A primordial invasion fleet from the Lesser Magellanic Cloud lies sleeping on the sea bottom off San Tomas, California. Its pilot-avatar starts communicating with struggling young news reporter Zoë Calla via a Cold Thing that lives in a pool at the back of her brain. In this early VR novel, it is sometimes hard to tell which is real and which is metaphor; that is part of its strength. Historical Note: This is a special anniversary edition of a historically important novel. *This Shoal of Space* (originally *Heartbreaker*) was the world's first published (1996) digital or e-book original novel by any standard. See Historical Notes at www.arthousepress.com/tsosnotes/. Zoë Calla, 28, is bright, attractive, happy-go-lucky, and ambitious—but struggling with a ton of radioactive karma. She wants to be the next hot-shot news reporter in the small California coastal town of San Tomas. She has been married, widowed, gone steady, almost fallen in love again, and never made it back to the altar. It’s not even on her radar as she copes with life in the small city by the big sea, a shoal of vast and eternal space. Just how close the infinite void is becomes dangerously clear as everything starts going wrong--and a long-dead invasion fleet from deep space awakens to finish killing off life on Earth, making way for scary creatures with an alien agenda that asks no questions and takes no prisoners. Zoë tries her best to take things in stride. She's at the bottom of the ladder--typing obituaries at the town newspaper and hoping for a break. Her young son Max, 10, is in remission from bone cancer. Now the doctors have found a blip in his femur, and she’s worried sick. Her mother is a capital pain, her library books are overdue, and her love life is about as shiny as the Coal Sack Nebula (not a star in sight). One day, researching a deceased person’s bio in the morgue (newspaper library), she stumbles on a covered-up string of murders at the town zoo. Like the newspaper, the banks, and everything else in San Tomas, the zoo is owned by the macro-wealthy Burtongales, whose 19th century ancestor brought back a very strange, powerful set of artifacts from an African expedition. Now bodies are piling up, violently deceased, probably by a serial killer who mimics zoo animals--or an unearthly ghost from far away and long ago? This must be her big break, or what? When it rains, it pours. Sinister Detective Vic Lara starts circling around like a shark in the sea--and Zoë starts to realize that not only does he have a dark, overpowering romantic (dangerous) hold on her, but he knows the truth about her terrifying past, a life so horrible that she has blocked everything out. Will she continue to be drawn into the orbit of Det. Vic Lara, or will she instead gravitate toward the handsome, enigmatic zoo curator. Dr. Roger Chatfield is a widower with two children that Max befriended at school—stunning Elisa, 13, and boisterous Rudy, 9. She doesn’t trust Chatfield. He is part of the conspiratorial Burtongale family. What does he know about the six dead employees and visitors at the zoo, and who will be next? Can Zoë save the world? Will her mother forgive her? Will her soul mate be Roger or Vic? Will Dr. Boutros save Max? Will her ex-husband, the late, violent biker and murderer, Frank, stay dead? Can she get on with life? What happens next? Read the story of Zoë Calla to find out the answers. (Publisher's Note: same title/text available in an Empire of Time Series edition from Clocktower Books.)
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John Argo is the SFFH pseudonym of John T. Cullen, a San Diego based author and publisher who is recognized as an Internet publishing pioneer. This Shoal of Space, published in weekly serial chapters 1996-1996, was the world's first web-published digital download e-book. John Argo (JTC) holds multiple college degrees, is a U.S. Army veteran, was born overseas (Army brat), speaks multiple languages, and is a seasoned, long-time author of fiction and nonfiction. In fiction, his accomplishments range from literary poetry (Cymbalist Poems) and panoramic novels (The Spy's Daughter or Umnitsa, Autumn of the Republic or The Generals of October, etc) to gripping suspense (Vanished Flight 777, Doctor Night) to stunning SF (Nebula Express, Monopol City, Lantern Road, etc in the Empire of Time Series still being written). In the nonfiction arena, he has written some science fact (Our Next Ice Age: Tomorrow?), but his primary passion is well-researched, popular (but scholarly) History (A Walk in Ancient Rome, 2015). More at his personal website: johntcullen.com. Also see his publisher webplex at clocktowerbooks.com
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