Saturday, December 03, 2016

Back From the Dead by Rolf Nelson

Helton Strom is just a guy between contracts when he runs afoul of both planetary officialdom and space pirates. He is left with nothing but the clothes on his back, and not even a citizenship to his name. Is the ancient, broken-down military surplus starship and the young lady living aboard it the key to a bright future, or will his repairs and new mercenary friends reawaken the demons lurking in the ship's murky and lethal past?

BACK FROM THE DEAD is the first book in The Stars Came Back series. It is a space western, the story of regular folks just trying stay alive, seeking work to earn money for repairs to get to the next job, with no shortage of action and adventure along the way. It is military sci-fi, featuring a company of mercenaries, spaceship combat, mortar and rifle combat, spear-and-shield battle, and post-traumatic stress disorder. And it is a philosophical investigation, pondering everything from the lessons of Achilles to how one stops a bar fight with earplugs.

BACK FROM THE DEAD is 346 pages and is available in both paperback and hardcover.

The space liner’s lounge is sparse and spare, dim with the faint, reddish light that indicates the night shift. A few round ports and several screens line the walls above solidly mounted furniture. Helton slouches at an angle, half-facing Art, an elderly businessman with a dazed expression on his face and a drink in his hand, looking absently out one of the larger viewing ports. His coat is in a heap on another chair, and his bag supports his feet. “By the time it was over, virtually all my assets were forfeited on the spot, I’d been stripped of citizenship, and searched by the Blue Gloves way more personally than I’d like. How?” He shakes his head slowly in disbelief. “How did we get here?”

“It could be worse,” the old man says quietly. “You are here, yes?”

Helton stares at him, incredulous. “Well, yeah, but–”

“Not in jail. Not in uniform.”

“They wouldn’t–”

“Still breathing.”

Comprehension dawns on Helton’s face. He takes a drink, then says, “But I don’t understand. Why?”

“They get a percentage of any fines or forfeitures they assess, as an ‘incentive’ to be attentive to the letter of the law. Likely you were put on a list some time ago, and this was just the easiest opportunity to make you go away. If they hadn’t gotten busy with that bomb on Level Eight, you might still be there.”

“Wha…? Bomb? Nobody said anything about a bomb.”

“The disturbance that called them away?”

“But that was some sort of transformer explosion in an electrical vault…”

Art looks as him with a slight shake of his head and a knowing, apologetic smile on his face. “Always buy a round trip ticket. Always have the appearance that you have good reason to come back, and no plans to do otherwise. Terrorist, separatists, false flag — makes no difference.”


“You are just now realizing what’s been going on these last months and years?”

Helton says, feebly, not even accepting his own excuse, “Been busy.”

“People have had to flee on a moment, packing light, for thousands of years. The warning signs of collapse are always the same. The debt. The scapegoats. The lies. The ‘temporary emergency measures.’ I cut it closer than I should have.” Art shrugs and takes a drink from his own glass. “My family is all safely away, and everything else shipped ahead for us by others.” A small, sympathetic smile crosses his wizened face. “It looks like you won’t be returning, either.”

Helton looks at him in disbelief, frowning, brows knit. Quietly, in shock, he says to himself, “Homeless.” He turns his gaze back to the port, staring blankly.

“You are lucky, though,” Art says.

“If this is lucky, I’d hate to see unlucky.”

“They picked you clean, but they let you leave.” He looks intensely at Helton. “Think. What do you have? Where are you going?”

He shrugs, waves to his coat and bag. “My sister’s.”


Helton shakes his head, still not sure what Art is asking. Art taps his temple, then his chest. Then waves to the room around them, at the glass in Helton’s hand. Slowly, forcing himself to think positively, Helton taps his temple. “I have … useful skills … and knowledge.” He touches his chest. “I’m heading for family … who will welcome me. Work. I’m not sucking vacuum or” he holds up his glass, “dying of thirst in a desert. Better off than Odysseus meeting Nausicaä.”

A big smile spreads across the old man’s face. “A man of education.”

“Not enough. Didn’t see this coming.”

“It will serve you well. Never forget your assets, just because you acquired some new liabilities. Have faith in yourself, and you’ll be okay. God works in mysterious ways.”

Helton looks at Art silently for a long moment. He drains his glass, unconvinced.

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Anonymous Dave December 03, 2016 1:25 PM  

Fantastic story; buy it, read it, you'll be glad you did.

My concern is the need to eventually release a second book to truly be a series. Some of us that have been waiting for the second installment a loooong time are beginning to have our doubts.

Blogger Stg58/Animal Mother December 03, 2016 1:39 PM  

Love it

Blogger Cassandros the Elder December 03, 2016 1:42 PM  

Military SciFi version of FireFly, but better. Excellent read.

Anonymous Dave December 03, 2016 1:50 PM  

Has elements of Firefly but the spaceship in Firefly never was a major component of the story as it is here.

Anonymous Rolf December 03, 2016 2:01 PM  

Yay! Paper Print!

@1 Dave - a straight-up sequel, a YA-compatible prequel (focusing around one of the main characters in TSCB was 16), a much earlier prequel (the founding of the Order or St. Possenti), and a not-YA-compatible ~18k word novella about an early Armadillo mission have been written and submitted. But Castalia House has a number of extremely good authors, and there are only so many editors. They can only edit with quality so fast.

Maybe if a few more volunteers with the right capabilities stepped up to help out...?

Anonymous Dave December 03, 2016 2:17 PM  

Quite diplomatic Rolf; I say release the sequel and we'll crowd edit it.

Anonymous #1037 December 03, 2016 2:21 PM  

Glad to hear it Rolf. I'm looking forward to those.

Blogger pyrrhus December 03, 2016 2:34 PM  

Yes, sounds likeFirefly, but better!

Blogger Sam vfm #111 December 03, 2016 2:34 PM  

No ebook?

Blogger pyrrhus December 03, 2016 2:35 PM  

No kindle edition?

Blogger Matthew December 03, 2016 2:44 PM  

The ebook has been out for a while

Blogger Aeoli Pera December 03, 2016 3:14 PM  

Rolf wrote:But Castalia House has a number of extremely good authors, and there are only so many editors. They can only edit with quality so fast.

Maybe if a few more volunteers with the right capabilities stepped up to help out...?

Send me something and I'll guarantee an hour per day on it. Figure that means 8,000 words per day for a very basic bitch spelling and grammar proofreading, 3,000 words per day for a proper edit with macro commentary, and 1,000 words per day with inline commentary.

Blogger JACIII December 03, 2016 3:14 PM  

This is just more proof that people who write good stories don't write them FAST ENOUGH!

Blogger Aeoli Pera December 03, 2016 3:15 PM  

Send to aeoli.pera at gmail if interested. Word file please, I don't feel like learning a new system at the moment.

Blogger Aeoli Pera December 03, 2016 3:17 PM  

Excellent scene up there in OP, by the way.

Blogger Matthew December 03, 2016 4:06 PM  

We'd love your help Aeoli. You know how to contact me.

Blogger S1AL December 03, 2016 4:41 PM  

What are the editing needs? It's been some years since I did it regularly, but I can do basic grammar/syntax/structure with a modicum of effort, and I currently have at least a few hours a week available.

Blogger Aeoli Pera December 03, 2016 4:54 PM  

Matthew wrote:We'd love your help Aeoli. You know how to contact me.

Done. I'll treat it pseudo-professionally.

Blogger David The Good December 03, 2016 5:14 PM  

This is an excellent read - buy it, folks. Solid sci-fi, great mystery, excellent characters.

Blogger Michael December 03, 2016 5:23 PM  

I enjoyed this book as much as any I've read recently. Can't wait for the sequel.

Blogger Ron December 03, 2016 5:47 PM  

Ironically, the passage quoted was exactly what I needed to hear at this precise moment in time.

I love it when I ask God something, and then I look around and see a book or passage that directly addresses that very same thing. Doesn't always happen, but when it does, make me feel all right.

Anonymous Rolf December 03, 2016 5:59 PM  

@21 - You are welcome.

What's also ironic is the fact that I'm agnostic, but needing just exactly that same sort of support at the moment, and I wrote the book because I didn't see enough positive outlooks and hope in modern S/F.

Blogger EasyCompany December 03, 2016 6:13 PM  



Make an Audible of Back From the Dead!

Get Oliver Wyman who does Larry Corrie's MHI Series.

Blogger Ron December 03, 2016 6:35 PM  



Now I have to buy the book!

Anonymous BGKB December 03, 2016 7:01 PM  

Isn't this like the 3rd revision of the Stars came back story? Or does this go into more material?

Anonymous Rolf December 03, 2016 7:37 PM  

@25 - Sort of, but not exactly.

1. Original complete version in screen-play-like format. Close to 600 page equivalent, ebook only.

2. Rewritten in standard prose format and re-edited. Roughly the first half, ebook version.

Now we have the first half, same text as just above, on paper.

Anonymous LastRedoubt December 03, 2016 7:40 PM  

Must keep keep my hands away from my wallet. Really liked the original screenplay version though I get it's not for everyone

Blogger Doom December 04, 2016 2:56 AM  

Is it possible to get these autographed? Perhaps you do, perhaps you don't, know what you have started. I just happen to think, from what I have read, that some of these guys have... very good prospects. The world is changing, so prospects aren't what they once were. But they might be becoming real again even so.

Just curious.

Anonymous Rolf December 04, 2016 11:47 AM  

@28 - Than you for your support, both financial and moral.

Be happy too, Doom, at some point. Maybe mail-order; a case or three sent to me, and you hit my "tip jar" on the website for the total cost, and send me an email with an address, and I mail a signed copy to you, or something conventional like that. I could start doing something like that for anyone, anywhere.

OTOH, once I've got more than one book out in dead-tree edition, I can talk to a local-ish book store (I live in the Seattle area, so there are a fair number of them), and arrange through them to have a book-signing. I don't know how they normally work, but maybe if I can arrange for myself to bring my own cases of books and have some idea how many of the regional ilk might be able to show up for which book, they store could see a line out the door like never before. I'd like to do it not only for the money, but just to watch the splody heads in a lefty book store see how much they were leaving on the table by being so far left.

Blogger Esmar Tuek December 04, 2016 1:46 PM  

Can you write a bit of code to take into account the IP location, so I don't have to manually change to ? Seems a shame to be losing the affiliate sheckles when non US buyers click on your books

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