|Cover Artist:||Don Semora|
|Genre:||Christian, Scifi, Survival, Adventure|
|Series:||The Offworld Chronicles|
|Publication Date:||August 2017|
|Media Types:||Print (paperback) and Ebook|
|Followed By:||Dragon's Gambit|
The Race is book 1 in the Christian Survival Adventure series, The Offworld Chronicles and begins the story of Simon, his team, and their travels, adventures and experiences in the early parts of the race course that each of them are forced to travel along in their journey towards the end, freedom, and the opportunity to return home.
The story begins with Simon, a software developer and part time farmer, who is the main character of the story. After a stressful day at work, he leaves late at night only to be abducted shortly after leaving the building. He wakes up to find himself at the reception station for a 6000 mile long survival race where he receives an Initial Starter Pack, as well as three additional items from Node Zero, including a Navigator Compass before being released onto the course. After processing, Simon meets a brash, arrogant, street smart kid from the South Side of Chicago named Trevor. After a brief and disrespectful conversation with Simon, the young man goes off on his own while Simon settles into learning all he can about the race. By late afternoon he stops reading, gathers his things, and begins the course. However, as he's entering the course, two of the demons from the Brotherhood take an unhealthy interest in him from atop the reception center, and seek to exterminate him before he can get anywhere. However, they are stopped by one of the senior Section 17 agents, advising that they should allow him to continue just like any other racer. After this, Simon continues hiking the rest of the day and eventually reaches the first checkpoint where he orders a poncho, then sits down for the evening, as it's growing close to sunset, and builds a fire. About an hour after dark, Trevor appears and takes up a place in the camp. The two talk briefly, and Simon even witnesses a little to Trevor, but the young man wants nothing to do with it. The two then fall asleep for the night. Simon wakes up the next morning to find that he's alone again as Trevor has gone on ahead of him already. This goes on for several days until Trevor, having experienced enough troubles, joins Simon permanently. In the camp that night, Simon offers him a big, fat roast trovet, which Trevor gladly eats. The two talk quite a bit after this, and then, after seeing God's love displayed through Simon often enough, Trevor eventually accepts Christ.
After some more talking, Simon then begins to instruct Trevor in the ways of woodsmanship, including how to start a fire. They then continue to hike the trail, moving from campsite to campsite while getting to know each other. Eventually they come up to a large, open prairie that begins where the woods abruptly ends. They stop briefly to stock up on supplies before continuing again. While traveling across the prairie, they encounter Aria, who eventually joins their team. After some struggles they reach the other side where they setup camp for a few weeks to rebuild their supplies through foraging and hunting some of the local stagnatier herds living in the area. While there, a local group of bandits take an unhealthy interest in the team. Later on, while hiking through the woods, after resuming their travels, the team is jumped by a group of bandits who take Aria hostage, and succeed in knocking out Simon and Trevor, but not before they take out the bandits. Shortly after the fight ends, Alex, an old man and former SAS soldier who has been trapped on the planet of Offworld for some time, appears and rescues the two men. Later on, with Alex's help, Simon and Trevor find the bandit's camp and rescue Aria, but also gain two more members of their team (Birash and Yurg) in the process. However, it's obvious from the start that the relationship between these two new members is anything but cordial. Despite this, Simon and the others all move quickly to put as much distance between them and the bandits as possible.
The next morning the bandits awaken to discover that their two prisoners have escaped and made off with some of their captured supplies. They sound the alarm and soon set off after them. Upon reaching Simon's team, the bandits that wiped out without a single injury on Simon's team. Realizing what has happened, Alex hurriedly leads them out of the area and further down the trail to the safety of one of his supply depots. After taking time to restock, sort supplies, and arm themselves, before heading out again. Over the next several days they carefully work their way down the trail in an effort to avoid being spotted by the bandits. Eventually they reach the bridge over Golden Canyon and discover it's being guarded by two bandits, whom Birash and Yurg quickly deal with. The team then moves forward thinking its safe, but are soon surrounded by a whole crew of bandits. Seeing that their situation is impossible, Simon prays for a miracle, after which a swarm of insects appears and drives the bandits away. Immediately taking this opportunity, Simon and team hurry across the bridge to the safety of the other side.
They then continue on to Alex's cabin several miles away. Alex congratulates them on completing the first hextant and passing into the second, and then explains several important details about the course, including the fate of his original team, why he quit the race, and much more. During this time Trevor and Aria talk, through which he leads her to salvation. Later on Simon takes Trevor and Aria aside for a bible study, which is soon joined by Birash and Yurg, where they learn more about their new friends. As they do, Alex calls them in for breakfast. When they see the feast laid out before them, they ask where it came from, to which Alex reveals that it arrived from Logontown by cargo bird. After this, Simon asks Alex to join them, but he initially refuses, only to eventually agree later on. The next day the team packs up and leaves Alex's homestead, but not before Alex wires it so that everything he has will be destroyed as he never intends to return there ever again. This is also to keep his gun making supplies out of the hands of Orbus and his men. While they're doing this, Orbus gathers all of his men, and charges across the bridge over Golden Canyon in search of Alex and the others. They soon find Alex's empty homestead, and prepare to assault it, only to die moments later when Alex's explosives go off, instantly killing Orbus and all of his men.
Simon's team continue on to the village of Logontown where they're greeted by Benjamin Bernstein who runs a small bakery and butcher shop in the center of town. He invites Simon's team into the house where they can rest and talk. After staying the night, and receiving some treats from Benjamin, they continue on down the trail, struggling over the next several days to make their way through the thick, heavy woods on the other side. After successfully overcoming that, they struggle over a large moat obstacle, nearly dying in the process, before continuing on and passing into third hextant. Along the way they continue to learn more and more about each other, where they came from, their history, and many other things. During this time Yurg, through the gentle and kind consideration of Birash and everyone in the team, slowly softens to them, and begins to give up his hatred of Birash. Not completely, but he certainly makes some strides in that direction. As they continue traveling, Simon proposes to Alex the idea of teaching the other three in the team the skills of "Wayfinding" and "Pathfinding", of which Alex agrees. Trevor is the first to undergo this training, which he struggles with doing. But he also learns a lot as he does it. Eventually the team reaches the village of Pongo where they encounter Jacob and his wife, and first learn about the language of Bonisi and some more details about the race, the world and its people.
As they talk, Jacob and his wife bring dinner for Simon and his team to enjoy. While they're eating dinner, an older gentleman named Father Mathews appears in the house and sits down with Simon's team. He declares that he's there to tell them why they're there and what God has both given them, and intends for them. Simon is told he has the gift of teaching, which he very easily and naturally displays, even though he humbly claims that he's not that great of a teacher. Aria is told she has the gift of discernment, Trevor helps, and Birash mercy. The old man then passes away. They bury him the next day, and then set out on their journey again. Along the way they stop for the night and talk about spiritual gifts, while eating a meal of kleks. After several more weeks of hiking they come to the city of Trail Point in the Keep of Woes. They stay the night at an inn, and then go out the next day and trade in some of their furs, and various other items they've been carrying with them, in exchange for some of the local currency. Once they are done there, the team goes into the market to do some shopping, with Simon, Aria and Yurg going one direction, and Alex, Trevor and Birash going the other. However, it's not long before Simon, Aria and Yurg draw the interest of the local slavers who eventually take them captive.
Hearing the commotion, Alex, Trevor and Birash rush to their aid, but are stopped by a hail of gunfire. They then battle it out with the slavers in an exchange of fire, but are not able to subdue their attackers before Simon, Aria and Yurg are dragged away into the catacombs below the city. Alex, Trevor and Birash find the trap door their friends were taken through and soon give pursuit. Some time later Simon awakes to discover he's in a dungeon where the slavers have gathered their day's catch in preparation for the evening slave sale. Simon, Aria and Yurg are put in line and then hauled up to the stage one by one to be auctioned off. Yurg, is sold first, followed by Aria, and lastly Simon. Yurg is bought by a man who intends to use him as a guard animal and a pet. Aria, by a perverted, sleazy old man who intends to use her as a concubine. And lastly, Simon, who is purchased by The Baroness of Hollow Manor. Outside Trevor, Alex and Birash wait for each of their three friends come out the rear door of the slave market. Yurg comes out first and is skillfully rescued. Aria is next to appear and is rescued from the old man who bought her. Inside, while the others continue to wait, the Baroness comes to Simon and examines him before revealing to him that she too is a Christian, much to his surprise. After this they step outside where Alex and the others try attacking them. But Simon tells them to hold their fire as she's a friend. After a brief few tense moments, they realize he's telling the truth. They all then pile into the Baroness's carriage and head back to her manor. She then gives a brief history of herself, and how she became the Baroness of Hollow Manor, one of the ten most powerful houses in the entire keep, and one of only three that are Christian. Upon arriving the Baroness treats Simon's team to hot food, hot baths, comfortable rooms and anything else they want. Alex then takes Simon aside into another room and talks to him about God. Simon in turn answers all of his questions and even witnesses to him, through which Alex becomes saved. He then goes out and tells the others.
The next morning the team enjoys breakfast, after which the Baroness sends Aria away for a special bath to pamper her as a treat. She then explains her mission there in the manor, how they make their money, how they serve the local community, and more. This includes their ministry of printing and distributing bibles. She also reveals that all of her staff are rescued Christians that she's saved from the slave markets and other places. The Baroness then gives Alex his own bible, which he happily accepts, before heading off to begin reading it in solitude in the garden. Trevor soon joins him, leaving just Simon and the Baroness, as Birash and Yurg have already left for a walk. They then go for a walk in the garden alone and talk between themselves. While they're doing this, Birash and Yurg encounter a young dragon named Fallon in the garden. After introducing himself, one of the demons of the Brotherhood appears, whom Fallon initially resists. The demon grows angry with him, but before he can do anything, Birash rebukes him and sends him fleeing. Fallon then gives them a brief warning before vanishing. Yurg and Birash decide to report this to the others.
Back in the garden Trevor speaks with Alex about his bible reading, but the subject soon changes to Aria and Trevor's budding love and relationship. Trevor is a bit embarrassed about the whole thing as this is all new to him. Aria soon appears dressed in a beautiful, white sun dress and Trevor is immediately smitten. They then go off for a walk in the garden. Elsewhere, as Simon and the Baroness continue their walk in the garden, they're then approached by Yurg and Birash about Fallon. Afterwards, everyone gathers and they talk about him briefly, as well as what his presence and appearance mean, including the dangers it brings. However, instead of discouraging Simon's team, it encourages them and strengthens their resolve. The next morning the Baroness sends them off with a fresh load of supplies and gear over to the nearby village of Donville, which sits on the edge of The Reaping Sea where they hire a ship for the journey across to the other side. However, on the journey across nearly everyone in Simon's team gets seasick. To make things worse, a Sea Storm appears and beats on the boat, sending it tossing and swaying violently. Eventually the ship succumbs to the storm and sinks with all hands on board. Shortly after this the storm dissipates. One of the controllers appears shortly after this and checks his handiwork. Satisfied, he flies away.
Once he's gone, an angel appears (Caleb) and lifts Simon's limp, lifeless body out of the water and takes him to the other side and sets him on the doorstep of a fisherman named Mathias who nurses him back to health. Deep down though, Simon fears that his entire team has died and he's the only one left now. However, the next scene reveals that Trevor has miraculously survived, and was saved by Lord Banister and Lady Lidia of the Sheffield Republic. Trevor inquires about the others, and soon learns that Birash has survived too, although his two hosts think that he's Trevor's slave. Trevor briefly explores the mansion, but finds the reception by the staff to be very cold and impersonal. After he's served a very high class breakfast, Trevor decides to go out to the slave quarters to check on Birash. In the meantime, Simon learns more about Mathias, including that they're both believers. However, Mathias is a 14th generation native, and doesn't speak a lick of English. They eventually determine that this is likely a miracle from God, and a form of the biblical "tongues". Back at the mansion, Trevor wanders around looking for the slave quarters only to accidentally stumble onto a secret room where several generals are meeting and discussing their war with the Gak Republic. They also discuss the kingdom of Thorn, and a pending battle that will soon be happening on their shared border.
Deciding he didn't want to be around for this, he sneaks away only to discover a small armory nearby. After picking the lock he steps inside and is floored by all the firepower contained within it. He quickly packs two bags full of weapons and ammo, and then makes his way to the slave quarters. After freeing Birash, the two then head out to pick up more supplies in preparation for leaving the estate. Back in the mansion Banister and his men learn that Trevor and Birash are racers; the bane of The Four Kingdoms. Banister then sends his men to hunt down and kill Trevor and Birash. Back at the village, Simon prepares to leave, but Mathias warns him of the danger he will face ahead, and the war that's going on right now. He also warns him of the danger to anyone who is a racer, because any soldier or citizen from the Four Kingdoms who discover one are under orders to kill any they find. Mathias then gathers a team of villagers who head out with him to escort Simon through the worst areas and to safety at the far edge of the Four Kingdoms territory. Back at the mansion, after completing their sacking of Banister's supplies, the Trevor and Birash head over to the garage where Trevor steals one of the cars that Banister owns. However, before they can get far, soldiers from Banister's mansion discover this and give pursuit. After a brief high speed chase, Trevor is able to shake his pursuers and then sets out to search for the others, who he prays are still alive.
Elsewhere in the area, aboard the submarine Calypso, it's discovered that Aria and Yurg have survived the sinking of the ship, and were rescued by the crew of the submarine. Ever since their rescue, Yurg has stayed by her side, waiting for her to wake up again. Yurg even prays for her healing. The ship's captain, Clifford Weiss, introduces himself, and then gives her the bad news about her friends, which causes her to pass out in grief. He then leaves to attend to his duties while Yurg patiently watches over Aria, worried that she'll be alright, and cursing the controllers for what they did to him and his friends. Back on the road, Trevor pulls into a gas station to get gas. Upon filling his tank, he's led back to the attendant's hut, where he meets Alex and learns that he's survived the sinking as well. They then head back out onto the road in search of the others who they believe are still alive. Over near the border where Simon and the others are, Mathias leads them through a brief bit of fast and intense combat before finally escaping out of the area where they come across Trevor and crew who have been looking for them. Mathias and his men then return to their village as Simon rejoins the others in search of Aria and Yurg. Out on The Reaping Sea, Clifford and crew continue to hunt for more possible salvage prizes. But, upon realizing that they're coming up with nothing, they head back to their headquarters at Subton. Back at Banister's estate, he sends troops to find Simon's team and kill them as quickly as possible.
Simon's team, after finding an inn to stay in at a small fishing village near a river, are discovered and surrounded by Sheffield troops who demand their surrender. This results in a standoff that lasts all night. After having made their way out of The Reaping Sea and onto one of the large rivers that feeds it, Clifford and the Calypso receive word that Sheffield has surrounded a nearby village for reasons they're not quite sure of yet. So Clifford has them park the sub on the bottom of the river while requesting support from the Odyssey and the Thor in case they need it. Meanwhile, elsewhere on Offworld, near the Southern Wyre, also known as Trond, Fallon appears before Weyr Master Zek, his grandfather, and discuss the current situation with Simon's team, as well as the rather strange amount of attention that the demon Sheobaal is paying to Simon and his team. They also discuss how this will create problems for them, as well as the rest of the Dragon Corps, including Zek's plans for the race, and especially Simon's team. They also discuss Caleb, and his part in all of this. During this conversation, a little bit of Fallon's wisdom is displayed, which is uncharacteristic for one of his age, being but a young child in the eyes of the other dragons. As they are discussing this, Zek receives orders from his masters to send a team of his dragons to a village nearby and sack it. Zek then sends Fallon back out on his mission to monitor and assist Simon's team.
As morning dawns the next day, Alex and the others are shocked at how many soldiers are in the area. The soldiers again demand that Simon and his team surrender to them. They obviously refuse. This upsets the soldiers, but they don't move just yet. While the two sides remain at a standoff, Simon and Alex take stock of their situation and realize that they don't have any way out of this. However, as they continue trying to find a way out of this, the Calypso, the Odyssey and the Thor surface in the river behind them and open fire on the Sheffield troops. Sheffield immediately scatters and falls into retreat. Clifford them pulls the Calypso into port and hails Simon, who immediately boards the submarine with his team. Clifford then takes them up river towards his home base in Subton. But, while they're making good on their escape, Clifford reveals to Trevor and the others that their two still missing teammates are actually with him. With his spirits lifted, Trevor follows Clifford over to where Aria and Yurg are and enjoys a happy reunion with them. And while Trevor and Aria are getting caught up, Yurg and Birash have a special moment together as Yurg further explores his growing friendship with Birash.
Simon then leaves to talk with Clifford about a possible destination for him and his team. He also asks Alex for ideas, but he has none as this is all new to him. Clifford then takes them to the bridge of his ship where he reveals a secret of his vessel, namely a controller map table, as well as some other hidden controller technology inside the submarines which provide their primary power. They then use the map table to discuss the journey ahead, and a few of the pitfalls of navigating the river, as well as the current political situation in the area. While they're making their way to Subton, news of the escape of Simon's team reaches the ears of General Amaroth, who vows to succeed where Sheffield has failed, and exterminate Simon's team at all costs.
Reviews and Awards
The reviews and awards collected below are both reader and professional reviews, as well as any reviews the book has received that I am aware of at this moment.
I didn't know what to expect when I got this book as I saw "scifi, angels, fantasy". But I can say I'm very intrigued by it and has sparked up my faith in God once again. I can also safely say this is a modern day equivalent of the Pilgrim's Progress, except with more characters (that you can relate to). This book is a blessing. Thank you Steven, God bless!
P.S. I'm patiently waiting for the next one.
This had been a very uplifting story to me. A bit like Narnia + Hunger Game. I like all the characters and could really relate to them as I share their faith. You will either like this or need this. Hope you find something more at the end of it. Can't wait for the second installment.