How can a novel that’s been described as ‘Golden Girls meets The Expanse with a side of Babylon Five’ not pique our interest?!
That’s what John Appel’s upcoming sci-fi novel Assassin’s Orbit has been described as and we’re proud to not only reveal its stylish cover, but we will also be giving you lucky SciFiNow’ers an exclusive excerpt!
Firstly, here’s a blurb for Assassin’s Orbit…
Murder forces the unlikeliest of allies.
On the eve of the planet Ileri’s historic vote to join the Commonwealth, the assassination of a government minister threatens to shatter everything. Private investigator Noo Okereke and spy Meiko Ogawa join forces with police chief Toiwa to investigate – and discover clues that point disturbingly toward a threat humanity thought they had escaped.
A threat that could destroy Ileri and spark an interplanetary war… unless the disparate team can work together to solve the mystery.
Ready for that exclusive excerpt of the book? Grab a cup of something warm and settle down…
“This isn’t a crime scene, Daniel, it’s a slaughterhouse.”
Forty years as a private investigator on Ileri Station hadn’t prepared Noo Okereke for the carnage around her. She’d attended to killings before, if rarely, but tonight marked her first mass murder.
She was glad to see it only through virtual reality.
Her translucent telepresent figure knelt by one of the bodies: a young man she’d known for his entire life. Inside the blood-spattered room, the hovering bot serving as her proxy dropped to the level of her virtual head. She forced herself to examine the holes punched through the young man’s torso–from the front, the detached investigator within her noted. His head lay facing towards her, eyes still open, face slack. Next to his right hand lay his stunner; he’d managed to draw, at least, before being cut down.
Other Constabulary bots ranged about the luxuriously appointed room, cataloging the plentiful evidence. The bots were the only things moving. The people inside–what was left of them–would never move again on their own.
Another hoverbot slid into position nearby and Detective Daniel Imoke’s lean shape winked into being beside her own virtual body. “It’s Saed?” he asked. For formality’s sake, she guessed, and the official record; Imoke knew–had known–Saed practically since birth. Only a little less time than she had, really.
Noo gave a reluctant nod, caught herself, then vocalized for the record. “I confirm the victim’s identity as Saed Tahir, employed by Shariff Security.” Her business partner’s grandson, and practically a brother to her own children. Her virtual form rose as she surveyed the room. Eight other bodies lay across the floor or slumped in their seats. All the victims she could see had been shot in the upper chest. Two had been shot in the head as well. The killer was trained – wanting to be sure of their kills?
Blood was everywhere: splattered across the top of the game table, the walls, the carpet, the bodies of the other victims. The great aching emptiness in her chest warred with the urge to vomit.
Pull it together. She took a deep breath, sent a silent prayer to the Huntress. Guide my eyes and make swift my steps, that I may find the killers.
Steadier now, she looked around the lounge-turned-charnel house. “He was on assignment. Bodyguard to the Minister for External Trade, Ita.” She peered at each of the victims seated at the card table in turn. She knew Ita’s face from the media feeds but didn’t see him among the dead–no, wait. She looked more closely at one of the seated victims, spotting the New Horizon party emblem embroidered on the left breast of their yellow kaftan. She pointed. “This is Ita, I think.”
Imoke’s own face stayed impassive. “Unofficially, it is,” he said.
Noo stood and traced the path between Saed’s body and Ita’s, trying to estimate where the shooter or shooters had stood. Saed’s form lay squarely in the path between Ita’s body and where she judged the assassin’s position had been. Quick steps brought her to the spot from where death had reached out to encompass everyone within the parlor. Sure enough, Saed had managed to get between his charge and the killer.
You did your job until the very end, my boy. Cold comfort for us.
“Why can’t you identify them officially? Why did you need me to come down and ID Saed in person?” she asked.
Before he could answer, the room faded around her abruptly, replaced by the dark, equipment-packed interior of one of the Constabulary’s little electric vans. Noo blinked in her seat, adjusting, the transition from posh club parlor to utilitarian service vehicle catching her by surprise. A young woman in crime scene team coveralls swept the closed-network VR trodes from Noo’s temples, then turned to do the same for Imoke, her twist-outs swinging as her head bobbed. “Commissioner’s here, boss,” the tech said, as she hurriedly stuffed the trodes into a storage cubby.
Assassin’s Orbit is out in paperback, eBook, and audiobook 20 July 2021.