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Publisher's Summary

Cindy-Mei, who until recently had been Agent Winter, CIA - that's Colonial Intelligence Agency - had been one of their best agents...that is, until they threw her out for coming to work in a dress. 

After that disappointing and sudden end to what had been a promising career, Mei rewarded herself with a long, relaxing vacation in the outback to celebrate her gender reassignment and her new start in life. The first stop on her journey turned out to be a little backwater planet called Deanna....

As a third-rate colony in the Terran Empire, Deanna had more than its fair share of dull moments.... Dull - but also definitely weird.... Deanna orbited a star called Ramalama - and if you think that’s funny, Deanna’s two moons were called Ding and Dong, respectively. (This was a local joke.)

When a single Ruminarii Hammerhead - the first seen by Humans in more than 80 years, arrived to invade the small backwater Terran colony of Deanna, rather than cowering in their basements or running away, the ordinary people of Atro City headed to the spaceport to meet the aliens when they landed - and grabbed anything remotely resembling a weapon on the way out the door!

As bombs fell on Atro City, Cindy-Mei found herself in exactly the right place at the right time - but what should she do? She'd hoped to put her violent and somehow depressing past behind her, but now it seemed her new beginning (and her holiday) were going to have to wait! The Gimp were back, and this was no time to be a sissy! She faced seemingly insurmountable odds in the midst of panic, hysteria - falling sherry - and people hiding under furniture! What would she do?

Thankfully, with the assistance of an alien walking, talking plant called Fred, a local bounty hunter called Beck the Badfeller - and the Skeggs Valley Dynamite Fishing Club, she wouldn't have to find out alone.

Black Sunrise is the first book in the Quantum series by Christina Engela.

©2019 Christina Engela (P)2021 Christina Engela

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Darla Middlebrook's performance is wonderful! 🥰

New-to-me writer Christina Engela was responsible for one of the most delightful listening experiences I've had in a while. I expect my favorite writers and narrators to be predictably awesome but I admit to feeling especially grateful when a new writer turns my head about my shoulders! Black Sunrise is an incredible novel that has something special for any LGBTQ+ readers with an appreciation for science fiction. The writer has a premise that will blow most readers out of the water. Just imagine a hostile society bent on conquering the Terran race at a third-rate colony only to get their butt handed to them some eighty years earlier when the Terrans fight back! Then it all happens AGAIN(!!!) but this time the reader is front and center for the excitement during the latest attack of the Ruminarii.
Cindy-Mei was terminated from the Colonial Intelligence Agency for being trans sees an opportunity to regain some respect, notice, and her position for recapturing the Ruminarii commander. Cindy was visiting Deanna on holiday after her gender affirmation surgery when the Ruminarii tried yet again to subjugate the Terran population. When the bombing of Atro City occurred, a call to arms was sent out for the entire citizenry at Deanna who showed up en mass to kick alien butt! The call was also answered by the men of the Skeggs Valley Dynamite Fishing Club led by General Albert McIntyre-Smythe a 74-year old retire serviceman of the Imperial Officers' Reserve who had ordinance aplenty along with the courage and enthusiasm to use it. Cindy makes her way to Atro and with the assistance of security cameras, noticed that a Ruminarii fighter (who just so happens to be the Hammerhead's commander) was thrown clear of the fighting masses and escapes on foot.
Cindy hides behind her canceled CIO badge to approach Sheriff Peggy-Ann with the need to track down the escaped alien for information regarding the Ruminarii's objectives, plans, and other intel. The sheriff assures Cindy that a payment for a captured Ruminarii will no doubt be offered and gives her the name of Gary "The Badfeller" Beck, a successful local bounty hunter who would be instrumental in capturing the alien. While traveling to Deanna, Cindy befriended Fred the Aborean--a sentient walking-talking plant who pot sat in the Recreation deck of the TR424 Duval. She made such a favorable impression she left on him, Fred felt compelled to intervene from the controls of the TR424 Duval to aid the Terrans in their successful bid to fight the attacking Ruminarii. He manages to get Captain Johannsen's vessel to drop one of six tanks containing over 660,000-gallon in sherry to crash down upon the hull of the Ruminarii Hammerhead spacecraft named Black Sunrise that arrived alone to give the Terrans major grief.
The sherry tank's fiery destruction of the Black Sunrise scuttles the commander's plan to have his troops retreat within the craft and then for it to bomb Deanna from space. Fred leaves Captain Johannsen and the others aboard the TR424 Duval to search for Cindy, being filled with purpose and a zeal to start a brand new life following his successful assistance to the Terrans. The Captain is left realizes he isn't even as effective as a plant in a pot! The contrast between these two beings is a pivotal point in the narrative as readers witness Fred making his way across the space station to encounter people that for the most part allow him to be. Surely praise for his role in overthrowing the aliens will make it easier for him to carve out a wonderful life!
While Gary and Cindy pair up to find the alien, the alien is discovered by Jenny whose family has been targeted by a criminal miner determined to acquire their valuable land. Finding the alien overheated, injured, and dehydrated, Jenny leaves the alien with a water canteen and her 'good will' towards his right to continue to exist. He's puzzled not only by the Terrans ferocity during the resistance but the compassion he received from a woman who was fully aware of his status as an enemy. One good turn deserves another as the alien saves Jenny and her trans sister Danielle from being murdered by the miner and his gang members. Gary and Cindy decide to leave the alien alone, determining he was a good person who was obeying bad orders.
Now what I found especially effective was the writer's ability to bring the readers right up to the main event in a round-Robin way of each character having their part of the story told. At times the more distant yet relevant past is shared with the current information, allowing the readers to have a clear idea of where the players have been and the value of their current roles in the narrative. Even as the different stories are being relayed, the readers are left feeling fully let in on what's going on in the narrative. Never once did I feel the need to replay segments of the audiobook to know "who's on first base". The novel is compelling, thought-provoking, and exciting with awesome world-building, excellent character growth for most players in the narrative, and balance with pacing that keeps the reader turning the pages! Dang! This book is GREAT!!!
The narrator was a bit stilted at points in the book but she is one incredible performer and seemed to genuinely love the book she was reading. There were times when she chucked, snickered, giggled--and she seemed to improve as things went along. It's hard to say, I was having too much fun. There is NO greater honor a narrator can have for a writer than to enjoy their book in a way that shares the appreciation with the listeners. It is my sincerest hope that the writer's other work for this series finds its way to audio format and that this writer is able to continue narrating for it. I'd love to share another fun time with Darla Middlebrook.