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Forbidden Summit
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ISBN-10: 1-77115-329-6
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Science Fiction/Fiction/Adventure
eBook Length: 322 Pages
Published: September 2016

From inside the flap

Danvedi Garwal is the highest peak in the Toribol system; a magnificent stratocone volcano rising high above the surface of the tiny Lochlon moon, Utha. The mountain remains unconquered after repeated attempts by climbers from dozens of worlds where alpine climbing is an interplanetary obsession. Now, Alois Anwar will finally get his chance to lead a group of the finest mountaineers alive to the top. But there is more to the challenge than reaching the summit. The Amanian ascent team faces political complications from a rival nemisis Trescan team advancing on the opposite side of the mountain, along with everything else the mountain throws at them including deadly parasites, period cyclones, ice worms, pagan myths, the hopelessness of failure and the greatest obstacle of all...themselves.

Reviews and Awards

Reviews

The strength of the book lies in its wonderful landscape and the struggle of the climbers to engage it... The book is highly recommended for the armchair adventurer. Rod Clarke, BookReview.com

The dialogue is crisp, the description, almost psychedelic, "Cinnamon hemp lined the riverbank with native blue poppies stretching out above the wall of ferns. The cool air sweeping over the soft water blew hot only after a short distance and then cooled again. The green river turned purple, then as black as oil, and then green again"... .suspense builds nicely and this is a surprisingly proficient book for a first work of fiction.

John Lehman, BookReview.com

"Another blast of wind funneled down the slope and ripped open the body sled that Skodad hauled up from the Spider's Nest where his comrade perished." With an opening line like this, I was hooked. I found Mr. Pocan's characters, technology, and settings to be well written and gripping. The dialogue is believable in the words of his characters. We have a number of very interesting characters. If I were to tell, the story would not be the same. The fact that Mr. Pocan has climbed extensively in the Western United States is a major reason that the climbing and all the technology that surrounds it is true to life. I found this a read that is fraught with danger, intrigue, and a cast of real characters. For anyone that wants a good book to read, this is it. I highly recommend this book.

Bob Medak, All Book Reviews

BY FAR ONE OF THE BETTER FIRST NOVELS I HAVE READ IN SEVERAL YEARS. SiFi is alive and well!

By D. Blankenship HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER(Amazon) on July 16, 2012

Pocan has come up with some extremely interesting and diverse characters for his first novel and some unique twists in the art of "world building." While we are talking all humanoid beings here...(no, wait! Are we sure about that?), their outlook on life, at times, is not all that human like...or is it? Are the emotions of fear, anger, jealousy, hatred, racism, love and loyalty the same as ours? Are they the same among each member of each climbing team? It is absolutely fascinating the way the author has handled these situations.

The action in this novel is quite intense. Not only do we have the political pressure; national pride to contend with but also the problems and demons each member of each team brings to the climb. The author has also given us an interesting array of flora and fauna and primitive to hostile natives on the little moon to deal with. Ah, and then there is the mountain! The mythologies of the local inhabitants tell strange tales. Are these myths real? Is this more than just a "mountain?"

The author, who is an experienced climber himself, has brought realism to the climb - he has the ability to make you actually "feel" the experience.

All in all we have a very exciting tale told in a very realistic manner and filled with believable and likable, and some not so likeable, characters. This was a good read.

Don Blankenship - The Ozarks



Forbidden Summit (Excerpt)


Chapter 1

Another blast of wind funneled down the slope and ripped open the body sled that Skodad hauled up from the Spider's Nest where his comrade perished. This time the gale blew the sled up in the air, tearing the anchor straps loose and throwing the corpse down the slope. The lifeless torso bounced down the ridge where it cart-wheeled into a small snow saddle, slammed into an ice horn, and came to a stop.

Skodad sucked in another hard-earned breath of air, the cold piercing his lungs. He raised his eye visor with one hand and peered straight up the mountain. Swirling clouds of vapor raced around in the fury of the screaming wind. He closed his fist, punched at the air, and spit hard on the ground.

"Bitch is gonna kill us all."

"Come on, don't give this thing a personality, it's a chunk of ice and rock. We die here, we make our own grave. We keep fighting, we march to the summit." Darius said, planting a green palm on his finest climber's right shoulder.

"No, there's something else here," Skodad said, brushing particles of ice from the bony mantle across his thick brow ridge, "She works to kill us, I can feel it." He wanted off the mountain. Reaching the summit of the highest unclimbed peak in the Toribol System was one thing. Enduring the torture of an agonizing death march without hope of success was quite another. He was sure now that nobody climbs to the summit of Danvedi Garwal--nobody ever had and nobody ever would. This close to the summit, the truth was as clear as a king's command.

"I'll go down, get the body," he was cold and tired and the ice worked it's numbing cold under his leathery hide, piercing through his thick armor of worn, scaled flesh. Still, Druitt tradition compelled him to carry all dead climbers to the summit, just as on any climb. Besides, he'd dropped the carcass. It was his fault. He'd have to go down and get the body.

"Sit tight, we got at least two climbers down in the saddle. Can't move in this wind anyway." Darius said, dropping a nictitating membrane across one black pupil, shielding it from the knife-blade particles of ice blowing in the winds. He planted his green tail in the ice and leaned back on it, hoping to anchor down and break some of the wind away from his battered physique.

A few klicks down the slope, an ice horn toppled free from a crack in its girth. It log rolled down the glissade trail left in the snow by the tumbling carcass. Hitting a small rise in the ice, it jumped end over end and began accelerated. The horn carved out deep grooves in the slope, slicing up the ridge with its cutting edge, crushing trees and vegetation in its path.

Near the saddle where the carcass lay, two Druitt climbers froze, not knowing whether to move or stand, trying to outguess the pathway of the ice bomb. The horn screamed down the ridge and flew into the saddle with the force of a tornado.

The collapsed horn rammed into the snow depression and exploded, churning up the two climbers and the carcass in a giant white cloud. Fallen debris stretched halfway up the mountain.

Several Druitt climbers rushed to help before the blast settled out, scooping out piles of snow where their comrades lay buried. Skodad raced down the ridge to help, knowing it was futile. Nothing alive could have survived the ice horn avalanche. Even an armored mobile cannon would have been crushed to pieces.

Skodad reached the saddle and helped dig. In a short while, he abandoned the rescue attempt and climbed back up the ridge. His huge barrel chest heaved up in spasm and he spat green fluid on the icy ridge. He reached the Captain, who lay spread out on the ridge top.

"Five dead already and we haven't reached the Staircase. She picks us off, one at a time, like brushing dust off her apron. She will kill us all." Skodad grabbed his right shoulder and winced. Another lightning bolt of pain shot into his lower back. He felt internal pain and a rattle in his lungs. Something was torn or ruptured, bringing up more green blood and fluid every few steps he took.

"Captain, let's get the hell out and turn back. No shame in it." Skodad released the safety line from his waist harness and tossed it into the snow. He'd had enough of this damn obsessive quest for the top of this cold, bleak chunk of rock that brought nothing but suffering and tragedy.

"And the Druitt pledge?"

"To hell with the pledge."

"You let the great mountain beat you just like that. Especially you. You take a thousand summits, how many first ascents and now you want to turn back. Here?"

"We're beat. She wins this time. You just don't know it yet," Skodad ran both digits on his right extremity down the safety line, checking for fabric tears.

"We have supplies. Plenty of food. We are still strong, twelve climbers. The weather will clear."

"You want to lose more climbers?"

"We lose climbers. It happens. You know that. You climbed on Tys, in the Crystals. What about Lagahari, and Dagroon, on Mont? What is wrong with you? Don't forget the pledge."

"I never climb for the pledge. Never have. I climb for me. There, you have it. There it is. Now let's get the hell out."

"We take the summit at any cost, remember? We take the dead up too and if we can't do that, we eat them. Then we carry their spirit to the top. One way or another, we all go."

"Captain, I'm not eating anybody," Skodad pulled his right glove off with his teeth and tossed it into the empty body cart. A wave of nausea swept through his diaphragm. His vision blurred and his legs began to quiver.

"We're beaten here Captain, got nuthin' left. None of us. Can't you see that."

"We quit now, our dead linger here forever. We go home in disgrace. Might as well be dead."

"You want to die, Captain?" Another stabbing pain jolted through his thorax. Hot steel on his belly wouldn't have hurt any more. He doubled over and choked. Bright green blood filled his mouth. He spit it out.

The mountain stretched out under them like a vast empty sea interrupted by only a single tiny raft of survivors paddling towards a virgin island summit. There, a paradise of conquest would be theirs. A conquest many others had failed, thousands of climbers from hundreds of worlds over eons of time.

Far below, the Gankri River traced a tiny blue pathway up through the Mephridel basin, meeting the headwall of the great Uthan volcano. The mountain dominated the landscape across the tiny moon, resembling the rule of a great monarch queen, as it stretched its fertile slopes into the Troutle village and the distant blue spires of Fanlahalay.

The Druitts had bloodied themselves along the way, losing comrades in the river ways and on the slopes, but managing a classic advance on the treacherous peak. Yet for all their technique, they had no hold on the mountain. Victory was illusive, even near the final base camp, with the summit close enough to spit at.

Above the ridge, green-black storm clouds parted enough to open a hole in the sky. Something big tried to poke through, something big and out of proportion. A skyscraper in the desert.

The Captain moved his eyes up the ridge, following the clearing.

"Look."

Skodad strained his blurred eyes to focus on the terraced blue platform of ice that crawled up the split vertical wall before disappearing again behind the edge of the storm vapors.

"The wall?"

"Got to be. The Grand Staircase, finally. Look at that."

Skodad's heart danced. He rose up straight. The pain went away.

"Still want to turn back, Skodad?"

"Summit's just beyond the top of the wall?"

"Maybe. Don't know for sure. Nobody's ever been up there, remember?"

The ridge raced over to a bergschrund, an impossible gap that split the ice wall from its trailing ridge. Beyond the gap, the Grand Staircase bolted straight up out of the mountain's girth, cutting sharp edges at perfect right angles, as if carved from a blueprint. Terraced sapphire platforms of solid glacial ice, eons old, climbed the wall, disappeared in the Uthan sky and trailed off to the summit horn.