Review – The Enigman Cave
The Enigman Cave has some of its roots in fan fiction.
So I had created a wholly original species called Witannen. They had flowers growing out of their scalps instead of hair, and the pure Witannen would sport little vestigial wings which couldn’t be used for much of anything. But the flowers, the chavecoi, would have a symbiotic relationship with a Witannen and could photosynthesize and prevent starvation.
The Enigmans, however, were something else. Also, I wanted them to be a lot more primitive. However it wasn’t until I decided to make them similar to Australopithecines that they sprang into sharp focus.
Marnie and her crew on the Valentina Tereshkova have one job – to find multi-cellular life. They have already found tons of primordial soup and unicellular life. The galaxy seems to abound with it. Hence the opening line: Life is common.
I think it’s one of the better opening lines I’ve ever written.
Back at home, there is a world government. But they seem to have forgotten the Val and the other wedge ships (another 20+ are also looking for life but have gone in other directions). And no wonder, as the government is collapsing. When the Val finds the Enigmans, the new despotic government sees an opportunity to play at being Cortez 2.0. Marnie feels her only hope of protecting the people of the Enigman Cave is to prove their intelligence. And how?
In the JAG Court.
The main character is Captain Marnie Shapiro, of the USS Valentina Tereshkova. Also, the other main characters include her first officer, Patricia LaRue, who she calls Trixie, which makes her sound like a dance hall girl. Trixie’s from London, Kentucky, with an accent right out of the holler.
The chief medical officer is Dr. Jazminder Parikh. At the start of the book, she and her girlfriend, Ginny Carey, have recently ended their relationship. Then there’s Marnie’s ex-husband, Ben Chase. Ben is the chief botanist aboard and he and his fiancée, nurse Kristen Watson, are about to be married. He also cheated on Marnie with Kristen.
So things are uncomfortable. But when Marnie meets the nighttime veterinarian, Lex Feldman, sparks fly. Nighttime vet, you ask? There are two vets, because the ship’s food stores are alive – goats, chickens, cod, and salmon. There’s even farming.
Day shift vet Tom Ciorciari is on the Bridge, because the Scientific Officer (I tried so hard to keep it from just copying Star Trek), Art Yarrow, is on paternity leave. Yes, it’s a ship with children, and even a mid-level officer in charge of them.
Plus the lawyers of the JAG Court are also important characters. The head of that unit is Hunter Garcia. The others are Terry Lynn Shull, Steve Roberts, Mike Medeiros, and Nick Minecci.
Also, lots of characters in The Enigman Cave are named after people I know.
The scenes take place either on board the Val or on the surface of Kepler 423-B, which they name Enigma.
Fun Fact About The Enigman Cave
I originally wanted to call this piece The Enigma Cave. And then I learned that title was already taken.
Memorable Quotes from The Enigman Cave
“Yes, Dr. Chase? The captain needs you here on the Bridge.”
And then in the background, there was Ben’s voice, whining and complaining, “I’m in the middle of an experiment.”
“Benjamin Chase!” Marnie yelled, her sudden increase in volume scaring everyone and breaking Tom out of his trance. “Get your ass over here. Now! Or I get somebody else to run Botany.”
“All right. But I blame you if this experiment goes to hell.” He cut the connection.
Tom looked back over his shoulder at Marnie. “What did we just find?”
“Wait for confirmation. Just, just wait for it. Astrid, send Ben the picture you took of the green stuff. Send it to his tablet.”
A few minutes later, Chase stomped in. “You know I’m not on the Bridge crew,” he began, glaring at his ex-wife. “And who the hell sent me a picture of a bunch of chlorophyll?”
“Chlorophyll?” asked Ray. The others just stared.
“Yes! Goddamned chlorophyll. I don’t have the time for these shenanigans,” Chase huffed.
“Ben,” Marnie looked him in the eye, “are you absolutely certain that stuff is chlorophyll?”
“I know chlorophyll when I see it. Every botanist does.”
“And the chemical formula, Tom, what do you have on your screen?”
More Quotes from The Enigman Cave (same scene)
“That, C-whatever, that stuff,” Marnie said. “Is that chlorophyll?”
“Yes.” Chase was even more peeved. “Everybody past Biochemistry 101 knows that.”
“They never found it off Earth though, eh?” Marnie asked, playing her trump card.
“Here,” Astrid punched up another picture. “This is the atmosphere of the world we’re orbiting.”
Ben leaned over and then looked through the scope at the Scientific station. “Well, I’ll be damned.” He, too, was slack-jawed. “We, we found it.”
“Are you sure?” asked Marnie.
“Yes,” Chase was threatening to become as shell-shocked as Marnie and Tom had been. “Algae can have chlorophyll. They’re technically unicellular. But they, they live communally. I, I would say they, they count as, as multi-cellular.”
“Remember where you were, remember what you were thinking and, and how you felt,” Marnie said to them. “Because this is goddamned history.”
So if I had to rate The Enigman Cave, I would put it at about T for Teen. Because there are three sex scenes (one alien). Plus there is one incidence of violence but it’s only on screen for a moment. The inciting incident is a pair of deaths but the story starts after that, so I don’t show them.
Also, at the time, it was the best book I had ever written. But now? I can’t say. I can still see some parts where it could stand to be trimmed. So now I strongly suspect it will need an overhaul before I can even think about querying it.
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