Loderunner


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Returning from an evening in Mars City spent visiting relatives he didn’t know he had, Timaset Skooch arrived at the local space port to find his new acquisition stolen. A few minutes later, the crew of his slightly run-down loderunner “Celeste”, returned from a nearby pub, blind drunk, puzzled, and now unemployed as well.

Ever since he’d decided to quit being a P.I. and to try his hand at running cargo instead, things had just blown up in Skooch’s face one day at a time (Florpavian Flamebirds tended to do that occasionally). Between the labor disputes and accidental deaths among the crew (who believed in settling disputes internally) Tim began to get a headache worse than the ones he got from getting kicked in the head. Just now, things had gone pear-shaped again, and he found himself in the middle of a kind of cat and mouse game with some cloaks and daggers thrown in for good measure.

He was sure it had something to do with the 10,000 credits he’d been offered to transport two passengers to an asteroid in the rings of – um, Jupiter (as soon as possible, no questions asked) by a middle-man with no neck and a tendency to smile a lot. Trouble was, now the mob – or someone – seemed to be out to kill them all. He was beginning to regret ever winning that card game…

Loderunner” is the fourth title in the Quantum Series by Christina Engela.

Details:

  • Published: March 24, 2019
  • Words: 52,455.

Synopsis:

[Spoiler Alert]

Loderunner” is the fourth title in the Quantum Series by Christina Engela – a writer described as ‘that rarest of authors – able to seamlessly blend together elements of dark horror and sci-fi to create stories that will stay with you long after the last page has been turned.’ (Mark Woods, author of ‘Time of Tides’ and ‘Fear of the Dark‘). Her writing in the sci-fi genre has been described as ‘one of the most unique and captivating styles I’ve encountered in science fiction.’ (Alex S. Johnson, author of The Doom Hippies.)

Set after the third book (“Dead Man’s Hammer”) “Loderunner” introduces new characters and a whole new adventure starting on the by now familiar Terran colony world of Deanna.

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Leading characters the reader may be familiar with from previous titles, such as Gary Beck, play cameo and supporting roles in “Loderunner“. The lead in this story is a struggling private investigator by the name of Timaset Skooch, who at the start of the story wins a small pile of loot …in a game of Uno. Part of the pot turns out to be a decrepit old cargo space ship called the Celeste (any alarms going off yet?) which Skooch decides to take out on a voyage with its eccentric and dysfunctional crew across the remotest reaches of Terran space to seek their fortune in the ultimate get-rich-quick scheme.

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One of the spanners thrown into the spokes of the wheels of this plan is Skooch’s other half – Dory, who is a complex character in her own right. Dory is transgender, in the early stages of transitioning between male and female, and Timaset Skooch (who had never thought he may not have been entirely heterosexual before meeting Dory in drag on a bender one heavy night at a local night club called ‘the Slipped Disk‘) is understandably confused. The realization that Dory is transgender and that this would mean realigning himself yet again, seems a rather daunting prospect, especially with the headache he still had from getting mugged. Meanwhile, his other half – while supportive and dedicated to their continued partnership – is quite resolute about transitioning. It is on this note that Skooch and the odd-ball crew of the Celeste set off on their – er, oddysey.

On a convoluted journey between systems, stars and planets, Timaset Skooch meets a variety of oddballs, starting with Giggling Harry – a local entrepreneur who introduces him to a couple of guys with no necks, who in turn arrange a fare for him – a couple of passengers traveling from Deanna to a ‘roid in the rings of – er, Jupiter. The passengers cause a bit of upset for the crew – but not because one turns out to be a victim of a kidnapping and also by sheer coincidence, transgender as well! Groaning inwardly at this incredible coincidence, Timaset is forced to confront the fact that he may be losing Dory – as well as facing his own insecurities about gender and sexuality – and the ingrained and entrenched prejudices of some of his crew – while dodging the relentless agents of a dangerous and shadowy organization calling itself ‘the Olduvai Trust’. It is on this note that the intrepid and moribund crew of the Celeste set out to seek their fortunes, traversing the vast territory of the Terran Empire and meeting a collection of strange and interesting characters – and situations along the way.

Transporting livestock turns out to be enough to make a living, although not enough to get rich off. On the plus side, Tim and his crew get to sight-see and visit destinations such as the Rings of Jupiter (don’t ask) and get a closer look at Mars, one of Earth’s oldest and most advanced colonies, as well as Pluto, where the Celeste stops over briefly to drop off a couple of soldiers at the local military outpost after a bender while on furlough. The top of the list however has to be the abandoned ship they encounter in the depths of empty space, where there is no such thing as a free lunch – except of course, if you happen to be a xenomorph guarding a long lost treasure…

Far from being simply a tale of incidental adventure and comedy used as a front for activism into which the author injects a narrative about transgender issues, “Loderunner” is very entertaining, complex and funny.

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About The Quantum Series

The History of “Loderunner”

Loderunner” is book 4 in the series, and I completed the first draft in 2006. The background of the story and why I wrote it is something I’ve never gone into at length before, so for those of you who are interested, this might be worth your while reading. After I’d finished the first three books in Quantum, I wondered for a while what to do next with my writing. It’s not like I had nothing better to do – I was after all in the middle of my own transition, and being transgender was no picnic I can tell you!
In 2003 I met a colleague at work who I became friends with. Her name was Kathryn Colley, and after a little while, we discovered that we were distant cousins on my father’s side, the Engela’s. Kathryn’s initials were KAE, and so like all her friends, I called her “Kae” – much to her traditionalist parents disapproval. Kae was a divorcee, who had a 12 year old son called Michael and the two of them were very close, very much as I was with my own mother. I visited them often, usually on Sundays, and sometimes in the week as well – we were very good friends.
Kae enjoyed reading my stories, and very often, she was a sounding board for my quirky writing – and we shared a warped sense of humor! One day, Kae suggested I create a board game… that’s right, a board game – for her to play with Michael. I put a lot of thought into it – after all, I’d played board games before, but I’d never invented one! The result was something I called “Loderunner“, with “action cards” dictating the outcome of the game for competing loderunner (space freighter) skippers traveling across a starscape board riddled with various stations, adventures and stops! The action cards had funny instructions like “Your crew eaten by space monster, miss a turn” on them. It never got further than that though, and I later on thought I might use it as a basis for a story. I did, and that story turned out to be “Loderunner“.

I published the first version of “Loderunner” in 2006 on Lulu, and dedicated the book to Kae and Michael.

In 2007, I revamped the cover.

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, including “Loderunner“.  I made good use of the opportunity to edit, format and to create new covers.

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!

  

  

Reviews:

Interesting Alternative Sci-fi

“Advantages: Interesting alternative sci-fi…..
Disadvantages: Transgender angle feels a bit OTT and in your face at times!

“In space, no one can hear you question your sexuality…….” 

This is another tale in transgendered author Christina Engela’s space series and once again based on and around the planet Deanna; an isolated human colony whose sun is called Ramalama and its twin moons, Ding and Dong (a local joke!).

Timaset Skooch is down on his luck. His Pivate Eye business is not doing so well and so he turns to a game of cards to try and keep his mind off his problems. Unfortunately though he wins big, he is promptly mugged. Fortunately, the muggers leave him with the deeds to a cargo ship he has won. A loderunner owned by a local Captain. Unfortunately, Skooch knows nothing about Loderunning…..

In a bid to try and recap his lost winnings, Skooch arranges a series of cargo runs which includes a herd of the square cattle that Deanna is known to breed (easier to store, these cattle nonetheless have a habit of falling over and not being able to get up ~ lord help you if you are underneath at the time!). He also arranges through a local Mafia boss to escort some passengers to a planet back in the home system in the region of Earth. And that is where his problems really begin…..

Because Skooch’s passengers are not what they seem. A point that is made clear when the ship he is supposed to be transporting them to opens fire on Skooch and his loderunner!

This is an interesting sci-fi tale with lots of fun and humour but which radically addresses the whole nature of Gender and what it means to be male/female and every combination of the two. Engela’s transgenderism obviously plays a big part here; Skooch is engaged to a transvestite, convinced he should be a woman. Skooch’s best friend is engaged to a woman who once was a man and one of their passengers also has questions of gender. For those easily offended and not interested in such subjects, this book then should probably be avoided.

But that would be a shame because this is actually quite good sci-fi! Okay, the transgender issue here feels a bit forced down your throat (no pun intended) and there seems to be a LOT of gender-bending going on in such a small area of space but this is an issue that has had its feet in Engela’s work in the past even if not quite this heavily before.

I found that the heavy transgender angle actually distracted here from what was actually quite a clever story. If it had not been quite so blatant though, I think it would have made this novel better! Like I say, I don’t have a problem with it but there do seem to be a lot of transgender characters in this little corner of the universe and that at times strains credibility seeing as they make up only a small part of Earth’s population. Unless you take the opinion that maybe the reason there are so many out here is because they have either been forced to leave Earth or left because of heavy gender prejudice?!?

This is not alluded to however and is just me trying to fill in the gaps. Regardless, aside from all that this is actually not a bad book and it is good to be back on Deanna again which is one of my favourite locales in Engela’s work.

It is only a shame that she has not written much more than the books of hers I have reviewed but then judging at how she has used this particular book as her soapbox maybe that is a good thing. Less, like they say, is sometimes more!” – Mark Woods.

Reader Comments:

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Articles:

Read “Loderunner” – Why Did I Write It?

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