Pullbox Reviews Beyond Kuiper, first in a series of sci-fi novels coming from Heavy Metal Magazine

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. — Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot (1994)

People boldly going.

If there’s a tagline for Beyond Kuiper, the first full on novel from science fiction’s biggest proponent Heavy Metal Magazine, that could very well be it. Don’t take that to mean that this is a rehash of everything that’s been done since Mr. Rodenberry made his pitch to DesiLu Productions. Instead, look at this book as the fictional bridge between where we are now & where could very easily find ourselves down the road.

The title refers to the Kuiper Belt at the farthest reaches of our solar system, and the story starts with “the Event”. Home to the greatest scientific minds on the planet, the CERN facility in Switzerland experiences a catastrophic explosion involving anti-matter. The entire facility and all of its personnel but one are obliterated in the blink of an eye. That survivor, Bernard Hubert, has a theory on how the explosion might have happened, but no one in authority is interested in hearing it. Bernard’s idea is so outlandish that it’s far easier to discredit him, question his loyalties, and outright accuse him of sabotage.

CERN, you were gone too soon…

Bernard’s very considered opinion is that, given all of the safety protocols in place and the type of energy it would take to subvert them, the massive explosion could only have been caused by superior technology. Given that CERN sat at the pinnacle of humanity’s search for scientific advancement, that level of advanced tech could only come from one source: extra-terrestrial beings. From that realization, Bernard Hubert will start out on a quest for knowledge beyond the limited understanding of our species in the late 21st Century.

The only question left is, if life exists beyond our very small “pale blue dot”, why haven’t they stopped in to say hello?

As should be expected of any science fiction venture from the folks at Heavy Metal Magazine, Beyond Kuiper is looking to do something apart from what’s been done before. The first step to that end was having Heavy Metal’s CEO Matthew Medney & aerospace engineer John Connelly co-write the book, first in a planned series of ten. Beyond carrying the magazine’s own brand of sci fi, no doubt compliments of Medney’s touch, the book is marked by its feasibility as researched & vetted by Connelly. Granted, there have been recent entries in the genre marked by that touch of reality- The Martian & The Expanse come immediately to mind- but Kuiper takes a step back from an age of exploration and expansion to zero in on what initially leads us to take the first steps away from home.

As for the aliens… okay, I don’t really want to give too much away but the first real reveal comes pretty early in the story (chapter 2). Apparently, the reason that alien races haven’t stopped in for a neighborly visit is just that they don’t really want to. The Galactic Star Alliance has deemed our insignificant hunk of rock to be unsuitable for any kind of mingling, and until we can show some level of true advancement beyond the ability to blow ourselves to irradiated dust, we’ve been declared off limits to all of the civilized societies. Far from the hostile invaders of Independence Day, they’ve seen everything we have to offer (slight spoiler, they think Star Wars is hilarious) and want nothing to do with us.

Of course, nothing would come from Heavy Metal Entertainment that didn’t have some visually stunning additions. I’d have to say that the icing on this particular cake would be the outstanding art opening each chapter. Utku Özden is the one to thank for these illustrations, giving readers snapshots of a world on the verge of interstellar travel. It adds to the already impressive level of world(s) building going on within the pages of the book, and as the layers add up it’s easy to see how this serious would encompass a ten book run.

Given the degree of research and thought that went into Beyond Kuiper, and the inclusion of John Connelly in the writing of it, some might shy away from this one out of a concern over it being too heavy on the science. No worries, there’s a plethora of footnotes seeded throughout the book to help guide more detail oriented readers through the references given. Depending on what kind of reader you are- whether you really like to dig into hard facts and devour everything you possibly can or you just like to sit back and enjoy a story- you might want to consider bypassing the footnotes unless you’re really hung up on something. For the most part, they’re all explained well enough through the narrative, and tended to distract me from the story.

Not gonna lie, I was pretty excited to get my hands on this book, and I have a copy pre-ordered in advance of its November release. I was even happier when I found an early review copy dropped into my email, compliments of the publicists handling the book (a heartfelt shout out to Jesse Post of Letter Better Publishing!). As a plunge into the world of full length novels, Heavy Metal is off to a great start with Beyond Kuiper. Medney & Connelly have worked hard to find a balance between the elements of science and fiction, and while they may not have reached the lofty heights of philosophy or speculation of Herbert or Asimov, their results are exceedingly readable. The addition of genre appropriate pop culture references give it a bit of relatable humor for readers who aren’t going to have any trouble recognizing books and movies they already love.

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