I have the great pleasure today of hosting Doug J. Cooper, author of the CRYSTAL series science fiction novels, including CRYSTAL DECEPTION, CRYSTAL CONQUEST, CRYSTAL REBELLION and prequel CRYSTAL HORIZON, to Marcia’s Book Talk. Today Doug will be providing readers with a preview of CRYSTAL ESCAPE, the final part in the CRYSTAL science-fiction series. Now for more on CRYSTAL ESCAPE, over to Doug on his fascinating new book…
Welcome, Doug, it is lovely to have you here!
Thank you, Marcia, for inviting me to visit your blog. I appreciate the opportunity to chat with you and your readers about the Crystal Series books. In particular, I am excited to announce the release of the final book in the sci-fi saga, Crystal Escape, due out in July, 2018.
I’d like to use this visit to give everyone a peek into the Crystal Series world and the interesting characters inhabiting it. I’ll do this by presenting a few short scenes from the new book, Crystal Escape.
Before I start, though, I’m thrilled to reveal the new book cover, shown here with the rest of the series. Did you know that the sequence of silhouette images combined with your imagination tell a story? Can you see one in the covers?
The scenes that follow introduce the four recurring characters in the series. Criss is a brilliant, self-aware artificial intelligence (AI), and he is hard-wired to protect and serve three humans. These include Dr. Jessica “Juice” Tallette, the scientist who created Criss; Cheryl Wallace, captain of the Fleet space cruiser Alliance; and Sid, a covert spy for the Defense Intelligence Agency.
The story of how Criss was born and how these three came to be his leadership is told in the first full length book, Crystal Deception. (Crystal Horizon is a short prequel to the series.)
In the new book, Crystal Escape, Cheryl and Juice are kidnapped while on a luxury vacation, and are positioned as human shields while the kidnapper flees the solar system. Criss and Sid give chase to rescue the two, and to bring the kidnapper to justice.
I chose these following scenes because they hint that a good sci-fi story is a good story with science as a central theme. And any good story begins with its characters.
In this first scene, we meet Juice and Cheryl as they arrive at Vivo, a domed island retreat. All hospitality on the island is provided by synbods, which are human-like bio-mechanical bodies controlled by AI crystal brains. Here they are moments after they arrive at Vivo:
“Hello, ladies,” said a sandy-haired thirty-year-old, his cream-white shirtsleeves rolled up to his forearms, a careless grin raising his cheeks. “I’m Justin. May I show you to your room?” He lifted his bangs as he spoke, revealing beautiful blue eyes.
“Show me.” Juice waved her hand, the sight of this gorgeous man adding to her excitement.
“Keep it in your pants,” Cheryl whispered, nudging her shoulder against Juice’s in a playful manner as they started to walk. “Synbod means synthetic body.”
“I know. My theory is that it’s not cheating if it’s with a synthetic.”
Cheryl frowned. “Gross.”
While the two women have a playful side, Cheryl’s Fleet training is never far from the surface. When things start to go south, we see her transition into a tough, natural, leader:
Cheryl squared up in front of MacMac. “Where could you get control of this?”
“There’s an ops panel in the cellar, but I can tell from here that I’ve been locked out. I might be able to backdoor in from my office.”
She studied his face, seeking to judge him during the exchange. “Where is that? Your office?”
“Fifth floor of the tower.”
After a moment’s pause, she gave MacMac the benefit of the doubt. “Let’s go there.”
Starting for the door, she organized them into formation. “Justin, you’re on point. Chase, you have the rear.” She leaned close to MacMac as they stepped into the hall. “Tell me what you’re doing as we go. Don’t surprise me.”
Later in the story, Juice finds four synbods that have been disabled. As a leading crystal scientist, she is one of a handful of people with the ability to activate them, reassign their loyalty, and bring them into the fight. Here she is, doing just that:
The synbod came to life and lifted its body upright in the cart.
“Your name is Alpha,” said Juice. “I am your lead. Acknowledge.”
Alpha looked at her and paused to gather an array of data—sights, sounds, smells—to use for future identification of his leadership. “Alpha acknowledges.”
“Fix your clothes and stand here.” Juice pointed to a spot on the ground and moved to the next synbod. After activating Bravo and Charlie, she got to the last synbod.
“Your name is…damn.” She couldn’t remember the word that went with D in the phonetic alphabet. Shrugging, she said, “I am your lead. Acknowledge.”
The synbod looked at her and processed her unique identifiers. “Damn acknowledges.”
“Follow,” Juice told her new squad.
Sid, like Cheryl, is now a civilian, but he too came from a strong military background. Sid is a kid at heart, at times appearing goofy. Here he is playing in his personal spacecraft.
Sid signaled the nav and the runner accelerated into the tunnel. “Here I go.” He heard the excitement in his voice and it made him laugh. Then he engaged the runner’s external boosters and the tiny craft shot forward with a growl, racing through the darkness.
His display tracked his speed as he went faster and faster, but his visceral pleasure didn’t come from numbers on a gauge. It came from the pressure of acceleration pinning his head against the support pads, the punch to his gut as that same force pushed his body deep into his seat, and from the blurring of the orange markings on the tunnel walls as his speed climbed, transitioning through fast and edging deep into reckless.
“Woohoo!” he crowed as the forces stretched his grin across his face.
But Sid can be all business when the situation demands, especially when protecting his own. Here he is, expressing his opinion about a killer who is escaping:
“Blast her with an energy bolt and evaporate her,” said Sid. “No joke. If they’re away, let’s end this.”
Cheryl looked at Criss. “Could you do that? Take her out from here?”
Criss nodded. “While a precision shot is impossible through the dust cloud, a kill shot is easy with enough energy behind it. I can take her anytime over the next week.”
Cheryl looked at Sid and quoted procedure. “We have time to debrief them. I think we should wait.”
Sid’s forehead creased and he looked to Criss. “You’re confident about the kill window?”
He shook his head as if to contradict his words. “Okay, we’ll debrief them and then shoot her.”
And through it all, Criss works to maintain his loyalty while keeping the group functioning in harmony. Here he is, making it easy for Cheryl and Juice to follow their natural instincts:
Criss, standing behind Cheryl, looked over her shoulder at MacMac. As soon as Criss saw him—a blood-soaked rag tied to his forehead, white face, dry mouth, glazed eyes, dropping blood pressure, rising pulse—he acted.
Lunging forward, Criss caught the man as he collapsed. He lifted MacMac in his arms and started toward the rear of the scout. As he moved down the passageway, he reconfigured the common room from Sid’s exercise simulation over to an intensive care unit.
“I need medical assistance,” he called back over his shoulder.
He didn’t need help, but he knew both Cheryl and Juice would seek to participate. By creating roles for them and guiding their efforts, he could keep them involved and get useful work from them at the same time.
So there you have a quick introduction to the characters of the series. I hope you found them interesting enough to learn more.
In closing, I’d like to note that the books not only have fun characters and great action, they are filled with thought-provoking ideas. This scene illustrates with one of the more controversial notions in the series:
Willow looked the synbod up and down. “Why do you make them so perfect? They’d be more relatable if you gave them flaws.”
“You aren’t the first to say that,” said Juice. “If we create a visually flawed synbod, I fear the public would view it as a quality control problem. And those thoughts could lead to suspicion about the things people can’t see, like the quality of the artificial intelligence inside.”
“Mr. Phillips, my science teacher, says that someday we’ll build an AI that’s self-aware and smarter than we are.”
“Do you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing?” asked Juice.
“He calls it the singularity. We create an AI in our image, then it creates an even smarter one in its image. That keeps going, with ever more powerful intelligences following the next.”
“Where does it stop?”
“Not until the very top. He says that religion has it backward. In reality, it’s always been humanity’s destiny to create the Almighty.”
Wow! There you have it, Marcia. Thank you so much for letting me talk about my work. I enjoyed my visit. Happy reading!
I am certain you will join me in thanking Doug for his time, and that we look forward to reading more of his works in the future. You may download a FREE copy of CRYSTAL HORIZON on his website at:
If you wish to contact Doug he is available on: