Action, Adventure, Gender Dysphoria!
Action, Adventure, Gender Dysphoria!
Cindy-Mei Winter had until recently been ‘Agent’ Winter, C.I.A. – that’s Colonial Intelligence Agency – and one of their best agents… that is, until they threw her out for coming to work in a dress.
After that disappointing and sudden end to what had been a promising career, Mei rewarded herself with a long relaxing vacation in the outback to celebrate her gender reassignment and her new start in life. The first stop on her journey turned out to be a little backwater planet called Deanna…
As a third-rate colony in the Terran Empire, Deanna had more than its fair share of dull moments… Dull – but also definitely weird… Deanna orbited a star called Ramalama – and if you think that’s funny, Deannas two moons were called Ding and Dong, respectively. (This was a local joke.)
Then the unexpected happened: A single Ruminarii Hammerhead – the first seen by Humans in over eighty years, arrived to invade the small backwater Terran colony!
As bombs fell on Atro City – and while the ordinary folk of Atro City hurried meet the aliens when they landed and grabbed anything remotely resembling a weapon on the way out the door – Cindy-Mei found herself in exactly the right place at the right time… but what should she do? She’d hoped to put her violent and somehow depressing past behind her, but now it seemed her new beginning (and her holiday) were going to have to wait! The Gimp were back, and this was no time to be a sissy! She faced seemingly insurmountable odds in the midst of panic, hysteria – falling sherry – and people hiding under furniture! What would she do?
Thankfully, with the assistance of an alien walking, talking plant called Fred, a local bounty hunter called Beck the Badfeller – and the Skeggs Valley Dynamite Fishing Club, she wouldn’t have to find out alone!
“‘Black Sunrise’ by Christina Engela: in the introduction of the ‘Quantum series’ – a group of fantastic books that are not only space science fiction but carry a positive message while also being fun to read. If you like Pratchett, you’ll love these!” – Lee Hall, UK writer & reviewer.
“Black Sunrise” is the first title in the Quantum Series by Christina Engela.
- Published: February 20, 2019 (4th Edition)
- Words: 58,968
- Pages: 190 pages (6×9 format paperback)
- Duration: (to be announced) min (eBook narrated by (to be announced))
Black Sunrise – Synopsis [Spoiler Alert]
Action, Adventure, Gender Dysphoria!
This is the first episode in the Quantum Series by Christina Engela.
Cindy-Mei Winter, a former agent for the CIA (that’s Colonial Intelligence Agency) has treated herself to a nice long holiday to celebrate her new beginning in life – and to forget her male past and, if possible, look for a fresh start. The rest of the universe however, seems determined to get in her way.
She travels via the back-roads of space, as the only passenger aboard the Duval a huge cargo ship – a loderunner – and it is there that she passes the time between stops, reminiscing about the past – and dreaming and hoping for the future.
Fred the Arborian
It’s aboard the Duval that Mei meets and befriends a quick-witted alien plant called Fred the Arborian, who talks and walks about while carrying his own pot.
Fred is somewhat unpopular with the crew of the loderunner – who are basically only aboard for insurance purposes and who spend most of their time getting drunk at raucous parties at the various stops along the way, or adding to their already impressive lists of degrees for future careers elsewhere.
The exception is Captain Bran Johannsen, who is somewhat put-out by his circumstances – that is, being captain of a ship run entirely by computers and not having any actual useful purpose – or any real hobbies of his own to keep him sane – and he does actually want to captain his own ship.
Johannsen spends his hours sitting in the ship’s recreation center, listening to bad music and drinking even worse alcohol, while wallowing in self-pity for how his career hadn’t turned out the way he’d hoped. The fact that his only passenger – an extremely attractive blonde – had rejected his oafish advances also really stings. Having a plant talk to him out of nowhere doesn’t help his mood much either and only makes him even more grumpy.
It’s at this point that the Duval reaches Deanna, one of many stops on their voyage – and Cindy-Mei’s destination. She’s booked a stay at a local holiday resort. Mei and Fred say poignant goodbyes. After all, given the vastness of space, it’s unlikely they’ll ever meet again. The crew goes down to the surface on the same shuttle as Mei, and Bran Johannsen retreats to the bar on the recreation deck, and works on his next hangover.
Meanwhile on the surface, the most famous bounty hunter on Deanna (or depending on who you ask, anywhere else) is hot on the trail of an escaped convict. After a quick shoot-out with the con, Gary Beck – a.k.a. ‘Beck the Badfeller’ – nabs his man and takes him back to the local cop-shop to collect his reward. He leaves the fine felon in the hands of Sheriff Peggy-Ann Muller – called ‘Peg’ for short, and heads over to the ‘Shock Diamond’ to spend a few hours downing ‘cold ones’ before driving home very carefully and calling it a day.
That night, just hours after Mei’s arrival at the Hawaian-themed holiday resort on the fringes of Atro City, a single warship belonging to Humanity’s long-absent alien foe – the Ruminarii – attacks the colony.
Deanna has no military presence and no military defenses except for the occasional Space Fleet ship passing by. The colony is virtually defenseless. When news reaches the residents of Deanna’s capital, Atro City, that the city is under attack by a Ruminarii hammerhead – and that the enemy ship is heading to the spaceport, presumably to land… things start to get a little strange. The locals are a pretty… er, unique sort, and rush over to spaceport right away – to meet the unfortunate invaders with open arms.
One such group of ragged individuals is the Skeggs Valley Dynamite Fishing Club. An informal club of retired military veterans – with only one of them under the age of 60 and most pushing 90 – they gather for the odd meeting and the regular weekend’s fishing in Skeggs Valley on the outskirts of Atro City. There they camp on the banks of the Whatoosie River and fish. Fishing is after all, the name of the game – dynamite fishing! Awoken by the booms of far too distant explosions coming from the city, these retired Rambo’s are spurred into action, break camp – pile into the club jeepo – and head back to the city!
With the colony – and Mei’s little holiday resort sanctuary thrown into confusion and disarray by the surprise attack, the former C.I.A. Agent side-steps hysterics and steps over the people hiding under furniture – and goes back to her room. There she dons a suitably stylish and intimidating black outfit, retrieves her blaster from her luggage – and jumps back into the action.
Mei arrives at the spaceport just in time to watch the Ruminarii ship land and heads up to the space port control center – using her expired credentials to get her past burly security guards who can’t get past the cunning effectiveness of her outfit. From there, she watches as the alien warriors storm down the landing ramp – and are met square-on by the mob of angry citizens – with members of the Skeggs Valley Dynamite Fishing Club right at the front!
Meanwhile aboard the Duval in orbit, Captain Johannsen is already plastered. Fred ponders his position and decides it’s time to make some changes. He lifts his pot off the counter – and to the shock of Captain Johannsen, walks out. He decides to leave the ship and look for Mei on Deanna – but something catches his attention: the colony is under attack by a Ruminarii ship, and Fred decides to do something about it. The Duval isn’t a warship and carries no significant weapons – but it does carry cargo! He takes careful aim, runs a few calculations, and releases a superkeg of Samorian sherry from the cargo deck – which immediately plummets down towards the spaceport!
At the spaceport far below, a fierce battle is raging on the tarmac – in the middle of which, a superkeg falls out of the sky and lands squarely on the invader’s ship, destroying it!
Marsh’k Klus’sta – the commander of the invading Ruminarii – is thrown clear of the explosion by the blast-wave, and lands some distance away – smoking, but alive. Mei is confident that she’s the only one who noticed that one of the aliens has escaped the space port alive, and sets out to track him down alone.
Mei does this for a myriad of personal reasons – chiefly of which are the allegations made by her former boss and colleagues at the Agency that because she’s transgender, she is weaker, less capable and inferior – and therefore not up to the job. She decides to show them up by proving them wrong – and making headlines as a private citizen now, for capturing a dangerous enemy alien invader on her own would certainly go a long way to achieving that. Thing is, though – she’s never been to Deanna before, and doesn’t know the territory at all. She needs a little help to track this desperado down.
Early the next morning, Gary wakes up and goes through his usual morning routine. He lives in a trailer park in a deluxe model camper with a broken engine – which is the only reason he could afford it at all. He gets into his jeepo inside the garage of his camper (it is a deluxe model) – and promptly reverses into a large bomb crater at the end of the ramp!
After a little head-scratching, Gary learns from a neighbor – whose wife has disappeared into the same crater along with their camper while he was at a card game with the boys – that the city had been attacked by would-be invading aliens the previous night. Gary notes that one of the aliens is a fugitive – and decides to cash in on the bounty – and heads over to speak to Peg about it!
Mei arrives at the local police station where she again uses her expired credentials as a C.I.A. agent to convince Sheriff Peggy-Ann Muller to help her find an assistant who is good at tracking down criminals. Peg recommends Beck the Badfeller without hesitation – after all, he’s Deanna’s most famous son – the legendary bounty hunter Beck the Badfeller… who, legend has it, is so good at his job that he could find the missing day in a leap year! At his interview with ‘Agent Winter’ shortly afterwards – in Peg’s office – sparks fly between them
Meanwhile in orbit, the rest of Duval’s crew return to the ship from a raging party on the surface mumbling something about an alien invasion, explosions and combat that sound to a very hungover Captain Johannsen like a movie they’d watched at the Metroplex. Johannsen notices a number of new arrivals in orbit beside the Duval – Space Fleet warships… and when a call comes through from one of them asking about the remains of one of their superkegs lying in a crater at Atro City spaceport, he faints from the shock.
Once revived, Johannsen is summoned to report aboard one of the Space Fleet ships – and on his way there he desperately formulates as many reasons and excuses why it isn’t his fault! He lingers under the impression that he’s in some sort of trouble, but the Captain of the warship simply wishes to congratulate him for the action that saved the day and put an end to the Ruminarii incursion! His attempt to blame the superkeg on Fred results in Fred being put up for the Solus Gratuiti award instead, and yet again, Bran Johannsen feels like Fate has stabbed him firmly between his shoulder blades!
On returning to the Duval, Johannsen encounters Fred in passing at the shuttle. Fred is on his way to the surface to make a new beginning of his own – and perhaps to put down a few roots.
A little later that same morning, Mei and Gary set out – in Gary’s jeepo – to find the last surviving alien invader to escape the spaceport. Marsh’k meanwhile, has trekked all the way outside Atro City limits on foot, wearing clothes taken from the body of a dead man as a disguise. Aside from the fact that he has no ears – which meant that his cowboy hat keeps falling down over his face – he seems to fit in rather well – at least from a distance. Along the way, exhausted, the alien collapses at the side of the dirt road – and is spotted by Jen Grauffis – a local rancher who is up early righting over-turned red-horned wildebeest and repairing fences. She hops in her jeepo and rushes over to assist.
Upon reaching Marsh’k she quickly puts two and two together, and realizes who and what he is. Instead of turning him in, she decides that she has enough problems of her own to deal with and takes pity on him. She gives him some water and leaves him to go about his business. Marsh’k – an alien from a world where the concepts of good and evil are completely opposite – is confused by this gesture of kindness, and for a little while keeps an eye on Jen’s jeepo as she drives off into the distance… noticing that she’s driving right into what he can tell is an ambush!
The Grauffis family has endured years of difficulty at the hands of a local mining company. Their ranch is on a rich deposit of lantillium, and the mine desperately wants to access the mineral! A campaign of dirty tricks has been waged against the family for years – and despite a string of deaths in the family attributed to accidents and natural causes, nothing could thus far be proved against the company. Jen and Danielle Grauffis, sisters, are the two last remaining members of the family – and Jen, the elder – is determined not to sell!
This time, the mine has sent a gang of thugs to deal with the obstruction to progress! Three brutes lie in wait for Jen as she returns to the ranch house, and overpower her. They escort her inside the house – where her younger sibling, Danielle, is doing the housework. Danny is transgender, and although Jen herself has been enormously supportive, she’s never really understood what it is to be transgender herself.
In the meantime, Mei and Gary are driving around the countryside tracking the alien’s movements. They’re chatting and finding to their surprise that there’s a lot of common ground between them – more than Mei’s willing to let on, and each realizes they’re attracted to the other. Their conversation subtly explores and probes their growing appreciation for each other.
The mine thugs are even less understanding, and decide that seeing as they’re going to kill the Grauffis sisters anyway – and make it look like another accident – they’re going to have a little fun first. It’s in the middle of this drama that the gangsters are interrupted by a sound that comes suddenly from the kitchen. The two underlings are quickly dispatched by the intruder – who turns out to be a tall, muscular scale-skinned alien by the name of Marsh’k!
Guided by a need to repay the kindness shown to him by Jen earlier, he’d followed and made his way to the ranch to intervene on their behalf. The leader of the gang fights the Ruminarii in hand to hand combat, and loses. His head is blown off by Jen, who manages to get hold of one of the gang’s blasters. It’s at that very moment that Gary Beck and Cindy-Mei Winter arrive!
Afterwards, Jen and Danielle Grauffis, Mei and Gary discuss and unpack the most recent events and decide what to do about the alien. He’d risked his life to intervene, and it seems awfully spiteful to hand him over to the authorities – who would doubtlessly treat him poorly. Marsh’k – dubbed ‘Mark’ as it’s easier for the Human tongue – also has nowhere to go now since there is no diplomatic relationship between the Ruminarii and the Terran Empire. Together, they decide to allow him to stay, and Mark becomes the unofficial, secret resident lurker in the basement of the Grauffis ranch, and the center of what’s to become known as ‘the Mark Conspiracy’.
In the discourse that follows, Gary and Mei chat about young Danielle and her specific situation as a young transwoman, and the implications for her future. Mei takes a chance and reveals her own transness, and to her surprise finds that Gary is completely accepting although a little surprised, and suddenly finds a whole new realm of possibilities open to her. She decides to stick around and see where a life on Deanna will lead.
The History of “Black Sunrise”
When I first started writing Quantum, I wrote the original first three books in the same year! No, it wasn’t deliberate… I mean, what kind of lunatic sits down one bright sunny day and thinks, “Yes, I think I feel like writing three books simultaneously”? It just worked out that way!
To explain it simply, I started out writing “Black Sunrise“, and it just got longer, and longer, and more complex, and midway through I decided to split it down the middle and turn the next part into book 2 “The Time Saving Agency”… and another part, which became “Dead Man’s Hammer”… and then I worked on them all simultaneously! Yes, it was taxing just getting those first three drafts together, but over the years they’ve been refined really well!
Around 2005, I published the first version of “Black Sunrise” on Lulu. I updated and refined it and its cover again in 2007.
In 2014, I got picked up by a small press, which contracted me for all my titles, and to comply I took everything down from Lulu and waited for the publisher to hold up its end of the bargain. It was a long wait for a train that never came; and by May 2016 the company essentially frog-marched every one of their authors who weren’t “pure horror writers” out the door of their stable, leaving me back at Square One with my head spinning.
Upon my immediate return to self-publishing in May 2016, I re-released the then complete four titles in Quantum, starting with “Black Sunrise“. I made good use of the opportunity to edit, format and to create new covers. In 2017, I went completely bonkers and thought it might be nice to do covers similar to the great Josh Kirby’s for the Quantum Series… I mean, I’m good at art and cover design – but clearly not that good! I only ever finished one, and you can probably see why I felt less than inspired by the result! So I went back to the drawing board and decided to stick with using digital graphic design tools I had at my disposal.
In 2019, I revised all the Quantum Series books and redesigned all the covers so they all looked like part of the same series – and unique from Galaxii! At any rate, I feel the current series of covers does the story justice!
- Get “Black Sunrise” Now! (2020)
- Have You Read The Quantum Series? You Should! (2020)
- Fun Fact #10: Sheriff Peg & Her SODs (2019)
- Secret Weapons of the Resistance #6: The Mark Conspiracy (2019)
- Secret Weapons of the Resistance #5: Ding (2019)
- LGBT Heroes #2: the “T” in LGBT (2019)
- FAQ’s Answered #12: Who Is Cindy-Mei Winter? (2019)
- Secret Weapons of the Resistance #2: Fred (the Arborian) (2019)
- 3 Reasons why you should read Indie Books! – Review (2019)
- “A fun and enjoyable quirky multi-character story – Review (2019)
- The Quantum Series by Christina Engela (2019)
- The Quantum Series: A Glimpse Into The Future (2019)
- “Black Sunrise” – Quantum Book 1 (2016)
- Creativity Unleashed! – My Return To Self-publishing (2016)
- Announcing the Quantum Series (2016)
- Second Editions Now Available (2013)
“It’s another review post of my reviews and by that I mean recent indie book reviews but this time the number of reads is a little smaller; this is because all three of my recommendations in this edition were a little longer. But here at the Hall of information we don’t discriminate by book length, novel, novella, short or even a sentence or two is welcomed here so let’s take a look at what I’ve read and reviewed recently…
Last year Christina got into contact looking for a review of ‘Demonspawn’ which I thoroughly enjoyed and recommend – review here – so naturally she reached out again this year in search of more reviews so I agreed to read all 6 books of the Quantum series!
Black Sunrise, as quoted from my 5 Star review is ‘A fun and enjoyable quirky multi-character story that carries an important message…’ That message which is intertwined with some action, comedy, and overall fun is all about diversity and inclusion. There’s even a talking plant!
Very soon I shall be delving into the second book in the series ‘the time saving agency’ so watch this space for a review!” – by Lee Hall, UK writer and playwright, May 29, 2019.
Black Sunrise is about a lot of different things and the author has done a great job of linking them all together by way of a story that is not only funny, it’s also strange in a good way and carries a positive message. The diverse array of characters range from a bounty hunter to a talking plant called ‘Fred’ who in some senses stole the show considering this ‘Arborian’ seemed to be more of a secondary character.
Set mostly on the planet of Deanna; this holiday destination see’s the arrival of an alien spaceship helmed by the ‘Ruminarii’ a race of hostile lizard type aliens looking to send a message. Along the way we see the story from many different points of view; including these aliens who (spoiler alert) fail in a sense to send said message.
Cindy Mei Winter; a former government agent is trying to put the past behind her and provides the important message this story carries. What first appears as a suggested undertone comes center stage in the latter part of the story as Cindy is revealed to be transgender; something that is portrayed in a positive and modern way. In fact there are two transgender characters in this story. This message extends to many of the other characters who are all different in their own way questioning the concept of what an alien really is.
Overall I found this story enjoyable with a positive message that puts the ‘conscience over paycheck’ concept into practice. There are some parts I found to be genuinely funny while in other moments it was thought provoking.
Seeing as this book is a part of the wider ‘Quantum’ series I will be sure to check out the others.
5 Stars” – by Lee Hall, UK writer and playwright, May 7, 2019.
Another awesome sci-fi adventure
“Black Sunrise is another awesome sci-fi novel written by the hideously under-rated transgender author, Christina Engela. Most people will never have heard of this author (I myself stumbled over her by accident) and this is a crying shame as her work is brilliantly good sci-fi!
Black Sunrise depicts events that happened a mere two months before those that occur in The Time Saving Agency and hence first introduces us to some of the inhabitants on the planet Deanna whom fans may already be acquainted with. Marsh’k is a Ruminarii obsessed with furthering his career. Already as high up on the promotion ladder as he wants to be, and determined to keep himself there (Ruminarii are normally only promoted after assassinating their predecessors!), he decides to launch an attack against a seemingly easy target: Deanna.
A couple of centuries ago, Rumanarii invading forces were repelled by humanity in an infamous conflict called The Gimp War. Time has passed but old rivalries run deep and Marsh’k sees this as a way of bringing back some old fashioned honour to his people especially as Deanna has no official Military presence!
Unfortunately, he doesn’t factor into the equation the determination of an angry mob (who resent having their capital city bombed), an ex Colonial Intelligence Agent who is on an extended vacation after changing her gender, a passionate Bounty Hunter whose moniker is The Bad-Feller (and not for the reasons you might be thinking!) or a sentient shrubbery and a case of expensive sherry?!?
Once again, this is a great novel that has been brilliantly conceived. The theme of prejudice against transgender people lifts its ugly head and is casually thrown into the mix but never forced down your throat giving you an exciting sci-fi adventure that comes complete with something a little different; a moral message.
I loved this and thought it one of the best books in her series, my only upset is that I only have a couple more to read and then there are no more! This is a crying shame because Christina has a real flair for storytelling and it would be great to read a few more tales set in the same universe!
Summary: Christina Engela does it again with another great novel!” – Mark Woods.
I’m A Fan For Life!
“Hi there. So I just finished Black Sunrise. And I am obsessed!! I felt such strong relations towards both Danny and Mei. I enjoyed it so much and I can’t wait to read everything. Thanks for sharing your wonderful work with me. I’m a fan for life!” – Angelina Monroe
Definitely Up There With Terry Pratchett
“Just finished it, C, really enjoyed it. Definitely up there with Terry Pratchett in my opinion. Thanks again :)” – Mandy Botha, Giveaway Contest Winner [Black Sunrise], Christina Engela Author group.
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All material copyright © Christina Engela, 2021.