The Sci-Fi Spy Game Grows More Dangerous: Revealing The Aleph Extraction by Dan Moren

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Earlier this year, Dan Moren’s The Bayern Agenda introduced an intriguing world of sci-fi spycraft and crime capering involving a mismatched team of specialists and a heist on a bank the size of a planet. Needless to say after that setup, the first book of the Galactic Cold War series was a ton of fun.

Next March, Moren returns to the same setting for an even higher-stakes adventure in The Aleph Extraction, and today we’re offering a sneak peek. Below, find the official summary and the cover art, designed by Georgina Hewitt. Then keep scrolling to read an excerpt, carefully chosen by the author to offer maximum intrigue.

Aboard a notorious gangster’s luxurious starliner, Simon Kovalic and his crew race to steal a mysterious artifact that could shift the balance of the war.

Still reeling from a former teammate’s betrayal, Commonwealth operative Simon Kovalic’s band of misfit spies has no time to catch their breath before being sent on another impossible mission: to pull off the daring heist of a quasi-mythical alien artifact from under the nose of the galaxy’s most ruthless gangster, not to mention their cold war rivals, the Illyrican Empire. But Kovalic’s newest recruit, Specialist Addy Sayers, is a volatile ex-con with a mean hair-trigger — can he hold the team together, or will they turn on each other before the job even gets underway?

From the hall came the sound of raised voices. Even muffled by the door, it wasn’t hard to make out an irate one bellowing “Where is he?”

The color had drained from Tak’s face. “Look, you can’t turn me over to them. You know what they’ll do?”

“They won’t be buying you lunch, that’s for sure.”

Tak’s eyes jumped between the door and Kovalic, who maintained an air of studied indifference. “You gotta get me out of here.”

“And why would I do that?”

“I— I know stuff! That’s why you hired me, right?”

“You betrayed that trust when you started talking to the Illyricans.”

Scrambling backwards, Tak jerked against the plasticuff that attached his wrist to the chair. He rattled it and gave Kovalic a plaintive look. “I’ve got valuable intel, man!”

“Oh?” said Kovalic, looking up from an inspection of his fingernails. “Care to share?”

Somebody pounded on the door. “Open up! We know he’s in there!”

“Get rid of them!” said Tak. “And I’ll tell you everything the crims wanted to know.”

Kovalic tried not to roll his eyes at the slang. Illyrican Intelligence officers didn’t even wear crimson uniforms while they were in the field. “That’s one option. But you’re operating from a deficit here. Tell me first, and you have my word that whoever is on the other side of that door won’t hurt you.”

A bead of sweat dripped down Tak’s forehead. He glanced at Nat, standing behind him with all the interest of someone watching a particularly dry chemistry lecture, then back to Kovalic.

“Okay! Okay!” Tak looked around, as though someone might be listening in. “So there was this black market auction. Priceless antiquities, works of art, that kind of thing.”

“Art theft is kind of outside our jurisdiction,” said Nat. “Why should we care?”

“I’m getting there!” said Tak. “Look, this is a little bit stressful what with the pounding on the door and the fearing for my life.”

Kovalic gave an ‘ah‘ then nodded. “Fair enough. One sec.” He went to the door and, over a squeak from Tak, opened it. “Sergeant, would you mind keeping it down? We’re trying to have a conversation in here.”

Tapper peered over Kovalic’s shoulder, a faux contrite expression on his face. “Oh, sure thing, boss. Sorry about that. Didn’t realize you were in the middle of something.”

With that, Kovalic closed the door and sat back down opposite a confused-looking Takashi. “Now, where were we?”

Tak looked at the door, then back at Kovalic, then at the door again as his slightly addled brain processed everything. “You…fucking asshole.”

Kovalic snapped his fingers in the other man’s face. “Focus. Why do we care about the auction?”

But Tak’s expression had turned stubborn. “Why should I tell you anything?”

Kovalic glanced at Nat. “Should we tell him? I think we should tell him.”

“Oh, do let me,” she said, a touch of glee in her voice. Raising her sleeve, she touched a few controls andaA holoscreen popped open in front of Tak, perfectly framing him in his conversation with Kovalic. “If you don’t tell us, I’m going to send an anonymous tip to the Imperial Intelligence Services that one of their assets is feeding information back to the Commonwealth. Something tells me they’re not going to be as forgiving about it as we are.”

The other man gulped. “Okay, okay! Look, all I know is the Illyricans wanted info on where the auction was taking place, and on one specific lot. 2187.”

“What is it?”

Tak’s shoulders went up to his ears. “No idea! I told them what I knew, which was that the auction’s at the Citadel Hotel on Tseng-Tao’s Divide, two days from now. Oh, and I overheard them using a name…” His eyes flicked back and forth as he searched his memory. “Arcade? No, Arkady. I think. I don’t know who that is.”

An auction? On a third-rate moon? Running a hand through his hair, Kovalic shook his head. “We came all the way here for this?” He put his hands on his thighs and pushed himself up out of the chair. Fatigue swept over him; the bruises starting to form on his side took this opportunity to register their unhappiness and he massaged his rib cage.

Kovalic nodded at Nat to join him in the hallway and sent Tapper in to keep an eye on Tak. Just in case he tried to make a break for it, chair and all.

“So,” said Kovalic, letting out a long breath. “What do you think?”

“Well, it’s a lead,” said Nat. “But it’s pretty thin. The Imperium’s buying up art all of a sudden? Three months ago, they were teetering on the edge of financial ruin.”

“Seems out of character, I agree, but if there’s anything we can say about the Illyricans, it’s that they don’t waste time or resources unless there’s something to be gained. They must have a reason.”

“I hate to say it, but this looks like a prime example of ‘kick it up the chain.’”

“Oh yeah. He’s gonna love this one.” Kovalic frowned and prodded at his side again.

“How’s the damage?” said Nat, nodding at his torso.

“Not covered under warranty, that’s for sure.”

“You ruined my drone, too, by the way.”

“Easier to replace than my ribs. We should have had someone at the station in case he bolted.”

“You had no way of knowing he’d run. And we only have a limited number of bodies. We can’t cover everything.”

Kovalic rubbed at the stubble on his chin. “Yeah. Well, maybe it’s time we fix that. We’ve been down one for too long.” His lips set. He’d struggled with filling the slot on his team for a whole host of reasons, and at the very top was guilt.

Something in Nat’s face softened and she reached out to take his arm. “It’s time.”

“Yeah. And I think I’ve got just the person for this job.”

Preorder The Aleph Extraction, available March 10, 2020.

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The Bayern Agenda Is a High-Stakes Spy Caper in Outer Space

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

The Bayern Agenda introduces author Dan Moren’s new series the Galactic Cold War, though careful readers will note it takes place in the same universe as his debut novel, The Caldonian Gambit. Whether you’ve read that earlier book or not, you’ll certainly enjoy this one, provided “fast-paced, high-action space opera with a spy adventure bent” sounds like your jam; think Star Trek meets Mission: Impossible.

In many ways, the plot hits all the familiar genre beats—active wormholes, intriguing planets, intense face-offs, and a few twists along the way—but set against the backdrop of a satisfyingly built world, it offers plenty to enjoy even if you think you’ve read this sort of thing before. The action takes place during the cold war that gives the series its name, and the complex history of tensions between its two opposing forces, the Illyrican Empire and the Commonwealth of Independent Systems, lends the caper at the novel’s center a fair bit of weight—both sides of the conflict being more than ready to instigate a new wave of aggression at the first sign of trouble.

And as to that caper: Simon Kovalic is a seasoned Commonwealth intelligence agent with deep experience in the field and the psychological damage to go with it. Though haunted by his wartime service and the soldiers he lost along the way, he remains a natural leader who takes his responsibility to protect his team not just seriously, but personally. During a mission gone awry that opens the novel, Kovalic obtains intelligence that suggests that the Empire is making some sort of move involving the massive Bayern Corporation, a planet-sized bank. Figuring out what’s going on and why is crucial: with the capital Bayern could provide, the Illyricans could seriously upset the balance of power in the system.

Like any Ethan Hunt-esque hero worth his salt, Kovalic knows he needs a team if he’s going to win this high-stakes spy game. His primary counterpart is Elijah Brody, a former Illyrican army pilot so fresh off the plane he is not yet allowed back in one—he is still being carefully monitored for fallout from battlefield trauma. A fresh defectee to the Commonwealth—and bored to death in recovery—Brody doesn’t take much convincing when given the chance to join Kovalic’s crew. Both heroes bring wit, snark and a strong impulse to act first, think later, to a team that also includes one Lieutenant Commander Natalie Taylor, Kovalic’s ex- and a seasoned intelligence officer. She opted for a desk job after her marriage fell apart, but steps back in to lead his team after he takes a shot to the shoulder. Also along for the ride is Tapper, Kovalic’s gruff-but-reliable former wingman.

After an explosive opening, the book downshifts to establish the character dynamics and set the stage for the mission to come. The measured pacing pays off once the fireworks begin, so you know the players and the stakes by the time the action and suspense right up to a 10are dialed up to 10. In a galaxy with a complicated, bloody history and a fragile, teetering sort of peace in the present, Kovalic’s team members must keep their cool and think fast to avoid dragging the two empires into another all-out war.

With so much going on in the plot in terms of action and politics, the worldbuilding is kept lean, favoring details familiar to a contemporary reader—coffee, formal dress attire, and other supporting minutiae of military life—despite a setting presumably taking place hundreds of years in the future. Which isn’t to say that the worldbuilding Moren does spend time on doesn’t pay off—for example, the elaborate banking city of Bayern, constructed in full underneath a volcano, and where most of the plot unfolds, is great fun to explore.

As Kovalic says,, “Sometimes the old tropes are the best.” This certainly holds true to The Bayern Agenda: though the novel does leverage a few familiar science fiction adventure tropes, it puts them to economical use, moving us quickly into the action. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to enjoy a fast, fun high-concept romp.

The Bayern Agenda is available now.

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