Here are the reasons why you should order the entire book series today: get 1000 pages of awesome adventure! Ideal for a holiday break or a rainy day. Highly rated at Goodreads, Apple Books, and Amazon. A loveable hero and great friendships. Intelligent, compassionate stories. And…attractively priced!
This series consists of three independent books. In TWO JOURNEYS, Alan finds himself to be the only survivor of a global pandemic. During his travels from Japan to Berlin, he soon finds out that danger lurks around every corner. In FIELDS OF FIRE, Alan crosses the Atlantic Ocean and the continent of America to rescue his family and to find more clues about the cause of the pandemic. And finally, in the novel REBOUND, Alan and his friends strike back to save the future of humankind.
Thrilling stories, full of inquisitiveness, compassion, bravery, and comradery.
We met in the lobby of the Aswan hotel at three in the morning. Outside it was dark, and not much cooler than during the day. “Hurry up, hurry up,” shouted the hotel manager. I think he had gotten out of bed especially for us, and wanted to go back to sleep. My wife (at that time my girlfriend) and I, together with three French tourists, piled into a taxi. The taxi driver gave gas, and off we went: to the temple of Abu Simbel. This was a five-hour drive through an unwelcoming, hot desert; and that was the reason why we had to leave so early. We would arrive at Abu Simbel at around seven, visit the famous UNESCO-protected Egyptian temple for two hours, and arrive back at the hotel before the hottest time of the day.
And Aswan was hot. We visited Egypt in late winter/early spring and had both brought a flu along, which quickly developed into bronchitis. In Luxor, famous for its many temples, we had to organize a home visit by an MD, who gave us a large array of drugs to get us walking again. I experienced the temples of Karnak and Luxor through a fever- and codeine-induced haze. We had arrived in Aswan by train from Luxor a few days before and had spent the afternoons in the Old Cataract Hotel, drinking tea and eating sandwiches, convalescing, and escaping from the oppressive heat.
Nevertheless, now we were reasonably fit and ready for adventure. The taxi driver drove like a madman, overtaking other taxis and tourist buses along the way. We had a short stop halfway, just after the sun had come up, which afterwards hung like a burning metal plate above an endless and completely flat desert. I found some dung and saw a few flies, and was surprised that anything could live in this place. Another taxi hiccupped towards us, and over the next half hour several taxi drivers tried to repair its accelerator, but if I recall correctly, they didn’t manage to fix it. I don’t think those tourists ever arrived in Abu Simbel.
We did arrive at the temple, which is both an impressive architectural feat by the pharaoh as well as modern man, since the temple was moved five hundred meters so that it wouldn’t be covered by the waters rising in the gigantic Aswan reservoir. I can’t remember the temple well, except that its back is covered by an ugly dome of modern concrete, and the presence of a large airfield for the richer tourists. We were poor students at the time, traveling with backpacks and staying at three dollar hotels in obscure sidestreets, cheap because they usually were located close to neighborhood mosques. This was Ramadan time, so we didn’t need to set an alarm; the recorded singing of the muazzin and 500 Watt loudspeakers took care of that.
After visiting the temple, we arrived back at the taxi, the driver already impatiently pacing about. We waited and waited for the three other tourists. “Let’s sit in the front,” suggested my wife, “that will be bit cooler.” Finally, the three arrived and climbed into the back. The taxidriver cursed and cursed, but as they didn’t speak English, I don’t think they realized what was happening. He didn’t pay them much respect anyway, as the women wore skimpy dresses, showing a lot of leg and chest, which doesn’t resonate well in Muslim countries. Off we went, burning rubber! This time we had a few more stops as the heat began to take its toll on all of us. First, we paused for tea at a military post (at that time there was considerable tension with Sudan), where we had a chance to chat with the drivers.
A hundred miles north, we passed by an overturned taxi. It looked as if it had careened off the highway, hit the soft desert sand, and had gone topsy-turvy. There were many tracks and footsteps in the sand, but no humans. “Probably helicopter, bring to hospital,” shouted the driver over the hot wind, shaking his head. “Only for good driver. Desert danger!”
The three Frenchmen in the back had conked out from the heat; these taxis didn’t have any air conditioning, and we survived by the hot air that blew in through the the windows.
We arrived at a burnt-out ruin, and the driver let the taxi roll next to a few other parked cars. Tea time apparently. He got out, men hurried towards him. They spoke, and our driver started shouting and cursing. No tea this time, he immediately got back into the cab and we set off again. We continued to race north. “What happened?” I shouted at the driver, the wind blowing away my words.
“Whose father? How?” I thought I had misunderstood him.
“That taxi.” He pointed toward the back with his thumb.
“Is he in the hospital?” I shouted, afraid to press the point.
The taxi driver put his right thumb underneath his left ear and pretended to slit his throat. “Dead.”
“What’s he saying?” asked my wife. I repeated the conversation to her. “Jesus.” We didn’t know what to say, and stayed silent for a while, stealing occasional glances at the driver, who looked straight ahead, seemingly unperturbed, which made the entire affair even more unbelievable. As far as we could understand from the driver, the tourists had indeed been transported to Aswan by helicopter.
The issue is that a trip to and from Abu Simbel followed an extremely straight and tedious highway. There’s nothing to see but tarmac and flat sand. To make ends meet all taxi drivers held multiple jobs; they would drive a taxi in the morning, work in a garage during the day, and sell clothing in the Souk until ten in the evening. Due to exhaustion, accidents were bound to happen.
At the next military checkpoint, my wife and I swapped places. The soldiers already knew what had happened, and shook hands with our driver. He didn’t react much. Up to that point, the driver had occasionally already started to nod off, struggling to keep his eyes open. My wife began to ask him questions to keep him awake. I was struggling with sleep myself. The three tourists, deep asleep in the back, looked like pale meat overdone in a microwave.
Finally, the driver managed to pull open his eyes and sit up straight: Aswan came into sight. Taxis stood parked on the street, the drivers waving at our cab excitedly. News had spread fast. “I am sorry,” we said to the taxi driver, as we gave him a generous tip. He shrugged, and hurried across the street to his colleagues.
“What ‘ees ‘appening?” asked one of the French tourists.
“His father died in the accident in the desert. The overturned car we passed?”
“What? What ‘appended?” Obviously, they hadn’t seen or noticed anything. We didn’t hang around to explain, why spoil their vacation?
My wife and I returned to the Old Cataract Hotel for bitters tea, which no sugar in the world could cure.
The adventure novel TWO JOURNEYS tells the story of a man who is the sole survivor of a post-apocalyptic event.
How is it possible to survive as the last man on earth? In adventure literature, Robinson Crusoe is probably the most famous imaginary character in such a situation. But real-life people have been separated from humanity for extended periods of time – if not the remainder of their life. These include the likes of Thorgisl, Grettir Ásmundarson, Fernão Lopez, Juan de Cartagena and Pedro Sánchez Reina, Gonzalo de Vigo, Marguerite de La Rocque, Jan Pelgrom and Wouter Loos(the first westerners to set foot in Australia), Miskito Will, Alexander Selkirk, Philip Ashton, Pedro Serrano, Ada Blackjack, Jesus Vidana, Salvador Ordoñez, Lucio Rendo, Leendert Hasenbosch, Chunosuke Matsuyama and Charles Barnard – and there are many more names of people that were forced to live in isolation over extended time periods. Some lived isolated for a few months, others for years… What unites these involuntarily castaways is their tremendous drive to return to humanity.
Some also select to be alone for extended periods of time, such as Gerald Kingsland and Lucy Irvine or Tom Neale (the latter spent 16 lonely years in solitude on the Cook Islands – by his own choice).
Survival is possible, and depending on the character of the castaway, might even be seen as enjoyable … one of the reasons why I selected this theme for my novel Two Journeys: how does an individual thrown from modern society, deal with the prospect of being alone…perhaps for the rest of his or her life?
In my novels Two Journeys and Fields of Fire, this shocking situation is caused by a global epidemic. Humanity has gone a long time without a major pandemic. But recent outbreaks of viruses such as SARS, corona or influenza (e.g. H2N2 or the Asian Flu H3N2; or bird flu) have occurred again and again in the past years. Is humanity prepared? In my books, I show a different path than what some so-called “preppers” or the “prepper movement” appears to advocate. If catastrophe strikes, keeping to the higher ground morally shows that we are human.
Learn more about the adventure books by Clemens P. Suter here.
„Bonjour Max,“ said the man behind the bar. “Salut Pierre,” he answered. It had been raining since daybreak, and Max was happy to be inside and to enjoy a small, hot café. On his way in, he had picked up a newspaper from one of the tables. Pierre brought him his coffee and a croissant. Pierre’s wasn’t very busy this morning, only a few workmen and pensioners at the tables. The high school teacher was correcting exams at her usual place; although Max didn’t know her name, he knew that her husband would join her for lunch, he always did when she was here. He started reading a more detailed political analysis on page three.
“Been out for a walk?” asked Pierre, wiping the top of the bar with a dirty cloth. Max looked up from his newspaper. Time had progressed and the place was almost empty now.
“Yes, the usual. I walked over through the forêt. It was rainy and quite slippery.”
“Better be careful, some of those paths are steep, and the rain erodes them away. Seen any deer?” Max knew that Pierre was a keen hunter. “No, none. I hardly ever see any deer in the forest, or foxes or boars. Only birds. A lot of birds. I hardly ever meet people.”
“Not many hikers or people visit the forest. An additional reason to be prudent, especially if you are on your own. You never know what may happen; in that forest.” Pierre’s face had darkened, and he looked Max deep in the eyes.
Max hesitated. Ever since he had moved into the area and started his walks in the forest, something had been puzzling him. “Perhaps you can help me, as you are a hunter and probably know the forest better than most…”
Pierre looked at him quizzically. The last patron exited the bar, leaving it empty until lunchtime.
“I have noticed that someone is digging in the woods. I’ve come across dozens of pits, some deep, others only superficial. Then, a few weeks back, I came across this woman, skinny, long hair. She came towards me with a shovel over her shoulder, a shovel with a broad blade and a long handle, almost like a coal shovel. I greeted her in passing, but she didn’t greet back. I stared after her until she disappeared in a turn of the track.”
Pierre’s cloth went over the top of bar in slow circles. His face had a serious expression. “Ah. You met her then. Marie.”
“Who is she? Is Marie the person who digs these holes?”
Pierre glanced first at the window to the kitchen, behind which Pierre’s wife could be heard preparing lunch, then at the clock. Pierre put down his cloth. He moved closer to Max, rested his elbows on the top of the bar, and lowered his voice. “Let me tell you. This is a fascinating story.”
It was a Saturday, the day on which Marie always slept in. She got up around nine, took a shower, then dried her hair as she looked out of the kitchen window. A beautiful summer day lay ahead. She fed her two dogs, dressed, and soon the three of them left the house, followed the field and entered the forest.
Marie was secretary in the hôtel de ville and single. She had been born in the area. Her parents had died in an accident, leaving her an inheritance that had allowed her to buy her small house.
The track that she followed went up steeply beneath pine trees. There were many paths in the forest and she still hadn’t explored all of them. She wasn’t afraid to get lost; the two dogs always helped her find the shortest route home. Today, the ethereal smell of the trees pulled her deeper and deeper into the woods. The dogs moved about swiftly, sniffing traces left by wild animals.
Suddenly, the path ended at a clearing. Not really a clearing: weeds covered it hip-high. It had been a long time since anyone had been here; young trees had started to sprout up. She walked across the open circle, butterflies escaping her approach. On the other side, the ground rose steeply and in this natural wall was an opening that let down into the ground. A red boulder rested next to it. The opening was breast-high and allowed a single person to enter the tunnel beyond. She called back the dogs as they started to walk in, sniffing left and right. Who had created this tunnel? Its walls were made of sand, no special construction was visible. Should she enter to explore? No way! The roof might collapse onto her, or she might get stuck. Exploring a tunnel on your own, a single person, would be very foolhardy. No, she decided to turn back.
She turned around and started walking. However, soon she recalled that this path continued for about twenty minutes until the next intersection. Forty minutes lost in total… without seeing anything new. She looked at the sun and her watch, and after only the slightest hesitation she returned to the clearing and the entrance.
The dogs entered the tunnel unconcerned and without delay, and now Marie followed. The ground was flat and without obstructions. After a minute it became very dark, and she was forced to slow down. The dogs apparently were fearless, and by following their sound, she could still move relatively quickly, holding her hands in front and above her face, to make sure that she didn’t hit her head against any obstruction.
After a while, Marie stopped and looked back. She couldn’t see the entrance anymore, and doubt came over her. She felt the walls. Rock had replaced sand. This seemed to be a natural tunnel, perhaps a river in prehistoric times? What to do next, press on, or return?
What if this cave had bifurcations or even junctions? Unexpectedly, a sense of panic came over her; if this was an underground maze of connected caverns, she could get lost quickly. Even turning back might cause her to take a wrong route, a side tunnel that she had missed on her way in. The tunnel suddenly felt damp and claustrophobic, she could practically feel the weight of the heavy, impenetrable earth pressing down on its roof. She had to breathe deeply to regain composure. Slowly her heavy heartbeat quieted down again. She realized that the dogs could help her. She bent forward, and felt their cold wet noses pushing against her arm.
She removed a line from her waist and clipped it on a neckband. “Search, search,” she said. After some hesitation, the dog pulled on the line and started to hurry forward. For an instance she was alarmed, as the dog started to move deeper into the tunnel, but then she decided to trust its instincts, especially as the other dog was already ahead and barking.
After a few minutes, light appeared. The tunnel made a slight turn to the left and the light grew brighter. She could see the outside world. After a minute, the three of them reached the end of the tunnel and hurried out into daylight.
The sudden brightness overwhelmed her, and she had to shade her eyes with her hand. Drops of moisture and insects lighted up in the bright and yellowish light. The world looked different; strong mosaics of black shade and patches of color; yet tranquil and welcoming. The air was filled with honey sweet scents. She sat down on the ground, and for a while simply enjoined her surroundings. The songs of the birds and the buzz of the insects were surprisingly loud. Did she just imagine that the light and sounds were much more intensive this side of the tunnel? The petted the dogs, who lay close by, panting in the warm sunlight.
Again, she used her watch and the position of the sun to find the approximate direction of her house. She followed the path downhill, which after ten minutes hit upon a broader track. The dogs turned left, and she followed.
A big man with short black hair sat in the middle of the track, his legs spread wide and his back towards her. A hiker’s backpack and a bottle of water rested next to him. She stopped and inspected the figure; it wasn’t clear what he was doing. The man didn’t move. She looked back and to the left and right: only forest.
Picking up her courage, she moved forward. The man heard her coming, turned and looked at her over his shoulder. The pain that the movement caused was visible in his face. “Thank God, a human,” he grumbled.
“Can I help you?” she stood in front of him. He had untied his left boot, and she could see a red sock. His foot was swollen badly.
“I’m grateful that you are here. I slipped on the bank and sprained my ankle. I am reduced to a blasted limp! I don’t think it is broken but I need to get off this bloody mountain.”
They considered the options. Marie looked at her watch; the afternoon was progressing. After a while they agreed it would be best if he would lean on Marie, so that they could try reach a road in the valley. She helped him up, and he put his arm around her shoulder. He was heavy and strong, and for a moment she was worried. But he was friendly and kept on talking; about his love for hiking and the forest, his job, his family. He introduced himself as Yves.
They stumbled down the path. Sooner than Marie had expected, they came to a road. They waited for ten minutes for a car to come; they waived it down. The driver was an elderly man, who looked skeptical at first, but after their explanation he agreed to take Yves to the next village and a doctor. It didn’t cross Marie’s mind to join them, and she stared after the car that took Yves away.
As the sound of the engine dwindled, she again became aware of the loudness of the singing birds. She had no idea where she was, so she had to rely on her dogs to guide her home. The animals didn’t take the route through the tunnel.
Patrons came in, and Pierre excused himself to take the couples order. Pierre assembled glasses of water, plates with croissants and coffee cups on a tablet and served them. After ten minutes or so, he came over to the bar again.
“Curious story! What happened next?” asked Max, rather impatiently.
Marie returned home after dark. The day had been exhausting and she went to bed early. The next day, a great unrest came over her. She recalled the heaviness of Yves’ body, the scent of his aftershave, his black hair. She tried to shake off the feeling, but to her own surprise, she continued to feel a need to find out what had happened at the doctor, yes to meet him again. She found an excuse: she would inquire about him in the village and see whether he was ok. A civilized thing to do.
She packed the dogs into her car and drove around the mountain. She came to the road that the elderly man and Yves had taken. Soon afterwards, she arrived at a small medical practice, directly at the entrance of the first village. It was a Sunday, and the clinic was closed, but just as Marie parked her car, a woman came out of the building and started to lock the door from the outside. She was a nurse and had been there the whole of Saturday, but no one with an injured foot had turned up, no one with Yves description. The nurse mentioned a few medical practices and hospitals in the area where Yves could have gone for treatment – there weren’t many, only four.
Over the next days, Marie visited all four, but Yves hadn’t turned up in any of them. Marie was puzzled. She couldn’t imagine that the driver would have taken Yves to the next larger town, which after all was quite far away. Or had Yves asked the driver to take him home instead? Perhaps Yves had concluded that a strained ankle could be cured with an icepack and a few days on a sofa…
She realized there was little that she could do. Over the following weeks, she explored some other ideas, such as asking her colleagues at the city halls of the neighboring villages. She also discussed with a few friends. Nobody could help her. She also talked to the police, but the conversation was discouraging; the woman pointed out that Yves wasn’t her relative, he might have taken a bus to another town, or have been picked up by a friend of family member… She promised to make a note of it, but here really was no reason for the police to become involved, the woman stated.
Weeks turned into months and Marie forced herself to forget about Yves. She had to stop chasing this dream.
And she would have given up, but a few unexpected observations threw her back. Marie continued to spend most of her free time outdoors, and during her walks with the dogs, she continued to roam the forest. Unsurprisingly, she was still intrigued by the open enclosure with its red boulder and the entrance to the tunnel. But to her initial amusement, and later wonder and then frustration, she did manage to find the start of the route to the enclosure, but she remained unable to find tunnel itself. It turned into a frustration: she spent weeks trying to locate the tunnel, but she never succeeded to find its entrance, or for that matter the exit.
In addition, she also observed that the feeling of elation, which by now she associated with her passing through the tunnel, was beginning to fade. She didn’t read too much in both observations at first, but when, in addition, nobody could confirm to her that a tunnel existed in the forest, she felt anger growing within her.
One night the anger and frustration exploded, and she grabbed a shovel and started to dig for the tunnel.
Pierre fell silent. The door opened and some regulars entered. “Ca va?” called Pierre and raised his hand in greeting.
“What happened then?” asked Max.
Pierre’s face lost all expression. “Nothing. She is still digging.”
Pierre walked over to the newcomers and started to take care of their order.
After a while, Max ordered another coffee. He sipped it, deep in thought. Not much later, he left the bar, and, taking the shortest route through the forest, returned home.
Max got up early the next day. He packed a small backpack with some essentials; a bottle of water, a few sandwiches, a torch. He put on his hiking boots and selected a robust jacket. Entering the forest, he selected his route with determination. It was leisurely walking at first, but soon it became steep climbing. Max started sweating.
Not many people had traveled this route. Ignoring all crossing paths and bifurcations, Max progressed rapidly. He arrived at a clearing in the forest and walked across it. He set down his backpack on top of the red boulder and inspected his surroundings and the entrance of the tunnel. A raven flapped through the sky, landed on a branch of a large pine and shouted gleefully. It was cloudy and the air was frech. Max was pleased that he had brought a jacket.
He knew this place but had never entered the tunnel. He rummaged through his backpack and grabbed for the torch. Turning it on, he entered the dark hole.
The air was damp and cold. A slight breeze continued to touch his face and hands. With the help if the artificial he managed to progress rapidly. He couldn’t see any traces of anyone having passed through here; neither footsteps nor paws, but he realized that didn’t mean much.
The walls did indeed turn from sand into rock. He could see traces of water erosion in the stone. He hurried along and after fifteen minutes or so, he the exit became visible in the distance.
Shortly thereafter, Max exited the tunnel. The brightness of the sun hit him hard and instinctively he moved his hand above his squinting eyes. He had to wait a few seconds to allow them to adjust to the light.
The air was filled with sounds of insects, that buzzed by at determined speeds. A sparrow swept down and snapped a butterfly, right in front to Max’s face. The suddenness of the movement surprised him, and he took a shocked step back. The sky was blue and most of the clouds had been blown away. Max took off his coat, rolled it up and stored it, together with the torch, in his backpack. He wept the sweat off his face.
Max inspected his surroundings. The forest was quiet and looked slightly different this side of the tunnel. Fewer pines, but more sycamore and eucalyptus trees. It looked more friendly, something to do with the light… he couldn’t put his finger on it. He took a deep breath; the air was invigorating, fresh.
Max started down the path. After a while, he hit upon a broader track.
He came upon a man, sitting in the middle of the track, his legs spread wide and his back towards him. The man had short black hair. A backpack rested on the ground next to the man and he held a bottle of water in his hand.
Max stopped abruptly and stared at the figure. The man, obviously unaware of Max’ presence, didn’t move. Max looked back, and then left and right: the two of them were surrounded by vast, empty forest. The insects lighted up as they passed through beams of sunlight, some fast and hurried, others leisurely, each at its own pace.
Frowning, Max moved forward. The man heard him coming, turned and looked at him over his shoulder. He grimaced with pain. “Thank God, a human,” he grumbled.
Max stopped in front of him. He noticed that the man’s left boot was untied, and he could see a red sock.
“I’m grateful you are here,” said the man. “I slipped on the bank and sprained my ankle. I am reduced to a blasted limp! I don’t think it is broken… nevertheless I need to get off this bloody mountain.”
Max didn’t answer, thoughts racing through his head. He continued to stare at the man. “What’s up?” asked the man, staring up at Max. “Think you can help me?”
Max cleared his throat. “Well… yes, I think so.” He tried to shake off his confusion.
“Great!” said the man, enthusiastically. “By the way, my name is Yves.” He stuck out a big hand. Max stuck out his hand too, and they shook. “I’m Max.”
The man continued chatting. Max hesitated in his answers at first, but after a while the apparent honesty of the man somehow managed to reduce Max’s feeling of apprehension. Max looked at his watch; the day was progressing. After a while they agreed it would be best if Yves would lean on Max, so that they could try reach a road in the valley. Max helped him up, and Yves put his arm around Max’s shoulder. Yves wasn’t very heavy, so walking down the hill wasn’t too much of a challenge. Yves kept on talking; about his love for hiking and the forest, his job, his family. They came to a road, sooner than Max had expected.
They waited for a car to turn up. Yves sat down on the shoulder of the road. Max decided that whatever happened next, he would get in the car with the man and find out where he was going. Max felt that he needed to interview the man more, to better understand what was going on. But either the right questions didn’t enter his head, or Yves’ answers were blatantly simple.
A small truck came into view, and Max waved it down. The driver, and elderly man, was skeptical at first, but after some discussion willing to take Yves to the next town and a doctor. The driver waved at his truck and it contents; he apologized to Max that, with Yves in the passenger seat, there obviously was no room for him. Max nodded in understanding.
The doors slammed shut, and the driver started the engine.
Max stared after the truck as it disappeared. He shook his head. Then, he took a sandwich from his backpack and munched it slowly, trying to decide what to do next.
After some more time, he crossed the road and found a path that lead downhill. After half an hour he could see the first houses of a village.
He hit the high street, took a turn to the right. He entered the bar. The high school teacher was correcting exams at her usual table. Max looked at his watch and concluded that her husband had most likely already left.
„Bonjour Max, ca va?“ said Pierre from behind the bar. Max hesitated for a second, but then answered: “Salut Pierre.” On his way in, he had automatically picked up a newspaper from one of the tables. The place wasn’t very busy, only a few workmen and pensioners. After a while, Pierre brought him a coffee and a croissant.
“Been out for a walk?” asked Pierre, wiping the top of the bar with a dirty cloth. Max inspected Pierre’s face, not exactly sure what to say. “Well… yes, the usual. I walked over through the forêt. Beautiful weather… better than yesterday?” Max turned his last statement into a question.
A serious expression came over Pierre’s face. “Better be careful in the forest, some of the paths are steep and the rain erodes them away. Seen any deer?”
Max shook his head slowly. “No, none. Only birds. A lot of birds, and insects. No humans either.”
A cloud moved in front of the sun, and the interior of the bar turned dark. Somehow, Max felt that he could guess what Pierre would say next. He felt his skin starting to crawl.
Pierre continued to wipe the top of the bar, in exaggeratedly slow, circular movements. He stopped, moved his head towards Max and looked him deep in the eyes. His face darkened and he spoke slowly. “Not many enter the forest. An additional reason to be prudent, especially if you are on your own. In that forest, you never know what may happen.”
Interested in more? Click here for the short story THE TUNNEL.
Then one morning, as I stood on the roof looking at the horizon through my spyglass, I noted three independent pillars of white smoke, considerable distances away, twenty to thirty miles to the east, south, and north. They hadn’t been there the day before, and I wondered about their origin. I went in search of Imani and told some people to warn Apollo.
Half an hour later, he joined us on the roof. He stared at the smoke through his binoculars and went in search of a woman whom he knew. The two of them returned a full hour later. Imani and I had continued to look at the pillars of smoke, but they hadn’t changed much in character or size. Apollo introduced the woman as Aderyn, a former power plant inspector who had lived in the area before the pandemic. She was gray-haired, sturdy, and in her fifties. Her glasses dated back to the Fifties, too. She took Apollo’s binoculars and studied the three pillars of smoke.
Finally, she dropped the lenses and turned to us. “In the northeast, Pawnee Generating Station. In the north, Rawhide Energy Station, and in the south, the Ray D. Nixon Power Plant. All three are about 40, definitely less than 60 miles from here. I used to service all three of them before I was made redundant.” I wasn’t sure whether she meant that she had been fired or had been become jobless by the pandemic.
“Are you sure? The smoke seems to originate from a source nearer by… perhaps 20-30 miles?”
She raised her binoculars again. “No, these must be the power stations. It isn’t smoke, you see, it’s steam. And it’s the Denver air. Everything seems closer. My uncle used to say: on a clear day in Colorado, you can see the grim reaper walking towards you.”
Apollo looked at us. “What do you make of it?”
“Owosh,” said Imani, with grit.
“Exactly. Robots,” I said. “If I would be a hyper-intelligent robot, interested in embarking on some hyper-evolution, I would crave energy. A helluva lot of electricity. Break into a power plant, get it working, charge the drones… bob’s your uncle.”
“But where do they get the coal?”
Aderyn smiled. “I presume there is still a shitload of coal on-site. Wagons and wagons full of the stuff. That could last for a few weeks.”
I added, “From what we have seen, it shouldn’t be too much of a challenge for these creatures to crawl into a mine, drill for coal, and get it onto a train. And drive the train over here, too.”
“Hm. Any evidence for those statements?”
I looked at my notes. “I checked over the last hour and counted forty drones traveling toward the plant in the northeast, about twenty flying away from it. Of those twenty, four came directly towards us and landed somewhere south from here. If you look very closely, you can see drones flying towards the plants and away from them. You lose sight of them in the distance. I bet considerable robotic gymnastics are going on there.”
Adventure snack for the weekend: chapter 24 of my novel “REBOUND.” This is the third and final book of the TWO JOURNEYS TRILOGY. It is my major book release in 2022. Stay tuned for more news – get a copy in your favorite internet bookstore; pre-order today!
I woke up with a start, disoriented. The room didn’t look like the room in Denver, and Imani’s bed hadn’t been slept in… It took me a while to realize I was thousands of miles farther east and it was many weeks later. I sat on the edge of the bed for a while, feeling exhausted. Jaws licked my hand; I stroked his big head. Immediately, Bo and Lex came, they always did. None of the dogs allowed me to give favors to a single dog, the love had to be shared. I sunk to the floor and rubbed their heads. They would be on a boat for a long time, which would be stressful… for all four of us. Getting up, I stumbled into the bathroom, switched on the LED light and washed my face. I shaved and cut my hair with a blunt pair of scissors.
The mirror informed me unkindly that I looked like a worn-out Snake Plissken, with a bad haircut, a shabby face, and tendons and skin instead of Plissken’s muscle. And I didn’t feel as tough and confident as the Snake either, today I was more in Patrick Dewaere’s league, a moody French actor that I had greatly admired; until he committed suicide at the early age of 35. Befitting thoughts to start the day. I fed the dogs: dried elk meat that Francois had provided. They loved it. I packed my stuff in a large bag and tidied the room a little. Who knows who might be using it in the future?
I set off towards Francois’ place. Although it was still early, he wasn’t in. I made myself a large coffee and had some crackers and meat for breakfast. I went over my list of the final stuff I still needed to do. Then I went to the boat, which was waiting patiently. I tightened the ropes and checked the fuel, equipment, and anchor. I went to a store downtown that I had passed the day before and got some more maps. I also got an additional satnav; sure, the ship had a built-in navigation system, but it is better to have a spare. Finally, I had everything and was ready to go. The wind was stronger now, and the sky overcast. Francois was neither at his house nor at the boat. I decided to move the catamaran closer to Francois’ place; walking half a mile between the two was senseless.
And then I waited. Francois didn’t appear. Had something happened? Had Harry returned? I had no clue where he could be. Soon it was ten, then eleven. I grew more and more impatient, as I wanted to make a good distance before nightfall. I might be forced to return, should the ship malfunction. I walked up and down the pier, nervously. Then, finally, I saw Francois appear, from the direction where the ship had been anchored. He was carrying a duffel bag, so heavy it made him tilt to the side. His head was bent down; he looked miserable. I stared at his sad figure, as he came towards me, wondering what had happened.
Then he raised his head, and for an instant, I saw his face for the very first time with a serious expression. But when he discovered me and the boat, his face lighted up immediately.
“Alan! I thought you had left!”
“I couldn’t leave without saying goodbye, could I?”
He hurried forwards and handed me the bag. “Put that on board.”
It was tremendously heavy. ”More books to read? You packed those already for me, remember?”
“Not books! My clothing and essentials; I had to get new stuff from the store. You don’t want to share a cabin with a sailor that doesn’t change his underwear, do you? Now help me, we must stow away some more food. I packed the boxes early this morning. The water should be sufficient for two.”
“You rascal. Are you sure you want to come along?”
“I’m sure. Harry can stay with his bloody moose! I have left him a farewell note. To tell you the truth: I don’t think he will even notice that I am gone.”
It took us half an hour to store his stuff on the boat. Then Francois moved behind the wheel, stuck a captain’s cap on his white manes, and started the engine. “Are you ready, son?”
“Yessir, never been more ready than this.” My heart was beating and even the three dogs showed nervous anticipation. I loosened to ropes and pushed the boat from the shore. Francois made a cross and mumbled a prayer. Firmly he stood behind the wheel and then steered the boat out of the harbor, the engine happily put-putting. We entered The Narrows, and after a few minutes, we passed between Cahill Point and North Head. One last look at the lighthouse of Fort Amhurst, and our boat entered the Atlantic Ocean, its large, heavy waves moving us up and down. The ocean’s vast expanse in front of us: 2500 kilometers of wild water… and beyond that the great unknown of Europe. Francois lifted his cap from his head. “May we have fair winds and following seas.”
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Very grateful for the following feedback from one of the readers of REBOUND. The 2022 novel REBOUND by Clemens P. Suter is available in all internet stores, as ebook and paperback. This is really great and encouraging praise for the adventure novel REBOUND.
>>> Find buying information for all paperbacks and eBooks by Clemens P. Suter here or get a kindle or paperback copy at amazon.com.
I have to tell you that this book was one of my most enjoyable reads. I told my wife numerous times that I was really liking it. I like that some things are left open-ended. We never fully find out what the craft that Alan and Imani discover are or do, not everything needs to be explicitly spelled out. I laughed at the brief QAnon reference. Though the novel has a large cast of characters–largely as a result of Alan’s travels–there are only a few that play a large role, which keeps the narrative from becoming unwieldy. I have to praise you that you have a wonderful knack for knowing when to move Alan to a new setting just as circumstances are about to become stale. The relationship between Alan and Imani is so pure – I really enjoyed it. The image of “Imani hanging out of the window with a pump-action rifle, giving both barrels to a car full of down-and-outers” (p. 139) is a great one. The descriptions are excellent, the pacing is perfect, and the characters evolve in ways that feel natural.
A fun preview of the 2022 novel REBOUND, by Clemens P. Suter. Available in all internet stores as eBook and paperback. This chapter takes place in the Saint-Gotthard Massif, a large, ABC-proof tunnel system in the Swiss Alps.
Meanwhile, our convoy, consisting of hundreds of vehicles, continued to move forward. We drove south for some time, but then we veered east in the direction of Luzern and the Vierwaldstättersee, a large irregularly shaped lake, enclosed by high mountains. From there we moved south again. It started to rain; a heavy precipitation typical for mountainous regions, with low hanging grey clouds that looked as if they would stay forever. It was slow travel, and the convoy came to a stop regularly, which made every single man, woman, and child in the convoy dreadfully nervous. We knew that Urs was behind us and that he had outmaneuvered Antonioni and his clan. What was he up to? With every forced rest, we feared an attack of some kind, either in front of us or at the tail of the party.
When the convoy would start up again, we would soon pass by some car wrecks or other types of blockage that had been pulled from the road. Engineers in front of us used a heavy caterpillar to clear the road.
I continued to wonder where we were heading… northern Italy? Reto had indicated that our goal was a safe place…
Soon our convoy started to crawl up into the mountains. The massif around us grew in height, the rocks turning mean and irregular, and the road started to move up too. I had been on this exact road several times, either on my way to Milano in Northern Italy or to go hiking in the surrounding mountains.
“Where are we?” asked Francois. I explained. We were about to enter the Saint-Gotthard Massif, a mountain range in the south of the Swiss Alps, just north of Italy. This was the road that led to the Gotthard Pass, in ancient and modern times the main route from northern to southern Europe. The highest peak was the Pizzo Rotondo, which, like many other peaks in this mountainous region, exceeded 10,000 feet. The Alps are, from a geological viewpoint, relatively young, and thus the rocks and the peaks are rugged and irregular.
Not much later, our convoy left the highway and turned onto a small road that took us deeper into the mountains. Obviously, we weren’t taking the Gotthard tunnel to Italy and neither were we heading up the pass that would have taken us, in innumerable serpentines, over the mountains. Our goal was closer. The rain intensified and visibility dropped further. Imani was behind the wheel and had to slow down. We could barely see the red lights of the truck in front of us.
After about an hour, the sky brightened a little. The rain diminished to a few irregular drops. We came to an airfield. Many of the cars and trucks that had been in front of us now stood parked in long, orderly rows. People were getting out of the vehicles and had started walking towards a gate in the side of the mountain. We joined them, and soon entered a gaping tunnel, that led into the belly of the Massif.
Soon, the metal doors closed behind us with a loud clang and blocked out the light of the sun. We had entered a stronghold of epic proportions, a complex system of army bunkers dug deep into the Gotthard. Probably the safest place within a radius of a thousand miles.
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Very honored that REBOUND, the new adventure novel, has been accepted for participation in the 2022 Best Indie Book Award (BIBA), in the categories SciFi and Adventure.
The annual Best Indie Book Award® (or BIBA®) is an international literary awards contest recognizing self-published and independently published authors from all over the world. Entries are limited to independently (indie) published books, including those from small presses, e-book publishers, and self-published authors. We accept submissions from all over the world, but the books must be written in English.
Entries will be judged based on multiple writing skills, which include story-telling ability, author’s ability to engage the reader, transitions, pacing, movement of the story, hooks, and author’s skill with voice, character, dialogue, narrative, grammar, and punctuation. Winning a BIBA® is something an author can be proud of! The Best Indie Book Award® has been mentioned by many best-selling authors and on many author-related websites and blogs. Previous winners include USA Today and New York Times best-selling authors, movie producers, actors, and independent authors from around the globe.
If you have read REBOUND, don’t hesitate to leave your review at your favorite store. I have seen several reviews already, e.g. at Goodreads.
REBOUND is set in the post-pandemic world traveled by Alan the adventurer. Other books featuring Alan are TWO JOURNEYS and FIELDS OF FIRE. These books make for compelling SciFi and adventure reading. Get a copy today.
My first experience with the cross-border mail delivery capabilities of the Dutch postal system date back thirty years. I had just moved to Germany, and Dutch friends sent me a gift. The box arrived, but the contents had been removed through a gaping hole in the side. This observation of the damage had been written on the package by a German postal worker at a delivery center on the border. I filed a complaint, with no effect. This was my first encounter with the consistently malfunctioning Dutch postal system, a country that is generally perceived as modern and well-functioning on many other fronts.
Years went by, during which family, friends and I continued to attempt to exchange holiday and birthday gifts across the German / Dutch border. Occasionally my parents sent money hidden in Christmas cards. Although sending money by post within Germany or from Germany to any other country is tricky business (thieves seem to have “magical machines” to detect money hidden in envelopes), no envelope with money ever managed to arrive if sent from the Netherlands. Surprisingly, Christmas cards without money sent at the same time did arrive, although always late. In fact, any letter or package consistently arrived with surprising delays, but also damaged… or not at all.
Not surprisingly, expat friends and I became very weary of the Dutch postal service. Years went by, during which I refused to send any package to and from the Netherlands. In contrast, delivery within Germany or to other countries remained as reliable as ever.
Ultimately, complacency would overcome my concerns, so after a while I would again try to send an occasional birthday present to a Dutch acquaintance. I started to notice an additional worrying phenomenon. Whereas in Germany, the addressee of a package is also the owner of its contents, in the Netherlands it may happen that the initial recipient gains full ownership. So, if the mail delivery service leaves the package with a neighbor (e.g. because the addressee isn’t home), this neighbor may well store this package with disinterest under a pile of coats in the hallway. Then after many weeks, somebody (a child, or a pet) will open the package and eat the edible contents. This lackluster treatment of other people’s belongings, combined with a below par delivery service, has caused much frustration and disappointment over the years.
Since a few years, we rely on a mix of traditional postal services and DHL.NL. There is no distinguishable difference in quality.
Now, some of you will say that I exaggerate, or have no hard evidence. Aha! Since two years, my two sons have moved from Germany; one to Belgium, the other to the Netherlands. Six months ago, I received election-related documents for them, which I sent on the same day to son 1&2. My sons had to sign a document, and return it to Germany. Then, from Germany the voting document was sent to each son, after which both could vote and return the ballot sheet. A complex procedure, that could not be done by email.
Now, a letter to and from Belgium takes about four days for delivery, and this son was able to vote well in time. My son in the Netherlands had no such luck. After all, a letter to and from the Netherlands takes 7, 9 or even 12 days. He missed the deadline miserably and was unable to make use of his right to vote.
After this experience I swore that this was my very final interaction with the Dutch postal system. But my wife was still optimistic. In November, she packed two identical boxes with Christmas presents for both sons. My son in Belgium received the package after 7 days, around December 1st. Christmas came and went, and my son in the Netherlands was still waiting. The package could be traced up to the Dutch border, after which it entered the black hole of the Dutch postal systems.