PAW-PRINTS OF THE GODS (Hollow Moon #2) by Steph Bennion
ON THE FORBIDDING PLANET OF FALSAFAH, archaeologists are on the verge of a discovery that will shake the five systems to the core!
Ravana O'Brien, snatched from her friends for reasons unknown, finds herself on another wild adventure, this time in the company of two alien greys, a cake-obsessed secret agent and a mysterious little orphan boy at the centre of something very big indeed. Their journey across the deadly dry deserts of Falsafah soon becomes a struggle against homicidal giant spiders, hostile machines and a psychotic nurse, not to mention an omniscient god-like watcher who is maybe also a cat.
The disturbing new leaders of the Dhusarian Church and their cyberclone monks are preparing to meet their masters and saviours. But nobody believes in prophecies anymore, do they? Paw-Prints Of The Gods is a light-hearted adventure for all young adults and adults young at heart.
Follow our cannon-toting heroine in the PAW-PRINTS OF THE GODS!
"I have all the support I need," retorted Ravana. Having recovered her breath, she patted the barrel of the cannon. "If I find you've done anything to harm Artorius, I will ram this thing into your databanks and blow very big holes in your research."
"Bravo," said the woman, still sat upon her perch. "Your heroic quips need work, but the gratuitous use of a big gun shows real promise. Well done, girl."
Adventures on far-flung planets and close encounters of the scary kind!
Momus glanced up and went pale.
"What the bloody crapping hell is that frigging eight-legged freak!"
"Ship!" yelled Ravana. "Fire the retros! Maximum reverse thrust!"
With a mysterious little boy at the centre of something big!
"There's no need to hide that," Ravana said, indicating the medical equipment. "I saw you with the vial at Missi's dome. So what did you find? Is there some magical element in Artorius' blood to explain why the Dhusarians think he's so special? Are you on some mystical mission from Saint John to find the saviour of the universe?"
Kedesh caught the smirk on the girl's face and smiled.
"No ingenious little nano-probes buzzing through his veins?" suggested Ravana. Her voice betrayed a tone of solemn mockery. "Athene said he was a star man."
"Very funny. You've been watching too many fantasy holovids."
And much, much more!
CHAPTER TITLES: Prologue: A thief in the night / Mind games / Down and out in Newbrum / Tomb of the ancients / The deserts of Falsafah / No news is bad news / The woman in black / The cloud mines of Thunor / Valley of the spiders / Private investigations / Missi and the watcher / Ice cold in Arallu / In the shadow of Hursag Asag / Star man, cats and clones / Close encounters of the eight-legged kind.
* * *
THE FALSAFAH PROPHECY
THE CABIN WAS DARK, its inhabitants sound asleep. No one saw the burly yet stealthy figure as he stole through the door, plucked a bag from the floor and quickly retreated.
Outside, in the sweltering heat of the dome, the thief withdrew a touch-screen slate from the bag and switched it on. The scan of their latest discovery was in the list of recent items, but upon looking at the image of the strange carvings he saw the slate's owner had superimposed twelve lines of text that were all too familiar:
frozen traveller created anew watchers to history stir hidden by slaves and masters Tau Ceti's wandering tomb reborn beneath twin suns orphaned child of Sol pawn to watchers and weavers king by the great game father of the twelve believers unite as one Sol's children shall not fear paw-prints of the gods.
"The Falsafah prophecy," murmured the thief. He switched off the slate and dropped it back into the bag. "This is one damn fool student who knows too much."
[Paw-Prints Of The Gods, Prologue: A thief in the night.]
STAR SYSTEM CHARTS
"Wow," murmured Momus, not for the first time. "That's a frigging big planet." [Paw-Prints Of The Gods, Chapter Seven: The cloud mine of Thunor.]
"It is not our fault that the old books and traditions of human history exhibit so many absurdities." - Erich Von Däniken, Chariots Of The Gods? (1969).
Influences from the silver screen
"It would make a terrific movie" said Tahlia Newland of Awesome Indies, in her review of Paw-Prints Of The Gods. Nice reviews aside, while Hollow Moon was written as a tribute to the classic science-fiction novels I devoured in childhood, its sequel owes more to my fondness for great films. Some influences are obvious, others maybe not. (It was also written to lampoon Erich Von Däniken's Chariots Of The Gods? and its many imitators, especially Graham Hancock's Fingerprints of the Gods, but I digress.) Here is a brief run-down of the movies that consciously influenced Paw-Prints Of The Gods...
Moon Zero Two (1969)
This near-forgotten Hammer Films offering was frequently repeated on British television during the 1970s and left a lasting impression on my young mind. Moon Zero Two, credited as the first moon 'western', had lots of great American frontier staples with a space-opera slant, such as bar-room brawls in low gravity, mining claims on the far side of Luna, showdown gunfights, dancing saloon girls and even Wells Fargo trucks! Added to this, the film introduces the 'battered spacecraft' trope years before Star Wars, weird and wonderful costumes, plus some nice attempts at future technology, with the eponymous Moon 02 spacecraft clearly inspired by NASA's then-current Apollo programme.
The film's stars are familiar to many science-fiction fans: James Olson (The Andromeda Strain) plays salvage pilot Bill Kemp, while Catherine Schell (Space 1999) is on hand as geologist Clementine Taplin, searching for her miner brother. The plot revolves around an illegal scheme to crash a small asteroid of sapphire onto a secluded mining claim on Luna's far side. The criminals, having hired the crew of Moon 02 to capture the asteroid, have already dealt with the owner of the claim, but had not banked on his sister also hiring Kemp to look for him.
In Paw-Prints Of The Gods, I had Moon Zero Two's utilitarian moon bugs in mind when writing about Ravana O'Brien's eventful transport journey across the deserts of Falsafah; in particular, the film sequence where heroes Kemp and Taplin are battling rough terrain and boiling sunlight as they ride back from the isolated lunar mine. The three boosters Kemp uses in the film to redirect the asteroid's orbit also turn up in Paw-Prints Of The Gods, albeit strapped to side of the Platypus, Quirinus' elderly space freighter. Finally, I also borrowed the idea that every far-flung spaceport needs a bar!
Moon Zero Two was unavailable for many years but eventually resurfaced on DVD from Warner Archive. To modern eyes, the direction is rather plodding but I think the special effects hold up well. What struck me upon watching it again were the similarities with the BBC science-fiction comedy Red Dwarf; the space-mining backdrop aside, the film has 'moon bugs' as the main transportation (inspiring 'Starbug'?) and there's also a co-pilot who quotes amusing snippets of space law directives, as the android Kryten often did in later episodes of the BBC show. Coincidence?
This one isn't science-fiction, but is a damn-fine British war story. Based on the novel by Christopher Landon (who also wrote the screenplay), Ice Cold In Alex is an epic tale of disparate characters forced to work together under difficult circumstances. Captain Anson and his mechanic, detailed to escort two nurses from Tobruk to Alexandria, are forced to take an army ambulance through the inhospitable desert to avoid the advancing German Army. On the way they pick up a South African officer, who is eventually revealed to be a Nazi spy. The war-time setting is almost immaterial, for the main battle is that against the hostile environment. In the UK, the film's end sequence was famously used in a beer advertisement, where Anson and his entourage finally get their reward - an ice-cold lager at a bar after finally nursing their battered ambulance into Alexandria.
Ice Cold In Alex shaped a great deal of Paw-Prints Of The Gods. I've always been fascinated by road-trip stories where the heroes, equipped with a vehicle not entirely up to the job, are faced with a long, dangerous journey where their biggest challenge is the peril of the road itself. Moon Zero Two (above) also has such a sequence, where our heroes are forced to cross the scorching daylight side of the moon in a mining buggy. Another is The Longest Hundred Miles (1967), which sees an American soldier, a nurse, a priest and a group of local children escape through the jungle aboard a creaky old bus during the Japanese invasion of the Philippines. Ice Cold In Alex remains for me the best example in film of this genre.
Other movie influences
Doctor Govannon 'Aberystwyth' Jones, the Welsh exo-archaeologist in Paw-Prints Of The Gods, is just one of many nods to Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), the first (and in my humble opinion, the best) film in the 'Indiana Jones' series. Another film slyly referenced is Stanley Kubrick's and Arthur C Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), mostly through the HAL9000-like antics of Missi, the artificial intelligence at the secret American research base on Falsafah. (The white room in which Dave Bowman finds himself after dropping through the star gate at the end of the film also appears in The Avalon Job!). One or two movie props from 2001: A Space Odyssey were slyly appropriated by the makers of Moon Zero Two, by the way...
I should also mention The Phantom Menace (1991), in that the annoying young boy Artorius in Paw-Prints Of The Gods is pretty much how I thought Anakin Skywalker should have been portrayed given that he was destined to end up as nasty Darth Vader. I am a big fan of the Star Wars saga - described by George Lucas as a fairy tale - which, although essentially a classic fantasy story of good versus evil, warriors and wizards (well, Jedi knights) and so on, is nicely adorned with classic space-opera tropes. Like many, I perhaps expected too much from the prequels at the time, but nostalgia detracts from what are damn fine movies. Don't ask me what I thought of the new trilogy as you'll get several rude words in reply.
So what if Paw-Prints Of The Gods was a movie? Obviously, the chances are that I'd sooner see a sapphire-laden asteroid land outside my back door, but if a film was to be made I'd like to capture the humour in a similar vein to Serenity (2005), the movie that wrapped up the excellent (and sadly cancelled) TV show Firefly. Yet my favourite science-fiction feature of all time (to date) is The Fifth Element (1997); an action-packed tongue-in-cheek adventure and possibly the most over-the-top yet stylish space opera ever committed to film, although Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and its sequel comes very, very close. Who could ask for more? More sci-fi movies please! Steph.
Do you have the latest version? Ebooks are periodically revised to update endpapers following new releases and to correct any errors...
SEPTEMBER 2013 - First ebook edition (approx. 330 pages).
DECEMBER 2013 - Revised: Text corrections. Smashwords edition gains "A Wizard, A Sword And A King" in 'Ebook Extras'.
JUNE 2014 - Revised: Text corrections; endpaper update with new star system graphics.
JUNE 2014 - First trade paperback edition (127mm x 198mm, 468 pages); text is that of June 2014 ebook edition.
JANUARY 2018 - Revised: Minor text corrections; 'Ebook Extras' updated to replace "A Wizard, A Sword And A King" (Smashwords only) with "Influences from the silver screen" (all ebook editions).
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