Discovery by Karina Fabian: A Journey Worth Taking

Discovery by Karina FabianWhile I’ve watched a fair amount of science fiction in movies and on TV, I’ve read very little. Despite the fact that I like science, detailed scientific descriptions in novels tend to make my eyes gloss over.

Even so, I’ve been wanting to read some of Karina Fabian’s work, and Discovery, published by Full Quiver Publishing, provided the perfect opportunity.

I’m not sorry I gave Discovery a shot, and I’m happy to report that my eyes didn’t gloss over once!

Jump ahead for an interview with the author, my review, and an excerpt!

Sisters Ann, Tommie and Rita are part of a classified mission to explore an alien ship that has crash landed on an asteroid three billion miles from earth. Humanity’s first contact with beings from beyond the solar system is bound to unlock the mystery of life in the universe, but the crew have their own secrets; hidden fears, desires, horrible sins – and a mission to kill. Researchers discover something unique about the third arm of the ship: something wonderful, something terrifying. Something holy. This discovery challenges Rita and Ann to confront their own pasts in order to secure the safety of the mission and the very souls of the crew.



One doesn’t often find nuns, a mission to kill, and an alien ship in the same paragraph. From where did the inspiration for Discovery come?

There’s a saying that to make a good book, you need to run your characters up a tree, put snapping dogs at the base, then throw rocks. The original story, written in a National Novel Writing Month 50K frenzy, was more about Sister Rita questioning her calling, including her transfer to the Order of Our Lady of the Rescue, the sisters who do search and rescue in outer space. But it wasn’t SF enough for me, not enough of the rocks I like to throw. The alien spaceship, which originally was basically an excuse for the long voyage, needed a bigger role, so I installed an alien device that could let you see into your soul. That certainly messed with the minds of a few of the crewmen, but not enough to affect the main characters, who, as religious sisters, were in pretty good shape, spiritually. So I gave one of them a big secret – this person was on the ship to kill another person on the mission. And that’s where I decided it was interesting enough to make a good book.

For someone like me, whose familiarity with science fiction is fairly shallow, what books would you say are recommended reading?

What area of science fiction? It’s like a buffet of the imagination. Here are a few that come to mind.

  • On General Principles: A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle. This started me on my own stories, it fired my imagination so.
  • Dystopia: Canticle for Liebowitz. I remember this one as being a little slow for me, but also deep. It’s also one of the first modern dystopian novels.
  • Robotics: I, Robot, Isaac Asimov. Great stories that also bring up issues we will be facing soon enough, such as the nature of sentience and whether we can legislate morality.
  • Military SF: Honor Harrington, David Weber. Very complex political and military structure, great space battles, epic span focusing on the career of Honor Harrington.
  • Historical/Alternate Universe Fiction: Harry Turtledove’s The Guns of the South or The Misplaced Legion. Turtledove is a historian as well as a skilled writer, and it shows.
  • Time Travel: 1632 by Eric Flint. An entire West Virginia town gets mysteriously transplanted into the Bavarian forest in the middle of the Hundred Year’s War. It’s great fun!
  • Humans vs. Aliens: Starship Troopers, Robert Heinlein. Book is better than the movie.
  • Cyberpunk: Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson. Man in the computer.
  • Humor: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams. So much fun!
  • Medical SF: Andromeda Strain, Michael Crichton. I also liked Acceptable Risk by Robin Cook.
  • Space Opera: (wide scope, far, flung, singing optional): Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card; Foundation, Isaac Asimov; Dune, Frank Herbert.

Is there anything about writing science fiction that you find uniquely appealing as a Catholic? In other words, is there something about the genre that lends itself to the exploration of religious themes?

I should probably have some deep answer here, but the fact is, I’m a Catholic and a geek. It’s fun when those interests intersect, but I don’t need them to, and unless I’m writing an essay, I don’t seek out a connection. Having said that, any genre can explore religious themes. Science fiction just reflects how faith can adapt and grow – or not. It’s not a big focus in the genre, though, because there’s so much else to explore (witness the book list above.) However, it’s an important part of worldbuilding, so it does frustrate me when it’s ignored or when the writer just sort of assumes we’ve somehow “outgrown our superstitions.” If the story is good, though, I don’t notice much. Science fiction can explore themes and morals many other genres can’t, because it can separate us from ourselves by moving in time or space or by putting the conflict in the hands of aliens. However, the key for any good work of fiction, even science fiction, is not how hard-hitting the theme is, but how engrossing the story is.

It’s curious to me that while people readily accept the possibility of life on other planets and fantastical theories about our origins and history, they just as readily dismiss the possibility of a God who became man and lived on Earth. How can fiction bridge the gap by melding those possibilities, using lies (fiction) to convey what’s true?

It’s easy to believe in life on other planets because it doesn’t have to affect how we live now, and if we ever encounter aliens, then we are confronted with irrefutable facts. You can believe in aliens, and you may take some ribbing if you bring it up to the wrong person. Otherwise, most people will shrug and agree it’s a possibility because there’s no real impact. But you can also choose to believe and not tell anyone aside from those you trust. Again, there’s no impact either way.

Believing in God – really believing – means we must live as we believe. We can’t hide it. We can’t deny it and expect there to be no consequences. Even if we aren’t declaring it from the mountaintop or defending it to others, we are still obligated to act according to our beliefs. That’s a big deal. That’s work. That’s facing down opposition, having to defend why you believe, being questioned every time you do something that is (or seems to someone else) counter to believing.

Comparing belief in aliens to belief in God is like comparing Jolly Ranchers to fruit.

Can science fiction meld those possibilities? I don’t think so. Believing in aliens is not the same as believing in God. What it can do is portray Christians as intelligent, useful, sane – i.e. normal – characters, show how their faith gives them strength to overcome the challenges in the story, and show that they are just as interesting as any other character. To do that, the issues of faith need to come up naturally, not get plugged in to make a point. That’s just counterproductive.

In my fantasy and science fiction, I only mention religion or beliefs of any kind when it would come up in the natural course of events. Discovery is my most Catholic of novels, in fact I call it the Catholic Pride novel, but that’s because with religious sisters as the main characters, I can’t escape it. I’ve already had one reviewer who simply skipped the religious parts but still enjoyed the book. (I’m fine with that, btw. I often skip parts in a novel that don’t interest me.) Other books, like my Mind Over series, have some brief mentions because the side character, a Catholic, had some big moral struggles in the past. Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator, has only mentioned a religion in regards to how they treat zombies.

My Review


DiscoveryDiscovery by Karina Fabian

If your mental picture of religious sisters is dour, old women with wimple habits and ankle-length skirts, then scrub that image before opening Discovery. The sisters in the Order of Our Lady of the Rescue are post-modern, brave pioneers with habits suited to work in zero gravity.

The challenges to their present mission on the alien craft Discovery are best summed up by Sister Rita’s exclamation of “Codists and Wiccans and evangelists, oh, my.” Sister Rita, along with stalwart pilot Sister Thomas and “spacey” but brilliant Sister Ann, have all sorts of conflicting interests to contend with: the brainy researchers, the working-class rockjacks, and, oh yeah, that alien ship.

Interwoven amongst the crew’s scientific discoveries are their personal discoveries, brought to light within the desolate alien craft. Karina Fabian does a good job of managing what could be an unwieldy cast of characters, two romances, devious intrigue, and a guilty conscience.

In the end, the most profound discovery isn’t an alien life form, but a relationship with God, whose love knows no boundaries, whose mercy overflows, and who calls us each for a unique purpose.

Just enough bread crumbs are dropped to keep the reader intrigued by the various interpersonal relationships and cryptic messages of Sister Ann, mounting to page-turning suspense in the final chapters.

Discovery is a journey worth taking.



For all her nightmares of earlier, the next shift on Discovery seemed to be going according to routine. Rita applied the cut-away compound in a smooth circle on the door of their next room. She had the toe of one boot anchored in the suction handle outside it; another handle was attached to the center. Over the headset, she heard the chatter of the teams as they went about their own assignments. Ian and Reg were in the engineering arm, hoping to find the engines themselves but so far reporting control room after control room. Chris and Sean had just finished exploring a supply room and were working on their second door. Thoren had cut a deal to get on the exploration team and was working with Merl in the control room to try to match some of the symbols and perhaps get some idea of what the instruments were for. In Engineering, Gordon and his teammate were doing the same. She and James had decided to start along the second level of the central sphere. So far, they’d found what looked like a meeting room and a broom closet.

We got the exciting section, Rita thought.

James watched her from where he floated, anchored by one of the many handholds in the hall. “You’re really good at that,” he said over their private line.

“Lots of practice. It helps that I’m not worrying about the injured people on the other side.”

A small snort, then silence. She imagined him shaking his head, but couldn’t turn to look. “What?”

“You. In space. Saving lives, working with explosives.”

“It’s not an explosive, really. More like an acidic compound. See? There are two stripes separated by a chemical barrier. I actually ‘ignite’ it by dissolving the barrier.”

“Do you hear yourself?”

Is that disbelief or admiration? Actually, I don’t want to know. “James, thanks for agreeing to make the pods off-limits for now.”

“It’s not a problem. Like I said, a find like this will take decades — lifetimes! — of study with teams of experts. We’re here to survey.”

“Ah, yes. To seek and record the broom closets.” The circle complete, she put the application gun away and pulled out a second tube with a needle. She programmed the activator voltage into its controls, then pressed the needle into the compound. She reported the action to Ann on the ET.

“You can learn a lot from a broom closet. Seriously, I’m having the time of my life. Do you know what kind of archaeology I usually work? Sift through buckets of dirt looking for evidence of anything that might stop some building from being constructed. The only time I’ve gotten to explore an intact site — well, relatively intact — was when Cole took me to Egypt as his pet archaeologist. And, I suppose, when he had me searching a sunken ship for evidence of his great-grandparents.”

The current raced along the barrier, creating a spitting, smoking trail as the two chemicals interacted. Slowly, the compound ate into the door, leaving a darkened circle.

James continued. “Never mind that this is an alien race. Do you have any idea how thrilling just finding an intact site is? We’re seeing it, just as they left it who knows how long ago? Broom closets or not, I’m excited to see what’s behind each door, and to see it first, with my own eyes.”

“Well, here’s your next chance. Edwina Taggert, this is Rita. We’re about to open our door.”

“Copy, Rita. Be very careful. It’s not a closet this time.”

Rita didn’t bother to ask how Ann knew that; she’d just say “hunch,” anyway in deference to Thoren listening to the mission channel. Ann did, however, whisper a Hail Mary. Rita knew she did that for every open door, a small ritual of the Rescue Sisters to pray for the souls in need behind it, but now she prayed for the explorers instead.

“Sean to everybody! Guess what! I think we just found the medical bay!”

“Still feeling excited about that broom closet?” she asked James with a tease in her voice.

“Oh, just open the door!”

The circle had stopped smoking. Bracing both feet against the wall, she took hold of the handle on the freed disk. She tugged, and the door moved, but it seemed to take longer than the others. “Rita to ET. I think you’re right, Ann. The door seems thicker than the others.”

“Copy, Rita.”

“See? Maybe not a broom closet this time,” James said.

The disk slid free, and Rita and James wrestled it to the hallway floor. He held it in place while she secured it.

As soon as she gave the clear, James all but bounded to the open door, although his drag line caught him before he could pull Rita by their safety line. She hurried to join him as he described the long, deep chamber.

“Obviously a storage room. We have lines and lines of small containers, twenty or thirty deep, in some kind of storage cabinets — transparent doors, obviously. ET, are you seeing this?”

“I have Rita’s feed on the main screen, James,” Ann said, her voice breathy with excitement. “And I’m relaying it to the biolab.”

“Okay.” Rita could tell from James’ voice he didn’t see the connection, but Ann’s words had made her heart skip. She played her own hunch. “ET, I’m going to extended spectrum.”

The room dimmed, then filled with symbols and designs. Unlike most of the ones they’d seen so far, however, these ones were readily identifiable as animals and plants, albeit as odd as the aliens themselves. Even better, each row had its own illustrations, clearly labels.

Is this why I saw rainbows? Rita wondered.

Kelley’s and Zabrina’s squeals of delight overrode hers.

Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive,” Ann whispered.

“What?” James asked, then he must have switched his visuals, because he, too, whistled. “I don’t believe it.”

“Rita to everyone. We found the ark!”

Author Karina Fabian

Karina Fabian

By day, Karina is a mild-mannered reviewer of business software and services for After hours, she’s a psychic intent on saving the world; a snarky dragon who thinks he saves the world all-too regularly, a zombie exterminator who just wants her world clear of undead vermin, and Catholic religious sisters whose callings have taken them off our world. Needless to say, her imagination is vast, her stories legion, and her brain crowded. When she’s not converting her wild tales to stories, she’s enjoying time with her husband, Rob, their four kids, and their two dogs.

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Top 10 Tuesday: Favorite Albums

All That You Can't Leave Behind U2

I’m linking up with The Broke and the Bookish (which describes me quite well) for my top ten albums. The broad category is “audio,” and since I couldn’t complete a list of 10 favorite audiobooks (yet) or podcasts (which I don’t often listen to), I’m going with albums. A good song, and even more so a good album, like a good book, should transport you to a unique place in your mind with a feeling, a mood, and characters all its own.

In no particular order and probably omitting a forgotten favorite or two:

  1. The Rising – Bruce Springsteen (2002)
  2. Scarecrow – John Cougar Mellencamp (1985)
  3. All That You Can’t Leave Behind -U2 (2000)
  4. Woodface – Crowded House (1991)
  5. Kick – INXS (1987)
  6. Riser – Dierks Bentley (2014)
  7. Mercury Falling – Sting (1996)
  8. Under the Table and Dreaming – Dave Matthews Band (1994)
  9. Blue Moon Swamp – John Fogerty (1997)
  10. Mission Bell – Amos Lee (2011)

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Reviving God’s Forgotten Friends: Author Interview with Susan Peek

Your novels fly in the face of the mistaken notion that saint stories are dry, boring, or irrelevant to modern life. They are lively, gritty, and despite the time periods, relatable. How does your storytelling compare to the style of other stories of the saints? 

The Last Viking by Susan PeekAs a mother of eleven, I’ve read an awful lot of books about saints over the years, believe me. I’ve invested more money than I care to admit, always hoping, of course, to find stories that would not only inspire my children to love and imitate these incredible heroes and heroines of God, but, more importantly, make them realize that the saints were true flesh-and-blood human beings who started out with the same struggles, temptations and weaknesses that plague every one of us since Adam bit that stupid apple. But the more books I crammed into our bookshelves, the more apparent it became that the majority of saint novels (often reprints from the 40’s and 50’s) are agonizingly dull. It’s awful to say, but it’s true. I’m sure everyone knows the kind of books I’m talking about – where the author wheels out a cardboard cut-out saint and plops him on the page. There he sits, in perfect holiness, from his first breath. From that point on, things only get worse. Long-winded passages, flowery archaic prose, little action, dead-boring dialogue. Basically a bunch of lifeless characters tripping across the pristine white pages of your newly purchased twenty-dollar book, while you yawn your way through the story waiting for SOMETHING exciting to happen to these people. Sound familiar? Continue reading

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Seven Quick Takes

7 Quick Takes

Resumption of Camping Edition

My husband and I began tent camping together before we had children and continued with regularity for years with our young children. We toted babies and toddlers. We relished the outdoors. And then, around the time we had an infant and a toddler in addition to our two older children, it became a bit much. My husband feared an unknown woodsy calamity. I’ll admit, our last excursion, with only three of the children, was a bit challenging. My sole recollection is my toddling 10-month-old stretching out of her Bumbo seat to gather dead leaves from the forest floor to stuff into her mouth while we wrestled with tent setup. So, we took a break. Our youngest is now three, so on Labor Day weekend, we gave camping another shot. Here’s what I learned.


All Pit Toilets Are Not Created Equal

We’ve camped in state park campgrounds with pit toilets before. Not recently and not often, but we’ve done it. My boy scout has done it fairly often. It’s not a big deal. At least it hadn’t been. The pit toilets at this particular Pennsylvania state park stunk. Sure, you say, pit toilets stink. No, I don’t mean “stink.” I mean eye-watering, gagging, covering-my-mouth-and-nose-with-my-shirt stink. Putrescence. Is that a word? I think that’s a word. Lesson learned: If you’ve smelled one pit toilet, you’ve smelled one pit toilet. (Since we like this park, I was relieved to learn they are installing flush toilets over the winter! Yay!)

Michael State Forest

Michaux State Forest

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Oh, the Places Your Art Will Go

A couple of weeks ago, I endured a particularly grueling trip to the grocery store with my two youngest children. It started with the purchase of King Julian yogurt tubes instead of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle yogurt tubes and escalated to a shouting match over who would press the button to close the rear door of the minivan. An attempt was made at choking. An arm was bitten hard enough to leave a bruise. There was much wailing and whining as I slammed shut the vehicle to head for home. All I could think to do was crank up the car stereo. I didn’t care what song was on, only that it would drown out the pandemonium in my car. It happened to be Dustin Lynch’s “That’s Where It’s At.”

The song’s okay. I don’t have much feeling for it one way or another. But I started to pity Dustin Lynch. Someone slaved over that song. Every chord, each lyric, was the product of someone’s creativity. There were writers, performers, producers, and others. The grand sum of countless hours of creativity and work was, for me, finding its fulfillment in suffocating the noise of my children in meltdown mode. Continue reading

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An Open Book


An Open Book CatholicMom

Welcome to the September 2016 edition of An Open Book, hosted both at My Scribbler’s Heart AND!

Fellowship of the Ring audiobookMy husband has been subjecting us to The Fellowship of the Ring audiobook by J.R.R. Tolkien. While my two older kids seem to enjoy the story in limited doses, I say “subjected” because it’s been the soundtrack of his choice for our recent travels. The little kids get bored. The big kids are okay with it if there’s not something else they’d rather be doing, and I must repeatedly slap my husband’s thigh while he’s driving and insist he open his eyes. That’s not to say this production isn’t well done. It seems to be. I think the particular times at which it’s being introduced to us is the biggest problem. For myself, I sincerely wish I enjoyed Tolkien more than I do. But, hey, I loved the Lord of the Rings movies!

Scarlet by Marissa MeyerI’m slowly making my way through Scarlet by Marissa Meyer. I zipped through the first book in the Lunar Chronicles (Cinder) quickly, but have slowed on this one. It’s not grabbing me right off that bat, but more to the point, I’ve had too many other obligations pulling me away from reading. I will return to it soon!

The Catholic Mom's Prayer CompanionI’ve also been reading The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion, edited by Lisa Hendey and Sarah Reinhard, in order to review it. This is the one and only book I’ve reviewed without completing it, but, honestly, to read this book straight through seems to defeat its purpose, which is to provide short and simple daily meditations. So, I read a couple of months to inform myself of the quality, but I’m going to finish it day by day. And I’m going to be handing out a lot of these to Catholic moms at Christmas!

Treasure IslandMy son has been reading Treasure Island by Robert Louis StevensonInterestingly, he borrowed a paperback copy from the library even though we have it on Kindle. These kids and their paper books. Go figure. I read the book for the first time about a decade ago after pulling it off of the shelf at the beach house in which we were staying in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I’d always wanted to read it, and enjoying it so close to where real pirates sailed made it that much better!

Roland West, LonerMy boy’s also reading Roland West, Loner by my friend Theresa Linden. The book was one of our Christmas gifts to him, and I’m happy to see him reading something I enjoyed so much. I love that he asks me questions about the characters and other books in the series as if I have the inside scoop.

My daughter is STILL reading Trixie Belden, so no news to report there.

Honeybee's Busy DayWe did a little bit (very little bit) of cleanup, and shifted some boxes of books that were in my son’s bedroom. They are temporary storage for some of our favorite picture books. The littlest of our kids have no memory of these books, so they were excited to discover them. All of our children have loved Honeybee’s Busy Day by Richard Fowler. That little bee on the front cover is made of durable cardboard. Slip her out of her plastic pouch and take her through each page’s adventures by sliding her through the slots. There’s so much excitement over this book in our house that I have to strictly enforce taking turns. I’ve noticed that the author has a similar book, A Squirrel’s Tale, which is available at the gift shop in Shenandoah National Park, where we recently visited. I’m tempted to give that one a try too.

Little Black SamboThe kids have also been enjoying one of my childhood favorites, The Story of Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman. I barely recall the controversy over this book when I was young. It didn’t dim my love for the story, and I’m happy to see that all of my children love it as much as I do. Something about those tigers zipping around the tree so quickly they turn to ghi is simply magical! I haven’t revisited the hullaballoo over this book, but to say that the text is racist seems absurd to me. The characters are bright and industrious and in any case, they are not even African or African-American. They are Indian. With its tiger sounds and repeated dialogue between Sambo and the tigers, it’s a delightful story perfect for reading aloud.

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Small Success Thursday

Small Success Thursday

Why small success? Because that’s the only kind I know! Even the big ones come in small steps. Here’s my paltry offering for the week:

  1. The end of summer stuff – The final days of summer vacation included the usual consultation of lists and running from store to store. School supplies, uniforms, shoes, and a backpack were purchased. It doesn’t seem like a lot when it’s condensed into a nine-word sentence, but with four kids, summer uniforms and gym uniforms, it becomes a project. We also turned in our summer reading packets to the library. I failed at listing books and counting minutes for the little kids, so only the older kids and I were able to collect our free books and prizes. Continue reading
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The Mixed Blessings of Progress

For the first time in four years, we spent some time in Shenandoah National Park. We typically tent camp, but there was a period in which my husband feared having two toddlers in the wilderness (along with our other kids). We gave it a shot last week, choosing a spot in the Big Meadows Lodge over a tent this time out.

Dark Hollow Falls

Dark Hollow Falls, photo by Michael Astfalk

It’s no secret to anyone that frequents my blog how much I enjoy the park. I love its lush rolling mountains, its wildlife, and nearly everything about it. It’s even a setting in my novel Stay With Me. I’m grateful that its beauty is accessible to me and thousands of others for our enjoyment. I’m often surprised at the number of international visitors to the park that we meet; it’s a worldwide vacation destination. Continue reading

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