“A gripping SF tale that explores themes of humanity and loyalty.”  - Kirkus Review

“…blindside story twists, bursts of clever banter, boundless imagination, and sly social critique make this darkly prophetic work of sci-fi a quick and memorable read.”  - Self-Publishing Review

 “…simultaneously eerie and inspirational—a fitting achievement for a book that unflinchingly explores the depths of human depravity.”  - Kirkus Review

Endless Fall of Night

Kirkus Review

In Erickson’s SF novel, a young woman who’s lost everything is forced into service investigating a Martian colony that’s seemingly vanished. In the futuristic Third Republic of 2126, the world is ordered by castes, including high-ranking “patricians” (who “live longer, disease-free, and bring order through racial purity”), subservient “plebians,” and lowly “surfers” and slaves. When patrician Cassandra “Cassie” IX is convicted of sharing black market books and ideas with the lower classes, she’s stripped of her social status, titles, and internal AI program (named Aletheia).

After 18 months in prison, Cassie is informed by Captain Willard Bennett and Lieutenants Richard and Rommel that she’s been conscripted to the Earth Navy light cruiser Jefferson Davis on a mission to Mars to investigate why all communication from the Martian colony of New Georgia has gone dark. Cassie has been chosen specifically because, alongside images of severed heads on spikes and other carnage, reconnaissance teams on Mars found a message made using rocks: “Bring Cassandra Kurtz.” As her group investigates the seemingly abandoned colony—and Cassie attempts to fend off a forced betrothal to Rommel, who stands to make great financial gains from the marriage whether Cassie actually survives the mission or not—they discover increasingly disturbing evidence of scientific experiments and clues about the decades-long disappearances of various slaves, plebeians, and surfers.

After Cassie is once again summoned (this time in blood) by the planet’s hidden inhabitants, the group finally comes across two: “Both were naked, with different straps and belts holding various things, but most conspicuous were their weapons, edge weapons at various lengths, and each shouldered an old-style semiautomatic rifle with clips expertly placed along their midline for fast deployment.” This interaction leads to Cassie making a choice about her future that will also affect the very foundations of society all the way back on Earth. Based on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899), Erickson’s space yarn doesn’t shy away from carrying on the themes and imagery of its source material. Instead of the Congo, however, Cassie lives in a world where “the sun—or rather, the center of the glow that could be the sun—was scattered in the smoke and other pollutants from global fires, industry, and just runaway greenhouse heating.”

This dystopia, in which racism and slavery prevail not just on Earth but throughout the galaxy, is packed with vivid details and rare instances of humor (usually in the form of Aletheia’s quips). Some material may be triggering to readers, including the use of a racial epithet and a scene in which an inmate urges Cassie to kill herself. While the majority of the characters are fully fleshed out, Cassie’s personal evolution clearly makes her a standout as her growing knowledge of the way the worlds (both Earth and Mars) work begins to shape her evolution from a woman who wants to do the right thing into a woman who defies an entire planet. Cassie’s explanation for the explorers’ downfall (“Madness killed them. Weakness killed them. The heavy weight of darkness killed them”) manages to be simultaneously eerie and inspirational—a fitting achievement for a book that unflinchingly explores the depths of human depravity.

A gripping SF tale that explores themes of humanity and loyalty.

Endless Fall of Night

Self-Publishing Review

The ultimate black sheep in a ruling class of oppressors is sent off-world to unravel a deadly mystery in Endless Fall of Night by J.M. Erickson.

In this racially divided vision of the future, pure-bred patricians hold the status, capital, rights, and power, while the poor plebs and slaves live with a boot on their neck. Contraband and ideas from the old world are strictly forbidden, replaced by brutal allegiance to species apartheid, and a twisted devotion to implanted Big Brother tech. Cassie, the rebellious ninth daughter of a first-class patrician family, is thrown in jail for insurrectionist behavior, but when her name appears in a cryptic SOS from Mars, she and her newly reconnected AI are forced to tag along.

Due to her elevated status, Cassie is the key to incredible wealth and influence, a fact her sinister captain and captor understand all too well. However, once they land on Mars, they discover that the planet's riddles, mutants, and underground secrets may threaten to shake the foundations of humanity forever. Carefully developed relationships between Cassie and Aletheia, as well as Lt. Thomas, round out the unpredictable and fast-moving plot, which veers from political intrigue and military procedure to sci-fi experiments gone right and screeds on progressive philosophy.

The authoritarian future that Erickson imagines should be enough to send a shudder through any reader, but many of the most chilling points of the premise have roots in contentious issues of the real world. The rewriting or complete elimination of critical history, growing nativist and ethno-nationalist movements, and the zombie-like return of eugenics and slavery-adjacent domination are real threats that the author plays out to their darkest ends. Like all great sci-fi and dystopian fiction, this work is a warning, albeit an entertaining one, forcing readers to consider hard questions.

The story isn't just a vehicle for social criticism, however, as Erickson also creates a compelling hero in Cassie - a revolutionary from within the belly of the beast, using the tools of the master to deconstruct the master's house, as it were. The expansion of Aletheia after being turned back on adds an almost supernatural element to the story, enhancing Cassie's perceptions and abilities by spreading out within her brain, hinting at the vast potential of this paradigm-changing technology. The imaginative advancement of AI as a sentient cognitive companion is also a unique twist on a technology that is appearing more and more frequently in speculative fiction, as well as daily life.

With story-crafting this detailed, creative, and impactful, the prose itself needs to match up in terms of quality, but the exposition can be overly blunt and dry, without colorful descriptions to place readers in the scene. Dialogue is also commonly used as a vehicle for plot movement, but the exchanges don't always feel authentic, nor consistent with established patterns of speech and formality.

That being said, blindside story twists, bursts of clever banter, boundless imagination, and sly social critique make this darkly prophetic work of sci-fi a quick and memorable read.