First volume of a new neo-pulp science fiction series, from the author of The Cybernetic Walrus (1995), etc. In the far future, planets are connected via wormholes, until suddenly—the Great Silence—half the network stops functioning, leaving hundreds of planets isolated, their economies collapsing, social systems regressing toward barbarism. God, however, has told Dr. Karl Woodward, with his huge ship, the Mountain, to visit benighted planets, bringing trade, technology, and the Good Word. In the latest encounter, the Mountain approaches a planet that seems peacefully agricultural, with no advanced technology. Instead, Woodward's folk are confronted by a gang of ruthless pirates who are prepared to take hostages, torture, and kill in order to force their way off the planet. Battle is joined; Woodward emerges victorious. The pirate captain, Morgudan Sapenza, bargains with Woodward: in exchange for not destroying the wormhole and isolating the pirates forever, Sapenza reveals the location of the fabled, lost Three Kings system—which is just teeming with immensely valuable alien artifacts. God, too, wants Karl to go there. After a tough trip through a wormhole, they crash-land on planet Balshazzar, a paradise-like planet that's inhabited by an invisible alien with the power to raise the dead. The alien wagers that Karl's people will devolve into lotus-eaters before another ship arrives; Karl maintains that faith will sustain his flock.
Elaborate scripting and stage-setting for the series to come: your move.