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CITY OF DECEIT (Hollow Moon #3) by Steph Bennion


Raja Surya, young heir to the throne of the moon of Yuanshi, cannot stay out of trouble for long. Zotz Wak, intrepid boy inventor otherwise known as The Flying Fox, decides Earth is the place to become a man. Together they must battle the dystopian darkness of 23rd-century London: a city of deceit, under the thumb of corporations, its people barricaded behind flood walls, bewitched by the hypnotic holoverse and worse.

The United Nations is deciding the fate of Surya's world. The Que Qiao Corporation is using the threat of alien monsters to call for war. Ravana O'Brien, the heroine of their previous adventures, is stricken with a mystery illness and her hollow moon home has problems of its own.

Surya never thought he would be in the captain's chair aboard the first ever interstellar battleship. Zotz never expected to find himself accused of being a spy and terrorist at the centre of political skulduggery in London. The far-flung worlds of the five systems would never be the same again. Taranis, the dark priest of destiny, has returned.

(First published 24 June 2016; approx. 128,000 words.)

Cover artwork by Victor Habbick.

Read an excerpt from Chapter One now!

"The world building is excellent, the characters intriguing and the action a mix of drama and an occasional scene of pure slapstick that had me chuckling away. [...] If you like space opera, then I recommend this series."

5 stars (Tahlia Newland of Awesome Indies, 2 January 2017) - See Tahlia's YouTube review!

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Book 1
Book 2
Book 3
Book 4
Book 5
Main Sequence
Intro Anthology

Follow Raja Surya and Zotz Wak on an adventure to Earth and beyond in CITY OF DECEIT!

"Space pirate, eh?" said Inari, cannon in hand. "Does it pay well?"

"I think you need a parrot and an eye-patch," said Surya. "And a wooden leg."

“A cannon!” exclaimed Zotz. “What did we do wrong?”

“Why don’t you ask them?”

“Hey!” called Zotz, looking up at the roof. “Why are you shooting at us?”

Ravana O'Brien finally gets a bit of romance!

"Perhaps destiny brought me here back to you," Endymion said solemnly. There was a twinkle in his eye that made her blush. "What does my name suggest to you?"

"I actually looked it up," she revealed, smiling shyly. "Endymion was a beautiful shepherd boy who was lusted after by a moon goddess."

"An Indian goddess?" he suggested. "In a hollow moon?"

Yet more mystery and not enough time!

"It can wait," Quirinus decided. "I'm sure it'll all make sense in the morning."

"Which morning is this?" remarked Wak. "Certainly none we've had so far."

And much, much more!

CHAPTER TITLES: Prologue: Something beginning with 'S' / A message to Earth / No more adventures / Return to the old world / On her Maharani's secret service / The prince and the paupers / Gonna take my problem to the United Nations / New blood / Mercury rising / Taken to the Tower / Fate weaves a tangled web / Return of the Flying Fox / Brothers of invention / Ships that pass in the night / Independence day.

* * *


plaqueREADERS FAMILIAR WITH LONDON may recognise many of the settings used in City Of Deceit. The River Thames is there is all its glory, though thankfully today it is not lapping at the viaduct at London Bridge station. Oxford Street is an incredibly frantic shopping area which could be improved no end by banning motor vehicles and adding a roof to keep the rain at bay. The hotel where Maharani Uma, Raja Surya and their entourage stay was inspired by a real building called The Adelphi in John Adam Street (just off the Strand), which has a wonderful art deco frontage and foyer. London City Airport also exists today; Johnson Medway Interstellar spaceport is partly my invention, but a new airport in the Thames Estuary was once a twinkle in a certain former Mayor of London’s eye.*

New Commonwealth House, home of the United Nations whilst in London, is pure invention: the novel places it where the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre currently stands, across from Westminster Abbey near Parliament Square. That the UN may choose to abandon New York and meet in London is not without precedent: in one of those marvellous coincidences that often crop up when creating stories, I learned later that Methodist Central Hall, the building next door to the QEII Centre, was in fact the venue for the first ever meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in 1946 (see right).

The Palace of Westminster, better known as the Houses of Parliament, should need no introduction. In City Of Deceit, the grand gothic building is no longer the home of the Commons and Lords but has become the Museum of Democracy; my reasoning was that the rising waters of the neighbouring Thames would inevitably lead to regular flood damage that would become too expensive to repair. It is also fair to say that a future European City State of London, along with the other regional governments of a decentralised United Kingdom (which may happen sooner rather than later), would have less need for a sprawling London-based UK Parliament. In another curious coincidence, as I was writing the final chapters, the BBC reported how the Palace of Westminster might need to temporarily close to accommodate long-overdue repairs. One suggestion for an alternative debating chamber was the QEII Centre, on the other side of Parliament Square...

[City Of Deceit, Ebook Extras.]

* Near-future predictions are more tricky. I did not foresee that this ex-Mayor would be Prime Minister by the time I started work on the paperback edition of City Of Deceit in 2019. Given his previous form, the shambolic end to his short term was, alas, inevitable.

* * *

Star system charts

"The Dhusarian Church's strength is that it goes beyond mankind. It can carry on building from one planet to the next, across the stars for ever and a day."
[City Of Deceit, Chapter Nine: Taken to the Tower.]

Tau Ceti Epsilon Eridani Barnard's Star Solar System

"Merciful heavens, what a city of deceit and imposture is this!" – George W.M. Reynolds, The Mysteries of London (1845).


SkylonSKYLON SPACEPLANES make brief appearances in both Paw-Prints Of The Gods (the archaeologists' shuttle Sir Bedivere) and City Of Deceit (the lunar shuttle Sir Pelleas). As pictured, Skylon may bear a resemblance to the Naboo starships of the Star Wars prequels, but this one is much closer to Earth.

This vehicle, together with its innovative dual-mode engines, is the brainchild of UK's Reaction Engines - and it's a project being taken very seriously by both the UK Government and the European Space Agency.

The 84-metre long, unpiloted vehicle is designed to do the job of a big rocket, yet operate like an aeroplane. Skylon will take off and land from a conventional runway and be able to reach low Earth orbit (300km) without the use of multiple-stage rockets.

The spaceplane will be capable of delivering payloads of up to 15 tonnes at a fraction of the cost of conventional expendable launch vehicles (Reaction Engines estimate 1/50th of the cost), drastically reducing the cost of getting into space.

At the heart of the project is the Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE), a British-designed rocket engine which could revolutionise the fields of propulsion and launcher technology. This unique engine uses an innovative heat exchanger to rapidly cool incoming air, thus enabling the SABRE to draw oxygen during low-atmospheric flight from the air itself, rather than having to use oxygen carried within the vehicle itself.

In air-breathing mode, Skylon would reach Mach 5.5 at an altitude of 25km before switching to full rocket mode, using oxygen from an internal tank, for the final leap to Mach 25 and into orbit. Being able to use atmospheric oxygen in the combustion process will considerably reduce the take-off weight of the spaceplane. Such vehicles will be lighter, reusable and able to make a single leap to orbit from a conventional runway launch.

Sabre engineSkylon is designed only to go a few hundred kilometres about the Earth, but by using a reusuable upper-stage booster would be able to deliver large broadcast satellites to higher orbits. The spaceplane will be able to lift 11 tonnes to the International Space Station and deliver a two-tonne probe into an interplanetary trajectory.

The project has already successfully passed a UK Space Agency technical assessment and the UK Government is to invest £60 million in the development of the SABRE. A further report, commissioned by the European Space Agency, looked at how a Skylon operator might meet the demands of the satellite launch market, as well as at how Skylon could operate from Europe's spaceport at Kourou, French Guiana. In all areas, the project scored positively.

Whether Skylon becomes a reality hinges upon the successful development of the SABRE, now in its final design phase. A prototype SABRE is expected soon, with engine flight tests following around 2020.

The impact of such a vehicle as Skyon cannot be under-estimated; accessing space will no longer need huge and expensive launch systems. Reaction Engines envisage that a reusable spaceplane such as Skylon could be made available to any company or nation in the same manner in which civil aircraft are sold today. Skylon won't quite get us to a galaxy far, far, away, but it will see space opened up in a way never seen before outside science-fiction...


RELRead more at the Reaction Engines Limited website.

UKSAUK Space Agency website.


Do you have the latest version? Ebooks are periodically revised to update endpapers following new releases and to correct any errors...

EBOOK: ISBN: 978-1311868404 (Smashwords); ASIN: B01HIC4E18 (Kindle). PAPERBACK: ISBN: 978-1712442234 (Amazon).


JUNE 2016 - First ebook edition (approx. 360 pages).

JANUARY 2018 - Ebook revised: Minor text corrections; endpapers updated.

NOVEMBER 2019 - Ebook revised: Text corrections; endpapers updated.

NOVEMBER 2019 - First trade paperback edition (127mm x 198mm, 456 pages); text is that of November 2019 ebook edition.

NOTE: If you obtained this ebook from Smashwords, you can download subsequent updates at no extra cost.

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