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HELLGATE #1: The Rabelais Alliance
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.
No further jacket "blurb" or notes were given: these were deemed unnecessary, since thousands of words and scores of illustrations for HELLGATE are carried on this website, and the novel can be ordered only through the site. So — HELLGATE ... what's it about? Read on!
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.
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.
Read the first 10% of this novel right here, in PDF format
Novel length: 185,000 words
Rated: R (18+; sex, violence, language)
Publication date: 2002
Price: $9.99 - ebook
HELLGATE: 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.
HELLGATE: 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.
HELLGATE: THE RABELAIS ALLIANCE
REVIEWED BY IAN
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
Mel Keegan comments on HELLGATE
The version of HELLGATE which has just been rejacketed for its 2008 Lulu edition is something like the sixth draft of a story which has its origins in the late 1980s! It was first written as a mass market (straight, or "gen" or "het") novel, but the fact is, it was wasted utterly in this form, and I have no doubt that my agent and various publishers saw this. That draft of the book encountered no luck when it was "doing the rounds," and in retrospect the apparent failure was a good thing, because rather than HELLGATE being virtually thrown away as a one-off which was in fact way under-developed, I had the chance to come back to it twelve years later and fully develop the concept.
Other factors had to work out just right, too: GMP could not have handled this work, because HELLGATE is a series, and when three or four years go by between novels from a publisher, a series is out of the question. I was also contractually bound to GMP through the "right of next refusal" clause which is standard in anyone's "boiler plate" contract ... HELLGATE just languished in the drawer for more than a decade and did not see light of day till various copyrights (EQUINOX among them) returned to my hands, and I struck up a working relationship with DreamCraft.
The magic is, they can handle modest printruns, printing as necessary to fill internet-driven orders. Contrastingly, a publisher like Millivres Publishing Group must print in four-figure runs, to support bookstore distribution, or the project doesn't happen at all. This opens the door to a world of possibility, and even now (weeks after THE RABELAIS ALLIANCE came out), we're still pondering how far we can with the physical aspect of reaching readers and shipping copies.
As for the story, and where it is headed —? I don't want to say too much about this, because almost anything I could write here would be a plot spoiler! With HELLGATE: PROBE due in September I don't want to "leak" secrets. But it's fair to say, the second book is a magnification of the first. You'll get backstories on the characters in due course, we get to see the alien technology; there's new worlds and vastly new situations, though the second book begins exactly where the first one stopped.
I'm working on it at the time of this writing (early 2003), and it's big fun as always. Cheers to DreamCraft for the tremendous opportunities which came my way. I was delighted with the production qualities, and it was great to be asked for my input as per what went on the cover. This was a first, and a cross between a treat and a relief!
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