The Iskander Series novels.

The Iskander novels are retrofuturist – the tales of a modern or near-future people cast away in a 17th century alternate Earth, called by its inhabitants, Gaia. The series protagonist is the young Gisel Matah, daughter of the head of their technical and engineering group, who starts as very much out of place among these highly trained specialists who were planning to develop the infrastructure on a distant colony world. When they find themselves on Gaia, a very different world than the one they were picked to develop, some of Gisel’s skills become much more important than even she had expected.

“Arrival” was the third novel to be released, in October 2008, but it starts the story from the beginning. Gisel is a sixteen year old, only aboard because her father pulled strings, and charged with looking after the gym aboard the starship. Her pre-teen experience as a competition gymnast, and her later selection for Olympic team training in foils and epee qualify her to be a personal trainer for crew members concerned about their physical shape during the journey – and that knowledge is doubly useful when they arrive on Gaia. Then there is her skill with languages and the leg-up she has with being able to speak Greek – the language of scholarship and law on the alternate Earth, Gaia – so the youngest member of the Iskander’s crew becomes the translator and language coach for everyone. Gisel develops from starship brat to valuable member of the crew during the trials and conflicts of the first 5 months on Gaia.

A sequel to Arrival is called “Masquerade” and takes place in the year following the arrival on Gaia. It is currently a work in progress, but the 17 year old Gisel has switched from her father’s engineering instruction to a training course for Iskander’s new Security Service when an urgent mission takes her and Sirius, now their covert operations launch, into enemy territory.

The original novel called “Iskander’s Wildcat” had to be scrapped when the series underwent a significant change in the background scenario, but I have some work started on a replacement. Gisel is now a lieutenant placed on Lord Ricart’s staff for the summer campaign in Tarnland. She disobeys orders to lead troops into the most important position on a battlefield and brings about the conditions that allow the Tarnlish army a great victory. Then there comes the capture of the city of Skrona – mentioned in many of the stories.

“In Harm’s Way” was another novel that crashed when the scenario changed. At some time I will create a new story that features Gisel’s adventures as Marine officer on an ocean expedition and the near death experience aboard the privateer Zigany, that is mentioned in Deadly Enterprise.

“Deadly Enterprise” was the first novel to be released, in July 2007. The 20 year old Gisel – a decorated officer in the Security Service, has to help Iskander develop a commercial relationship with the powerful Felger family – merchants, traders, managers and overseers, and bankers to much of the world – including Iskander’s enemy, the Emperor. She undertakes to escort young Yohan Felger to the enemy city of Lubitz – and winds up facilitating much more than a business deal.

“The Wildcat’s Victory” came after Deadly Enterprise (January 2008) and deals with the sometimes stormy relationships – personal as well as business – between Gisel and Yohan as they jointly manage the Felger-Iskander Partnership. To take herself out of an inevitable clash with Yohan’s secret dealings she accepts a military command from an ex-lover, Lord Ricart. Yohan doesn’t find her plan any more to his liking but while she leads a successful series of cavalry actions he scratches together a supply system to support her and Iskander’s cavalry corps. The campaign comes desperately close to disaster but in the end Ricart’s and Gisel’s successes lead to a truce and a peace treaty.

“The Wildcat’s Burden” follows on during the next summer. Gisel, now 22, has more than one new task. I’ll mention only one – she has been appointed military governor of Skrona, now the transhipment point for the coveted Iskander manufactures and the most turbulent city in the world. She has to attempt to keep the peace between enemies, foil spies from almost every nation in the world, stave off assassins, and satisfy an ever more demanding ally during her involvement in another activity that brooks no clever escapes. The novel is slated for September 2009 and is currently in the final revision stage.

That will be the point at which the series pauses. I will be working on the earlier novels mentioned above. When they are all caught up . . . well, we will see what comes next.

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