Great Summer Reads Part 8

William C. Tracy is a North Carolina native and a lifelong fan of science fiction and fantasy. He has a master’s in mechanical engineering, and has both designed and operated heavy construction machinery. He has also trained in Wado-Ryu karate since 2003, and runs his own dojo. He is an avid video and board gamer, a reader, and of course, a writer.

In his spare time, he wrangles three cats. He and his wife enjoy putting their pets in cute little costumes and making them cosplay for the annual Christmas card.

You can visit him at

On a bright August day, the sun disappears.

Sam van Oen barely escapes freezing to death in his house, as his watch stops and fire ceases to burn. He is pulled into the Nether—a nexus between ten diverse alien cultures—where he meets two maji who can control the musical foundation of the universe. While coping with anxiety attacks prompted by his new surroundings, Sam must learn to hear and change the Symphony, and thus reality, in order to discover what happened to his home.

Sam is surrounded by aliens, both strange and familiar. Soon, he meets sister and brother twins, also new to the Nether, who support him during his anxiety attacks. Sam finds he is attracted to both of them, and does not want to choose.

But more freezing voids like the one that started his journey are appearing, and Sam’s chances of getting back are fading. The Assembly of Species is threatening to dissolve and the maji are being attacked by those they protect, while rumors grow of an ancient, shape-changing species of assassins, returning to wage war.

The Dissolution is coming.


 A description of the new world in which Sam finds himself:

The buildings around the plaza grew on each other, sprouting up like mushrooms after a heavy rain. So many buildings. They stretched on, built up and around. A glint of light caught his eye above the line of structures, reflecting from a giant curved surface. It pushed through the fluff in his mind, and Sam staggered at a moment of vertigo. He swallowed and grasped for his watch, feeling a little more himself.
“What is that glass thing?” Did I just point at a whole bunch of aliens? He glanced around, but no one besides the two maji were paying attention.
“You are meaning the column?” Majus Cyrysi followed the surface with one hook-nailed finger. Sam’s gaze went higher and higher, and he could feel unease scratching at his mind behind the cotton. “The columns are spaced more or less regularly, through the Nether. They connect the floor—” Majus Cyrysi pointed down, as if through the dirt beneath their feet, “—to the ceiling, far above.” His finger speared upward. The immense cylindrical surface protruded from the buildings lining the square, reaching upward until it was lost to sight. Reflections shimmered across it, and buildings crowded around like small animals bundled near a larger one for warmth.
“There’s a ceiling?” Sam asked. The column disappeared from view as they passed under an archway, moist, earthy scents pungent in the enclosed tunnel. Small ferns and moss dotted the sides of the streets, and Sam pulled his arm close before he brushed a wide, furry alien. His stomach turned over, and he swallowed bile, though he didn’t feel afraid.

“The Nether is enclosed,” Councilor Ayama said, from just behind. Sam blinked back at her, trying to understand. The fog in his mind was slowing everything. “The first maji found their way to this place long ago. The ten species came from different stars and galaxies, like you did. Normally, one must have detailed information of the endpoint of a portal, except for the Nether. This is the one place maji can reach without knowing where they are going beforehand.”

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