Wednesday, October 18, 2017

DEADLANDS: BONEYARD by Seanan McGuire Official Nerd Blast, Excerpt & Giveaway




Synopsis 

The newest book based on the hit Weird West RPG franchise Deadlands!

Step right up to see the oddities and marvels of The Blackstone Family Circus and Travelling Wonder Show! Gasp at pit wasps the size of a man’s forearm. Beware the pumpkin-headed corn stalker, lest it plant its roots in you!

Annie Pearl is the keeper of oddities, the mistress of monsters. Her unique collection of creatures is one of the circus’s star attractions, drawing wide-eyed crowds at every small frontier town they visit. But Annie is also a woman running from her past . . . and the mother of a mute young daughter, Adeline, whom she will do anything to protect.

Hoping to fill its coffers before winter sets in, the circus steers its wagons to The Clearing, a remote community deep in the Oregon wilderness, surrounded by an ominous dark wood. Word is that a traveling show can turn a tidy profit at The Clearing, but there are whispers, too, of unexplained disappearances that afflict one out of every four shows that pass through the town.

The Clearing has it secrets, and so does Annie. And it may take everything she has to save her daughter―and the circus―from both.


Praise for DEADLANDS Series

A gripping tale of the Weird West, set on the haunted frontier of DEADLANDS, the award-winning game from Pinnacle Entertainment Group.


EXCERPT from Deadlands: Boneyard

Behind his wagon came the hulking shapes of the equipment wagons, largest in the train, which hauled the upright posts of the various tents, the collapsed game booths, the vast, billowing canopy of the big top. When Nathanial thought of the tent, he always saw it in silken stripes, high enough to beat its banners against the moon. The truth was tamer, fifteen feet at its highest point, patched canvas painted in irregular zigzags, but oh, it was still beautiful when the lights were strung around the edges, when the aerialists put on their spangles and their sequins and learned how to fly. How could something like that be anything but beautiful? And that, in a word, was the power of the circus, and the reason it had been able to pass unscathed through territory he’d been told, time and again, was too dangerous for any man to navigate. No matter how ugly the world outside the tent got, the world inside would always be beautiful, and people would always want beauty. No matter how bad things got, people would always want beauty.

Behind the equipment wagons came a scattering of smaller wagons, most privately owned, some barely worthy of the name. The Visali twins slept in an open cart, on a bed of hay and old carpet, their arms tangled around each other until they seemed like a single body split in two, the long white shapes of their borzoi hounds surrounding them in a hairy curtain. They refused to sleep in a closed wagon unless it was snowing, claiming the heat from their dogs made any enclosure unbearable. Half the show called them “the Russian werewolves,” and untrue as the name was, it played well on the broadsheets they put up to advertise their performances.

Half the wagons were dark, their teams roped to the backs of the wagons ahead of them, trusting the show as a whole to set the path. The wagons where lanterns burned in the windows were still silent, raising the question of whether the light signaled wakefulness or merely superstition. The power of superstition in the circus could not be overlooked by any measure. It was a powerful thing, and some said it was what kept the axles turning without breaking, even when they rode over hard prairie. Say your prayers proper, make your offerings when you can, and the world will pass you by.

Copyright © 2017 by Seanan McGuire


ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Seanan McGuire was born in Martinez, California, and raised in a wide variety of locations, most of which boasted some sort of dangerous native wildlife. Despite her almost magnetic attraction to anything venomous, she somehow managed to survive long enough to acquire a typewriter, a reasonable grasp of the English language, and the desire to combine the two. The fact that she wasn't killed for using her typewriter at three o'clock in the morning is probably more impressive than her lack of death by spider-bite.

Often described as a vortex of the surreal, many of Seanan's anecdotes end with things like "and then we got the anti-venom" or "but it's okay, because it turned out the water wasn't that deep." She has yet to be defeated in a game of "Who here was bitten by the strangest thing?," and can be amused for hours by almost anything. "Almost anything" includes swamps, long walks, long walks in swamps, things that live in swamps, horror movies, strange noises, musical theater, reality TV, comic books, finding pennies on the street, and venomous reptiles. Seanan may be the only person on the planet who admits to using Kenneth Muir's Horror Films of the 1980s as a checklist.

Seanan is the author of the October Daye urban fantasies, the InCryptid urban fantasies, and several other works both stand-alone and in trilogies or duologies. In case that wasn't enough, she also writes under the pseudonym "Mira Grant." For details on her work as Mira, check out MiraGrant.com.

In her spare time, Seanan records CDs of her original filk music (see the Albums page for details). She is also a cartoonist, and draws an irregularly posted autobiographical web comic, "With Friends Like These...", as well as generating a truly ridiculous number of art cards. Surprisingly enough, she finds time to take multi-hour walks, blog regularly, watch a sickening amount of television, maintain her website, and go to pretty much any movie with the words "blood," "night," "terror," or "attack" in the title. Most people believe she doesn't sleep.

Seanan lives in an idiosyncratically designed labyrinth in the Pacific Northwest, which she shares with her cats, Alice and Thomas, a vast collection of creepy dolls and horror movies, and sufficient books to qualify her as a fire hazard. She has strongly-held and oft-expressed beliefs about the origins of the Black Death, the X-Men, and the need for chainsaws in daily life.

Years of writing blurbs for convention program books have fixed Seanan in the habit of writing all her bios in the third person, so as to sound marginally less dorky. Stress is on the "marginally." It probably doesn't help that she has so many hobbies.

Seanan was the winner of the 2010 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and her novel Feed (as Mira Grant) was named as one of Publishers Weekly's Best Books of 2010. In 2013 she became the first person ever to appear five times on the same Hugo Ballot.

Photo Credit: Beckett Gladney



--Giveaway is open to International. | Must be 13+ to Enter

10 Winners will receive a Set Copy of Deadland Series (3 Books in Total) GHOSTWALKERS by Jonathan Maberry, THUNDER MOON RISING by Jeffrey J. Mariotte  and BONEYARD) by Seanan McGuire.


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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

RED RIGHT HAND by Levi Black Official Nerd Blast, Excerpt and Giveaway








Synopsis 

Charlie Tristan Moore isn't a hero. She's a survivor. On a night when her demons from the past are triggered, she arrives home to something even more harrowing-an attack by three monstrous skinhounds, creatures straight out of nightmares. She fights but is outmatched. Just as hope seems lost, in sweeps The Man In Black, a rescuer even more monstrous and unlikely, dressed in a long, dark coat that seems to have a life of its own and with a black-bladed sword held in his terrible, red right hand. 

Her rescue comes at a cost. She must become his new Acolyte and embrace a dark magick she never knew she had inside her. To ensure she gives it her all, he takes her friend and possible love, Daniel, in thrall as a hostage to her obedience. The Man in Black, a Lovecraftian chaos god, claims to be battling his brethren gods, other horrors who are staging an incipient apocalypse. But is he truly the lesser of all evils or merely killing off the competition? Either way, will Charlie be strong enough to save herself, Daniel, and possibly the entire world?


Praise for RED RIGHT HAND

Red Right Hand is a perfect blend of old-school horror and modern storytelling sorcery. Levi Black is absolutely riveting! ―Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of Predator One and Deadlands: Ghostwalkers.

Visceral and creepy, Red Right Hand is a sincerely twisted tale that’s every bit as thrilling as it is macabre. ―Cherie Priest, bestselling author of Boneshaker and Maplecroft

A merge of horror and dark fantasy that will grab you by the throat! ―Faith Hunter, New York Times bestselling author of the Jane Yellowrock series.

Red Right Hand is a beautiful, terrifying nightmare of a book. Stylish and nerve-wracking, it held me constantly in an iron grip as I read it...and has yet to let me go. More, Levi Black! ―Nancy Holder, New York Times bestselling author of The Rules

Levi Black writes with bare knuckle confidence and a champion prizefighter’s skill. Red Right Hand is his first round combination that leaves you flat on the canvass, dazed and impressed. Get in the ring and be ready for battle. ―Nate Southard, author of Pale Horses and Will the Sun Ever Come Out Again?

Levi Black's Red Right Hand is visceral, violent, and sexy. This book has jaggedly-sharp humor, snappy patter and tight pacing that can literately leave you breathless at some points. It's crazy fun with unspeakable horrors! ―R.S. Belcher, author of Nightwise and The Six-Gun Tarot

Imagine that one of Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones showed up at your door and said, ‘You work for me now.’ That’s the premise of Red Right Hand, Levi Black’s grim and gory tale that takes urban fantasy into the darkest places of both the universe and the human heart. Riveting in both senses of the word: it grips your attention, and it feels like bolts punching through your flesh. ―Alex Bledsoe, author of Long Black Curl

Levi Black mixes deft characterization, vivid description, and H. P. Lovecraft’s cosmic horrors to create a thoroughly engaging urban fantasy. ―Richard Lee Byers, author of The Reaver and Blind Man’s Bluff

With Red Right Hand, Levi Black gives us an exciting, pulse-inducing mashup of Urban Fantasy and Lovecraftian Horror. Charlie Moore is a great entry into the pantheon of urban fantasy heroines, and The Man in Black is a Mythos character made even more terrifyingly real. I can't wait for the sequel. ―Gini Koch, author of the Alien/Katherine"Kitty" Katt series

Levi Black’s Red Right Hand is a perfect fusion of noir, action and horror. Urban decay, Lovecraftian madness and emotional desperation are only a few of the ingredients in the mix that powers this breakout novel. The engine on this beast is burning high-octane fuel and running hot. Highly recommended! ―James A. Moore, author of the Seven Forges Series and Alien: Sea of Sorrows

Sleek, savage and brutally well-written, Black's story hurtles you into a world where the elder gods view humans as expendable playthings or tasty snacks. Even as you obsessively turn the pages, you'll be rooting for good to triumph over endless evil. A brilliant blend of horror and urban fantasy, Red Right Hand proves that truth is chaos, and hell is only a tentacle away. ―Jana Oliver, award-winning author of the Demon Trappers series

If Mickey Spillane had delved into the Cthulhu Mythos, he might have turned out something like this. Hard-hitting and truly scary, Red Right Hand is a postmodern Lovecraftian nightmare of a tale. Dark and bloody and bad to the bone. ―Charles R. Rutledge, co-author of Congregations of the Dead

EXCERPT

THE CHEAP ALCOHOL burned as it splashed down my throat.

Fumes roiled up the back of my esophagus, making me choke. It felt like getting punched in the tonsils with a fistful of kerosene.

I sucked in a breath, swallowing hard.

Dammit, Daniel …

I really like you.

Holding the dented, plastic bottle of vodka, I smeared my arm across my face, wiping away hot tears.
The first guy I … and he knew. He knew.

I fumbled keys out of my pocket and held them up, jangling them in front of my face. They woozed and blended in a fuzz of eyestrain, tears, and alcohol.

Now you know there’s nobody in this crappy world you can trust.

My rage had cooled on the walk home, devolving into a ball of hurt and anger and drunken fog. The stairs to the townhouse I shared were treacherous, threatening to throw me back down them with each step, but I wasn’t going to let them get the best of me.

I’m stubborn that way.

Besides, it was cold outside.

The key in my hand stabbed at the keyhole, brass clicking on brass. I had to lean my forehead against the door frame to get the key to slide into the lock. It turned in a smooth motion, barely a click to tell me it had unlocked. I stumbled across the threshold, slamming the door closed behind me, harder than I meant to.

Dammit.

At least the night is over. Just go to bed and try again in the morning. You’ve got jujitsu at ten. You can take it out on the mat.

My keys hit the table by the door with a metallic clatter, clashing against my roommates’ keys.
Keep it down, or you’ll have the whole house up. Shasta’ll want to know what’s wrong, and you do NOT want to get into that. Not tonight.

I looked up the stairs to my room.

Bed.

Just get to bed.

I’d taken only a few wobbly steps when the first skinless dog stepped from the shadows.


Copyright © 2016 by Levi Black




ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Levi Black lives in Metro Atlanta with his wife and an array of toys, books, records, and comics. He's been weird his whole life and is almost as scary as he looks. Red Right Hand is his first novel.

Photo Content from Levi Black



--Giveaway is open to International. | Must be 13+ to Enter

10 Winners will receive a Copy of Red Right Hand by Levi Black

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Monday, October 16, 2017

BLACK MOON RISING by D.J. MacHale Official Nerd Blast








Synopsis

The next fast-paced, thrilling adventure from bestselling author D. J. MacHale! Check out a book and fall under its spell . . . literally.

Marcus is an agent of the Library--a place filled with tales that don't have an ending. Mysteries that won't be solved until Marcus and his friends Theo and Lu step in to finish them. Before it's too late.

Because mysterious accidents are disturbing a middle school in Massachusetts. Windows shatter for no reason. Bleachers collapse at a pep rally. Most of the students think they're just having a string of bad luck, but Marcus suspects something a lot more dangerous. Something like witchcraft. When the black moon rises, this story must come to an end . . . one way or another.

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

D.J. MacHale is a writer, director, executive producer and creator of several popular television series and movies. As an author, his ten-volume book series: Pendragon: Journal of an Adventure Through Time and Space became a New York Times #1 bestseller.

He was raised in Greenwich, CT where he had several jobs including collecting eggs at a poultry farm; engraving trophies and washing dishes in a steakhouse…in between playing football and running track. D.J. graduated from New York University where he received a BFA in film production.

His film-making career began in New York where he worked as a freelance writer/director making corporate videos and television commercials.

D.J. broke into the entertainment business by writing several ABC Afterschool Specials. As co-creator of the popular Nickelodeon series: Are You Afraid of the Dark?, he produced all 91 episodes. D.J. also wrote and directed the movie Tower of Terror for ABC’s Wonderful World of Disney. The Showtime series Chris Cross was co-created, written and produced by D.J. It received the CableAce award for Best Youth Series.

D.J. created and produced the Discovery Kids/NBC television series Flight 29 Down. He wrote every episode and directed several. His work on Flight 29 Down earned him the Writers Guild of America award for Outstanding Children’s Script and a Directors Guild of America award nomination.

Other notable television writing credits include the ABC Afterschool Special titled Seasonal Differences; the pilot for the long-running PBS/CBS series Ghostwriter; and the HBO series Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective for which he received a CableAce nomination for writing.

In print, D.J. also authored the supernatural Morpheus Road trilogy; a whimsical picture book The Monster Princess; and The SYLO Chronicles, a thrilling sci-fi trilogy. He also wroteVoyagers: Project Alpha, the first of a six book science fiction adventure.

D.J.’s newest book series is The Library, a spooky middle-grade anthology about a mysterious library filled with unfinished supernatural tales, and the daring young people who must complete them.

D.J. lives in Southern California with his wife Evangeline and daughter Keaton. They are avid backpackers, scuba divers and skiers. Rounding out the household is a spoiled golden retriever named Casey and an equally spoiled tuxedo cat named Jinx.

Photo Content from D.J. MacHale




Giveaway is open to International. | Must be 13+ to Enter

10 Winners will receive a Copy of BLACK MOON RISING and SURRENDER THE KEY by D.J. MacHale.

- 1 Winner will receive an Exclusive Customized Costume of their choice (The Witch, Lu or Theo).


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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Release Week Blitz: 27 Hours by Tristina Wright and Giveaway


   
Welcome to the Release Week Blitz for
27 Hours by Tristina Wright
presented by Entangled Teen!
Grab your copy today!
 
Congratulations Tristina!
     
 
Rumor Mora fears two things: hellhounds too strong for him to kill, and failure. Jude Welton has two dreams: for humans to stop killing monsters, and for his strange abilities to vanish.
But in no reality should a boy raised to love monsters fall for a boy raised to kill them. Nyx Llorca keeps two secrets: the moon speaks to her, and she’s in love with Dahlia, her best friend. Braeden Tennant wants two things: to get out from his mother's shadow, and to unlearn Epsilon's darkest secret. They’ll both have to commit treason to find the truth. During one twenty-seven-hour night, if they can’t stop the war between the colonies and the monsters from becoming a war of extinction, the things they wish for will never come true, and the things they fear will be all that’s left. 27 Hours is a sweeping, thrilling story featuring a stellar cast of queer teenagers battling to save their homes and possibly every human on Sahara as the clock ticks down to zero.

27 Hours by Tristina Wright Publication Date: October 3, 2017 Publisher: Entangled Teen

 
 
Tristina Wright is a blue-haired bisexual with anxiety and opinions. She’s also possibly a mermaid, but no one can get confirmation. She fell in love with science fiction and fantasy at a young age and frequently got caught writing in class instead of paying attention. She enjoys worlds with monsters and kissing and monsters kissing. She married a nerd who can build computers and make the sun shine with his smile. Most days, she can be found drinking coffee from her favorite chipped mug and making up more stories for her wombfruit, who keep life exciting and unpredictable.
 
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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

FREEFALL by Joshua David Bellin Official Nerd Blast and Giveaway






Synopsis

In the Upperworld, the privileged 1% are getting ready to abandon a devastated planet Earth. And Cam can’t wait to leave. After sleeping through a 1,000-year journey, he and his friends will have a pristine new planet to colonize. And no more worries about the Lowerworld and its 99% of rejects.

Then Cam sees a banned video feed of protesters in the Lowerworld who also want a chance at a new life. And he sees a girl with golden eyes who seems to be gazing straight though the feed directly at him. A girl he has to find. Sofie.

When Cam finds Sofie, she opens his eyes to the unfairness of what’s happening in their world, and Cam joins her cause for Lowerworld rights. He also falls hard for Sofie. But Sofie has her own battles to fight, and when it’s time to board the spaceships, Cam is alone.

Waking up 1,000 years in the future, Cam discovers that he and his shipmates are far off-course, trapped on an unknown and hostile planet. Who has sabotaged their ship? And does it have anything to do with Sofie, and the choices—and the enemies—he made in the past?


Praise for FREEFALL

Brings new meaning to “star-crossed lovers”—read it for the intriguing concepts that play out behind the romance. —Kirkus Reviews

Completely new and unique dystopian/light science fiction. The story shifts from present to past and back again in a way that reveals a little at a time, keeping the reader completely hooked. This book will appeal to teens and adults alike. —Entrada Book Review

Bellin created a fantastic world, one highlighting social, racial, and economic inequalities that you see today, but translated it into a very dystopian-esque setting, where corporations run the world. —Lauren, fromYA Bookers

Another engaging novel from master world-builder and storyteller, Joshua David Bellin. I am a fan for life, and I look forward to reading his next story. —Margo Kelly, YA author of Who R U Really? and Unlocked

[Bellin] has all the chops to turn such a dystopian scenario, where the world is firmly under the thumb of greedy, soulless corporate overlords, into a page-turning space opera that is pure pleasure from start to finish. —Kat Ross, YA author of the Fourth Element series

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


I’ve been writing novels since I was eight years old (though the first few were admittedly very short). I taught college for twenty years, wrote a bunch of books for college students, then decided to return to writing fiction. SURVIVAL COLONY 9 (2014) is my first novel, with the sequel, SCAVENGER OF SOULS, published in 2016. A third book, the deep space adventure FREEFALL, releases in 2017.

I am proud to be represented by the fabulous Liza Fleissig of Liza Royce Agency.

I love to read (mostly science fiction), watch movies (again, mostly sci-fi), and spend time in Nature (mostly catching frogs and toads). I’m the world’s worst singer (just ask my kids), but I play a pretty mean air guitar.

Oh, yeah, and I like monsters. Really scary monsters.

Photo Content from Joshua David Bellin




--Giveaway is open to International. | Must be 13+ to Enter

3 Winners will receive a Signed Copy of FREEFALL by Joshua David Bellin.

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Monday, September 25, 2017

UNDRESSED by Kimberly Derting Official Nerd Blast







Synopsis 

Can two people whose dreams have been cast aside find a new passion...together?

No one ever expected straight-A student Lauren Taylor to make waves. But that was the old Lauren, before she went to college and became an online stripper to make ends meet. Now, Lauren is on the run with a secret and a bag of cash, fleeing landlocked Arizona for the beaches of California. 

Will Gabaldon was one of the hottest surfers on the circuit, but fate had something else in mind. When a surfing accident shattered his budding career, Will was forced into a life of tending bar and doing odd jobs just to survive. 

A swim instructor with secrets like Will is the last thing Lauren wants. A distraction like Lauren is the last thing Will needs. 

But soon, both discover there’s one thing more dangerous than the wave that ended Will's career: Love.


Praise for UNDRESSED

"Falling in love has never felt so good. With the warmth of the sun, and the sand between your toes, Derting takes you on the summer you always imagined with Undressed." ―Heidi McLaughlin, NY Timesbestselling author of Forever My Girl (soon to be a major motion picture)

Praise for KIMBERLY DERTING 

"A strong debut from a promising author." ―Publishers Weekly (The Body Finder)

"If you're in the mood for some psychological thrillers, evil masterminds, strong heroines and hot heroes, then I'd definitely pick up the Body Finder series." ―USA Today (The Body Finder)

"...fast-paced and engrossing." ―VOYA (The Pledge)

"As always, this author writes a gripping tale...With another sequel set up, this intriguing series continues to provide great entertainment for suspense fans." ―Kirkus Reviews (The Last Echo)

"...a refreshing take on paranormal romance..." ―Romantic Times (The Body Finder)

"More great suspense from a prolific new writer with a vibrant imagination." ―Kirkus Reviews (The Pledge)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Kimberly Derting is the author of the award-winning THE BODY FINDER seriesTHE PLEDGE trilogyTHE TAKING trilogy, and UNDRESSED (her first book in The Men Of West Beach series). Her books have been translated into 15 languages, and both THE BODY FINDER and THE PLEDGE were YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults selections. She lives in the Pacific Northwest, where the gloomy weather is ideal for writing anything dark and creepy. Her three beautiful (and often mouthy) children serve as an endless source of inspiration and frequently find the things they say buried in the pages of their mother's books, or onTwitter for the world to see.

Photo Content from Kimberly Derting




--Giveaway is open to International. | Must be 13+ to Enter

1 Winner will receive a a Signed Copy of UNDRESSED (+Swag Pack) by Kimberly Derting.
- 1 Winner will receive a $25.00 Amazon Gift Card.



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Monday, September 18, 2017

AUTONOMOUS by Annalee Newitz Official Nerd Blast






Synopsis 

Autonomous features a rakish female pharmaceutical pirate named Jack who traverses the world in her own submarine. A notorious anti-patent scientist who has styled herself as a Robin Hood heroine fighting to bring cheap drugs to the poor, Jack’s latest drug is leaving a trail of lethal overdoses across what used to be North America—a drug that compels people to become addicted to their work.

On Jack’s trail are an unlikely pair: an emotionally shut-down military agent and his partner, Paladin, a young military robot, who fall in love against all expectations. Autonomous alternates between the activities of Jack and her co-conspirators, and Joe and Paladin, as they all race to stop a bizarre drug epidemic that is tearing apart lives, causing trains to crash, and flooding New York City.


Praise for AUTONOMOUS

"Autonomous is to biotech and AI what Neuromancer was to the Internet."―Neal Stephenson

"Something genuinely and thrillingly new in the naturalistic, subjective, paradoxically humanistic but non-anthropomorphic depiction of bot-POV―and all in the service of vivid, solid storytelling."―William Gibson

"This book is a cyborg. Partly, it's a novel of ideas, about property, the very concept of it, and how our laws and systems about property shape class structure and society, as well as notions of identity, the self, bodies, autonomy at the most fundamental levels, all woven seamlessly into a dense mesh of impressive complexity. Don't let that fool you though. Because wrapped around that is the most badass exoskeleton--a thrilling and sexy story about pirates and their adventures. Newitz has fused these two layers together at the micro- and macro-levels with insight and wit and verbal flair. Moves fast, with frightening intelligence." ―Charles Yu, author of How to Live Sagfely in a Science Fictional Universe

"Annalee Newitz has conjured the rarest, most exciting thing: a future that's truly new ... a terrific novel and a tremendous vision." ―Robin Sloan, author of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

"Holy hell. Autnomous is remarkable." ―Lauren Beukes, bestselling author of Broken Monsters

"Everything you'd hope for from the co-founder of io9 ... Combines the gonzo, corporatized future of Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash with the weird sex of Charlie Stross's Saturn's Children; throws in an action hero that's a biohacker version of Bruce Sterling's Leggy Starlitz, and then saturates it with decades of deep involvement with free software hackers, pop culture, and the leading edge of human sexuality." ―Cory Doctorow, New York Times bestselling author of Walkaway.

EXCERPT

The sub’s cargo hold was currently stacked with twenty crates of freshly pirated drugs. Tucked among the many therapies for genetic mutations and bacterial management were boxes of cloned Zacuity, the new blockbuster productivity pill that everybody wanted. It wasn’t technically on the market yet, so that drove up demand. Plus, it was made by Zaxy, the company behind Smartifex, Brillicent, and other popular work enhancement drugs. Jack had gotten a beta sample from an engineer at Vancouver’s biggest development company, Quick Build Wares. Like a lot of biotech corps, Quick Build handed out new attention enhancers for free along with their in-house employee meals. The prerelease ads said that Zacuity helped everyone get their jobs done faster and better.

Jack hadn’t bothered to try any Zacuity herself—she didn’t need drugs to make her job exciting. The engineer who’d provided the sample described its effects in almost religious terms. You slipped the drug under your tongue, and work started to feel good. It didn’t just boost your concentration. It made you enjoy work. You couldn’t wait to get back to the keyboard, the breadboard, the gesture table, the lab, the fabber. After taking Zacuity, work gave you a kind of visceral satisfaction that nothing else could. Which was perfect for a corp like Quick Build, where new products had tight ship dates, and consultants sometimes had to hack a piece of hardware top-to-bottom in a week. Under Zacuity’s influence, you got the feelings you were supposed to have after a job well done. There were no regrets, nor fears that maybe you weren’t making the world a better place by fabricating another networked blob of atoms. Completion reward was so intense that it made you writhe right in your plush desk chair, clutching the foam desktop, breathing hard for a minute or so. But it wasn’t like an orgasm, not really. Maybe it was best described as physical sensation, perfected. You could feel it in your body, but it was more blindingly good than anything your nerve endings might read as inputs from the object-world. After a Zacuity-fueled work run, all you wanted to do was finish another project for Quick Build. It was easy to see why the shit sold like crazy.

But there was one little problem, which she’d been ignoring until now. Zaxy didn’t make data from their clinical trials available, so there was no way to find out about possible side effects. Normally Jack wouldn’t worry about every drug freak-out reported on the feeds, but this one was so specific. She couldn’t think of any other popular substances that would get someone addicted to homework. Sure, the student’s obsessive behavior could be set off by a garden-variety stimulant. But then it would hardly be a medical mystery, since doctors would immediately find evidence of the stimulant in her system. Jack’s mind churned as if she’d ingested a particularly nasty neurotoxin. If this drug was her pirated Zacuity, how had this happened? Overdose? Maybe the student had mixed it with another drug? Or Jack had screwed up the reverse engineering and created something horrific?

Jack felt a twitch of fear working its way up her legs from the base of her spine. But wait—this shiver wasn’t just some involuntary, psychosomatic reaction to the feeds. The floor was vibrating slightly, though she hadn’t yet started the engines. Ripping off the goggles, she regained control of her sensorium and realized that somebody was banging around in the hold, directly behind the bulkhead in front of her. What the actual fuck? There was an aft hatch for emergencies, but how—? No time to ponder whether she’d forgotten to lock the doors. With a predatory tilt of the head, Jack powered up her perimeter system, its taut nanoscale wires networked with sensory nerves just below the surface of her skin. Then she unsnapped the sheath on her knife. From the sound of things, it was just one person, no doubt trying to grab whatever would fit in a backpack. Only an addict or someone truly desperate would be that stupid.

She opened the door to the hold soundlessly, sliding into the space with knife drawn. But the scene that met her was not what she expected. Instead of one pathetic thief, she found two: a guy with the scaly skin and patchy hair of a fusehead, and his robot, who was holding a sack of drugs. The bot was some awful, hacked-together thing the thief must have ripped off from somebody else, its skin layer practically fried off in places, but it was still a danger. There was no time to consider a nonlethal option. With a practiced overhand, Jack threw the knife directly at the man’s throat. Aided by an algorithm for recognizing body parts, the blade passed through his trachea and buried itself in his artery. The fusehead collapsed, gagging on steel, his body gushing blood and air and shit.

In one quick motion, Jack yanked out her knife and turned to the bot. It stared at her, mouth open, as if it were running something seriously buggy. Which it probably was. That would be good for Jack, because it might not care who gave it orders as long as they were clear.

“Give me the bag,” she said experimentally, holding her hand out. The sack bulged with tiny boxes of her drugs. The bot handed it over instantly, mouth still gaping. He’d been built to look like a boy in his teens, though he might be a lot older. Or a lot younger.

At least she wouldn’t have to kill two beings today. And she might get a good bot out of the deal, if her botadmin pal in Vancouver pitched in a little. On second glance, this one’s skin layer didn’t look so bad, after all. She couldn’t see any components peeking through, though he was scuffed and bloody in places.

“Sit down,” she told him, and he sat down directly on the floor of the hold, his legs folding like electromagnetically joined girders that had suddenly lost their charge. The bot looked at her, eyes vacant. Jack would deal with him later. Right now, she needed to do something with his master’s body, still oozing blood onto the floor. She hooked her hands under the fusehead’s armpits and pulled his remains through the bulkhead door into the control room, leaving the bot behind her in the locked hold. There wasn’t much the bot could do in there by himself, anyway, given that all her drugs were designed for humans.

Down a tightly coiled spiral staircase was her wet lab, which doubled as a kitchen. A high-grade printer dominated one corner of the floor, with three enclosed bays for working with different materials: metals, tissues, foams. Using a smaller version of the projection display she had in the control room, Jack set the foam heads to extrude two cement blocks, neatly fitted with holes so she could tie them to the dead fusehead’s feet as easily as possible. As her adrenaline levels came down, she watched the heads race across the printer bed, building layer after layer of matte-gray rock. She rinsed her knife in the sink and resheathed it before realizing she was covered in blood. Even her face was sticky with it. She filled the sink with water and rooted around in the cabinets for a rag.

Loosening the molecular bonds on her coveralls with a shrug, Jack felt the fabric split along invisible seams to puddle around her feet. Beneath plain gray thermals, her body was roughly the same shape it had been for two decades. Her cropped black hair showed only a few threads of white. One of Jack’s top sellers was a molecule-for-molecule reproduction of the longevity drug Vive, and she always quality-tested her own work. That is, she hadalways quality tested it—until Zacuity. Scrubbing her face, Jack tried to juggle the two horrors at once: A man was dead upstairs, and a student in Calgary was in serious danger from something that sounded a lot like black-market Zacuity. She dripped on the countertop and watched the cement blocks growing around their central holes.

Jack had to admit she’d gotten sloppy. When she reverse engineered the Zacuity, its molecular structure was almost exactly like what she’d seen in dozens of other productivity and alertness drugs, so she hadn’t bothered to investigate further. Obviously she knew Zacuity might have some slightly undesirable side effects. But these fun-time worker drugs subsidized her real work on antivirals and gene therapies, drugs that saved lives. She needed the quick cash from Zacuity sales so she could keep handing out freebies of the other drugs to people who desperately needed them. It was summer, and a new plague was wafting across the Pacific from the Asian Union. There was no time to waste. People with no credits would be dying soon, and the pharma companies didn’t give a shit. That’s why Jack had rushed to sell those thousands of doses of untested Zacuity all across the Free Trade Zone. Now she was flush with good meds, but that hardly mattered. If she’d caused that student’s drug meltdown, Jack had screwed up on every possible level, from science to ethics.

With a beep, the printer opened its door to reveal two perforated concrete bricks. Jack lugged them back upstairs, wondering the entire time why she had decided to carry so much weight in her bare hands.

Copyright © 2017 by Annalee Newitz



ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Annalee Newitz is an American journalist, editor, and author of both fiction and nonfiction. She is the recipient of a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship from MIT, and has written for Popular Science, Wired, and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. She also founded the science fiction website io9 and served as Editor-in-Chief from 2008–2015, and subsequently edited Gizmodo. As of 2016, she is Tech Culture Editor at the technology site Ars Technica. Her books include Pretend We're Dead and Autonomous.

Photo Credit: Annalee Newitz



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