Orkise is loose. The snake-god of plague has been awakened by Lucia del Maino, the bastard daughter of the recently overthrown duke of Milan, Phillipo Visconti. With the venomous magic of Orkise at her command, Lucia plots to marry and then murder the usurper who now rules Milan, the condottiere Carlo Sforza—known to friend and foe alike as the Wolf the North.
Other trouble is brewing as well. Sforza has his own bastard, Benito Valdosta, who is returning to Venice after having conquered the Byzantine empire. Benito has a score to settle with his father, and he will have the help of his half-brother Marco, who is the embodiment of ancient Etruria’s mighty Winged Lion of Saint Mark.
Adding further to Sforza’s predicament, yet another power has entered the fray. The terrifying sorcerer Count Mindaug has decided to settle in Milan. Will he ally with Sforza, or oppose him? Either will bring trouble, for if Mindaug aids the usurper he will arouse the fury of the Holy Roman Empire and the Knights of the Holy Trinity. Both of those great forces have sworn to destroy Mindaug and anyone who shelters him.
On his side, Sforza has only the skill and cunning of his physician, Francisco Turner—who is on good terms with the Valdosta brothers and may be able to neutralize Venetian hostility. But even if he can, will that be enough to save the Wolf of the North? For out there in the countryside of northern Italy, Orkise is uncoiling all the plagues of hell.
Well over a millennia in the past, men and women fled Earth. Escaping Armageddon. What they found—lost in some forgotten corner of the Milky Way Galaxy—was the Waywork: an alien superhighway system between a closed sphere of stars. Now, the five Starstates—which rule all that’s left of humanity—are poised on the brink of another terrible war. And three unlikely people—the daring daughter of a royal family, the reluctant son of an interstellar shipping magnate, and a disgraced flag officer seeking redemption—must come together to race against the forces of their greatest foe. Because the Waywork may at last be ready to give up its secrets, and one woman—a merciless autocrat, from the Waywork’s most brutal regime—is determined to ensure that she controls it all. It’s a clash of civilizations, as the future of the human race hangs in the balance!
We are not alone in the galaxy—not by a longshot. And extra-solar civilization has come calling. Now, Tom Parent, his linguist wife Lucy, and their Great Dane Rex must travel the stars as ambassadors of Earth. Their mission: to prove Humanity deserves to be considered equal to the scores of established alien cultures. Earth’s acceptance hinges on building good relationships with these aliens, and the genteel Parents seem the perfect candidates for wooing extra-terrestrials.
Of course, they’ll have to tread carefully among these brave new worlds that have such creatures in them! Soon what starts as a straight-forward goodwill tour is complicated when Lucy is mistaken for a Wilf—a lifeform that manipulates others toward moral behavior—and Tom accidentally joins a galactic council when he sits in the wrong chair. On top of that, their faithful hound Rex starts talking. And maybe it’s best if we don’t mention the singing gelatin-mold-like alien they have to rescue from becoming dessert.
It’s action and adventure for Tom, Lucy, and Rex, and a laugh-riot for the reader in this classic novel from Science Fiction master Gordon R. Dickson!
A bizarre kidnapping case leads FBI Special Agent Jasper Wilde into the mysterious world of a strange religious cult and even stranger criminals. At the scene of the kidnapping itself, a frightening apparition is seen. Then, a hideously-mutilated corpse is found nearby. Something wicked has come to the nornal-seeming Chicago suburbs.
It doesn’t take long before the FBI agents realize that something truly extraordinary is unfolding in northwest Indiana—and that, whatever it is, the area’s huge steel industry is somehow at the center.
Jasper is joined by Supervisory Special Agent Temple Black. Black has recently been put in charge of a new unit, the Scientific Anomalies Group, created to analyze and handle peculiar cases which might be on the periphery of national security.
Another cult is discovered, although this one seems to be opposed to the criminal activities taking place. Further investigation, however, just produces more in the way of mystery. The agents consult with scientists and theologians, but no one has any idea what might be producing the situation.
Until, finally, the cults erupt in open warfare. As the FBI agents race to intervene and finally put a stop to the horrors, they come to understand and accept that something very ancient and very evil has surfaced in the world—or, perhaps, something that is very, very alien.
Final Frontiers: an anthology of stories from classic and contemporary masters that explores the wide-open frontier that may await humanity when we take to the stars.
DON'T YOU KNOW YOUR FUTURE IS IN SPACE?
Since the dawn of time, humankind has felt the urge to explore the four corners of our globe. To push at the boundaries of our world and discover what lies over the horizon. And since the dawn of science fiction, writers have wondered about the next frontier: the one that lies Out There.
Here then, a generous collection of stories that reach out into the unknown void, finding awe, wonder, other minds—even terror. But always going beyond the world we know to explore a universe strange beyond the outermost limits of human imagination. Stories of brave men and women who risk all to explore, colonize, and settle the vast reaches of space.
As e. e. cummings put it, “listen: there’s a hell of a good universe next door; let’s go.” Well said, but there’s a hell of a big, strange universe right here. And it’s waiting for us all!
Great tales of space exploration and pioneering by David Drake, Sarah A. Hoyt & Jeff Greason, Theodore Sturgeon, Edmond Hamilton, and more.