Cover image for The sea is full of stars
The sea is full of stars
Chalker, Jack L.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Ballantine Books, 1999.
Physical Description:
viii, 342 pages ; 18 cm.
General Note:
"A Del Rey book."

"A Well World novel"--spine.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Mass Market Paperback Central Closed Stacks

On Order



This exciting, action-packed novel marks Jack Chalker's triumphant return to his celebrated multivolume saga: The Well World. The Sea Is Full of Stars explores an unknown interstellar civilization, stars an all-new cast of characters, and reveals fresh secrets. But of course, The Well remains . . .

After three passengers--Ming, Ari, and Angel--embark on an elite starship journey into the Realm, they unwittingly become ensnared in one man's bloodthirsty vendetta that will alter their very beings. That man is Jeremiah Wong Kincaid. He vows to destroy Josich Conqueror Hadun, the evil genius who has wreaked unspeakable havoc throughout the universe. It is an obsession that will take him to lands of demons and strange races--and into a deadly new cyberworld where humans are mere pawns of the godlike computers they have created.

But it is only after Kincaid and his unwitting fellow travelers enter Well World and discover the water hexes that he confronts the mad tyrant--and learns their universe is threatened by something far, far worse . . .

Author Notes

Jack L. Chalker was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on December 17, 1944. He received a B. A. degree in English from Towson University and a graduate degree in English and history from Johns Hopkins University. Before becoming a full-time writer in 1978, he taught history and geography in the Baltimore public school system. He founded a publishing house, The Mirage Press, Ltd., which produces nonfiction and bibliographic works on science fiction and fantasy.

He was the author of several science fiction series including the Well World series, the Dancing Gods series, and the G. O. D. Inc. series. He received numerous honors including the Dedalus Award in 1983, the Gold Medal of the West Coast Review of Books award in 1984, the Skylark Award in 1980, and the Hamilton-Brackett Memorial Award in 1979. He died of kidney failure and sepsis on February 11, 2005.

(Bowker Author Biography)



Asswam Junction, Near the Crab Nebula   MONSTERS ARE NOT ALWAYS SO EASY TO SPOT, AND WHEN they walk among you they often do so with a smile, and when they become what they are underneath the glare, you don't really know what's happened. And when a monster has friends and followers and sometimes even worshipers, it can become far more than a single dark blot of evil on the fabric of time; then it has the capacity to suddenly rear off and carry even the most innocent straight to Hell, or to do even worse and take your own existence and extend Hell to that as well. This is a story of monsters and maidens and the walking dead. The fact that it begins on a starship only drives home the point . . .   He had the smell of death and the look of the grave in him. Everyone could sense it, almost as if he were somehow broadcasting the cold chill that those of any race who encountered him instantly felt.   He'd been handsome once, but long ago. Now his face was badly weathered, wrinkled, and pockmarked, and there was a scar on one cheek that didn't look to be the result of a slip in some friendly fencing match. His eyes were deep, sunken, cold, and empty, his hair thick but silver, worn long and looking something like a mane.   It was eerie when he walked past the small group of passengers in the waiting lounge; they were of perhaps a half-dozen races, some inscrutable to others and tending to hold far different views of the universe and all that was in it, yet when he passed, every one of them reacted, some turning to look, some turning away, and some edging back as if the mere touch of his garment would bring instant death.   A Rithian watched him walk down the hall toward the vendor hall, its snakelike head and burning orange eyes almost hypnotized by the figure now going farther away. "I had not believed that he could draw so much more of the nether regions than he already had long ago," it muttered, almost to itself.   The Terran woman shook off a final chill, turned and looked at the creature who'd made the comment. "You know him?" she asked.   "I knew him," the Rithian answered, finally bringing its face back down to normal by distending its long serpentine neck and looking over at the woman instead. "At least, I have seen him before, long ago, and I know who he is. I am surprised that you do not, he being of your kind. He is certainly a legend, and, someday, he will be a part of your mythology I suspect. I hope he is not on our liner."   She shook her head, trying to get a grip on herself. "I--I don't think I ever felt anyone so--so evil." She actually started to say "inhuman" but realized how inappropriate that would be in present company.   "Evil? Perhaps. It is impossible to know what he has become inside, and to what he's sold his soul. But he is not precisely evil. In fact, he seeks an evil, and until he finds it and faces it and either kills it or it kills him, he cannot rest or ever find peace. He is Jeremiah Wong Kincaid. Does that name mean nothing to you?"   She thought hard. "Should it?"   "Then what about the scouring of Magan Thune?"   It was history to her, ancient history from the time of her parents at least, and thus the kind of thing you didn't tend to dwell on later in life unless you liked to wallow in the sick and violent history of humanity. She only vaguely recalled it even now. "Something about igniting the atmosphere of a planet, wasn't it? So long ago . . ."   "The atmosphere of a planet with six billion souls upon it, yes. Six billion souls who had been infected with a most horrible parasite by a megalomaniac would-be conqueror of the Realm, Josich the Emperor Hadun. A Ghoma, you might recall. A creature of the water, really. He'd found a way, the only known way, to conquer whole worlds composed of various races alien to him, and to even control environments he could not himself exist in without an environment suit. Tiny little quasiorganic machines, like viruses, transmitted like viruses as well, who could remake and tailor themselves for any bioorganism, any place, anywhere, and turn whole populations into slaves. There was no way to cure them; the things were more communicable than air and water. Isolate them, and they killed the hosts, horribly. Let them go, and a whole planet would be devoted to infecting everyone and everything else. It was the greatest horror our common histories ever produced."   "She shivered, remembering now why she'd not liked that kind of history. "And this Kincaid--he was a part of this?"   "A liner was intercepted and boarded. Everyone on it was infected. It was only because of security systems that it only reached Magan Thune before being discovered and dealt with. There are such horrible distances in space for even messages and warnings to cover, and you cannot station naval ships with great firepower at every one. We--all our races--breed a bit too much for that. Kincaid was commander of a small frigate, an escort naval vessel used in frontier areas. He'd come to the sector to meet his mate and children, and have some leave on some resort world. He wasn't supposed to come to Magan Thune at all, but went to check when the liner was late making its next port of call."   She was suddenly appalled. "He was the one who ignited the atmosphere?"   "No. He was spared that. Much too junior for such a thing. That took a task force. All he could do, upon discovering what was taking place, was to deal with any spacefaring craft, to ensure none got away. That, of course, included the liner . . ."   She sat down, not wanting to think about it anymore but forced to do so anyway by the sheer magnitude of the tragedy the Rithian was relating and the knowledge that it was true.   He'd had to wipe out his whole family. Almost certainly he'd done more than give the order. He would have been human; he couldn't have allowed anyone else to do it for him while he watched."   "Only months after, they figured out how it all worked," the Rithian continued. "They discovered the shifting band of frequencies by which the things communicated with each other, with others in other bodies, and with the command. Block them, work out the basics of what had to be a fairly simple code to be so universal and require so little bandwidth, and then order them to turn themselves off after restoring normalcy to their hosts. There were recriminations, trials, insistence on affixing blame. Nobody blows up a liner, let alone a planet, without the highest orders, but the public wanted heads. They second-guessed from screeching journalism, demanded to know why containment wasn't an option, and so on. Never mind that one major industry of Magan Thune was the construction of deep space engines. That's why the Conqueror had wanted it. And a hundred planets within days of there with possibly half a trillion souls."   She tried to put the vision out of her mind. Thank God she never had to make those kind of choices! "And he's been like that ever since?"   "That and more."   "I'm not sure I wouldn't have killed myself after that," she mused.   "He might have," the Rithian responded, "and some say he all but did anyway. You saw him, felt him, as did I, and I do not believe we have a great deal physiologically in common, and perhaps culturally even less. There are things that are universal. But he will not die. He will not permit himself to die. I believe he has been through a rejuve or two. He has unfinished business. He cannot leave until it is completed."   "Huh? What--What kind of business could he still have?"   "They never caught Josich the Emperor Hadun, you know. He is deposed for a great amount of time, and some say he is dead, although if Kincaid is not dead, then neither is Josich. One will not go without the other. Many say instead that Josich has become the emperor of the criminal underground, and that he is the source of much of the evil on countless worlds even now. Sixty years and Kincaid still hunts. That is why I hope he is not going on the same ship as we. If Kincaid could but guarantee the death of Josich, he would willingly take all of us with him. I would prefer he walk a different path than myself."   But Kincaid was already returning to the departure lounge, and it was clear this was going to be an interesting trip.   The tale of the haunted man involved what the Rithian had called a "liner," but even in those days that designation was for the rich and powerful only. Transport, then and now, was more complex than that for most travelers, and even now it was someone very rare who'd been off his or her own native world, and even fewer who had ever left their solar system. Travel was expensive, often long, and, in most people's cases, unnecessary. And with more than forty races in the Realm and perhaps two dozen others that interacted with it, it wasn't all that easy to support them in ecofriendly quarters for the weeks or months a trip might involve. Even with such as the Rithians and Terrans, who comfortably breathed each other's air and could in fact eat each other's foods, there were sufficient dramatic differences in their physical requirements to make things very complex.   The money in deep space travel was where it had been in ocean travel and river travel and rail travel in ancient times. The money was in freight. The money was always in freight. That was why ships that went between the stars resembled less the fabled passenger liners of oceanic days than trains, with powerful engine modules and an elaborate bridge that could oversee the largely automated operation, and then, forward of this, were coupled the mods of freight and then the passenger modules designed for various life-form requirements. Robotics and a central life-support computer catered to them; for a considerable fee one could have a real live concierge assigned, but this was mostly for status.   Excerpted from The Sea Is Full of Stars by Jack L. Chalker All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.