Saucer - Savage Planet
Marooned for a thousand years on a savage planet, Adam Solo is trying to summon help from starships plying the void. With the help of Rip Cantrell and Charley Pine's saucer, he succeeds. Meanwhile Big Pharma wants the secret of his longevity. Who will get Solo first, Big Pharma or the aliens? After The Arrival, Earth will never again be the same.
The third and final volume of the Saucer trilogy by Stephen Coonts, SAUCER: SAVAGE PLANET, was published by St Martin's Press in April, 2014.
The SAUCER trilogy was never intended to be a trilogy, so careful readers who go through all three books one after another will notice a few incongruities. I will discuss several of those in a moment.
The first Saucer tale was written in 1999 and 2000. I was burning out on thrillers and wanted to try something different. I saw a newspaper article about a recently discovered sandstone ledge in the Sahara that contained eight or ten human footprints. Barefoot, of course. The interesting thing, to me, was the sandstone had been dated by microscopic study of the pollens it contained as 140,000 years old. I didn’t know that sandstone could be formed so quickly. I asked myself, what else might be in that sandstone ledge? Why, a flying saucer! Now that would be cool. What would happen if a saucer were dug out of the stone?
The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. Flying is who I am, what I love. What would it be like to fly a saucer? So I sat down and wrote the book.
It wasn’t published until 2002, when St. Martin’s Press, my publisher, sucked it up and decided to humor me. The book was published as a trade paperback—that’s one of the large paperbacks—and did modestly well. Some hard-core Sci-Fi fans wrote scathing reviews, and some of the thriller fans that had paid my bills since I got into the writing game were not thrilled. Well, it wasn’t really Sci-Fi and it wasn’t a thriller: It was a flying story. A cool one, I thought. I was proud of it.
To my amazement, when St Martins reprinted it as a mass-market paperback, it made the New York Times bestseller list. Saucer had found an audience. Even more amazing, the book was a smash hit in Great Britain. Some of the most wonderful, original stories ever written have come from British writers such as Robert Louis Stevenson, J. M. Barrie, J. R. R. Tolkien and J. K. Rowling. The Brits like funky stuff. In the U.K., Saucer sold ten percent more copies than any tale I had previously written. My British publisher was so delighted they relicensed and reprinted every tale I had written to that date. And they wanted a sequel.
So I wrote Saucer: The Conquest, which was published in 2004. I wanted to call this book, Saucer: The Man in the Moon, but my American publisher nixed that idea. A romance named The Man in the Moon was scheduled for publication, so they told me to come up with another title. I suggested Saucer: The Conquest of Earth, which they thought too long, so the title was shortened.
After it was published I began receiving letters and emails by the dozens every week from folks who loved the tales. I started thinking about a third, and final, Saucer tale. In this one, I decided, the aliens would have to come to Earth. But how could I do aliens in a fresh, interesting, original way that hadn’t been done before in dozens of movies and hundreds of Sci-Fi books? That problem stumped me, and the third Saucer novel kept getting put off. Next year, maybe. Finally I thought I had it figured out, so I began the tale. Yet I didn’t have it figured out. I had only the first chapter. I changed that chapter into a short story and it was published in an anthology, but I realized I couldn’t go on until I solved the climax problem. More years slipped past.
Finally, in 2012, I thought I had it. I hoped. I wrote the book that fall and winter and finished it in the spring of 2013. Turned it in to St Martin’s with my fingers crossed. Would the reading public remember the original tale? Would they recall the second one? Would they care about the third one? Only time will tell. Savage Planet will be published in April, 2014, twelve years after the first Saucer tale hit the bookstores.
Writing three books of a trilogy over a period of fourteen years led to some incongruities that careful readers will notice, so I would like to discuss several of them. All three novels contain a lot of political satire. Inevitably, flying saucers zipping around are going to attract attention at the top of the government; I had a lot of fun with that. In the first tale, I saw the president as something of a boob. Girlfriends rearing up all over, a president unable to make decisions without considering every political ramification, Bill Clinton was in my mind as I wrote the president. By the second tale, the presidential character had matured somewhat in my imagination. I began to see him as a grandfather type, sort of a Lyndon Johnson. That character solidified and I think I wrote him better in the third tale, Savage Planet.
In the second novel the crazy Frenchman on the moon, Pierre Artois, blows up the White House with an anti-gravity beam weapon. That created all kinds of problems when I got to work nine years later on the third tale. This adventure had to occur within months of the second tale or I would have had to bridge a huge gap in Charley and Rip’s story. The aliens had to arrive at the White House, I thought; anywhere else would be anticlimactic. I decided to ignore the destruction of the White House and pretend it never happened. Readers can debate to their heart’s content about whether that was the right or wrong decision. I also decided to write my way around the possible starship embedded in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, which I had tossed in at the end of the second novel without a great deal of thought. That idea, I finally concluded, was a dead end.
Another incongruity was editor-induced. Dr. Jim Bob Cantwell, the famous evangelist of the first Saucer tale, was written into the third. My editor at St. Martin’s, Charlie Spicer, now thought Cantwell was too close to Cantrell, the hero’s name, and would confuse readers. I didn’t argue. The famous evangelist became Dr. Jim Bob Spicer. What the heck—maybe there are two famous evangelists.
Originally I intended to name the third novel Saucer: The Man Who Lived a Thousand Years. Yet, it really wasn’t Adam Solo’s tale—it was Rip and Charley and Uncle Egg’s, and, in a larger sense, a tale of all of us, our dreams, aspirations and the way we approach life. So that title was discarded.
Readers will note that Solo’s tale could be a stand-alone novel. Maybe someday I’ll write it. Or maybe not. Time will tell.