Readers still have to wait until 2022 to get their hands on The Nova Incident, the third book in Dan Moren’s Galactic Cold War series. But until then, we’re delighted to reveal the amazing cover (above), and speak to Moren himself about his sci-fi series.
When a bomb explodes in the bustling Commonwealth capital city of Salaam, responsibility is quickly claimed by an extremist independence movement in The Nova Incident. But after a former comrade, an ex-spy with his own agenda, is implicated in the attack, Simon Kovalic and his team of covert operatives are tasked with untangling the threads of a dangerous plot that could have implications on a galactic scale. And the deeper Kovalic digs, the more he’ll uncover a maze of secrets, lies, and deception that may force even the most seasoned spy to question his own loyalties.
Dan Moren is a former senior editor at Macworld, his work has appeared in the Boston Globe, Macworld, Popular Science, Yahoo Tech, and many others. He co-hosts tech podcasts Clockwise and The Rebound, writes and hosts nerdy quiz show Inconceivable!, and appears on the award-winning The Incomparable. Dan lives with his wife in Somerville, Massachusetts, where he is never far from a set of polyhedral dice.
We spoke to him about the Galactic Cold War series so far, and what we can expect from The Nova Incident…
For those who haven’t read The Bayern Agenda and The Aleph Extraction, can you catch us up real quick with what’s happened so far? (As spoiler-free as you can manage!)
In the words of Inigo Montoya: Let me explain—no, there is too much. Let me sum up. Several hundred years in the future, humanity now inhabits multiple solar systems connected by a network of wormholes. After one faction, the Illyrican Empire, invaded and occupied Earth and some of its original colonies, its expansionist agenda was halted by the newly formed Commonwealth of Independent Systems. Since then, the two superpowers have settled into an uneasy cold war.
Major Simon Kovalic leads a team of Commonwealth covert operatives who aim to prevent the conflict from tipping back into open hostilities. In previous adventures, they’ve dealt with plots involving planet-sized corporations and legendary artifacts with purportedly alien origins, all in the service of keeping the peace—such as it is.
And give us a rundown of what to expect from The Nova Incident?
Without saying too much, The Nova Incident sees the conflict hitting close to home. When an explosion goes off on the Commonwealth capital planet of Terra Nova, Kovalic and his team have to uncover who orchestrated this attack and why. That’s going to take some unexpected twists and turns, leading to some uncomfortable truths about the nature of this whole war—and perhaps even making them question some of the things they’ve done in the name of peace.
Does each book stand on its own, or do you need to read the connections between each book?
I like to think each book can be enjoyed as its own adventure, but I see the world of the Galactic Cold War as a living universe, and readers of previous volumes are certainly going to get more out of the interactions between these characters who, hopefully, they’ve come to love as much as I do. While The Nova Incident works well on its own, there are definitely things that will resonate more with those who have read the previous books in the series.
How did you start your Galactic Cold War series? Where did it all come from?
Ugh, this is going to make me sound ancient, but I’ve actually been jotting down ideas for this series for about twenty years now, ever since I was in college. Cold war spy fiction has always been one of my favorite genres: I love the subtlety of the interplay between characters, the tension of the backdrop, and the fact that seemingly small decisions have huge ramifications.
I’ve also been a huge fan of expansive sci-fi worlds since I was a kid: Star Wars, Star Trek, and so on. I’d never read anything that really combined those two genres, so like a little kid mashing together a couple of action figures, I decided to see what happened if I jammed them together. Frankly, it worked so well I’m surprised that I haven’t seen more of this genre!
What has been the hardest scene to write in all three books?
Different scenes are tricky for different reasons. For example, there’s a bit in Aleph that takes place outside a ship, and the way I wanted to write it didn’t work exactly with the way physics works, which meant going back and making a lot of tweaks so that it was at least right in the broad strokes. Nova has some tough scenes that are much more about the interactions: there’s a fairly quiet scene early on between two characters navigating their relationship, and I got a lot of feedback on that from early readers that made me adjust how it played out.
What are you hoping will be readers’ biggest takeaway from the series?
For me, it’s all about shades of grey: Good people can do bad things and bad people can do good things. As simple as it might feel for us to slot people into ‘good’ and ‘bad’, it’s rarely that simple. Loki did this brilliantly, and there’s this great line in there where he says that the truth is: “No one bad is ever truly bad. And no one good is ever truly good.” I wanted to write a story about people doing their best in a tough situation, who have good intentions but sometimes make questionable choices in order to get there. And sometimes, as we all do, they even have regrets about those decisions.
Give us five reasons why we should read the Galactic Cold War series:
Okay, that’s not really a question, but I’ll indulge you!
- Humor. Quips, banter, and fast-paced dialogue are some of my favorite things to write, and I’ll flatter myself by saying they’re some of my strong suits.
- Action. What would a spy novel be without some breathless chases and death-defying stunts?
- Suspense. Never knowing what comes next keeps you on your toes—and hopefully keeps you turning pages!
- Intrigue. If you like characters who fall into those murky morally gray areas, but that you’ll definitely root for, read on.
- Fun. My overriding goal is to write something fun. I think fun is an underrated concept. Sometimes we just want to read a book that takes us away on an adventure.
What’s the biggest influence in your writing?
Picking a single influence feels too hard: my lifetime love of Star Wars, the action and pacing of Mission: Impossible movies, the humor of Terry Pratchett…so many elements go into constructing the crucible that shapes any writer. But for the Galactic Cold War, I always point to my favorite book series: Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga. It’s this far-reaching galactic space opera that still manages to focus on people, and it is written with such heart and humor that once you start reading them, you just can’t put them down.
What’s next for you?
Finishing on a self-reflective note, I see. I don’t know, exactly! Part of what I set out to do with the Galactic Cold War was weave an expansive backdrop to tell stories against, and I don’t think I’m quite done with this world, or even this story arc, yet, so I’d love to keep telling Kovalic and crew’s adventures.
I’ve also written a contemporary fantasy book set in my hometown of Boston that follows an investigator of the supernatural, which I’m hoping finds its way out into the world at some point. It’s sort of a murder mystery that also touches upon the tech scene, a world where I spend a lot of my day job. And I’m always working on a couple of other projects, including a fantasy story set in a world of magic and debt, and a near future story about a cloned thief. But I’d love to try my hand at other writing too: maybe comics or fiction podcasts? As always, it all depends on what people want to read and more than a little bit of luck.
The Nova Incident by Dan Moren will be releasesd on 26 July from Angry Robot Books.