gay books: Scorpio
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324pp, 6"x 9" trade size paperback
cover by Jade
paperback -$23.95; ebook - $9.95

The third NARC book, direct sequel to EQUINOX.

COVER NOTES Jarrat and Stone are back yet again, and if the Equinox assignment looked something of a challenge, this one is going to be a rollercoaster.

Aurora is a 200 year old colony opened up by sleeper ship and now booming. Its capital is the city of Thule ... so filled with Angel abuse that Tactical has accumulated vast bodies of evidence on "Scorpio". The syndicate has some very high connections, all the way back to Earth, but Tac Colonel Kris Janssen last generation of an original pioneer family has just cremated four officers who attempted to investigate the man at its head.

Young Marcus Brand has been preserved in cryogenic suspension since the very early days of the Angel war, 25 years before this story. Wealthy parents bought a colonial "sleeper" ship's cryotank to preserve him when he overdosed on Angel. Eighty years old now, Marc's father sees a documentary on Harry Del and is so impressed, he contacts Del directly, wanting him to perform his miracles for Marc. But the technique remains experimental and Harry refers the request to NARC.

As Harry applies for clearances to treat the Brand boy, Jarrat and Stone have just completed their official report on the Equinox Industries operation, and they are given their new assignment: the Angel syndicate known as Scorpio.

Harry receives clearance to work with Marc. The cryo tank must be shipped to the secure NARC labs on Darwin's World. It's shipped out on a Starfleet tender, and halfway between Aurora and Darwin's, it's tampered with. Marc almost does not survive in suspension long enough to reach Del's lab. The Athena is en route to Aurora, where she docks with the tender. Jarrat, Stone and CMO Kip Reardon realise the truth at once. Someone has tried to murder young Marc Brand ... to keep secret something he knew 25 years ago. Perhaps secrets that could spell the end for Scorpio?

The investigation takes Kevin Jarrat and Jerry Stone into the hearts of Aurora's super-cities, Thule and Inquanoc, but the seeds of rot lie as far away as Chryse, on Mars, in Earth's own backyard.

Just finished reading Scorpio straight through for the second time. Wow! Mel wrote "Hope this one hits the spot" when he signed my copy - please tell him it sure did! I loved seeing more of Gil Cronin and the other Ravens, and seeing Harry Del back with a larger part. The relationship between Kevin and Stoney deepened and felt really solid - especially when Kevin had to go deep cover. Aurora gave you a closer look at how the Ravens function, and their relationship with the Captains. The unit leaders obviously have a much bigger part in planning and policy than you saw in DH or Equinox, and the "soap bubbles" fragility highlighted that. It was interesting to see how a starfleet carrier handled that kind of thing too - you could really see where the roots of how the elite NARC troops of J & S's time became the corrupt leadership and conscripted "slave labor" of Hellgate 200 years later. Fantastic! Marvelous! More! There was a very strong hint at the end that the next book would be set on Mars, and that a major confrontation with NARC leadership was on the way - no spoilers, but I can't wait for the next book. Or for Hellgate #3. When do you think White Rose of Night will be ready to order? Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you at Dreamcraft - especially you and Mel and his Mom.

I've read Scorpio three times now, and I'm still ready to go straight back to the beginning and start again. This plot was densely packed and complex enough for me to be tempted at times to keep a pen and notebook handy, but wow... it was well worth the waiting for. I loved Deaths Head and Equinox when I read them ten years ago, I thought then how astounding it was to find not only seriously good science fiction but seriously good gay science fiction, and I've been longing ever since for the series to continue. The re issued Death's Head was a delight, and Scorpio was every bit as fascinating and as powerful a story. It picked up the series without missing a beat or slipping one inch in the quality. The world of NARC has always had me riveted and Scorpio opens it right out, answering a few questions but mostly unleashing a whole lot more as it widens the setting and the background to such an extent.

I very much enjoyed the connections between Sheckley and the city bottom environments, and the inside knowledge of someone who'd grown up within that world. Like the differentiations of climate, and the time in this story spent groundside, especially following Jarrat once in cover, it created a very strong and realistic impression of cultures that have formed radically differently away from Earth, and the effects on and backgrounds of people raised in those environments. I also found it clever how essentially what Jarrat did to the transport in the opening scene was mirrored in how they shut down Scorpio. Very Kiplingesque! I always have enjoyed how all three of these novels have hit the ground running, a short and self contained action sequence, and it was great to see that pattern continued. The opening scene in itself was fascinating as a short, one step mission being executed. Throughout the entire novel I was constantly thinking "Wonderful, YES, I always wanted to know how they did this, and that, and what happened when THAT happened", from Gil Cronin in dress uniform at the enquiry to the press and how difficult the media must make life at times for NARC, to the briefings and how they were conducted. The briefing scene at the beginning of the end was seriously exciting reading, as was the entire final action. Very visual, very powerful and truly unputdownable.

I was in two minds throughout Scorpio - one thrilled with and thoroughly enjoying the non stop, rapid flow of action, and seeing so much and such a range of action- the concept of the carrier and how it works is every bit as fascinating as the assignment. The other mind was muttering mildly about missing the characters, who shot past in tantalising glimpses, too busy to do anything but work flat out in order to keep up with the plot! Serious questions had arisen by the end as to whether anyone had accumulated more than about ten hours sleep through the entire book. ;) The previous two books are very rich in character and character development, it was great to read so much based on that foundation that focused on the mission and the action. But these are such powerful characters and relationships that I'd love to know a lot more about them. Not just between Jarrat and Stone either, although they remain in themselves a fascinating combination: there are so many strong characters aboard the Athena. The scenes set in Venice, and the suggestions of life in Venice as a military city were fascinating, raising a lot of questions and setting a lot of hints and suggestions of what happens there in motion. Maybe another three or four chapters tacked on the end with no plot to bother the characters might be nice ;) I think the solution may well be to be patient and just wait for the next book. (And the one after that).

One thing I'd love to see now, from mentions in Scorpio, is seeing some of their training simulations and exercises. Seeing the development of the empathy and how it worked was intriguing - I'd be interested to know now what's likely to happen during an argument, or when Jarrat's temperament starts to pull at the leash, or if one of them was injured- what puts the empathy under strain and what are its possibilities when stretched? I'll be very interested to see where NARC Intelligence want to go next with the testing. I'd imagine they would try simulations testing out extreme possibilities as a safety precaution if they truly want proof that the empathy won't lead to both Captains unstuck under certain situations? Incidentally I found the mentions of VR training and preparation fascinating throughout - what a brilliant idea.

Several questions arose during Scorpio, some slightly more sensible than others:

Am I imagining it or have the Raven units shrunk from 25 men to 15? [This is a good question! Mel explains right here...-Ed.] Who has to take Budweisser for a drink and a shoulder to cry on when shuttles, gunships and other parts of the Athena fleet are trashed in the line of duty? (Throughout the final battle scene, which I loved, I kept hearing Commander Scott's voice from the starship Enterprise muttering about "I cannae give her any more Captain..." and thought, considering, Budweisser took things pretty well.) What is going to happen to the wonderful and slightly trigger happy Tanya Reynolds? It was lovely to see Evelyn Lang join the Athena, but I hope she doesn't mean the end of Tanya. Is it going to emerge what happened to Jarrat's father and the blown up ship? Following the genetic pattern back a generation, it seems unlikely to have been quite the chain of coincidences it looked? Is Reardon always as laid back during the Rugby season? What IS aeroball and when do we get to see some? Is Petrov SERIOUSLY going to get a promotion to field officer? And if he does will the crew of that poor carrier let him live?

When is Aphelion due to be published? I'm eagerly looking forward to book 4. And 5. And so on. Thank you for another truly riveting read, and for continuing this marvellous series, it remains my absolute favourite in amongst many well loved Keegan tales. By the way, I was delighted to hear about the reprint for White Rose of Night- another beautifully written and vivid story.