SPSFC 3 Quarterfinalist: The Widow's Tithe

Twenty five books enter. Six books leave.

The next quarterfinalist selected by Team ScienceFiction.news for the third Self-Published Science Fiction Competition is The Widow's Tithe by T.R. Peers.

In a future even more rotten with social media influencers than the present, Sasha Michaels has 100 million followers and is rocketing towards the top ranks of the entire OmniVerse. She has money, fame and telegenic good looks -- some of which she didn't even have to buy on the operating table. She also has a famous husband, Alex, who undertakes livestreamed special ops missions as a mercenary called a HotDropper. Though their marriage is secretly a sham, the publicity they've achieved is wedded bliss.

The perfect life Sasha has scripted for herself slams into a devastating plot twist during a HotDropper mission to free hostages at a helium mine on the Moon. Alex dies on a live feed in front of millions of viewers.

The next morning Sasha learns the dystopian corporation that invested a fortune in Alex's training has the contractual right to be paid back. Because he slipped the surly bonds of earth and his debts, repayment falls to her. This policy is called the Widow's Tithe.

The lawyers that came with good news never talked about "associates." Associates was a bad-lawyer, don't-blame-me-blame-the-system word. ...

"As you'll see from section 86, when a LifeWise employee dies without outstanding debt to the company in the excess of 20 million NSC, their spouse becomes indentured to the company as per the Revised Corporate Anti-Slavery Code of 2129. You will serve in the Tithed Infantry, under the command of LifeWise TacCom, until such time as the debt is cleared, you die, or you reach the age of 50. Should you reach the age of 50 with the debt still in excess of 20 million, you will be transferred to a rear echelon duty posting until retirement."

The world began to spin around Sasha, and she felt her gorge rising. "I ... what?"

Peers opens the novel with a healthy amount of sex, a dizzying fusillade of jargon and a sly sense of humor reminiscent of John Scalzi's Old Man's War. There are frenetic passages told in screenplay form that depict live broadcasts along with longer passages more traditionally told.

The judges of the team are as eager to see where The Widow's Tithe leads as we are concerned about the debt obligations accrued by matrimony.

Cover of T.R. Peers' science fiction novel The Widow's Tithe

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