Introducing TRACER – the fastest action thriller you’ll ever read. Here are 8 things you need to know. 

1. It’s set on a space station

A very old space station. Outer Earth is a massive ring, six miles wide, orbiting 300 miles above our planet and home to over a million people. The world below has been destroyed by climate change and nuclear war, and it’s been a long time since anyone has set foot on the ground. Outer Earth is, essentially, a giant space ghetto, where nothing works and where you can get mugged for a protein bar.

2. Its hero is the world’s most hard-core postal worker

I wish to God I’d come up with that, but I didn’t. It’s a description given to me by an interviewer named Kerstin Hall, and I have to say, it works. See, on Outer Earth, nothing works. Everything is rusted, damaged, falling apart, and that includes the public transport system. If you want to get packages and messages from place to place, you have two options.

You can either take it yourself, and risk running afoul of the gangs that roam the corridors, or you can entrust it to a tracer: a fleet-footed courier with the speed and fighting skills necessary to navigate through hostile territory.

Tracers are what the Postal Service would be if the Postal Service knew parkour and could move through tight spaces insanely quickly. And Riley, the hero of Tracer, is the fastest one there is. She’ll take your package, and get it where it’s going…for a price.

Riley isn’t supposed to look in her cargo. It’s why she gets so much work. But when she’s ambushed by a rival gang, she discovers she’s been transporting body parts. There’s no way she’s going to stand for that…

3. You wouldn’t want to mess with her crew

Tracers work in small crews, and Riley is no exception. Her crew is called the Devil Dancers, a five-person squad who live together, fight together, and run together. There’s Carver, a mechanical genius who is both annoying and annoyingly good-looking. There are the Twins, Yao Shen and Kevin O’Connell, so nicknamed because despite looking nothing alike, they’re completely inseparable. And then there’s the crew leader, Amira Al-Hassan: an ice-cold, deadly fighter who will do anything to protect her crew…

4. Everything about the station is scientifically accurate

And I mean everything. From the way it spins to generate artificial gravity, to the fusion reactor at its core, to the way excess heat is controlled and vented into space (ammonia in the pipes, since you ask) is all based on real-world technologies. One of the things I did, before I wrote the book, is head down to Kingston University in South London to talk to an actual rocket scientist. He made sure that Outer Earth was entirely possible. If we had the money and the political will, we could build tomorrow.

5. They eat bugs

Like, a lot of bugs. You can’t use meat to feed a million-person space station, and soy and tofu will only get you so far. The solution? Bugs. Silkworms, beetles, crickets…crushed to powder and cooked in the station mess halls, or fried with a little salt in the sector markets. Great source of protein. The station’s bugs are kept in a giant habitat known as the Buzz Box, but there are rumours that a few of them have escaped, vanishing into the station’s vents…

6. The book is fast

I’ll let the reviews do the talking:

“Incoming cliche’: blistering! If you like your yarns to take off at speed, this number should suit you.” – Sunday Sport

“The relentlessly fast pace gives the book strong momentum…” – SFX Magazine

“Exhilarating and guaranteed to keep you hooked until the very last page.” – Glamour Magazine

“Constant violence and escalating stakes keep the story moving forward at a bone-jarring pace, especially in the climax, where revelations and betrayals follow each other as quickly, and as dizzyingly, as Riley vaults down stairwells.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Tracer is the literary equivalent of a base jump: fast, exhilarating and unforgettable, and once you start it you can’t stop. I loved it.” – Sarah Lotz, author of The Three

“Fast-paced, well-written and well-researched, Tracer sets a new standard for all-action SF.” – Ken MacLeod, author of the Fall Revolution and Engines of Light series

7. It’s part of a trilogy

…And you won’t have to wait long to read the sequels. TRACER drops 28 June, its followup ZERO-G on 26 July, and the final instalment IMPACT on 25 August. That’s your summer reading taken care of. All books will be available in both ebook and paperback via Amazon, at your nearest B&N, Chapters, and indie.

8. You can listen to it. And read it in German.

It’s already appeared as an audiobook, with killer performances from veteran actors Sarah Borges and Jeff Harding. And if you want to read the German version, that’s available too. I wouldn’t advise it unless you speak German, though. Kind of a deal breaker, that one.

What are you waiting for? Go pick it up!

(Amazon / B&N / Indigo Chapters)

A huge space station orbits the Earth, holding the last of humanity. It’s broken, rusted, falling apart. We’ve wrecked our planet, and now we have to live with the consequences: a new home that’s dirty, overcrowded and inescapable.

But how did the station get this way? What came before, and what happened to the planet below? This is how the world of TRACER came to be…

(Photos below are used under license by Creative Commons)

The Beginning

In the final years of the 22nd century, it became clear that mankind’s time on Earth was coming to an end.

Despite our technological advances, we have been unable to halt runaway climate change. It’s driven much of the world to disaster: rising sea levels obliterating whole countries, freshwater increasingly scarce, and large areas of the globe suffering mass starvation. The few remaining stable geopolitical powers – the US, South Africa, Brazil, Germany, China, the United Arab Emirates, Australia, and Canada – meet in Sao Paulo to discuss what will happen over the next decades.

All agree that the survival of humans on our home planet cannot be guaranteed. Over the course of a long, difficult, argumentative month, a plan is devised: applying to create a single, stable community of humans that could survive a theoretical catastrophe long-term. Initially, it is thought that an underground habitat could be created, or one floating somewhere in the vast ocean. These ideas are soon rejected – there are fears that such a colony will be susceptible to invasion or attack, or dramatic and increasingly common climate events such as earthquakes or tsunamies. There is a strong desire to create this colony somewhere off-world. A number of ideas are floated, including a Martian habitat and a deep space vessel, but they too are rejected.

Eventually, the German Chancellor manages to convince the other nations of an ambitious plan: to build a large-scale habitat, designed to hold one million people, orbiting safely above the planet. With the help of the existing space elevator in Nairobi, costs can be kept down. The hope is that at some point in the future, when the climate has stabilised, the colony will be able to return to Earth.

The Station

It takes a further five years simply to draft the blueprints for such a huge structure. The finished station will be rotating ring, six miles across, with an eighteen mile circumference, hovering three hundred miles above the surface of the planet. It will initially house seventy-five thousand people, selected by lottery from nations who contribute funding.

The plan immediately runs into difficulties. No sooner has construction begun than nations such as Pakistan, India and the United Kingdom are demanding to be involved. As tensions continue to simmer and low scale skirmishes flare up alongside regular climate events, the projected completion date for the station moves further and further into the future. Construction costs balloon. Brazil abandons the project midway through construction, preferring to focus on shoring up the existing climate problems on its own shores.

But in 2234, the Outer Earth Orbit Preservation Module is finally complete. It is cold, utilitarian, and cramped, more like a prison than a habitat. But it will sustain a limited population in a closed ecosystem. It has extensive vegetable farms, a full food lab, and water recycling facilities. A fusion core at the centre of the ring provides power, and it is hoped that the station’s inhabitants will be able to construct ships to allow them to mine asteroids for further resources.

The Lottery

The following year, the lottery to select the station’s inhabitants takes place. It is massively oversubscribed – billions upon billions enter, hoping to be selected, despite repeated warnings from Earth governments that life on the station will not be pleasant.

As the lottery is taking place, the space elevator in Nairobi is destroyed by a Christian fundamentalist organisation who wish to disrupt the exodus. A plan is hastily constructed to transport the new inhabitants via shuttle from launchpads in the United Arab Emirates.

A year after that, the lottery winners begin their journey.

Preference is given to whole families who wish to relocate, the idea being that the family unit is more cohesive and more likely to adapt to life in space. A large portion of the population comes from countries like China, Brazil, and Germany. Despite permanently leaving the only planet they’ve ever known, the mood is one of expectation and excitement.

East Coast - NASA

Life On Outer Earth

The station’s early inhabitants are all assigned their own living quarters, one per family. The few single people on board are required to live in dormitory accommodation. An effort is made among the elected station Council to create as Earth-like an environment as possible, with day and night cycles, a school system, and assigned jobs for adults. There is plenty of work to be done, not only in maintaining the vast infrastructure and ecosystem of Outer Earth, but also in beginning construction of a fleet of ships, which will eventually track down and capture asteroids. These will be returned to the station and mined for resources. The idea is to reduce the station’s dependency on supplies from the planet below.

The six numbered sectors of the ring begin to take on their own identity. Gardens and Apex, responsible for food and government respectively, become populated with administrators and technicians. Chengshi, home to the equipment that will one day mine asteroids for minerals and building material, has a large number of families concentrated in it. Tzevya is home to the pilots’ academy, while Apogee sector becomes a hotbed of industry and commerce. Although the station has an official currency, bartering and trade become the de facto method of business, and Apogee’s market hangar is where most of it takes place.

It is New Germany sector, however, that is the most contentious. A large section of this sector was badly built, with small, cramped spaces and dormitory accommodation that is not up to standard. It has a single official entrance and exit. Although nobody is quite sure who is responsible for it turning out this way, it quickly becomes notorious in the station, a hotbed of activity for the criminal gangs that are just beginning to form. This part of New Germany becomes known as the Caves.

At first, there is regular communication with Earth. Despite the ongoing political upheaval, the United Nations still manages to stay in contact with the station Council, although the Council has to convince them that they cannot accept any more people. There are already fears about population growth in the future, and for a time, it appears that procreation laws similar to those of China in the twentieth century may be enacted. However, the station is still a democracy, and these are voted down.

Nuke - Wikimedia Creative Commons

The Great Breaking

Fifty years after it was founded, Outer Earth has to watch the planet destroy itself.

The geopolitical situation has been deteriorating for decades, aided by rising sea levels and rising temperatures. Mass starvation has become an accepted part of life on the planet. Despite several attempts by the United Nations to curb the catastrophe, using methods like cloud seeding, carbon locking, and ionic atmospheric resonance, the situation remains unchanged. Several times, the station council has had to turn back rogue shuttles that attempted to dock with it; in one case, a shuttle almost collides with the hull.

In 2285, the planet finally breaks down completely. Pakistan and India go to war, launching nuclear missiles. The rest of the planet is swiftly pulled into the conflict. It is the single biggest exchange of nuclear weapons in the history of our planet. Billions are killed. Within two years, a blanket of choking dust has covered the globe. All communication with the planet ceases.

The effect on the station is cataclysmic. There is political turmoil, not only within the individual sectors but on the council itself. A rogue group removes the existing council leaders in a bloodless coup, installing themselves as leaders of the station. The coup does not remain bloodless for long; protests across the sectors turn violent, and there are several deaths as station protection officers seek to calm things down.

The Aftermath

In the following years, as some semblance of normality returns to Outer Earth, repeated attempts are made to contact anyone on the planet below. All that remains are looping radio signals and coded transmissions, and soon, even these go silent. Outer Earth’s sensors are not strong enough to pick up any activity on the ground below the clouds.

Despite the station being a self-sufficient ecosystem, its populace was kept comfortable with supplies from Earth. Now, despite having food and water to survive, there is a need for strict rationing. Asteroid catcher ship missions typically last ten years or more, and so resupplies of building materials and minerals are very irregular. It becomes increasingly difficult to maintain the station’s complex inner workings. Electrical systems, sewerage facilities and more begin to suffer. The monorail which runs around the ring’s inner edge is first restricted, then closed off entirely to all but the most essential food shipments.

The station’s population begins to grow. Criminal elements, which up until now have been kept in check, begin to flourish. There are several leadership changes, the most brutal of which leaves the station in the control of a sociopathic dictator, Nathaniel Samson. Samson cracks down on his opposition, creating something akin to a police state. His reign last ten years before a resistance movement deposes him, publicly executing him in one of the galleries, the large communal areas dotted across the station.

At first, the resistance movement struggles to govern, but eventually, a consensus emerges. The station would become a democracy, as it was always meant to be, with elected leaders from each sector. By now, the population hovers close to 1,000,000, almost double what it was designed to hold. Food shortages are endemic, and crime is a constant threat. New classes of people emerge, including tracers: couriers who shuttle packages and messages across the station, replacing the monorail. They are fast and deadly, jealously protecting their turf, serving anybody, gang member or council leader, who has something to trade. In a short space of time, they become an accepted part of the fabric of Outer Earth.

Against all odds, the elected council manages to stay in place. However, there are some on the council who advise that the station cannot continue on its current course. At some point, they are going to lose control, and the fragile ecosystem will shatter. There are already so many competing movements on the station, from demon worshippers to communists to those who argue for a return to a fully capitalist society. Some factions believe humanity should strike out the stars in one of their ships, while others try to convince people that it is time for voluntary human extinction, to rid the universe of a species that destroyed an entire planet.

Reentry - Wikimedia

Earth Return

In 2330, an idea is floated that it may be possible to return to Earth. The planet is still radioactive wasteland, but there is a possibility that they may be able to use terraforming technology to at least begin to transform the world. One of their asteroid catchers, the Akua Maru, has recently returned from a mission, and it is decided that it will be retrofitted to allow it to enter the Earth’s atmosphere.

The station celebrates its centenary as a place that is just holding it together, with massive overpopulation, dwindling supplies, and a fractious populace. In 2337, one hundred and three years after the station was founded, they launch a mission to return to the planet below them: Earth Return. Captain John Hale and his crew will take a ship down to the planets surface, establish a colony, and attempt to create a breathable, workable habitat.

Their goal is to land in central Russia, and it will be at minimum two-year trip until the initial astronauts can return. Hale says goodbye to his wife Ariana and his young daughter Riley, and he and the crew of the Akua Maru set off.

However, early in the mission, disaster strikes. There is an explosion in the reactor compartments of the ship, and it breaks up on re-entry. All contact is lost.

The news throws the station into chaos. The lower sectors (Apogee, Chengshi, New Germany) who most vehemently opposed the mission, are plunged into a full-scale riot, one which costs hundreds of lives. A militant anarchist faction from the Caves plants a bomb in Apogee sector, planning to use the chaos it creates to seize control. They are stopped by a young woman, Amira Al-Hassan. Realising that there is no way to disarm it, Al-Hassan transports the bomb through the fusion Core at the centre of the station, to the dock in Garden’s sector on the other side of the ring. She only just manages to jettison the bomb in time, although frostbite from the Core’s freezing temperatures claims to have the fingers on her left hand.

After the bomb detonates outside the station, the council managers to regain control, quelling the uprising. In the weeks that follow, Amira Al-Hassan is fated as a hero, and even offered a place on the council, which she declines. Soon after, a new council leader is elected: Janice Okwembu, a former programmer from Gardens who has risen swiftly through the ranks.

Tracer Riley Low-Res

The Events Of TRACER

In 2344, when the events of TRACER take place, the station has been at an uneasy peace for seven years. Crime continues to be a major problem, as do food and water shortages. Captain John Hale’s daughter, Riley, has become a tracer herself. As the story begins, she is on a cargo run, transporting a package to the Air Lab in Gardens sector, moving as fast as she can through the station corridors. But when a rival gang ambushes her, she gets a look at what she’s carrying, and it’s a revelation that will throw Outer Earth into its greatest crisis yet…

What they’re saying…

“Incoming cliche’: blistering! If you like your yarns to take off at speed, this number should suit you.”
– Sunday Sport

“The relentlessly fast pace gives the book strong momentum…” – SFX Magazine

“Exhilarating and guaranteed to keep you hooked until the very last page.” – Glamour Magazine

“Constant violence and escalating stakes keep the story moving forward at a bone-jarring pace, especially in the climax, where revelations and betrayals follow each other as quickly, and as dizzyingly, as Riley vaults down stairwells.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Tracer is the literary equivalent of a base jump: fast, exhilarating and unforgettable, and once you start it you can’t stop. I loved it.” – Sarah Lotz, author of The Three

“Fast-paced, well-written and well-researched, Tracer sets a new standard for all-action SF.” – Ken MacLeod, author of the Fall Revolution and Engines of Light series

Continue the story. Get TRACER now. 

(Amazon / B&N / Indigo Chapters)

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