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Shen - Book One Synopsis

“...citizens of Usalm will probably tell their grandchildren about you. You're very good; I can see why death was never going to end your story.”

David Travis was murdered on Christmas Day, the last in a series of crazy events that all started when a spaceship abducted him. No aliens were involved. Brahm, the only creature on board, could control the vessel once but not anymore. From then on, every new arrival surprised them both. It made no sense to think the ship wanted them, but no one had a better explanation.

Dying isn’t what David expected it would be. He's not gone, but he’s not the same. The technical term is volax: he has become an idea that remembers being a person. Brahm is different too. Without warning his body can be taken over by something with frightening power and far seeing intelligence. Whatever that is, it wants David to command the ship. He can’t do much but agree, though he has no idea what they should do.

The Ilaons on board ask him to return to Usalm, a city whose violent persecution caused them to flee. One problem: they've been asleep for a thousand years and don't know how or if they are remembered. Sesom, who led the historic exodus, seems to panic when they land and runs away to nearby mountains. His deputy Tarne must step in and assess what dangers await.

Their arrival is observed from afar by another, older volax. Koda knows the appearance of David’s ship coincides with suspicious activity among the Bormu, a cult that expects Sesom to return and make war. Rather than risk direct action, Koda takes advantage of David's inexperience and offers to teach him a few skills that come with his new existence.

David will need them all, not only to broker a deal with city authorities to resettle the Ilaons, but stop a riot, settle a power struggle between Tarne and Sesom while containing the violence of the Bormu. Just when those problems seem over, the sky darkens. Technology masters known as the Ha come down to the city in a cloud that makes deadly weather. They'd been invited to broker a trade deal, but claim the Illaons will threaten it. Only David can penetrate the poisonous vapour to reach their ship, and meet a leader who really wants to get the measure of him.

Shen is the 95,000 word beginning of a series that turns space opera inside out. Few characters are willing, and none are prepared to be part of the ship’s journey. Their mission waits to be discovered. As one observed, “Shen is a process, an unfolding, an evolution.” As they explore, the structure of the universe and the powers that made it become clear, and they realise how critical they will be to its future.

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January 2015

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