Ryan T. McFadden is a 3-time winner (and 7-time finalist) of Canada's Aurora Award for both short and long fiction. His short fiction has appeared in Zombies Needs Brians Presents, On Spec, Edge SF & F, and Dragonmoon Press.

Hi motley past involves such dangerous work as database administration, ice cream flavoring (seriously, that's a thing), sport league administration, screen printing, web design, furniture building, and home renovations. He lives in London with his two beautiful, but sometimes diabolical daughters, who he is sure are plotting to one day overthrow him.

The Venusian Job by Ryan T. McFadden

When you're running from an interstellar crime lord, what better place could you find to hide than a maximum-security prison orbiting a black hole? Emily Van Lars, a.k.a The Engineer, the galaxy's most famous thief, thought The Trench was the perfect hideaway after Kaiser Turpin murdered her partner when she refused to take his proffered contract.

With her cover blown and Turpin threatening to take apart her life—one friend or former lover at a time—Emily is forced to escape prison and race across space in the company of a mercenary who thinks a bullet will solve every problem. Adding a psychopath and a cypher to her motley crew wasn't the best plan she ever made, but desperation forces hard choices. She would need every ally she could muster to beat Turpin at his own game and take on The Venusian Job.



  • "This is not your average good versus evil book but it is a great read. In the company of villains like Dr. Zachary Smith (in the old television show Lost in Space), there are people who are not so upstanding and yet are likable and worth reading about. This is a book of such characters and a great story on top of that. With a lot of action to keep you reading, this is a great book."

    – Goodreads Reviewer
  • "Although I do like a good white hat vs black hat show down, it can be a lot of fun to connect with characters whose motives are not always rosy and clean, who is helped by serial killers and amoral mercenaries, and whose plans rarely resolve as expected or hoped for. This was a lot of fun!"

    – Amazon Reviewer
  • "Ezekiel! What a great fast-paced space heist. Lots of twists. I really want to know the full story about the apple now! Very interesting characters who are unexpectedly thrown together and make an unlikely, but oh so entertaining, team. McFadden wastes no time dropping us into the thick of things and does a great job at teasing just enough backstory to pique your curiosity while giving you just what you need to know. I'm so looking forward to the next book. And having the two narrators was a great addition to the book. I definitely recommend this if you're looking for a fun read/listen"

    – Audible Reviewer



Emily had been around enough hard people to realize when something bad was about to go down, especially when it was going to happen to her. The prison yard was empty and the two sniper nests were unmanned. As a rule, sniper nests never sat unmanned.

Her stomach lurched. "Ezekiel," she cursed under her breath. She should've broken out of this dump of a prison days ago. She'd missed her opportunity and now Hugo the Hellion was making his move.

She considered retreating back into the hallway hoping that no one had seen her. Which was ridiculous and wishful rather than rational thought. Hugo had orchestrated this just for her so of course he'd seen her. Look how important I am, she thought wryly. Then the door closed behind her; she was trapped.

The past few weeks had been hell with all the prison drama. Knifings, gravity-well accidents, people mistakenly falling through airlocks into black holes. The body count was climbing and she really wanted to keep herself from becoming part of the tally. She wasn't sure she could stop that from happening.

Oddly, in her nervous system's toxic stew of adrenaline and fear, there was a semblance of relief, too. No more looking over her shoulder and no more sleeping with one eye open.

Emily gazed through the transparent plasma window composing the far wall. At another time, she would've marvelled at the black hole they orbited, the curve of the event horizon casting a lonely pale orange glow about the exercise yard. Mesmerizing really.

The station's gravity dampers were out of calibration—downright buggy—so it felt like her eyes would pop from their sockets if she stared too long. Like everything else in this dump of a prison, that window was going to fail. Hell, one day the station's stabilizers would fail and they'd plunge down the black drain into nothingness. Probably not soon enough to save my skin.

"Beautiful view," Hugo said.

His gravelly voice sent a jolt down her already amped spine. She resisted the urge to bolt—the door behind her would undoubtedly be locked and she'd look foolish trying to escape. Besides, while the Trench was huge, it wasn't huge enough that she could hide from Hugo and his attack dogs for long.

Hugo had entered from a secondary door—the one reserved for Prison Corp and strictly off limits for inmates. As if she needed anymore evidence that Hugo, an inmate like her, had the approval of the warden.

Hugo was a monster of a man. A few bad gene splices had turned his face into a lumpy, boiled mess. The muscle grafts gave him a grotesque thickness along his shoulders. His neck and bare chest were inked with piss-poor illuminated tattoos that he'd probably inscribed upon himself using a warped prison mirror.

He'd brought one of his attack thugs with him. Another slab of a man—or woman since Emily couldn't really determine the gender. His henchman was so disfigured, so unsymmetrical she wondered if he was an improperly grown clone that had somehow gotten into the wild.

"Breath taking view," Emily agreed. "My good fortune the yard is empty, I suppose."

"I think your luck has run out," Hugo replied wearily.

Emily silently agreed. She felt the bulge of the void-phase baffler next to her thigh. She'd thought bringing it would've been safer than keeping it in her cell for someone to steal. Nope. This was another in a seemingly endless bad string of decisions. If she lost it, she wasn't sure how she could bust out of the joint. She'd already stolen all the morphic matter she dared from the prison's gravity dampers to make this one. If she took anymore then she probably would send the Trench spiralling down the drain.

"Luck was never my thing," she said. "My first dad said it was because I was born under a Sagittarian Sun."

"Who are you really, Emiline?"

"That's not my name," she snapped. True enough, but too close for comfort. Dear Ezekiel, does he know who I am? Except Hugo didn't know, though he must have heard something. Everyone in the Trench was hiding some aspect of their past so he must've been hoping for leverage. Her Oma used to say: 'Even a blind pig finds an acorn once in a while.' Though she didn't know what acorns were, she got the point. Hugo was grasping.

"I know a few people who would pay good money to find you," he said.

"Can we get on with this, Hugo? There a reason you cornered me?"

He motioned with his chin to his thug and the botched clone closed the distance quickly. She really had nowhere to go but she gave a duck and a weave in an attempt to stay free. Despite his grotesque size, he was surprisingly agile and caught her within five seconds. A pitiful display really. She could shimmy past a wall of oscillating quantum detectors but couldn't even evade this brute.

He was damned strong, and she had no doubt that he could snap her arms like twigs.

"Search her," Hugo said.

"Search me? I thought everything you do is about stabbings and filling pillow cases with iron bolts."

"Trying something new."

Maybe, she hoped, the clone might not find it in the bagginess of her orange prison uniform. The void-phase baffler wasn't very big and—

The brute found the baffler immediately, palming it from outside her pants. She envisioned him ripping her uniform but instead he held out his hand. She contemplated resisting but then there was that image of him violently stripping her naked so she retrieved the baffler from down her pants.

It didn't look like much. A sphere-like configuration with copper wires, a few glass baubles, mercury switches, and a dark matter capsule. She considered treating it like a grenade and trying to bluff her way out. Except anyone could see that it was a baffler and not a grenade. Besides, what would bluffing get her? Another few minutes of freedom.

With a great sigh, she surrendered the baffler. And there goes my get-out-of-jail ticket.

The clone turned it over in his palm, shrugged, then handed it over to Hugo who had joined their huddle.

"Another one of your creations?" Hugo asked. He held it up to his ear and shook it hard.

"Don't!" she yelled and Hugo paused, a sickly smile coming to his face.

"This another one of your math projects?" he asked.

"It's not math," she said. "It's physics. A little bit of chemistry too. Though you probably don't know the difference."

"What is it?" he asked.

"Physics? It's the study of matter and energy." Hugo fixed her with a gaze so malicious that she felt that familiar spike of fear again. "It's a void-phase baffler," she confessed.

Hugo grunted and she realized that was his way of saying he didn't understand. "How do we use it?"

"There is no we. And if you don't know how to use it, you'll end up sending your atoms into another dimension."

His expression brightened and he shook the baffler at her like he finally understood the joke. She winced, expecting it to activate with each shake. "I need someone like you—with brains. I'm taking over and I'll be doing it with or without you."

"Then do it without me," she said and held out her hand for the baffler but he cradled it protectively like she was the one trying to steal his property.

"What? No, that's not how this works," he said. "If it's without you, that means you're gone."

"Right. I'll be gone if you give that back."

He licked his lips. "Can you get more of these…proton…bafflegabs?"

"Void-phase baffler. No, I don't have the materials." She snapped her fingers at him just like when she was younger and tried to get her marbles back from the older boys. Didn't work then either.

"Don't have the materials?" he repeated to himself.

She could see him trying to put the dots together. She didn't figure he was overly skilled with connecting dots.

Then again, maybe she wasn't too good at it either—she was supposed to be laying low, not attracting attention. Why else would she break into a prison on the edge of a black hole? Yet here she was practically babbling all of her plans to the warden's low-level sycophant. And she was the smart one?