Read sample chapters, in PDF format
372pp, 6" x 9" trade size paperback
cover by Jade
In a place where space and time collide, the future of mankind will be decided ... the new masterwork of science fiction from the accalimed author of DEATH'S HEAD, EQUINOX and FORTUNES OF WAR.
On the edge of a region of space so terrible it has long been known as 'Hellgate,' the super-carriers of Earth's DeepSky Fleet play an endless cat-and- mouse game with the starship wreckers, the privateers who, alone, can navigate the wilds of the Rabelais Drift.
The super-carriers are the most magnificent ships in space, but under the iron control of a corrupt officer corps, unanswerable to any authority, parsecs from the nearest center of civilian or military justice, these leviathans have become hellships where conscripts are used up and discarded. And in an era where enforced conscription is a way of life, anyone everyone will serve the DeepSky Fleet. Many will be assigned to carriers.
It is thirty years since the Confederacy instituted its 'strong Fleet policy,' first taxing the far-flung colonies to build the ships, then conscripting their young people to crew them. Decades ago, Earth's military scientists first became aware of a shadowy nemesis, a faceless enemy so powerful, humankind's closest companion in this region of space was obliterated.
The same fate awaits Mankind, with only the DeepSky Fleet holding defiance against the dimly perceived foe known simply as the Zunshu. But as the day grows ever-nearer for the DeepSky Fleet to fight this ultimate battle, its infrastructure is rotting at the core.
The super-carriers can barely keep pace with the wreckers mere human foes and their abused crews have no concept of the mission they were recruited and trained to fight.
Into this arena of misery step two unlikely players. Travers and Marin are from worlds so vastly different, they have only their conscripted military service in common that, and the desire to survive, to see justice done, and to uncover the truths still hidden by Earth's distant government. Travers is still in the service, but his connections to the privateer fleet would be more than enough to execute him. His current assignment is the super-carrier Intrepid, his field of conflict, the Rabelais Drift ... Hellgate.
In an age of rampant injustice, often justice must be pursued on a personal level. This mission brings Curtis Marin aboard the carrier as the executor of a sanction purchased by a citizen whose son was murdered by a travesty of justice. Marin has come aboard as an assassin ... if he can stay alive long enough to complete his mission ... and if the carrier herself can survive the corruption of her officer corps, the endless battle with the privateers, and the insuperable forces of nature that churn across the ripped face of the void known as Hellgate.
Mel Keegans name is a byword for thrilling gay adventure in the past, present and future MILLIVRES on Aquamarine.
The deep-space action of the first volume is set aboard the super-carrier Intrepid. Under the command of an officer corps more interested in increasing their own personal wealth, the carrier has become another of Fleet's hell-ships. This is the arena where Curtis Marin and Neil Travers meet ... and the fight for survival of the entire crew takes place scant days later.
In this book, we meet Marin's uncommon friends, Mark Sherratt, Mark's son, Dario, and Dario's partner, Tor Sereccio. Mark Sherratt is the power behind the shadowy, mysterious Dendra Shemiji, an organization popularly characterized as a society of assassins; but Dendra Shemiji is much more than this. Dario Sherratt's vocation is "cryptocybernetics," and his work takes him to the crux of the real threat in the Deep Sky: the Zunshu.
And Neil Travers's friends will play a major role in the fortunes of the survivors of the Intrepid and Sherratt's group. Captain Richard Vaurien commands a crew of privateers, physically outside the law of the Confederacy, flying out of "Freespace," with two goals in mind. They are dedicated to freeing the colonial DeepSky from the tyranny of the homeworlds ... and dedicated also to the conquest of Hellgate, Rabelais Space, out of which come the Zunshu.
THE RABELAIS ALLIANCE
reviewed by Aricia Gavriel
Okay, I'm an SF-nut. I confess. I also have been a big fan of gay-SF since I discovered the "gay-books-genre" about 10, maybe 12 years ago ... and have been lusting after Jarrat and Stone since about three days after DEATH'S HEAD arrived in my mailbox. Mel's SF is pretty close to 'Aricia's Ideal' (see my review of the Jarrat/Stone books). But when I got my teeth into the first HELLGATE opus I was *still* surprised. I don't know what I'd been expecting; for some reason I'd been thinking more along the lines of a space-fantasy. But what I read was ultra-realistic from page one to the end, and it's a huge novel. DreamCraft packed it down into a small space, which also minimizes shipping costs. For folks on a budget, that helps a lot. The HELLGATE books have the 'flavor' of an epic, from the very start ... and you gotta love these two characters. Is it me, or are Neil Travers and Curtis Marin a little bit like J and S ?? There's the big dark butch one and the smaller more 'intellectual' one who still kicks butt with the best of 'em. Maybe I'm just starting to recognize MK's 'ideal heroes' after all these years! Criticisms? Lord knows, I'm not one to criticize a Keegan novel (I don't even notice typos, though I realize a lot of habitual proofreaders do). The only thing I found to criticize about HELLGATE #1 is absolutely unavoidable in the book: it's HUGE and the story is COMPLICATED. The novel is AWESOME, but you have to stay wide awake and read the whole thing. MK doesn't repeat himself, and if you skip pages or read while falling asleep, you can miss the details and 'lose the plot.' I solved the whole problem by reading HELLGATE #1 twice, and enjoyed it more the second time around. Cheers to DreamCraft for making it possible for an epic-size story from MK to take place.
THE RABELAIS ALLIANCE
reviewed by Chris R.
'The Rabelais Alliance' is pretty much exactly what you expect from Mel Keegan: a good-size book with handsome heroes, an intricate storyline and no shortage of 'color' ... this time the tapestry the story plays out against is deep space, and it's a 'beat up, dirty' deep space at that. Reminds me a hulluvalot more of ALIEN than any of the squeaky-clean TREK movies! It's big ships, big problems for the human race ... and Keegan pulls it off in style. My verdict on this one: *brilliant.* I liked the cover too. Keegan makes a good point about the GMP covers being rather [juvenile], while his characters are normally about 10 - 15 years older and more mature than anything depicted by the old cover artists. The current artist, Jade (is that a guy or a gal???) seems to have gotten it right. I had a problem with the bookbinding on my copy: some pages came loose during reading but DreamCraft are aware of the problem and when I emailed about it, Dave told me they'd had troubles with one batch, and had tossed-out a LOT of individual books. A couple got through where some pages were loose (like mine), but they [DreamCraft] are on top of the problem and it won't crop up again. That's good enough for me ... I'm just looking forward to the next one.
THE RABELAIS ALLIANCE
reviewed by Chris R.
My partner got me the book, and as I love science fiction this was for me. I really liked the characters especially Curtis Marin - you felt as if there were lots more of his character to yet unfold. I thought that the Dendra Shemiji organisation was fascinating the way it was written (the resalq background really) and how people function on different levels. I wasn't sure about the Richard Vaurien character - seemed to good to be true somehow. The story line was great, I could not put the book down and have reread it a few times as you do miss things the first time around. The proof reading was excellent with a couple of exceptions. Like a lot of people I enjoyed the relationship unfolding between the two main characters and I do hope it develops further - very descriptive. I am eagerly awaiting Probe - keep writing Mel .