By: TA Bruno
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Feathersong, LLC (Self Published)
“Something clawed at Levort’s heart as stood at the base of the bed. Memories of loneliness, sorrow, never-ending dread. It was all still resting here, in this room. Places remembered what people often forgot-or what people would strive to forget.”
TA Bruno, Down Below Beyond. On the Threshold of the Universe
Down Below Beyond is T.A. Bruno’s exceptional, standalone science fiction novel. Having read his Song of Kamaria Trilogy, one of my favorite science fiction series, I was excited to read this book. Once again, Mr. Bruno does not disappoint. He delivers exciting science fiction, filled with action and adventure. However, beyond that, there is also a story of finding oneself, love, friendship, betrayal, loss, and found family. I always enjoy how Mr. Bruno subtlety goes beyond the excitement of science fiction to bring home other messages that the reader can relate too. The story revolves around two lifelong friends, Levort Aatra and Bayfo Niall. They live in Lodespace, more specifically on the Fessenog Fleet at the center of this world. Levort is prospector on the long-abandoned planet of Tayoxe, and Bayfo is his enforcer/protector. Both Levort and Bayfo have dreams for their future. Levort wants to get a license that would allow him to leave and prospect elsewhere, and Bayfo wishes to rise through the enforcer ranks to a command position. The book opens with Levort prospecting and Bayfo making sure no one steals his claim. Levort finds a crashed spaceship and lays claim to it, knowing it will be valuable enough to get him off Fessenog. Upon returning, the ship has been destroyed, and with it, Levort’s dreams. He meets a female Tayoxen named Wolil, with advanced technology to open pocket portals to different worlds. Wolil, known as a Beyonder in Fessenog, opens Levort’s eyes to this new technology, to the Beyond where he can travel too and leave Lodespace, and the truth about Fessenog. It is ruled by a despot and it is very unlikely he would ever be able to leave. As he begins to hop through portals with this new technology, he finds allies and friends that want to travel with him to find a new life. Bayfo’s life takes a different turn as he believes Levort has been exposed to the Beyonder “cult” and begins hunting his friend. Down Below Beyond was brilliant science fiction. It had everything-space battles, advanced alien technology, portal travel, and so many different races and worlds. There are themes of friendship, family, betrayal, and inner discovery that are woven beautifully throughout the novel that grabs the reader and does not let go from the first to the last page. Suffice to say I absolutely love Down Below Beyond.
There are many aspects of science fiction that Mr. Bruno excels at. First, his world building. It is some of the best I have read. In this novel, he is not just creating one planet, he has numerous worlds he creates as the technology allows Levort to easily travel to different worlds. Each one is unique and has its own species. Tayoxe has the remnants of an advanced civilization, but it is a hostile environment with frequent acid rain storms. There worlds that are deserts, ones that are various types of forests, ones that are mostly water, and others that are desolate wastelands. With the portal technology, they can tell if the atmosphere is safe to breath for Levort and his friends. That is something that was so realistic. As an environmental scientist, I do look at ecosystem creation critically. While I know these worlds are not real, they still must make sense. To have every atmosphere safe for humans is simply not realistic. The species that exist there must fit into these worlds as well. This is something Mr. Bruno does is so skilled at. It was incredible in the Song of Kamaria, and just as amazing in Down Below Beyond. Levort and his friends hide on a planet they name Bloom, a place undetected and Bayfo cannot find.
“Bloom was a small planet with soft sloping hills and underground tunnels. Everything on the surface was blanketed in wildflowers, and the most prominent native life form was only a fist-sized insect that resembled a Tayoxe strider. This was a world untouched by civilization-unharmed by the Fessenog fleet. A lazy moon hung in the air, close enough to see its craggy exterior.”
TA Bruno, Down Below Beyond
The various races are also incredibly well-done. It was amazing to see each one come to life on the page. It was an interesting choice, and beautiful tie-in to Kamaria, that there are few humans in Lodespace. At the end of the book, Mr. Bruno gives a breakdown of where each race comes from, and when I looked, the humans all came from Kamaria. I thought that was such a touching tie-in to both books. One of my favorite characters was Floem, a race that could photosynthesize. She could eat and drink as well, but prefers her sunlight for food. She was my dream character. I always thought it would be great if humans could photosynthesize. I was never fond of cooking, and if my children were hungry, I could tell them to just go out in the sun and have dinner. Floem radiated such joy. The friends that Levort makes in his travels become family to him. There is Floem, Vobsii, Sevodan, Kurnult, and Piper. Piper and Levort are the only humans. How can I forget Skipper? Skipper is Floem’s potted plant that she talks to and goes everywhere with. She is exceptionally perceptive and wise. Piper is grieving her sister when Floem meets her and they have a drink and talk about passing on. It is quite profound how she approaches death.
“It’s not really instead of death, at least not how you think. In a way, it’s the same for you as it is for all of us…My people root down and phase into our tree form before we drop more seedlings like me…The version of me I recognize dies, but I still live on. Humans are similar. They die, but they live on as memories. Sure, it’s not as visible as a tree, but its warmer.”
TA Bruno, Down Below Beyond
Fessenog is ruled with an iron fist by Gulna Kii Fessenog. Bayfo Niall cuts a deal and has become a commander of his own ship. Throughout the book he hunts for Levort, thinking he will rescue him from this “cult” of the Beyonders, races that come from beyond Lodespace and offer them a chance to go beyond. In Fessenog, it is a cult that must be dealt with at any cost. His chase of Levort morphs into something darker as he becomes obsessed with finding him, where he is hiding, and brutally hunting down other “cult members.” He and many others have the portal technology and the race between Bayfo and Levort across worlds is edge-of-your seat excitement. It is through this chase that the bond deteriorates and all Bayfo wants is to not only find Levort, but Bloom, so he can wipe out all 0f them. Bayfo’s arc takes a rather dark turn. He desperately wanted a command position, he did what he needed to do to secure it, and now does what he must to remain in Gulna’s favor. Levort wants more than to be stuck on Fessenog, and he will do what he must ensure it. They are all fully fleshed out characters with complete arcs.
“Levort whispered, “Bayfo?”
Bayfo Niall cut into a run rushing towards Levort. Levort noticed the crackle of a stun bolt as it exploded against a nearby rock, and he knew that Bayfo was not here to rekindle their friendship. Levort felt a knot in his throat and tears come to his eyes. This validated what Floem had said before…
Friends don’t keep you small.”
TA Bruno, Down Below Beyond
The pacing and prose are excellent. The excitement of the action was also filled with the quiet moments of reflection for the characters. It is not a non-stop battle. There is character development along with the focus on the importance of the Beyonder technology, hiding from Bayfo, and building their life on Bloom. When there are battles, they are epic. The descriptions take you right into the action and you are there along with the characters. There are twists and turns that I never saw coming. Down Below Beyond was so exciting that I finished it in one sitting. Mr. Bruno’s ability to create exciting, heart racing science fiction action, interwoven with well-developed characters, imaginative world building, and deeper themes of friendship, loyalty, and found family is nothing short of astounding. I said it in my review of The Song of Kamaria that Mr. Bruno’s imagination knows no bounds. He used that same imagination to create Down Below Beyond.
The narrative is told in the third person of many of the characters. We get to see how each interacts with each other, and the developing friendships. It is also in this way we see the deterioration of Bayfo and Levort’s friendship. With multiple perspectives, we are privy to what each character is doing. For example, we can see how Floem meets Piper and brings her into their family. In a first-person perspective of a single character, perhaps Levort, we would not see the beautiful details of that interaction. More and more travelers arrive in Bloom and before Levort’s realizes it, something beautiful has happened. The third person narrative to tell this story was a perfect choice.
“Look around, Lev. Bloom is a paradise. You built it with Vobsii and Floem. This is a homestead the original human pioneers would be jealous of.” Piper waved her hand in grand gestures…
Levort looked around. Over the past quarter cycle, they had obtained more mouths to feed. Alien races both familiar and strange, dotted the floral landscape…There was a warmth to the air, a friendliness of gathered star travelers. The new residents of Bloom were officially a colony.”
TA Bruno, Down Below Beyond
Down Below Beyond, TA Bruno’s new standalone science fiction novel, was an exciting, action-packed story that kept me enthralled from the first to the last page. At its core, it is the story of Levort Aatra and Bayfo Niall, childhood friends who partner together for work. Levort is a prospector and Bayfo is the enforcer who accompanies him to protect what he finds. Working the desolate planet of Tayoxe for any valuable finds, both wish to rise above their stations. Levort wants to travel to other worlds, while Bayfo wants to rise in his rank and possibly command his own ship. Down Below Beyond has everything you want in science fiction-incredible space battles, advanced technology, alien worlds, portal travel, unique worlds, and unique races. Interwoven with the story is something that Mr. Bruno does so well. He incorporates themes of found family, love, friendship, betrayal, and loyalty. One of my favorite characters was Floem, from a race that can photosynthesize. I always thought it would be awesome if we could do the same. I am not overly fond of cooking, so anytime someone asks for dinner, I can just say go outside and sit and get something to eat. She was also wise, caring, and loyal to all who joined their found family. Everything about this book was so creative and amazingly well done. It was brilliant. I also love the inclusion of the maps, and the character and race pictures. I could not love Down Below Beyond more, and without a doubt, highly recommend it.
Levort Aatra is a prospector on the planet Tayoxe. While scavenging the wastes of the abandoned world, he discovers a mysterious starship and stakes his claim on it. Little does he know, he just put a big target on his back.
My thanks to Tom Bruno for a beautiful, signed copy of Down Below Beyond and the honor of being mentioned in the acknowledgments
To learn more about Down Below Beyond, check out TA Bruno’s website: https://tabruno.com/
Purchase Down Below Beyond on Amazon
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
T. A. Bruno grew up in a suburb south of Chicago and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the film industry. Since then, he has brought stories to life for over a decade as a previz artist. At home, he is the proud father of two boys and a husband to a wonderful wife. He wrote his first trilogy of novels in the early 2020’s, the Song of Kamaria. (In the Orbit of Sirens, On the Winds of Quasars, and At the Threshold of the Universe)