(Portions of this post first appeared on the Pauline B. Jones blog, under 'Why I Wrote Escape From Zulaire'...)
Many years ago, I read “Shadow of the Moon,” by M. M. Kaye, which was a well researched (and very long) novel set in India in the mid 1800’s. Much of the plot revolves round the Sepoy Rebellion or Incident, the terrible things that occurred during that time (rights and wrongs on both sides, I’m sure) and her main characters’ efforts to escape death. I’d never heard of the Rebellion before reading her novel but since then I researched it pretty heavily. One aspect fascinated me more than any other – in the novel, as in real life, many of the English women and children living in India at the time had no idea they were at risk, no inkling that people they trusted and thought they knew were going to turn on them one hot day as part of a bigger war, and commit awful massacres.
There’s an old SF novella by Andre Norton, “Eye of the Monster”, that has this same sort of theme and is one of my favorite books. Again, the main character finds himself in a life and death situation with no warning and has to think fast and move faster to survive and save other lives.
As an author, I was most drawn to the central idea of how it would be find yourself going about your normal day and then suddenly violence and danger hit all around, and you didn’t see it coming until you were plunged into the middle of fighting to survive. What would you have to do to have any chance of making it to safety? I always wonder what would I have done if I’d been there? What decisions would I have made?
Unlike my first SFR “Wreck of the Nebula Dream,” where I did a loose retelling of the sinking (with a lot of science fiction elements added), for “Escape From Zulaire” I didn’t take anything from the facts of the Sepoy Rebellion other than the idea of being in a place foreign to you and finding yourself a pawn in a war. I transplanted the story concept to the planet Zulaire in the far future and had my heroine Andi spending part of the summer in an opulent but isolated summer resort, as a guest. There are hints of odd things happening and tensions building -people not arriving where they should be, gaps in communications from the city, abandoned cars found on the road – but Andi, like everyone else in the resort, finds it easy to explain these things away. And then of course, the situation erupts and she’s got to fight for survival along with the Sectors military team sent to extract just her, because she’s a citizen of the interplanetary civilization, not a native of the planet.
Here’s the story:
Andi Markriss hasn’t exactly enjoyed being the houseguest of the planetary high-lord, but her company sent her to represent them at a political wedding. When hotshot Sectors Special Forces Captain Tom Deverane barges in on the night of the biggest social event of the summer, Andi isn’t about to offend her high-ranking host on Deverane’s say-so—no matter how sexy he is, or how much he believes they need to leave now.
Deverane was thinking about how to spend his retirement bonus when HQ assigned him one last mission: rescue a civilian woman stranded on a planet on the verge of civil war. Someone has pulled some serious strings to get her plucked out of the hot zone. Deverane’s never met anyone so hard-headed—or so appealing. Suddenly his mission to protect this one woman has become more than just mere orders.
That mission proves more dangerous than he expected when rebel fighters attack the village and raze it to the ground. Deverane escapes with Andi, and on their hazardous journey through the wilderness, Andi finds herself fighting her uncomfortable attraction to the gallant and courageous captain. But Deverane’s not the type to settle down, and running for one’s life doesn’t leave much time to explore a romance.
Then Andi is captured by the rebel fighters, but Deverane has discovered that Zulaire’s so-called civil war is part of a terrifying alien race’s attempt to subjugate the entire Sector. If he pushes on to the capitol Andi will die. Deverane must decide whether to save the woman he loves, or sacrifice her to save Zulaire.