Symphony Under Siege by Stephen Hall, is a rollicking, fast-paced sci-fi novel.
Five centuries from now, ex-navy officer Diana Singh commands the monumental luxury spaceliner the Symphony of the Stars. None of her crew knows that their ship is smuggling a treasure worth millions.
None of them knows which one of them is the serial killer.
As Captain Singh pilots the mighty cruise ship back to base, she races to unmask the murderer in their midst before they can kill again.
So, not the most convenient time to be attacked by pirates…
According to the ship’s manual, the Symphony of the Stars is equipped with 20 lifeboats:
The Symphony of the Stars is equipped with 20 lifeboats
Each of which has a capacity of up to 150 persons. There are 10 lifeboats amidships on the upper deck: 5 to starboard and 5 to port. Another 10 lifeboats are in the stern: 5 to starboard and 5 to port. A designated safety officer has been assigned to each lifeboat. Once passengers and crew members are safely aboard, the lifeboats may be jettisoned remotely (from inside the ship), or manually (via the controls of the lifeboat itself). Once jettisoned, the lifeboat’s emergency distress beacon will engage, as it starts its scan for the nearest ship, station or outpost.
If none are found, it will begin a sweep for the nearest habitable planet or moon, and lay in a course.
Each lifeboat is equipped with SPR, and so has a theoretically infinite range. The lifeboat’s AI features scaled-down versions of the Symphony’s navigation, communication and entertainment systems, with additional survival information.
Each lifeboat has 10 water synthesizers and four lavatories. Seven days of A-rations are supplied for each person aboard, available once the 10 replicators have been depleted.
Other equipment includes one C-level SLS spacesuit per person aboard, fire extinguishers, first aid kits, blankets, multipurpose tool kits and additional distress beacons, and of course, towels.
For further information, see Chapter 16 of this manual: ‘Relax, You’re Not Going To Die; It’ll Probably All Be Fine’.
Devereux and Mr Abara sat on the stateroom’s gigantic couch, watching the infinite starscape slowly gliding by. Their shoeless feet rested on Gotmund’s back, as it gently rose and fell.
“War is hell,” Devereux declared, draining her second glass.
“Hear, hear,” agreed Mr Abara. “Bloody awful. More champagne?”
She held out her empty glass. “Oh, just to the top thanks, darl.”
Devereux smiled. She couldn’t remember the last time someone paid her that compliment.
She stretched comfortably and took a sip.
Mr Abara wanted to tell her how he felt. He needed to tell her how he felt. He took a swig of champagne and put his glass down.
“Devereux, there’s something – ”
He was interrupted by the door opening and five maitbots scurrying into the room.
“Oh great, the maitbots are here,” he said flatly.
They hurriedly lifted their feet off Gotmund, as the maitbots maneuvered into place around him.
The little droids deftly raised the sleeping pirate from the floor, took a moment to steady themselves beneath his enormous bulk, and started slowly marching towards the door, on their mission to deliver him to the Shifting Sands.
Devereux stood up, clapped her hands and said decisively, “Right! Now that he’s on his way, we can get back to what we were doing!”
She put her boots back on. “Oh, and thanks for the drink,” she added.
“You’re welcome,” Mr Abara responded quietly.
A Bite of… Stephen Hall
How much of you is in your characters? Maybe the dashing hero is you. Or the devious villain. Or the quiet one who watches and winces a bit.
There’s bits of me in all of them, but I tend to write various characters as exaggerated embodiments of my own traits.
My optimism = Ms Pepper.
My brute male abstruseness = Gotmund.
My respect for the dignity of sticking to the rules = Captain Singh.
My mischievousness and (would-be) dashing wit = Salazar.
My gooey-hearted romanticism = Mr Abara.
My joy in telling old jokes = Marie.
I love having all these vehicles to express various aspects of myself.
Having created a fictional world for your novels, is there any moment in the process where you actually find your brain inhabiting that place?
Absolutely. When I’m writing, I find paintings or illustrations online that suggest the bizarre, exotic locations I’m playing with, and have those images open in the background as I work. Later, I find myself drifting off into these worlds, dreaming up new adventures and scrapes for the characters to get into. I’m not trying to go there – these imaginary places pull me towards them. It’s a powerful, wonderful thing.
Do you think your political beliefs inform your writing in any way?
Definitely. I think our political beliefs inform everything we do. The story in Symphony Under Siege takes place 512 years in the future.
On a Thursday morning.
I’ve deliberately made that world a more positive place, where, by and large, humanity’s better instincts have prevailed. It’s not perfect, of course (where would be the fun in that?)… but it’s a slightly more Utopian place than Earth in 2021. I think escapist adventure stories are always best served with a dash of optimism!
If you could meet one person (alive or dead) who would you choose? And what would you talk about?
The mighty Leonardo Da Vinci. I’d ask him about his beliefs, his methods…
I’d ask him how he sees the world, how he sees himself, and how he manages to be such an incredible polymath.
Not sure I’d understand all his answers, though.
I don’t speak Italian.
Stephen Hall is an Australian writer, actor, and quiz show enthusiast. When he turned 50, he decided he’d finally write that sci-fi novel he’d been daydreaming about for years. He lives in Melbourne with his wife, his daughter and a Staffordshire terrier called Gracie. You can find him on Twitter.