This is the story of Gaetan du Cheyne, Class 10 Spatial Machinery Mechanic at the great spaceship refit station known as Stardock. Gaetan du Cheyne. No mother, no father, no children, no wife, no friends, no home, no nothing. Just a job. A empty man, a hollow man, paid well enough for his complex skills that, when he’s not consuming a steady diet of net porn, he gets to play the stock market. Until, one fine day, he finds himself in possession of a prototype FTL starship, and goes out among the worlds in search of… something. Anything. Maybe only the lost, empty dreams that were all he had as a child, dreams that deserted him as an adult. What he finds, in the end, if you can understand the man, if you can understand his lost dreams, may change you forever, if you’re lucky.

Acts of Conscience Cover Final Review
Science fiction and fantasy have antiheros aplenty. Think Thomas Covenant, Frankenstein’s monster, or Alex from A Clockwork Orange. Add Gaetan “Don’t Call Me Gae” du Cheyne, the protagonist of Acts of Conscience, to the list. Gaetan is an ordinary, self-involved, maybe-misogynistic orbital mechanic. He drinks, obsesses about women (as objects of his impotent lust), and irritates people. But oh, how realistic Gaetan is–a masterful characterization by William Barton. In fact, Gaetan’s thoughts are almost too human and scattered, and Barton relies on ellipses rather heavily … when writing what’s going on in Gaetan’s head.

When Gaetan’s forgotten investments turn him into the sole owner of a faster-than-light spaceship, he flees his pathetic life and heads to planet Green Heaven to seek out the adventure and excitement he’s craved. Instead, his journey reveals only the intergalactic depredations of men just like himself–brutal rapes, senseless killing, eradication of cultures and ecologies. He also discovers an ancient alien civilization contemplating the eradication of humanity. What’s an honest antihero to do?
Acts of Conscience received a special mention in the 1997 Philip K. Dick Awards.–Therese Littleton

With insight and intelligence, Barton (When Heaven Fell) describes a series of moral dilemmas with no easy solutions confronting Gaetan du Cheyne, his bored, troubled 26th-century protagonist. The fortuitous beneficiary of a stockmarket power play, du Cheyne becomes the proud owner of a faster-than-light prototype spaceship with which he plans to explore the starry skies. Wisely, however, Barton resists the urge to turn this into another celestial picaresque, creating instead a deeply disturbing tale of a young man whose past troubles stand in the way of his ability to know or do what is right. In fact, in spite of the spaceship device, Gaetan’s journey is a psychological, not a physical one. The ethical challenges he faces all occur on the ironically named world of Green Heaven, where he must decide what, if anything, to do about the systematic destruction of the planet’s intelligent species and his discovery of another species’ own plans for humanity. There is an intense and intensely pleasurable display of erudition, writerly tact and hard psychological realism as du Cheyne confronts difficult questions about exploitation and survival, evolutionary reality and moral righteousness. There are no obvious answers, but there is a fascinating work of science fiction that easily rises above the stock-in-trade.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc

William Barton was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1950, during the first year of the Korean War, and not long after Edgar Rice Burroughs left for Barsoom, and it was all downhill from there. He grew up in Marumsco Village, one of those wonderfully empty-looking suburbs concealing strange nooks and crannies the developers had failed to bulldoze under, places that became a host of imaginary worlds. Having more or less grown up, he tried college, flunked out, tried again, flunked out again, married a few times, at least one child, etc. Became a marine machinery mechanic (nuclear submarines were involved), quit that at the dawn of the modern computing era to become what’s called a software architect, and… well. Somewhere along the way, fell back into those imaginary worlds that were so much more satisfactory than real life. His first novel, Hunting On Kunderer, was published in 1973, followed by dozens more novels and short stories over the ensuing years, including Hugo Award finalist “Age of Aquarius.” If you like Acts of Conscience, he wishes you would read Crimson Darkness, the story he first dreamed of telling while lurking in the woods near Marumsco Village a half-century ago. Kaor.

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So there you have it, my friends. The Philip K Dick Award Storybundle includes Aestival Tide by Elizabeth Hand (PKD Finalist), Life by Gwyneth Jones (PKD Winner), The Cipher by Kathe Koja (PKD Finalist), Points of Departure by Pat Murphy (PKD Winner), Dark Seeker by K. W. Jeter (PKD Finalist), Summer of Love by Lisa Mason (PKD Finalist), Frontera by Lewis Shiner (PKD Finalist), Acts of Conscience by William Barton (PKD Special Citation), Maximum Ice by Kay Kenyon (PKD Finalist), Knight Moves by Walter Jon Williams (PKD Finalist), and Reclamation by Sarah Zettel (PKD Finalist).

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