“When you have no idea what to expect, you sometimes end up pleasantly surprised. Black Sunrise is a weird little gem of a story that has elements of satire and parody—a talking plant named Fred, a planetary setting that’s something akin to an old Western, reptilian alien invaders taken out by a vat of sherry—as well as other fantasy and sci-fi aspects.
But there’s also a dry wit and humor wrapped around a serious, heartfelt subject here. Cindy-Mei Winter is a trans woman who was fired from her job for showing up in a dress. She suffered transphobia, homophobia, misogyny, and general stupidity from her coworkers and bosses. After her gender affirmation surgery, she takes a galactic cruise and ends up in the middle of major weirdness. So much for a relaxing vacation!
The cast of characters is divine. There’s the bored-off-his-gourd Captain of the vessel that brings Mei to Deanna. Gary Beck the Badfeller is a PI/bounty hunter who got his tough nickname from a stupid childhood stunt. The Gimps aka Ruminarii, reptiles who think being bad is good and typically rise in power and status by killing those above as well as below them in rank and power. And Fred, the Arborian, a talking plant who has spent the last several years hanging out on the rec deck of the freighter that brought Mei to Deanna.
The multiple-points-of-view style the author chose works very well for this story. There is a large cast of characters, and we get to see their thought processes, and often the inner workings of the characters’ strange, minds. The pacing of the story reminds me of the ending of the Clue movie, where Tim Curry runs from place to place explaining what really happened: rapid bursts from the characters, some ironic, some humorous, and some sad and heart-wrenching.
I thoroughly enjoyed this raucous little story. It’s weird and irreverent, but has a deeper, more important message dressed up in a slapstick-comedy tale. I will definitely read more by author Christina Engela.” – Lucy, Queer Sci Fi, 29 July 2023.
“New-to-me writer Christina Engela was responsible for one of the most delightful listening experiences I’ve had in a while. I expect my favorite writers and narrators to be predictably awesome but I admit to feeling especially grateful when a new writer turns my head about my shoulders! Black Sunrise is an incredible novel that has something special for any LGBTQ+ readers with an appreciation for science fiction. The writer has a premise that will blow most readers out of the water. Just imagine a hostile society bent on conquering the Terran race at a third-rate colony only to get their butt handed to them some eighty years earlier when the Terrans fight back! Then it all happens AGAIN(!!!) but this time the reader is front and center for the excitement during the latest attack of the Ruminarii.
Cindy-Mei was terminated from the Colonial Intelligence Agency for being trans, and sees an opportunity to regain some respect, notice, and her position for recapturing the Ruminarii commander. Cindy was visiting Deanna on holiday after her gender affirmation surgery when the Ruminarii tried yet again to subjugate the Terran population. When the bombing of Atro City occurred, a call to arms was sent out for the entire citizenry at Deanna who showed up en mass to kick alien butt! The call was also answered by the men of the Skeggs Valley Dynamite Fishing Club led by General Albert McIntyre-Smythe, a 74-year old retired serviceman of the Imperial Officers’ Reserve who had ordinance aplenty along with the courage and enthusiasm to use it. Cindy makes her way to Atro and with the assistance of security cameras, noticed that a Ruminarii fighter (who just so happens to be the Hammerhead’s commander) was thrown clear of the fighting masses and escapes on foot.
Cindy hides behind her canceled CIA badge to approach Sheriff Peggy-Ann with the need to track down the escaped alien for information regarding the Ruminarii’s objectives, plans, and other intel. The sheriff assures Cindy that a payment for a captured Ruminarii will no doubt be offered and gives her the name of Gary “The Badfeller” Beck, a successful local bounty hunter who would be instrumental in capturing the alien. While traveling to Deanna, Cindy befriended Fred the Aborian–a sentient walking-talking plant who pot sat in the Recreation deck of the Duval. She made such a favorable impression she left on him, Fred felt compelled to intervene from the controls of the Duval to aid the Terrans in their successful bid to fight the attacking Ruminarii. He manages to get Captain Johannsen’s vessel to drop one of six tanks containing over 660,000-gallon in sherry to crash down upon the hull of the Ruminarii Hammerhead spacecraft named Black Sunrise that arrived alone to give the Terrans major grief.
The sherry tank’s fiery destruction of the Black Sunrise scuttles the commander’s plan to have his troops retreat within the craft and then for it to bomb Deanna from space. Fred leaves Captain Johannsen and the others aboard the Duval to search for Cindy, being filled with purpose and a zeal to start a brand new life following his successful assistance to the Terrans. The Captain is left realizes he isn’t even as effective as a plant in a pot! The contrast between these two beings is a pivotal point in the narrative as readers witness Fred making his way across the space station to encounter people that for the most part allow him to be. Surely praise for his role in overthrowing the aliens will make it easier for him to carve out a wonderful life!
While Gary and Cindy pair up to find the alien, the alien is discovered by Jenny whose family has been targeted by a criminal miner determined to acquire their valuable land. Finding the alien overheated, injured, and dehydrated, Jenny leaves the alien with a water canteen and her ‘good will’ towards his right to continue to exist. He’s puzzled not only by the Terrans ferocity during the resistance but the compassion he received from a woman who was fully aware of his status as an enemy. One good turn deserves another as the alien saves Jenny and her trans sister Danielle from being murdered by the miner and his gang members. Gary and Cindy decide to leave the alien alone, determining he was a good person who was obeying bad orders.
Now what I found especially effective was the writer’s ability to bring the readers right up to the main event in a round-Robin way of each character having their part of the story told. At times the more distant yet relevant past is shared with the current information, allowing the readers to have a clear idea of where the players have been and the value of their current roles in the narrative. Even as the different stories are being relayed, the readers are left feeling fully let in on what’s going on in the narrative. Never once did I feel the need to replay segments of the audiobook to know “who’s on first base”. The novel is compelling, thought-provoking, and exciting with awesome world-building, excellent character growth for most players in the narrative, and balance with pacing that keeps the reader turning the pages! Dang! This book is GREAT!!!
The narrator was a bit stilted at points in the book but she is one incredible performer and seemed to genuinely love the book she was reading. There were times when she chucked, snickered, giggled–and she seemed to improve as things went along. It’s hard to say, I was having too much fun. There is NO greater honor a narrator can have for a writer than to enjoy their book in a way that shares the appreciation with the listeners. It is my sincerest hope that the writer’s other work for this series finds its way to audio format and that this writer is able to continue narrating for it. I’d love to share another fun time with Darla Middlebrook.” – Natalie Nicole, Book Bub review, September 09, 2021.
“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.
Enjoyable Complex Characters
“The story tuned out to be quite different than what I expected from the cover. I thought it would be a quirky sci-fi space/planetary adventure. Well, it was, sort of, but primarily focused on the personal identity struggles of the unconventional characters. Generally I found it engaging and empathized with the main characters, except for a few instances where the author either veered onto a social pulpet or their characterizations did not ring true for me. But all in all I found the book enjoyable and look forward to reading more.” CKing review for Black Sunrise on Audible.
Story starts out slow, but gets good near end
“I found the Narrator rather poor and sounding disinterested, She was almost ununderstandable when she does the reptilian voices and drunk characters. Story could have been so much better with a decent narrator. I liked the book well enough to go ahead and bought book 2.” – Georgia McNabb, review on Audible for Black Sunrise, April 28, 2023.
Fun story, but spoilt
“I enjoyed the story, plenty of action, some great characters and lots of humorous asides in the dialogue. The only trouble was the narrator. As mentioned in many other reviews, she is ponderously slow with some weird character voices which are almost unintelligible. I managed to get around this by playing back at 1.5x speed, which made the voice sound almost normal.” – Boojum, Review of Black Sunrise on Audible, 07 Dec, 2022.
“I loved the story. I did not like how the narrator handled the characters who were drunk or had snake-like voices. She went so far to the side of slurring the speech or adding long lispy s’s to the words that I couldn’t even understand what the characters were saying. This happened for a large portion of the novel, which means I missed out on a lot of dialogue. I’m not sure if the words were written that way and she was reading it as-is or if the words were written normally and she added the effect. I hope that I’ll get a chance to read the book in the future so that I can pick up on the rest of the story I missed, since what I understood was really good and funny.” – Jennifer C, review on Black Sunrise, Audible, 20211205.
A few weeks ago I was asked for a copy of the “Black Sunrise” audiobook by a book reviewer, and on the morning of September 08, 2021, I received the following surprising note in my FB chat from the reviewer:
As you can probably tell, I’m very excited to see the finished review! Hopefully it will help drive some sales!
Laughing Too Hard!
Just an update for you.
I am editing several chapters today. It’s taking a bit of time because of “laughter-breaks”. For example, my attempts to NOT laugh when you described “crabby-grass”, caused me to repeat that particular passage several times while recording it. I was even laughing while trying to edit it! Your readers of the story MUST have had tears streaming. I am trying to make sure that my reads of the funny parts are deadpan so that I don’t spoil the story for the listeners. But, it is hard…because I am having too much FUN! Thank you again for choosing my voice for this project. During this time of COVID lock-down, the humour breaks are sorely needed and appreciated.
I will continue to keep you updated.
I’m so happy to hear she’s enjoying the story that much! I often wonder if people from other countries “get” my humor! I’m really looking forward to hearing the finished story – don’t worry, I’ll let you know when it’s available! You know you’re on the right track when the narrator messages you to say how many “laughter breaks” they needed to take while recording your book! 😏😁 …or is that the “write” track? “Black Sunrise”, book 1 of the Quantum Series, coming soon as an audiobook through Moon Books Publishing!
I had a hard time keeping a straight face
The narrator of “Black Sunrise“, Darla Middlebrook is a thorough voice actress keen to get the pronunciation of Ruminarii words and other place names in the story just right! She said: “I want you to know that I am really enjoying the preparation read-through for Black Sunrise. Chuckling and laughing out loud a lot.” …”when I read it aloud to a few of my friends as part of my practice, I had a hard time keeping a straight face. So we all are enjoying your book!” …”Trying not to laugh when narrating the story is my main problem with the script (not a problem really).” – Darla Middlebrook, voice actor and narrator of “Black Sunrise”, May 18, 2021.
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.