In Luray, the far-future science fiction novel that opens the series Behind the Last Gate by Dennis Haupt, we’re introduced to the title character, Luray Ulyssa Cayenne, 31, risk evaluator for SafetyNet. Highly intelligent, skilled and disciplined in her thinking, Luray happens to be the best at her job. So when the United Earth Military (UEM) hires SafetyNet to evaluate the mining colony on planet EE-297, of course the company’s “miracle worker” is assigned to the case.

The investors in the mining operation are getting cold feet, and it has to do with a puzzling “invasion” of the planet’s space. Humanity has been expanding throughout the universe, and meeting alien races, through a series of existing gates, and EE-297 — a Venus-like planet —  is just outside of one of these gates. A civilization called the Aurigan Empire keeps sending unmanned ships through the gate at EE-297, and the UEM keeps destroying them. 

The Aurigans appear to be much less technologically advanced than humans, and their ships are lacking in firepower relative to the UEM. And yet, the Aurigan Empire is demanding the UEM’s surrender. Even more puzzling, no Aurigans have been seen in person. Because of how the gates work, their ships can’t be traced back to their origins (which also means that, thankfully, the Aurigans can’t find Earth, either).

Luray’s assignment is to evaluate the threat the Aurigans pose to the EE-297 mining colony. Seems straightforward enough, but it’s not. For one thing, she can’t tell if she’s supposed to convince the investors that the Aurigans are dangerous, or prove they are harmless. For another thing, there seems to be a conspiracy afoot.

A STATE OF UNCERTAINTY — AND MYSTERY

Before she leaves Earth, Luray allows her not-quite-legal AI implant, called Bin, to install a series of upgrades of its own choosing that end up radically changing his personality and abilities until he is completely illegal. With enhanced rational thinking capability, Bin is Luray’s work partner, but also a foil with whom she engages in philosophical discussion throughout the novel.

A military commander, Kailoon, who has fought the Aurigans and has experience with them, is assigned as Luray’s escort and teacher. But right from the start of the mission, she’s thrown into a constant state of unbalance and uncertainty. She doesn’t know whom she can trust among the colony’s generals introduced to her by Kailoon. She isn’t sure about the upgrades Bin has installed, and Bin is constantly wanting to be copied into every mainframe Luray comes into contact with. She has a different idea of what the Aurigans mean by their constant barrage of empty ships. 

She owes a report back to UEM on whether the aliens are friendly or hostile. It’s a web of double-speak and double-crossing that begins to tear the mining colony apart just as the Aurigans attack again. Luray learns more about the Aurigans than she ever could have imagined and her choices only get more and more difficult as the novel approaches a cliffhanger ending.

Throughout its pages, Luray brings up a series of questions and mysteries, and many remain unresolved and unsolved at the end. Says Haupt on his website, “This book series has been written with readers in mind that want to read something that takes them on a journey, that asks them to try to figure out the mysteries by themselves, that surprises them at every turn … It challenges the reader to think for himself, to participate in exploring the ideas it presents, and it doesn’t shy away from the hard ones.” By author design, Luray will leave you wanting more, and waiting anxiously for Kailoon, the planned second book of the series.


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About The Author:

“One day, fate came to us and said, “Take a look at this,” showing us a story. It was a good one. Exciting, interesting, it was teaching us new things. There were ideas in it I had never seen explored before. We kept reading it halfway through without ever stopping.

“Do you like it?” fate asked. “Yes,” we responded, “it is quite good. Why did you show us this?”

Then fate smiled, “Can you do it better, Author?”

We accepted the challenge.

— The Author