‘Black Sunrise‘ is the first 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.)
This being sci-fi, ‘Black Sunrise‘ is set in the distant future, on a Terran colony world called Deanna, which has a charm of its own. The lead character in this first story in the series is Cindy-Mei Winter, a former CIA (that’s Colonial Intelligence Agency) agent. She’s a transgender woman who comes to Deanna looking for her own little share of happiness, but the rest of the universe just keeps getting in her way. Mei has much in her past she would prefer to forget and write off to having happened to someone else, not her – and wants to start over in life. In her male life, she was a go-getter – ambitious and effective in her work, but now she prefers to live and let live, to remain anonymous and under the radar. When she first arrives on Deanna, only a few hours before a long-absent alien foe of the human race arrive to invade the small backwater Terran colony, it becomes crystal clear that life has other plans!
With Atro City under attack, Mei finds herself entrenched in local drama, driven by a desire to redeem herself in the eyes of her former colleagues at the Agency – her being at the scene – and them not. The invasion averted (by a mysterious case of ‘falling sherry’) ‘Agent Winter’ sets out to track down the lone survivor of the Ruminarii invasion force. To assist her in this task, she enlists the help of the male lead in ‘Black Sunrise‘ – one Gary Beck, aka Beck the Badfeller – whose reputation as a bounty hunter on Deanna insists that he is ‘so good he could find the missing day in a leap-year!’
Beck as it turns out, is not as bad as his name makes him out to be, and over the course of their quest – during which they encounter and have to overcome numerous obstacles, including murderous minions of the local mining magnate – become more than ‘just friends’.
While transgender people have been included in quite a lot of books over the years, their traditional role has been as either a villain, an incidental plot device, or as a comedy prop. Typically the portrayal of transgender characters and the issues and obstacles faced by transgender people – and their unique tragedy – are not treated with the insight, understanding and respect they deserve. Transgender readers and fans of sci-fi need not fret in this case however, as Engela – a transwoman herself – has poured her very soul into the creation of this unique and special tale! Cisgender readers need not fear that the topic is put forward ‘too heavily’ as the setting of Engela’s stories – the planet Deanna, and Atro City itself – is big enough to get completely lost in!