Wednesday, December 1, 2021

When the Children Return by Barry Kirwan - Book Tour

When the Children Return

Ten years have passed since the Axleth invaded Earth and a few hundred humans escaped aboard the ship Athena, piloted by the Artificial Intelligence who calls himself Ares. Now, the refugees approach Earth, determined to take back their home. But something has followed them from deep in space, and as war breaks out on Earth, humanity must decide who is the real enemy.


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In the first book, When the Children Come, an alien race known as the Axleth brainwashes parents into killing their own children. A few hundred kids manage to escape with a handful of adults on the spaceship Athena, rescued by an Artifical Intelligence calling himself Ares. The following extract is towards the beginning of the new book, as the Athena, having been away for ten years, is finally approaching Earth. Some of the children have been ‘augmented’ by Ares, meaning they have cybernetic implants which ‘connect them’ to a degree.

 Sally found the Dome darkened, but festooned with small circles of people of mixed ages and races gathered around mock fires, talking. She’d forgotten; they were celebrating Iftar, as it was the custom on board to honour all religious festivals of anyone on board. She glanced up and saw that Ares had simulated a thin crescent moon. She sought out and found Michael, who budged up on a large plump cushion to make room for her. Without a word he passed her a roll with veggie-protein mix inside, and some sticky cakes. She ate as quietly as she could. Unusually, Jennifer was talking, as they were all honour-bound to do during this annual festival, taking it in turns to speak of a single memory from Earth. The younger second-wavers, or space-kids as they called themselves, in particular relished this time. Life on Athena was, after all, fairly dull. For them, these stories made Earth before sound like El Dorado.

Jennifer’s memory was salmon fishing with her younger brother in Montana. Sally noticed for the umpteenth time that the stories were invariably of lost siblings or friends. It was rare to hear a memory about parents. But no sooner had she thought this than Jennifer changed tack.

Jennifer cleared her throat, and sat up straight. ‘My mother,’ she began, then stopped herself. All eyes were suddenly on her, especially the first-wavers. Most had long ago given their account of that day. Never Jennifer. Sally noticed that two of the augs in other circles twisted around to look over to her, no doubt picking up an emotional spike in their connection.

‘Go on,’ Sally said.

Jennifer met her gaze, then stared into the fake flames. ‘She saved me. My father… I never did like him, or rather he never liked me. Well… that day, he came at me with a knife. Mummy…’ her lips trembled, and Sally saw the two other augs rise from their circles. ‘She… she put herself in harm’s way. Took a knife for me’ – her right hand went to her belly – ‘while shoving me out the door.’

Sally glanced at the two approaching augs, giving a slight shake of her head telling them to wait. They stopped, their eyes fixed on the back of Jennifer’s head. Sally wondered what else the two augmented girls saw...

‘I watched…’ Jennifer continued, ‘completely helpless. She lay on the ground, bleeding out, clutching at my father with one hand, keeping him from climbing over her, gripping the hilt with the other so he couldn’t take it out to kill me… The blood… so much blood inside a person’s body…’

The augs were on the move again, and Sally did nothing this time as they came up behind Jennifer, gently lifted her to her feet, and walked her away, back to her quarters, or else to find Jaspar, her partner.

After that it was impossible to recapture the mood, though Michael did his best, regaling them with talk of his home town, Blessing, in Matagorda County, Texas. How he got his first gun at age seven, and just how many shots it took to stop an alligator that chased him one Sunday afternoon. He had them all laughing, and afterwards she rested her head on his shoulder. When it came to her turn, she grew pensive, but asked to be exempt. ‘It’s been quite a day,’ she said. ‘And I promise, when we’re down on Earth around a real log fire, I’ll talk until you beg me to stop.’ They laughed again, and people agreed to call it a night.

Back in their quarters, Michael raised the question no one had been able to answer these past ten years. They’d spent so much time focusing their anger on the Axleth, but what about the adults back on Earth, all those who’d been ‘infected’, who’d turned? They’d been victims, too, of course. But what if, by some miracle, one of the first-wavers met one of their parents? What would they say? What would they do?

Sally had no answer. Her mind wouldn’t even allow her to go there, because her brother had been butchered right in front of her.

She didn’t say it, not even to Michael, but she hoped for their sakes that her parents weren’t still around.

Author Bio – I grew up in Farnborough, England, home to the fast-jet Red Arrows, and started writing when still at school, a weekly satirical thriller called the Adventures of Blackie the Cat for my classmates. I then got hooked on academic writing for my day job (preventing disasters in nuclear power plants, oil rigs and aircraft) and published four text books on human error. It wasn’t until I moved to Paris that I started writing fiction again, with the Eden Paradox released in 2011. It was intended to be a one-off, but I got a lot of fans demanding more, and so it went ‘epic’, a space opera of four books.

After an accident with my back and two subsequent operations, I was laid up for a long while and couldn’t scuba dive - my other passion - so I wrote a thriller about a spy who was also a scuba diver, and the Nadia Laksheva series was (to my amazement at the time) snapped up by HarperCollins. They asked me to use a pseudonym, which is where the initials J F came from, borrowed from my late father, who loved thrillers.

Although I keep my work and fiction separate (some of my colleagues aren’t convinced) the fiction is always influenced by my psychological training, and an unending fascination with how the mind works, and how it can go off the rails. This most clearly comes out in my two new series, Greg Adams (The Dead Tell Lies) and Children of the Eye (When the Children Come).

My favourite scifi authors range from Asimov and Clarke, to Brin, McDevitt, Hamilton, Asher and Reynolds. My favourite thriller writers are Baldacci, Child and Nesbo. My favourite moment as an author is when I’m sitting with my laptop with an espresso macchiato, wondering what comes next in a story, when suddenly it arrives, and I can’t type fast enough.

Social Media Links –


Twitter: @Eden_Paradox


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