when talking multiple worlds, lit up by war. Trump SpaceForce? Not exactly. The print version was written in 2010. Getting both one star and five star reviews, depending on your politics, perhaps! Either way, well worth a listen, but not a masterpiece like The Forever War, which won every award there is in scifi, and was one of the books that influenced Avatar.
If you have a science background or a science fiction novel published, send a link to your bio to BurjReview(at)Gmail for a chance to guest edit Family Die, and win a free audiobook to boot. Open now until “The Day After” Memorial Day.
“What’ll it be, bud?” the bartender asks me.
“How ’bout a Bud . . .Light,” I say.
I pick up the channel changer from the bar and tune the overhead TV from ladies mud wrestling to a local news report. As I do a big tattooed biker in a tank top slowly stands behind me.
“Hey yourself,” I say with a wink.
The biker steps up behind me now, and I reach into my pocket and without looking back hold out a $50 bill. He stops, stunned, and takes the money. I’m still staring at the screen, where a newscaster is saying that the final vote was ninety-eight to two against line-item veto. In other news, the EPA has just banned soda, drawing fire from representatives of the Gladiator Games. As a side note, the solar powered ceiling fan business is booming in the North Dakota. Although it’s hotter here in Des Moines.
“This is bad,” I say, now watching reports from the Department of Bankruptcy & Suicide, and Immigration & Nationalization. There’s even talk in Congress of calling for a Discrimination Bureau, to cover not just animal, but also vegetable and mineral.
I give up, change the thing back to mud wrestling, drawing cheers from the bar’s patrons. The bartender sets a beer in front of me, which I sip then spit out.
“This is warm!” I complain.”
“What’d you expect?”
I lay another $20 bill on the counter and turn away.
“Hey, I can’t accept this,” the bartender says.
“Well, it’s too much. I’m over my tip limit. You want the IRS to throw me in the slammer?”
“They wouldn’t do that.”
“Wanna bet? My wife’s in prison right now. Made way too much as a waitress . . . fifteen thousand . . . she’s, ah, got big hooters. I miss her.”
“An’ I’ll bet you work for the IRS too . . . ya got that evil eye.”
I shake my head. “Can you keep a secret?” I lift my toupee to reveal that I’m bald. “I’m the President of the United States.”
The bartender laughs, thinks that’s funny. Then his eyes narrow. “Hey, if you are him, whatda ya doin’ here? You here for a drink on the House, or the Senate?” He snickers, thinks that’s funny too.
So I hold out my executive Gold Card and Presidential ID. The bartender takes it, stares at the embossed photo of me seated in the Oval Office. “I ran away this morning,” I tell him. “Came straight here. But you’d never believe why.”
“Hey, that’s you,” the bartender says.
“And I’m looking for the real President, Donald Trump. Used to campaign in this town. It was the turning point for America, he said, so he built an estate nearby. So you seen him in here, or what?”
The bartender gives me his best cheese-eating grin, then a light bulb seems to turn on behind his eyes. He lowers his voice to a whisper. “Hey, if you’re really the Prez, where’s the Secret Service?”
“Shhhhhh,” I breathe, turning away. “It’s a secret.” Now I climb up on top of the nearest table. It sways, and I regain my balance. “Hey! Everybody!” I yell. “Anybody seen The Donald? There’s a reward if you can tell me when.”
Kid called the drug Psychopene. What began as a pharmaceutical for clinical depression got cooked in his Tempe condo into something more third eye interesting than any previous indy variant. Thing about it, though, it put you to sleep. Only in your dreams could you fly new skies of chance, like trance. No side effects like LSD, either. Kid figured the molecule might be just the thing for nerds whose other escape was first person shooter immersion or Star Lord movies. Except he needed help, and vetoed telling his father for fear of being cut off.
Kid Holler was Hank Hollowell, a geek pothead biomedical major whose dad mined rare earths like Xenotime in Brazil. We’d once shared a dorm room at ASU until we graduated to beta test and market his creation. Me? I’d been a journalism major with a minor in business. Unemployed too, until my very first dream dive, an hour into which I envisioned a flotilla of revelers depart a dying city that resembled Phoenix, selfie drones angling to take vid snips to be stitched and stored should the realistically devastated alternate world I’d visualized be magically repopulated. Vivid? Imagine Coachella and Burning Man at the end of time, and you might get a gist of it. It was beyond wild, this deep REM stuff, no doubt tricked from my subconscious by the drug. Somehow I knew citizens had refused cybernetic immortality to join these caravans of “Freebirds” which navigated the oceans, farmlands and deserts in seeking out final festivals of human experience. Some pretty heady philosophical backstory might explain this awareness. But I didn’t know what the frag it ultimately meant, because I couldn’t vis it all.
Ecstatic as the drug initially made him, Kid soon became flummoxed by my reaction, since I wasn’t gaga about his plans for patenting or going on Narc Tank. Sure, our highs were better than VR and more visceral than any rave mood drug could induce. The visions felt like stepping into movie star roles, too. Still, as a portal, Kid’s dreamtime white powder scared me: unique, as a ticket to a new playground of art and orgy, yet ominous in a way I couldn’t explain. If Holler shouted about gleefully endless orgiastic scenarios, mine were ever more inexplicable, evolving into something recurrent, like dictation. Like a gaming script programmed by a disembodied intelligent machine. “What the hell,” Kid said when I tried to describe them. For him it was like the exploitation gaming scripts he’d dreamed of producing—a drug runner mini series featuring lots of guns, girls, and virtual gambling. Occasionally he got to play the lead role, full of mindless banter, petty jealousies, and threats of violence on steroids. A theme he enjoyed. But the rush left me exhausted and confused upon waking. So sketching ideas for ‘package and sell’ seemed premature.
“I think you should let some girls try it, before proceeding,“ I told him. “Call it something more appropriate, too.”
“I don’t know. How about REM ROD. A hot rod for some, divining rod for others.” I pantomimed potential promo covers. “The life you want and can’t have. An adventure inside your own head.” I paused. “Or just describe it as a date drug with benefits. One girl takes it as another watches. She wakes and reports. Then they switch roles. We don’t even need to be there. Just keep a camera running, and get them to report what happens, too.”
“You crazy,” Holler said. But he liked my idea, as he always had. Then he repeated the name, as though he’d just seen the future himself.
We did it. Kid told girls they’d get to be the date rapists. I filed their releases as notary in my safety deposit box. Then, after it was over, our beta test girls raved. Dreamland, apparently, was whatever you brought to the party. Or didn’t. Upshot is, Kid got an investor and Big Pharma sponsor after showing them our vid and providing samples. Soon after that he got new threads, hotter wheels, and a swankier crib. In short order.
Still, I declined another go, myself. Channeling courage from some inner ether, perhaps.
“Why you acting like this?” Holler asked over coffee, six weeks in. “Tactar Pharmaceuticals is taking over testing. Clinical trials with patent pending on a class seven recreational. You’ll get a nice bonus, buddy. Guaranteed.”
Kid had fronted me ten grand, and signed me to five percent of future company profits in exchange for occasional business and marketing deeds.
“It’s not that,” I said. “It’s just, we don’t really know what’s going on here. You said it was partly an accident, right? Tactar said it wasn’t a hallucinogen. They aren’t sure what it is. Hell, I don’t think it has anything to do with opening up some part of the brain we don’t use, either. That’s bogus urban legend. But obviously in certain cases, like mine, it involves seeing stuff beyond the pale. Not with superpowers, but with extra sensory perception, maybe. Like remote viewing.”
He just blinked at me, forehead crinkling.
I continued. “Listen, they still don’t know how consciousness works, or why we dream. What if it’s to sort out our reality from other timelines, from some other stream of…”
(Continued in Judge Jury. Ebook at iTunes, BN.com, Amazon.)