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Book Three
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ISBN-10: 1-55404-613-0
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy/SF
eBook Length: 385 Pages
Published: October 2008

From inside the flap

Picture Gisel Matah, the kick-butt security agent of Deadly Enterprise and The Wildcatís Victory, as a sixteen year old starship brat. Gisel is the youngest aboard the Iskander, at odds with her father, as irreverent and critical of everything as only a teenager can be, but full of wit and promise for the future. Four years earlier than the other adventures, the starship becomes stranded at the wrong planet, and a chain of events unfold that lead to the Iskanders bringing the wrath of several enemies down on themselves. How did this crew of super-smart engineers, doctors, and scientists manage to get into such trouble? Itís all in the circumstances.

Gisel is the lowliest member of the crew, only accompanying her father and older brother because engineering chief Dr Henrik Matah pulled strings to have her signed on as the personal trainer and gym manager. At arrival, she looks like becoming her fatherís charity case Ė but her courage, knowledge of Greek, and athletic skills push her front and centre into the task of establishing the newcomers in an often hostile society.

Follow her adventures during the first five months of the Iskandersí drive to use their modern knowledge to create a prosperous future on the 17th century alternate earth, Gaia. She crosses swords with knights; becomes the interpreter for arguments and negotiations; takes up residence in a castle; guides an assault party into a fortress; meets a king; and falls in love for the first time Ė twice. More than a coming of age story, Arrival takes Gisel through a crash course to adulthood that sets the direction of her life for the danger-filled career to come.

Reviews and Awards


Written by: Christopher Hoare

Science fiction / Fiction / Time travel

Rated: Very Good (****)

Review by: Lisa Haselton

Gisel Matah is sixteen. Sheís on a starship with her father, brother, and a small entourage of explorers no longer able to get back to their home world. Being female and the youngest on board are not complimentary attributes for this spitfire, but she has skills that no other crew member has and her importance becomes apparent to everyone.

Being on board the Iskander with supersmart engineers and scientists, Gisel is challenged to be a Ďtypical teenager.í She was brought on board as personal trainer because her father, the engineering chief, pulled strings and having high-level connections doesnít win her any friends. Sheís headstrong and persistent, and, of course, knows everything.

She finds a way to be a part of the first landing party to the planet passing below the starship, and although most of her adventure doesnít go smoothly, the crew discovers that she is the only person able to communicate with the natives they have run into.

Iskander technology is years ahead of the planet they must rely on for survival. The crew quickly learns that no matter how advanced you are, when you only have the basics to deal with, you have to adapt or perish. Creating alliances when you donít know if the people can be an asset to you or not is a tough political position to be in. Gisel finds herself front and center while the General of the Iskander works to create relationships with the people on the planet, and she enjoys it.

She may only be a teenager, but Gisel has an inner strength, the intelligence, and the youthful wit to survive in just about any situation she finds herself in. Sometimes survival turns out to be luck, but in a brand new world, as long as you can keep your wits about you, you have a great chance to succeed.

Arrival is fun to read. Itís interesting to see how Giselís start within the Iskander crew relates to the first two novels. Her energy is contagious and comes through the pages. The reader, at times, wants to reach out to protect the young girl from danger, but Gisel quickly figures out a solution so the reader can breathe a sigh of relief and continue reading.

Christopher Hoareís third novel, Arrival, brings the reader into the past. It fills in the details of the time before Deadly Enterprise, the first book in the series featuring Gisel Matah. The story continues in The Wildcatís Victory and now the reader can see how Gisel became a young military leader at such a young age.

I recommend reading Arrival to anyone who enjoys exploring old worlds through time travel, politics behind creating alliances, battles, strategy, survival, and a small dash of romance.† Arrival is a great story that gives the reader the scoop behind Giselís life.

Iíve enjoyed all three novels in this series and look forward to more novels from this writer. I think any of the three novels would be great on the big screen.

Arrival (Book 3) by Christopher Hoare Ė†Review by Ficbot:

Available in print at Amazon for $16.99

Available in e-formats at Fictionwise for $7.99 (club price $6.79)

This book's author was gracious enough to provide me with a review copy. I was (and remain) unfamiliar with his earlier work. I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing in this case! It appears to be a prequel of sorts for his earlier work featuring the same protagonist. This work precedes the others in the timeline, so if you loved the adult Gisel, you may find her teenage self irritating. Coming at this with a blank slate, as I did, I had no such issues and I took the characters as they were.

The story concerns Gisel Mattah, a teenager who gets herself recruited onto her father's space ship when it goes off on a mission. She feels out of place, at first---she is the youngest person on the ship, the least skilled, relies on other crew for school lessons and is trying to get along with her somewhat estranged father. But she soon makes a place for herself when the ship gets stranded on a pre-industrial Earth and she is drafted into the role of translator and diplomat.

I thought Hoare did an amazing job with things once they landed planet-side. He has clearly done his research on knights, castles and such, and weaves the necessary background in without being a pest about it or coming off like a guest lecturer in a dull history class. I liked that he accorded the 'medieval' characters reasonable amounts of status, intelligence and street smarts. They aren't stupid just because they don't have space ships!

I found the pre-landing stuff worked a little less well for me. There are FAR too many references to how young and hot Gisel is---if she is really that out of place on a ship like this, I doubt even a father's pull could have gotten her on it were this the real world. And I found the crew's behaviour toward the 'natives' simply appalling. Perhaps this is my own shortcoming of experience with this particular genre, but the only 'ship stories' I really know are the Star Trek ones, and I suppose their 'prime directive' got a little too ingrained in my head as the acceptable sci-fi standard. This crew's firm belief that they could just go down to this existing society, do whatever they wanted, and respond as they wished to any resistance from the natives rubbed me very wrong. It's nice they came around later, but by then I had made up my mind about some of these tertiary characters.

I'm not sure I would have chosen this book on my own simply because I really don't read widely in this genre generally. But I was glad to be introduced to this author's work, and I definitely think that if this is the sort of book you enjoy, you'll make a good choice with this one!

Iskander: Book Three Ė  Arrival by Christopher Hoare

Reviewed by Geoff  Nelder 

Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing (October 2008)

Paperback: 356 pages

ISBN-10: 1554046203

ISBN-13: 978-1554046201 

Gisel Matah is a feisty spaceship teen. Although as big a nuisance as she can be for the crew and her father, she is wise for her years with an aptitude for languages.  An ability that comes in handy when her ship jumps but instead of the intended planet they see a replica other-Earth. With depleted resources the crew have no choice but to land only to find mostly pre-industrial societies. How to sneak down without causing alarm, befriend communities that might be helpful and assist those friends with modern aids when essential is the meat in this Iskander installment. As the spirited main character, Gisel, has all the ingredients to keep a reader thirsting for more. She is the spaceshipís version of Joan of Arc, sword fighting, and using strategies to defeat knights and villains.  

This book is a page turner with fine elements of late-medieval economics, espionage and relationships with the added spice of futuristic technology discreetly applied. There are clever dialogue exchanges and neat setting descriptions such as: ďThe city of LeydenÖseemed to sleep in the Fall sunshine as if it had experienced a very busy summer.Ē 

I am sure the readers of the first two Iskander books will be very happy to follow with this adventure. Even new readers, teen to adult, will be entranced; Arrival works as a stand alone novel. 

Arrival (Excerpt)

Chapter One

Gisel pushed her way through the doorway as half the crew crowded onto the viewport balcony. The compartment could hold at least fifty while the Iskander was in orbit and everyone floated weightless. After thirty-six hours of official silence, the senior officers had decided to let everyone see the mystery for themselves.

About damned time.

Her father, Dr Henrik Matah, head of the Engineering Department, was beyond her reach at the front, strapping himself into one of the viewing seats overlooking the huge armored glass bubble. She squirmed between two senior engineers to grab one of the ceiling handrails beside her brother Robbie - where she had a view of the green and blue globe below. It helped to be nimble and sixteen sometimes.

When the crowd settled themselves into niches and stared silently down at the planet below, Colonel MíTov, in command of the Iskander, stood up from the chair beside her fatherís. He turned. "As you can see, the planet looks very like Earth . . .. Except for one big difference, Iíd say it was Earth."

"And what difference is that?" Hans Knecht, an engineer, asked.

MíTov turned an icy expression toward the questioner, his bullet head swiveling like a gun turret. "We can detect no signs of modernity; no cities, no space stations, no transportation corridors, and no signs of industrial agriculture. The radio spectrum is empty - "

A womanís voice. "What? How can that be?"

Gisel glanced down at this questioner - Dr Maria Hather, the head of their medical department, holding onto Nurse Biggsí arm as usual. Apparently, theyíd worked together for years before this journey.

Beside her at the ceiling rail, Robbie caught Giselís eye and nodded. He murmured, "Nothing - zilch. Just the lightning and the hiss of the Big Bang." He should know. Heíd been in on the crewís secret deliberations these past hours - it came from being in demand as a mathematician. First time heíd told her anything - older brothers . . .!

MíTov resumed speaking. "I have no explanation. Iím merely telling you what weíve found. There is no Baikonur Control, there are no satellites in orbit, no communication channels . . . in fact, the only thing we recognize down there is the geography. Except for some small coastline differences, it looks exactly like Earth."

Yvan Korchik, one of the engineering staff whoíd been acting as Giselís academic supervisor on the voyage, pushed forward. "Then what are we doing here, Colonel? We are supposed to be approaching the colony world N-3."

Voices in the crowd increased in volume. Outside in the corridors, those who hadnít been able to squeeze into the viewspace demanded to know what was happening. Gisel grinned - all these super experts - the specialists chosen to build up the fledgling colony on N-3 - were losing it. They were no better than the market wallahs in the old part of Mumbai. What a laugh.

MíTov raised a hand for silence, but had to shout. "Iíll use the speaker at high volume if I have to, but I assure you it will be more comfortable if you settle down and listen."

After loud protests at this, the assembly gradually quieted.

"Thank you," MíTov said. "We are studying the problem. As a commercial charter, there are no space scientists aboard, but among our earth resource scientists and infrastructure engineers we do have some keen minds. I have assembled them to consider the implications and what we must do, as well as figure out what went wrong with our worm-hole jump. I must assume a problem there caused us to arrive . . . here."

"We donít want to be here," Dirk Scopesí sonorous voice rang out of the throng. Gisel frowned, he was too damned officious as administrator. "We have work to do on N-3. Contracts to take care of. Your job is to get us there - we expect you to do it."

Another voice - a geophysicist - took up the complaints. "Yes. Letís leave . . . get out into deep space . . . and continue our journey to N-3."

"Iím afraid thatís out of the question." MíTov cast his glance about as if sighting on the speakers. "You may recall the fuel tankage of the Iskander is sufficient to get us to N-3, but that the return trip to Earth - when your work contracts are finished - is only possible with new fuel produced in a prefab plant Iskander carries in its hold. Right now, Iskander has insufficient fuel to go anywhere."

The crowd fell into a shocked silence. Gisel looked about at the faces. True, but nobody had considered the implications before. The fledgling ground installations they expected to find on N-3, set up by the first colonist wave, would have stored supplies for them until their infrastructure programs were up and working. If they werenít at N-3, they were in trouble.

A firm voice broke the silence, it was Giselís friend, Hannan Badry. "And that deuterium separator plant, and the fission reactor to make the conversion to tritium must get down to the surface and begin processing seawater right away. Itís our Oceanography Departmentís priority job."

MíTov looked toward her. "I agree, Dr Badry - when we are certain of a secure location. But that plant will still take ten years to fill Iskanderís tankage."

"Ten years!" By the buzz that went through the crowd, Dirk Scopesí echo of the words reflected everyoneís shock. Gisel looked at her brother for his comment, but he was merely frowning at something on his handheld computer screen.

"What do you have?"

He looked up. "Nothing, liíl sister. Just an idea I was checking. Father and MíTov want me to run some calculation checks on our trip records. Something might show us what went wrong on the wormhole jump."


"If we canít figure out what happened . . . weíre never going back."


Gisel took her tray from the dispenser and drifted over to Hannan Badryís table with it. "Can I join you?"

Hannan, looked up with a half smile. Her deep dark middle-eastern eyes and black hair mirrored Giselís own; only her heavier build and facial lines showed up the difference between a sixteen year old personal trainer and a mid twenties PhD. "I was expecting to meet your father here, but Iím sure we can put up with you."

Gisel hid the frown she felt. Hannan and her father were spending a lot of time together, but what did it matter to her? Her parents had divorced after his serial infidelities. Her mother now somewhere back on Earth, while she and her brother had elected to join their fatherís project. She lowered her tray until the metal tabs clamped against the magnetic table restraints, belting herself into the spare seat.

She shrugged. "If I can put up with him, you mean. Heís pissing me off about schooling again, but Iím damned if I want to be a math wiz like Robbie."

Hannan regarded her with an ironic twist to her lips. "He wants you to learn essential basics. Math will be needed whatever training you decide to go for."

Gisel raised one shoulder dismissively and squirted a spoonful of the thick green soup into her mouth. "Ugh! What the hell is catering calling it this time?"

Hannan offered a momentary grin. "I think theyíve quit trying to sweeten it with a name. Itís just the last of the protein and carbohydrate culture."

Gisel drew in another spoonful and choked it down. "And to think I left south India for this. We had mangos growing in our garden. The best chapattis in the city sold just down the road."

"Donít tell me. You people were bloody lucky - I was raised on UN famine rations in Gaza - and even at grad school in Cairo, we ate more soy protein than couscous. Maybe I wonít find this Earth so bad if we can get fresh veggies."

"Weíre going down, then?"

Hannan shrugged. "What choice do we have? Weíll either starve up here or eat stardust until the lights go out."

"That bad?"

"Iíve been helping with the krill cultures - theyíre getting stretched. Need a few months to build back up before we can harvest regularly again. The Iskander wasnít designed with any fat, everything was pared down to carry essential equipment for the trip."

A movement behind made Gisel follow Hannanís glance; her father glided like a raven toward them, carrying his own tray. He settled into the last seat and regarded them both. "What are you two talking about?í

Gisel shrugged and turned her attention to her meal. Hannan smiled and jerked a finger toward the floor. "That thing down there. What other topic of conversation is there?"

"And the lousy food," Gisel said, wrinkling her nose.

"When are we going down?" Hannan asked.

Father picked up his package of green soup and scowled at it. "Thereís to be a meeting tomorrow to discuss that. Everybodyís to be there."

Hannan raised an eyebrow. "MíTov wants everybody?"

"Yep. Seems Iskander has become a participatory democracy. Well, there are only a hundred and ten of us. That makes it easier to hear everyoneís input."

"Weíre in deep shit." Hannan leaned back in her seat, looking as relaxed as someone who had always lived amid crisis. "Babes in the wood, who will either starve or freeze to death, but at least we can smile and all pull together."

Father frowned at her as he ripped open the spout of his soup. "I think Iíd prefer you to sound more positive, Hannan. The child hasnít had your background - not that sheís been completely sheltered."

Gisel had heard Hannanís cool front before, so she only grinned. They ate in silence for several minutes.

He turned to Gisel. "What are you doing this afternoon?"


"Iím preparing some N-3 equipment for Earth level gravity. Thought you might be interested."

"MíTov is sending me some crewmen for calisthenics and resistance training." She pulled a face. "Theyíve never been for fitness training before, so itíll be a bloody disaster."

He smiled. "Donít be so sure. Heís told them they have to be able to work in Earth gravity. These will be the first guys down to take a look around."

"Christ. When? I canít get that flab off them overnight."

"Thatíll be decided at the meeting tomorrow. We have to figure out how long itíll take us to ready the ground mission. Meanwhile, weíll fly the Intruder down for a low altitude recon and sensor scan."

Hannan squished her empty soup bag onto her tray. "And we need to set up remote sensing equipment on the Iskander to decide where weíre going. Norris is preparing the oceanography component right now." Professor Richard Norris was her boss.

"That will require a few days of data collecting - even in this orbit." her father mused.

"Right. Weeks, if weíre going to do a thorough reconnaissance," Hannan said. "Weíll have to decide where to focus first - and then weíll need ground truthing."

Gisel knew the word from her year at tech school in London, when her mother had been a resident physician at Guyís. A trial separation before the divorce. Space imaging needed to be checked by actual examination on the ground.

Father nodded. "In that case, either you or Norris will have to be on our first ground trip to conduct that."

Gisel looked up quickly. "Hey, thatíll be neat. Can I come?"

He frowned at her. "No, you canít. I will likely be going down with the first party, but we hardly need a gymnast or a personal trainer."

"But youíll need the teams to be fit," Gisel said in a rush of words. "And Iím the fittest aboard."

"Sheís right, there, Henrik," Hannan said.

"Even so . . . sheís a child. Iím not going to make myself look a fool in front of MíTov. Heís trying to set this up like some kind of military operation."

"What military?"

"Good point. We donít have the muscle to go down and throw our weight around. He and a few others are reserve officers, and there are those among the crew whoíve had military experience, but weíre a civilian expedition and Iím damned sure I want to see it stay that way."

Gisel finished her green soup and stuffed the bread surrogate into a pocket for later. She unfastened her seat restraint. "Iíd better get to the gym and make ready for MíTovís army, then."

"Right," Hannan grinned. "Put them through it, sergeant major."

Father glanced quickly toward Hannan and then away before Gisel could catch his expression. "How long will you be in the gym?"

There was something in his voice, but she refused to consider the implications. "All afternoon, I guess. Why?"

"Nothing. Just wondered."

Gisel picked up her tray and gave a casual wave with her left hand. As she pushed herself away Hannan and her father were regarding one another steadily across the table.