The James Lovegrove Collection: exclusive excerpt from 'Days'




Prologue

The Seven Cities: According to Brewer’s Reader’s Handbook, seven cities are regarded as the great cities of all time, namely Alexandria, Jerusalem, Babylon, Athens, Rome, Constantinople, and either London (for commerce) or Paris (for beauty).


5.30 a.m.

    It is that time of morning, not quite night, not quite day, when the sky is a field of smudged grey, like a page of erased pencil marks, and in the empty city streets a hushing sound can be heard—an ever-present background sigh, audible only when all else is silent. It is that hour of dawn when the streetlamps flicker out one by one like heads being emptied of dreams, and pigeons with fraying, fume-coloured plumage open an eye. It is that moment when the sun, emerging, casts silvery rays and long shadows, and every building grows a black fan-shaped tail which it drapes across its westward neighbours.
    One building casts a broader shadow, darkens more with its penumbra, than any other. It rises at the city’s heart, immense and squat and square. Visible for miles around, it would seem to be the sole reason for which the houses and tower blocks and factories and warehouses around it exist. Hard rains and hot summers have turned its brickwork the colour of dried blood, and its roof is capped with a vast hemispherical glass dome that glints and glimmers as it rotates ponderously, with almost imperceptible slowness. Hidden gearings drive the dome through one full revolution every twenty-four hours. Half of it is crystal clear, the other half smoked black.
The building has seven floors, and each floor is fourteen metres high. Its sides are just over two and a half kilometres long, so that it sits on seven million hectares of land. With its bare brick flanks it looks like something that weighs heavy on the planet, like something that has been pounded in with God’s own sledgehammer.
    This is Days, the world’s first and (some still say) foremost gigastore.
    Inside, Days is brackishly lit with half-powered bulbs. Night watchmen are making their final rounds through the store’s six hundred and sixty-six departments, the beams of their torches poking this way and that through the crepuscular stillness, sweeping focal haloes across the shelves and the displays, the cabinets and the countertops, the unimaginably vast array of merchandise that Days has to offer. The night watchmen’s movements are followed automatically by closed-circuit cameras mounted on whispering armatures. The cameras’ green LEDs are not yet lit.
    Across the dollar-green marble floors of the store’s four main entrance halls janitors drive throbbing cleaning-machines the size of tractors, with spinning felt discs for wheels. The vehicles whirr and veer, reviving the marble’s oceanic sheen. At the centre of each entrance hall, embedded in the floor, is a mosaic, a circle seven metres in diameter divided into halves, one white, one black. The tesserae of the white half are bevelled opals, those of the black half slivers of onyx, some as large as saucers, some as small as pennies, all fitted intricately together. The janitors are careful to drive over the mosaics several times, to buff up the precious stones’ lustre.
    At the centre of the gigastore, tiered circular openings in each floor form an atrium that rises all the way up to the great glass dome. The tiers are painted in the colours of the spectrum, red rising to violet. Shafts of light steal in through the dome’s clear half, reaching down to a fine monofilament mesh level with the Red Floor. The mesh, half a kilometre in diameter, is stretched tight as a drum-skin above a canopy of palms and ferns, and between it and the canopy lies a gridwork of copper pipes.
    With a sudden hiss, a warm steamy mist purls out from holes in the pipes, and the tree canopy ripples appreciatively. The water vapour drifts down, growing thinner, fainter, sieved by layers of leaves and branches, to the ground, a loamy landscape of moss, rock, leaf mould and grass.
Here, at basement level, lies the Menagerie. Its insects are already busy. Its animals are stirring. Snarls and soft howls can be heard, and paws pad and undergrowth rustles as creatures great and small begin their daily prowling.
    Outside Days, armed guards yawn and loll blearily at their posts. All around the building people lie huddled against the plate-glass windows that occupy the lower storey, the only windows in the building. Most of them sleep, but some hover fitfully in that lucid state between waking and dreaming where their dreams are as uncomfortable as their reality. The lucky ones have sleeping bags, gloves on their fingers, and shawls and scarves wrapped around their heads. The rest make do with blankets, fingerless gloves, hats, and thicknesses of begged, borrowed or stolen clothing.
And now, at last, as six o’clock approaches, over at the airport to the west of town a jet breaks the city’s silence. Its wingtips flaring like burnished silver in the low sunlight, it leaps along a runway, rears into the air and roars steeply skyward: the dawn shuttle, carrying yet another fuselage-full of émigrés westward, yet another few hundred healthy cells leaving the cancerous host-body of the motherland.
    The echo of the plane’s launch rumbles across the rooftops, reaching into every corner of the city, into the deeps of every citizen’s mind, so that collectively, at four minutes to six, as is the case every morning, the entire population is thinking the same thing: We are a little bit more alone than yesterday. And those who continue to sleep are troubled in their dreams, and those who come awake and stay awake find themselves gnawed by dissatisfaction and doubt.
    And still the day remorselessly brightens like a weed that, no matter what, will grow.


1

The Seven Sleepers: Seven noble youths of Ephesus who martyred themselves under the emperor Decius in 250 A.D. by fleeing to a cave in Mount Celion, where, having fallen asleep, they were found by Decius, who had them sealed up.


6.00 a.m.

    The brass hands on the alarm clock on Frank Hubble’s bedside table divide its face in two. The perfect vertical diameter they form separates the pattern on the clockface into its component halves, on the left a black semicircle, on the right a white. A trip-switch clicks in the workings and the clock starts to ring.
    Frank’s hand descends onto the clock, silencing the reveille almost before it has begun. He settles back, head sighing into duck-down pillows. The roar of the departing shuttle is now a distant lingering murmur, more remembered than heard. He tries to piece together the fragments of the dream from which he was summoned up by the knowledge that the alarm was about to go off, but the images spin elusively out of his grasp. The harder he reaches for them, the faster they hurtle away. Soon they are lost, leaving him with just the memory of having dreamed, which, he supposes, is better than not dreaming at all.
    The street below his bedroom window is startled by the sound of a car’s ignition. The window’s russet curtains are inflated by a breeze then sucked flat again. Frank hears the timer-controlled coffee machine in the kitchen gurgle into life, and moving his tongue thirstily he pictures fat brown droplets of a harsh arabica blend dripping into the pot. He waits for the sharp odour of brewing coffee to creep under the bedroom door and tweak his nose, then, with a grunt, unpeels the bedcovers and swings his legs out.
    He sits for a while on the side of the bed gazing down at his knees. He is a medium-sized man, well-proportioned and trim, although the years have worn away at his shoulders and put a curve in his upper vertebrae so that he suffers from a permanent hunch, as though he is saddled with a heavy, invisible yoke. His face is as rumpled as his pyjamas, and his hair is a grey that isn’t simply a dark white or a light black but an utter absence of tone. His eyes, too, are grey, the grey of gravestones.
In a bathroom whose midnight blue walls are flecked with stencilled gold stars, Frank urinates copiously into the lavatory bowl. Having pushed the flush and lowered the lavatory lid, he fills the basin with steaming-hot water, soaks a flannel and presses it hard against his face. Though his skin stings in protest, he holds the flannel in place until it cools. Then he lathers on shaving foam from a canister marked prominently with the same back-to-back semicircles of black and white as on the face of the alarm clock, and with a few deft strokes of a nickel-plated razor he is unbristled. He has his shaving down to such a fine art that he can leave his face smooth and nick-free without once consulting the mirror in front of him.
    Frank fears mirrors. Not because they tell him he is old (he knows that), nor because they tell him how worn and weary he looks (he has resigned himself to that), but because, of late, mirrors have begun to tell him another truth, one he would rather not acknowledge.
Still, it has become part of his pre-breakfast ablutions to confront this truth, and so, resting his hands on the sides of the basin, he raises his head and looks at his reflection.
Or rather, looks for his reflection, because in the mirror he sees nothing except the star-flecked, midnight blue bathroom wall behind him.
    Fighting down a familiar upsurge of panic, Frank concentrates. He is there. He knows he is there. The mirror is lying. He can feel his body, the organic life-support machine that keeps his mind going. He knows there is cool floor beneath his bare feet and porcelain basin in his hands because nerve-endings in his skin are reporting these facts to his brain, and fitted tightly and intricately into that skin is the configuration of flesh and bone and vein and sinew that is uniquely Frank Hubble. The air that slides over his lips as he breathes in and out tells him that he exists. He feels, therefore he is.
But the mirror continues to insist that he is not.
    He fixes his gaze on the point in space where his eyes should be. His mind is descending in an express lift, swooping vertiginously down towards a dark well of insanity where writhe not gibbering demons but wraiths, a blizzard of wraiths who float soundlessly, mouth hopelessly, twisting around each other, oblivious to each other, invisible to each other. Neither guilt nor shame, the common demons, terrify Frank. What he fears most is anonymity. The nameless wraiths flutter like intangible moths. Nothing is appearing in the mirror. Today, of all days, may be the day that he is finally swallowed up by the emptiness inside him. Unless he can visualise himself, he will be gone. Lost. Forgotten.
    He has to remember his eyes. If the eyes fall into place, he will be able to piece together the rest.
Gradually, with considerable effort, he makes two eyes emerge from the reflected wall, first the grave-grey irises, then their frames of white.
    He makes the eyes blink, to prove they are really his.
    Now the lids appear, purple and puffy with sleep and age.
    Now he shades in two eyebrows of the same smudgy, forgettable grey as his hair.
His forehead follows, and quickly the rest of his face falls into place—fisted nose, fettered jaw, furrowed cheeks, foetal ears.
    Below his chin he has a neck, below his neck a collarbone that reaches to both shoulders from which drop arms that end in basin-bracing hands. The stripes of his pyjama jacket are sketched out in jagged parallel lines. On the breast pocket a stitched monogram of the divided black-and-white circle manifests itself.
    He can see everything of himself that is visible in the mirror. The struggle is over again for another day.
    But it is not with relief that Frank turns away from the basin. Who knows—the moment he takes his eyes off his reflection, perhaps it vanishes again. Behind our backs, who knows what mirrors do?
It is a question Frank prefers not to ponder. Leaning over the bath, he levers up the mixer tap, and a fizzing cone of water spurts from the head of the shower. The mixer tap is marked with a black C on a white semicircle next to a black semicircle with a white H. Frank adjusts the water to a medium temperature, divests himself of his pyjamas, and steps into the bath, ringing the shower curtain across.
    The shower curtain, the flannel Frank uses to scrub himself, the bottle from which he squeezes out a palmful of medicated shampoo, his unscented soap, all sport the divided-circle logo, as do the bathmat he steps out onto when he has finished showering, the towel with which he dries his body off, and the robe he drapes around himself. The logo, in various guises and sizes, appears on no fewer than forty-seven different fixtures, fittings, and items of toiletry in the bathroom. Even the treacherous mirror has a coin-sized one etched into its corner.
    Warm-skinned and tinglingly clean, Frank shuffles into the kitchen, using his fingers to comb his hair into a lank approximation of how it will look when dry. The timing of the ritual of his mornings is so ingrained that as he enters the kitchen, the last few drips of coffee are spitting into the pot; he can pick up the pot and pour out a mugful straight away.
    Blowing steam from the rim of the mug, he opens the blinds. Staring out at the hazy silver city, he takes his first sip of coffee.
    Usually Frank admires the view for all of three seconds, but this morning he takes his time. Even though the present position of every building, thoroughfare and empty rectangle of demolished rubble is familiar to him and forms part of a detailed and constantly updated mental map, he feels that, for posterity’s sake, he ought to make a ceremony out of this act of observation, so that in years to come he will remember how every morning at 6.17, for thirty-three years, he used to stand here and stare.
He suspects that all day long he will be highlighting mundane little moments like this, tagging the regular features of his daily routine which under normal circumstances he would perform on autopilot but which today he will fetishise as a long-term convict whose sentence is coming to an end must fetishise his last tin-tray meal, his last slopping-out, his last roll-call. Though it will be sweet never to have to do these things again, it will also be strange. After thirty-three years, routine has become the calipers of Frank’s life. He hates it, but he isn’t sure that he’s going to be able to manage without it.
So, consciously and conscientiously he gazes out at a view that he has seen thousands of times before, either in the dark or in the false dawn or in broad daylight. He observes the thick-legged flyover, the spindly section of elevated railway along which a commuter train crawls like a steel caterpillar, the whole treeless, joyless expanse of flat-roofed concrete estates and crumpled, clustered houses. As with all employee apartments, the windows also offer him a view of Days, the distant store’s upper storeys lying like a lid over the city, but by lowering his head just a little, he can block it out of sight behind the rooftops.
    Now he feels he has gazed enough. Into his otherwise tightly timetabled rising ritual he has factored two minutes of slack so that, unless there is a major hold-up, he is never late leaving the building. He has used up one of those minutes, and it is wise to keep the other in hand in case of emergency.
    It vaguely amuses him that he should be worrying about arriving late for work on what he fully expects to be his last day at Days, but a habit of thirty-three years’ standing is hard to break. How long will it take, he wonders, for the robot in him to adjust to life after Days. Will he wake up punctually at six every morning until he dies, even if there is nothing to get up for? Will he continue to take his coffee-break at 10.30, his lunch-break at 12.45, his tea-break at 4.30 in the afternoon? The patterns stamped into his brain by years of repetition will be difficult to reconfigure into something more suited to a leisurely lifestyle. For more than half his life he has been locked into a groove like a toy car, travelling the same circuit six days a week. Sundays have been days of disjointed lethargy: waking at six as usual, he passes the hours snoozing, reading the newspapers, watching television and generally feeling sleepy and out of sorts, his body unable to assimilate the hiccup in its circadian rhythm. Is that what his life will be like after he resigns? One long chain of Sundays?
    Well, he will have to deal with that when it happens. For now, he has today—a Thursday—to contend with.
    He inserts a slice of bread into a chrome pop-up toaster which, with its vents and lines, calls to mind a vintage automobile. On the counter beside it sits a portable television set, which he switches on. Both toaster and television, needless to say, have the back-to-back D’s of the Days logo stamped on their housings.
The television is programmed so that whenever it comes on it automatically tunes in to the Days home-shopping channel. A pair of wax-faced women of indeterminable age are rhapsodising over a three-string cultured-pearl choker from the Jewellery Department, while a computer-generated simulation of the interior of the world’s first and (possibly) foremost gigastore planes sea-sickeningly to and fro behind them.
    With a click of the remote control, Frank cuts to a news channel, and watches a report on the construction of the world’s first terastore in Australia—official title: the Bloody Big Shop. Intended to serve not just Australia and New Zealand but the Pacific Rim countries and South-East Asia as well, the Bloody Big Shop is an estimated eighteen months from completion but still, in its skeletal state, challenges its immediate neighbour, Ayers Rock, for size.
    The toaster jettisons its load of browned bread. In one corner of the slice a small semicircle of charring backs against an uncooked counterpart. This is the corner Frank butters and bites first.
Frank does not eat much. He doesn’t even finish the toast. He pours himself another coffee, turns off the television and heads for his dressing room.
    Down a high-ceilinged hallway he passes doors to rooms he seldom uses, rooms whose immaculate and expensive furnishings would be under several inches of dust were it not for the ministrations of a cleaning lady Frank has never met. Shelves of books he hasn’t read line one side of the hallway, while on the other side paintings he barely notices any more cover the wall. A fussy-fingered interior decorator from Days chose the books and the paintings and the furnishings on Frank’s behalf, making free with Frank’s Iridium card. Frank has not yet paid off the sum outstanding on the card, so when he resigns he will have to surrender almost everything he owns back to the store. This will be no hardship.
    His Thursday outfit is waiting for him in the dressing room, each individual item hung or laid out. Frank put the trousers of his Thursday suit in the press the night before, last thing before he went to bed. The creases are pleasingly sharp.
    He dresses in an orderly and methodical manner, pausing after each step of the process to take a sip of coffee. He puts on a cool cotton shirt with a blue pinstripe and plain white buttons, and knots a maroon silk tie around his neck. He dons a charcoal-grey jacket to match the trousers, and slips a pair of black, cushion-soled brogues built more for comfort than elegance over the navy socks on his feet. Then he addresses himself to the full-length mirror that stands, canted in its frame, in one corner.
Patiently he pieces himself in.
    The clothes help. The clothes, as they say, make the man, and decked out in the very best that the Gentlemen’s Outfitters Department at Days has to offer, Frank feels very much made. The crisp outlines of the suit fall readily into place. The tie and shirt and shoes fill out the gaps. Frank’s head, neck and hands are the last to appear, the hardest to visualise. God help him, sometimes he can’t even remember what his face looks like. Once it manifests in the mirror, its familiarity mocks his faulty memory, but in the moments while he struggles to recall just one feature, Frank honestly fears that he has finally winked out of existence altogether, slipped sideways into limbo, become a genuine ghost as well as a professional one.
    He makes a point of fixing the time—6.34—in his mental souvenir album. At 6.34 every workday morning, give or take a minute, he has stood here newly dressed in an outfit every piece of which carries a label into which is woven a matched pair of semicircles, one black, one white, above the washing and ironing instructions. Tomorrow morning he will not be standing here. In one of the dressing-room wardrobes a packed suitcase waits. The fluorescent pink tag attached to its handle bears a flight number and the three-letter code for an airport in the United States. A first-class plane ticket sits on top of the suitcase. Tomorrow at 6.34 a.m. Frank will be aboard a silver-tinged shuttle jet, soaring above the clotted clouds, following the sun. One way, no return.
    He pauses, still unable to conceive how it will feel to be hurtling away from the city, all connections with the only place he has ever called home severed, no certainties ahead of him. A tiny voice inside his head asks him if he is crazy, and a larger, louder voice replies, with calm conviction, No.
No. Leaving is probably the sanest thing he has ever done. The scariest, too.
Returning to the kitchen, Frank pours himself his third coffee, filling the mug to the brim as he empties the pot of its last drops.
    Halfway through drinking the final instalment of his breakfast-time caffeine infusion he feels a twinge deep in his belly, and happily he heads for the bathroom, there to succumb to the seated pleasure of relieving his bowels of their contents, which are meagre, hard and dry, but nonetheless good to be rid of. Each sheet of the super-soft three-ply lavatory paper he uses is imprinted with ghostly-faint pairs of semicircles. When he was much younger, Frank used to treat the Days logo with almost religious reverence. As an icon, its ubiquitousness indicated to him its power. He was proud to be associated with the symbol. Where before he might have balked at such an act of desecration, now he thinks nothing of wiping his arse on it.
    In the bedroom again, he straps on his sole sartorial accessory, a Days wristwatch—gold casing, patent-leather strap, Swiss movement. Before he slips his wallet into his inside jacket pocket, he checks that his Iridium card is still there, not because he expects it to have been stolen but because that is what he has done every morning at 6.41 for thirty-three years.
    He slides the Iridium from its velvet sheath. The card gleams iridescently like a rectangular wafer of mother-of-pearl. Holding it up to the light and gently flexing it, Frank watches rainbows chase one another across its surface, rippling around the raised characters of his name and the card number and the grainily engraved Days logo. Hard to believe something so light and thin could be a millstone.   Hard to believe something so beautiful could be the source of so much misery.
  He returns the card to its sheath, the sheath to his wallet. Now he is ready to leave. There is nothing keeping him here.
    Except ...
    He spends his second “spare” minute wandering around the flat, touching the things that belong to him, that tomorrow will not belong to him. His fingertips drift over fabrics and varnishes and glass as he glides from room to room, through a living space that, for all the emotional attachment he has to it, might as well be a museum.
    How he has managed to accumulate so many possessions, so many pieces of furniture and objets d’art, is something of a mystery to Frank. He can vaguely recall over the past thirty-three years handing over his Iridium to pay for purchases which took him all of a few seconds to pick out, but he is hard pressed to remember actually buying the individual items—this Art Deco vase, say, or that Turkish kilim—let alone how much they cost. No doubt the Days interior decorator was responsible for obtaining and installing many of the pieces Frank has no memory of acquiring, but not all. That’s how little the transactions have meant to him, how unreal they have seemed. He has bought things reflexively, not because he wants to but because his Iridium has meant he can, and now he is mired in a debt that will take at least another decade of employment to work off.
    But as he cannot bear the thought of another day at Days, and as what he owns has no value to him, not even of the sentimental kind, he feels no qualms about his decision to tender his resignation today. To quit, as the Americans would say. (So direct, Americans. They always find a succinct way of putting things, which is why Frank is looking forward to living among them, because he admires those qualities in others he finds lacking in himself.) He has calculated that by repossessing the flat and all that is in it, his employers ought to consider the debt squared. And if they don’t, then they will just have to come looking for him in America. And America is a very big place, and Frank can be a very hard man to find.
    His tour of the flat is complete. It is 6.43, and he has pushed his timetable to its limit. There can be no more procrastinating. He takes a black cashmere overcoat from the coat rack by the flat door and flings it on. The door clicks softly open, snicks snugly shut. Frank steps out onto the landing, part of a central stairwell that winds around a lift shaft enclosed in a wrought-iron cage. He keys the Down button by the lift gate, and there is a whine and a churning of cogs from deep down in the shaft. The cables start to ribbon.

The James Lovegrove Collection: Volume One is out December 2014 and is the first in a three part retrospective of the early works of James Lovegrove.

Pre-order UK | US 

Solaris acquisition announcement: UBO by Steve Rasnic Tem

Solaris Books is today delighted to share with our readers the announcement that we will be publishing horror legend Steve Rasnic Tem’s long-awaited first dark SF novel UBO in Spring 2016.

UBO is a timely and poignant look at humanity’s relationship with violence, and has been a work in progress for Tem since the early 80s. In UBO Tem combines his flair for horror with a beautifully conceptualised future world set in the prison of “Ubo,” from which the title draws its title, to create a poignantly realised and highly terrifying glimpse into the darker side of human nature.

“Every resident has a similar memory of the journey to Ubo: a dream of dry, chitinous wings crossing the moon, the gigantic insects so like roaches or cicadae dropping swiftly over the houses of the neighborhood. Dark membranes and scabrous exoskeleton pass through walls and windows in some manner magical or scientific that resembles most a deck of dusky and baroquely ornamented cards fanning themselves from one hidden world into the next.”

Now in Ubo, Daniel has no idea how long he has been imprisoned by the roaches. Each day they force him to play a different figure from humanity’s violent history, from a frenzied Jack the Ripper to a stumbling and confused Stalin to a self-proclaimed god executing survivors atop the accumulated ruins of the world. The hellish scenarios mutate day after day in this concentration camp somewhere beyond the rules of time, as skies burn and prisoners go mad, identities dissolving as the experiments evolve toward their mysterious end.

UBO inspiration board: see more & image credits at
http://www.pinterest.com/stevetem/a-meditation-on-human-violence/
PLEASE NOTE: this board contains some images that readers may find upsetting.
Speaking exclusively with the When Gravity Fails blog Tem describes working on UBO:

“Sometimes when you’re working on a piece you realize you’re not yet intellectually, or creatively, or emotionally equipped to do the material justice (and sometimes all three). My novel UBO, a meditation on violence, has been such a project for me. I began it in the early 80s, and showed sample chapters to a number of writers I respected. Some thought it was wonderful and showed great promise. Others thought a book about humankind’s propensity for violence was the last thing they wanted to read. For myself, I knew it was the most challenging thing I’d ever attempted. More problematic, however, was the fact that I had a 5- and an 8-year-old at home, and toiling in the land of Ubo during the day and then playing with my children and reading them bedtime stories proved to be a wrenching experience. I put the manuscript aside. Over the years I’d pick it up again, but I’d discover that either I wasn't emotionally ready to tackle it, or I doubted my level of craft. Which brings us to today. At 64 years old I'm a little wiser perhaps; certainly I'm a lot more foolish. I'm still rather emotional, but I've learned that for me at least that seems to go with the job. And the book is done.”

We’re incredibly excited for the opportunity to be able to publish this amazing work, from one of our favourite authors and we hope you’re looking forward to it as much as we are. 

For now we leave you with a few words from our Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Oliver on the acquisition:

“Steve is one of the most exciting and diverse voices in genre. Granted, he’s known mainly for horror, but this move into dark SF is an entirely natural progression for Steve. I’ve been enjoying his weird SF stories for years and to bring these talents to a novel is very exciting. There is no one quite like Steve Rasnic Tem.”

UBO is set to publish Spring 2016.

Steve Rasnic Tem is the author of over 400 published short stories, 6 novels, 9 collections, and is a past winner of the Bram Stoker, International Horror Guild, British Fantasy, and World Fantasy Awards.

He is the author of 2 previous novels for Solaris: Deadfall Hotel (2012) and  Blood Kin (2014).



Press enquires should be directed to Lydia Gittins at press@rebellion.co.uk


Macaque Attack by Gareth L Powell: exclusive preview


CHAPTER ONE
INSTANT KARMA


“Are you sure we should be doing this?” The driver’s sharp green eyes met Victoria’s in the rearview mirror and she looked away, twisting her gloved hands in her lap. She was being driven through Paris in a shiny black Mercedes. The parked cars, buildings and skeletal linden trees were bright and crisp beneath the winter sun.
“I think so.”
At the wheel, K8 shrugged. She was nineteen years old, with cropped copper hair and a smart white suit.
“Only…”
Victoria frowned, and brushed a speck of dust from the knee of her black trousers.
“Only what?”
“Should it be you that does it? Maybe somebody else—”
“She won’t listen to anybody else.”
“You don’t know that for sure.”
“I really do.”
They passed across the Pont Neuf. Sunlight glittered off the waters of the Seine. The towers of Notre Dame stood resolute against the sky, their solidity a direct counterpoint to the ephemeral advertising holograms that stepped and swaggered above the city’s boulevards and streets.
“Look,” Victoria said apologetically, “I didn’t mean to be snappy. I really appreciate you coming along. I know things haven’t been easy for you recently.”
K8 kept her attention focused on the road ahead.
“We are fine.”
“It must have been tough for you.” During the final battle over London, the poor kid had been assimilated into the Gestalt hive mind. For a time, she’d been part of a group consciousness, lost in a sea of other people’s thoughts.
“It was, but we’re okay now. Really.” There were no other members of the Gestalt on this parallel version of the Earth. For the first time since the battle, the girl was alone in her head.
“You’re still referring to yourself in the plural.”
“We can’t help it.”
The car negotiated the Place de la Bastille, and plunged into the narrow streets beyond. Their target lived in a two-room apartment on the third floor of a red brick house on the corner of la Rue Pétion. When they reached the address, Victoria instructed K8 to park the Mercedes at the opposite end of the avenue and wait. Then she got out and walked back towards the house.
With her hands in the pockets of her long army coat, she sniffed the cold air. This morning, Paris smelled of damp leaves and fresh coffee. Far away and long ago, on another timeline entirely, this had been her neighbourhood, her street. Even the graffiti tags scrawled between the shop-fronts seemed just as she remembered them from when she lived here as a journalist for Le Monde, in the days before she met Paul.
Paul…
Victoria squeezed her fists and pushed them deeper into her pockets. Paul was her ex-husband. In the three years since his death, he’d existed as a computer simulation. She’d managed to keep him alive, despite the fact that personality ‘back-ups’ were inherently unstable and prone to dissolution. Originally developed for battlefield use, back-ups had become a means by which the civilian deceased—at least those who could afford the implants—could say their goodbyes after death and tie up their affairs. The recordings weren’t intended or expected to endure more than six months but, with her help, Paul had already far exceeded that limit.
But nothing lasts forever.
During the past weeks, Paul’s virtual personality had become increasingly erratic and forgetful, and she knew he couldn’t hold out much longer. In order to preserve whatever run-time he might have left, she’d found a way to pause his simulation, leaving him frozen in time until her return. She didn’t want to lose him. In many ways, he was the love of her life; and yet she knew her attempts to hold on to him were only delaying the inevitable. Sooner or later, she’d have to let him go. Three years after his death, she’d finally have to say goodbye.
Scuffing the soles of her boots against the pavement, she wondered if the woman inhabiting the apartment above had anyone significant in her life. This woman still lived and worked as a reporter in Paris, was registered as single on her social media profile, and had somehow managed to avoid the helicopter crash that had left Victoria with a skull full of prosthetic gelware processors.
Victoria reached up and adjusted the fur cap covering her bald scalp.
This would have been my life, she thought, if I’d never met Paul, never gone to the Falklands…
She felt a surge of irrational hatred for the woman who shared her face, the stranger who had once been her but whose life had diverged at an unspecified point. Where had that divergence come? Who knew? A missed promotion, perhaps, or maybe something as banal as simply turning right when her other self had turned left… Now, they were completely different people. One of them was a newspaper correspondent living in a hip quarter of Paris, the other a battle-hardened skyliner captain in league with an army of dimension-hopping monkeys.
At the front door, she hesitated. How could she explain any of this?
For the past two years, she’d been travelling with Ack-Ack Macaque, jumping from one world to the next. Together, they’d sought out and freed as many of his simian counterparts as they could find, unhooking them from whichever video games or weapons guidance systems they’d been wired into, and telling them they were no longer alone, no longer unique—welcoming them into the troupe. But in all that time, on all those worlds, she’d never once sought out an alternate version of herself. The thought simply hadn’t occurred to her.
Here and now, though, things were different. K8 had tracked the most likely location of Ack-Ack Macaque’s counterpart on this world to an organisation known as the Malsight Institute. It was a privately funded research facility on the outskirts of Paris, surrounded by security fences and razor wire. While trying to hack its systems from outside, K8 had discovered a file containing a list of people the institute saw as ‘threats’ to their continued operation. Victoria’s counterpart had been the third person named on that list. Apparently, she’d been asking questions, probing around online, and generally making a nuisance of herself. The first two people on the list were already dead, their deaths part of an ongoing police investigation. One had been a former employee of the institute, the other an investigative journalist for an online news site. Both had been found stabbed and mutilated, their bodies charred almost beyond all recognition. Hence, the reason for this visit. If the deaths were connected to the Institute, Victoria felt duty-bound to warn her other self before the woman wound up as a headline on the evening news, her hacked and blackened corpse grinning from the smoking remains of a burned-out car.
From the pocket of her coat, she drew her house key. She’d kept the small sliver of brass and nickel with her for years, letting it rattle around in the bottom of one suitcase after another like a half-forgotten talisman. She’d never expected to need it again, but neither had she ever managed to quite bring herself to throw it away.
She slid the key into the lock and opened the door. Inside, the hallway was exactly as she remembered: black and white diamond-shaped floor tiles; a side table piled with uncollected mail, free newspapers and takeaway menus; and a black-railed staircase leading to the floors above. She closed the front door behind her and made her way up, her thick-soled boots making dull clumps on the uncarpeted steps.
The feel of the smooth bannister, the creak of the stairs, even the slightly musty smell of the walls brought back memories of a time that had been, in retrospect, happier and simpler.
In particular, she remembered an upstairs neighbour, a woman in her mid-forties with a taste for young men. Often, Victoria had found she had to turn up her TV to hide the bumps and giggles from above. One time, a lump of plaster fell off the ceiling and smashed her glass coffee table. Then, in the morning, there would usually be a young man standing in the communal stairwell. Some were lost, some shell shocked or euphoric. Some were reassessing their lives and relationships in the light of the previous night’s events. Victoria would take them in and make them coffee, call them cabs or get them cigarettes, that sort of thing.
She liked their company. In those days, she liked being useful. And sometimes, one of the boys would stay with her for a few days. They used her to wind down, to ground themselves. Sometimes, they just needed to talk. And when they left, as they inevitably did, it made her sad. She would rinse out their empty coffee mugs, clean the ashtrays, and fetch herself a glass of wine from the fridge. Then she would settle herself on the sofa again, rest her feet on the coffee table frame, and turn the TV volume way up.

Somebody screamed. The sound cut through her memories. It came from above. Reaching into her coat pocket, Victoria pulled the retractable fighting stick from her coat and shook it out to its full two-metre length. Was she already too late? Taking the stairs two at a time, she reached the third floor to find the door of the apartment—her apartment—locked, and fresh blood spreading from beneath it, soaking into the bristles of the welcome mat.
She’d been around the monkey long enough to know she’d only hurt herself if she tried shoulder-charging the door. Instead, she delivered a sharp kick with the heel of her heavy boot, aiming for the edge of door opposite the handle. The lock would be strong, but only a handful of screws held the hinges in place. She heard wood crack, but the door remained closed. Leaning backwards for balance, she kicked again. This time, the frame splintered, the hinges came away from the wall, and the door crashed inwards and to the side.
Victoria pushed through, stepping over the puddle of blood, and found herself on the threshold of a familiar-looking room. A body lay on the floor by the couch. It had shoulder-length blonde hair. A tall, thin man loomed over it, a long black knife in his almost skeletal hand. His shoes had left red prints on the parquet floor, and there was a long smear where he’d dragged the body. As she burst in, he looked up at her. His face was set in a rictus grin, and she swallowed back a surge of revulsion.
“Cassius Berg.”
His expression didn’t change, and she knew it couldn’t. His skin had been stretched taut over an artificial frame.
“Who are you?”
Victoria swallowed. She felt as if she was talking to a ghost. “The last time we met, I dropped you out of a skyliner’s cargo hatch, four hundred feet above Windsor.”
He tipped his head on one side. His eyes were reptilian slits.
“What are you on about?” He stepped over the corpse and brandished the knife. “Who are you?”
Victoria moved her staff into a defensive position.
“I’m her.”
She couldn’t bring herself to look directly at the body. As a reporter, she’d seen her share of violent crime scenes, and knew what to expect. Instead, she looked inside her own head, concentrating on the mental commands that transferred her consciousness from the battered remains of her natural cortex to the clean, bright clarity of her gelware implants.
Berg’s posture tightened. He glanced from her to the body, and back again.
“Twin sister?”
“Something like that.”
“Lucky me.”
The first time she’d fought him—or at least the version of him from her own parallel—he’d been superhumanly fast and tough, and he’d almost killed her. She’d been left for dead with a hole punched through the back of her skull. She tightened her grip on the metal staff. This time would be different. This time, she knew all about him, knew his methods and limitations, while he remained blissfully unaware of her capabilities.
Visualising her internal menu, she overclocked her neural processors. As the speed of her thinking increased, her perception of time stretched and slowed. The traffic noise from outside deepened, winding down like a faulty tape. In slow motion, she saw Berg’s muscles tense. His legs pushed up and he surged towards her, black coat flapping around behind him, knife held forward, aimed at her face. His speed was astonishing. A normal human would have been pinned through the eye before they could move. As it was, Victoria only just managed to spin aside. As momentum carried him past, she completed her twirl and brought the end of her staff cracking into the back of his head. The blow caught him off balance and sent him flailing forwards with an indignant cry, through the remains of the front door and out, into the hallway.
He ended up on his hands and knees. Victoria stepped up behind him, but before she could bring her staff down, Berg’s spindly arm slashed backwards, and his knife caught her across the shins, slicing through denim and skin. The pain registered as a sharp red alarm somewhere at the back of her mind, way down in the animal part of her brain, and she tried to ignore it. It was a distraction, the gelware told her, nothing more. Her heart thumped in her chest, each beat like the pounding of some great engine. He’d hurt her before; she wouldn’t allow him to hurt her again. She stabbed down with her staff, pinning his wrist to the hardwood floor, and leant her weight on it. She ground until she felt the bones of his hand snap and crack, and saw the knife fall from his fingers.
Berg’s head turned to look at her. Although the grin remained stretched across his face, his eyes were wide and fearful.
“Who are you?”
“I told you.” Victoria could feel blood running down her shins, soaking into the tops of her socks. She glanced back at the dead woman in the apartment, and saw blonde hair mixed with wine-coloured blood, and an out-thrown hand with torn and bruised knuckles. The poor woman hadn’t stood a chance. She’d been butchered, and all Victoria could do now was avenge her.
“I’m Victoria Valois.” She stepped forward and raised her weapon high over her head. She wanted to bring it down hard, driving the butt end into the space between his eyes. She wanted to feel his metal skull cave beneath her blow, feel his brains squish and perish. He had killed at least three people, probably more, and would kill her too if he got the chance.
He deserved to die.
And yet…




CHAPTER TWO
UNCLEAN ZOO

Taking off from a private airstrip on the outskirts of Paris, Victoria and K8 flew across the English Channel in a borrowed seaplane, with Cassius Berg handcuffed and gagged in the hold. They were heading for a sea fort that stood a few miles off the coast of Portsmouth. When the old structure came into sight, they splashed the plane into the waters of the Solent, carving a feather of white across the shimmering blue surface, and taxied to the rotting jetty that served as the fort’s one and only link with the outside world.
The seaplane was an ancient Grumman Goose: a small and ungainly contraption with which Victoria had somehow fallen grudgingly in love. The little aircraft had two chunky propeller engines mounted on an overhead wing, and the main fuselage dangled between them like a fat-bottomed boat bolted to the underside of a boomerang.
When she stepped from the plane’s hatch, Victoria found a monkey waiting for her, fishing from the end of the jetty. It wore a flowery sunhat and a string vest, and had a large silver pistol tucked into the waistband of its cut-off denim shorts. Overhead, the sun burned white and clean.
“I’m Valois.”
The monkey watched her from behind its mirrored shades. She couldn’t remember its name. A portable transistor radio, resting on the planks beside the bait bucket, played scratchy Europop.
“So?”
Behind the monkey, at the far end of the jetty, the fort rose as an implacable, curving wall of stone. Victoria swallowed back her irritation. The breeze blowing in from the sea held the all-too-familiar fragrances of brine, fresh fish, and childhood holidays. Considering it was November, the day felt exceptionally mild.
“Where’s your boss?”
“Does he know you’re coming?”
“Don’t be stupid.” She slipped off her flying jacket, pulled a red bandana from her trouser pocket, and wiped her forehead. Keeping hold of its rod with one hand, the monkey produced a rolled-up cigarette from behind its ear. The paper was damp and starting to unravel. It pushed the rollup between its yellowing teeth, and lit up using a match struck against the jetty’s crumbling planks.
“I don’t think he’ll want to see you.”
Smoke curled around it, blue in the sunlight. Victoria sighed, and raised her eyes to the armoured Zeppelin tethered to the fort’s radio mast.
“Is he up there?”
“Yeah, but he ain’t taking no visitors.”
“We’ll see about that.”
She went back to the Goose and pulled Berg out onto the jetty’s planks. He blinked against the sunlight. Victoria slipped a loop of rope around his neck, and jerked on it like a dog chain. Leaving K8 to secure the plane, she led her prisoner past the startled monkey, along the jetty, and into the coolness of the stone fort.
The corridors were dank with rainwater, and she was surprised to feel a sense of homecoming. Despite the frosty welcome, this little manmade island felt more like home than anywhere else on this timeline. She’d spent the past six weeks in Europe, but it hadn’t been her Europe. Everything about it had been different and, to her, somehow wrong. She looked forward to getting back to the familiar cabins and gangways of the armoured airship, and Paul.
Would he even remember her?
Dragging Berg, she stomped her way across the fort’s main flagstone courtyard.
Standing in the English Channel, several miles off the coast of the Isle of Wight, the circular fort had been built in the 19th century to defend Portsmouth from the French. Made of thick stone and surrounded by water on all sides, the structure had lain derelict until the turn of the millennium, when an enterprising developer had converted the stronghold into a luxury hotel and conference centre, complete with open-air swimming pool. Fifty years, and two stock market crashes, later, the weeds and rust had returned; and now that the place had been ‘liberated’ by the monkey army, it more resembled an unclean zoo than an exclusive resort. The water in the swimming pool lay brown and stagnant, its scummy surface speckled by shoals of empty beer cans and the wallowing bleach-white bones of broken patio furniture. Shards of glass littered the patio area.
The steps up to the base of the radio mast were where she remembered, still overgrown with lichen, grass and mould. The grass whispered against her leather boots, and she knew suspicious eyes watched her from the fort’s seemingly empty windows.
Stupid monkeys.
She’d only been gone six weeks.

Once aboard the airship, Victoria led Berg to the artificial jungle built into the vessel’s glass-panelled nose. Cut off from the rest of the craft by a thick brass door, this leafy enclosure formed Ack-Ack Macaque’s personal and private sanctuary and, at first, the monkeys guarding it didn’t want to let her in.
“He’s in a foul mood,” warned the one wearing a leather vest.
Victoria tugged at the rope around Berg’s neck, making him stumble forwards.
“He’ll be in a worse one by the time I’m through with him. Now, are you going to let me past or not?”
The monkeys exchanged glances. They knew who she was, yet were obviously nervous about troubling their leader. Finally the older of the two, a grey-muzzled macaque with a thick gold ring in his right ear, stood aside.
“Go ahead, ma’am.”
“Thank you.”
Victoria pushed open the heavy door and stepped inside. The chamber was a vast vault occupying the forward portion of the airship’s main hull. The floor had been covered in reed matting, on which stood hundreds of large ceramic pots. Palm trees and other jungle plants grew from the pots, forming a canopy overhead, and it took her a minute or so to make her way through the trees to the wooden verandah overlooking the interior of the craft’s glass bow. Birds and butterflies twitched hither and thither among the branches. The air smelled like the interior of a greenhouse.

Ack-Ack Macaque stood at the verandah’s rail, hands clasped behind his back and a fat cigar clamped in his teeth. He didn’t turn as Victoria walked up behind him.
“You’re back,” he said.
“I am.”
From where he stood, he could see the sea fort and the blue waters of the Channel.
“Any luck?”
“Some.”
She took her prisoner by the shoulder and pushed him down, into a kneeling position on the planks at his feet. Ack-Ack Macaque looked down with his one good eye.
“Who’s that?”
“Cassisus Berg.”
The monkey gave the man an experimental prod with his shoe.
“Didn’t you kill that fucker once already?”
“Not on this timeline.”
Ack-Ack frowned at her. Her face was pale despite her exertions, and her eyes were red and tired-looking. He could see she hadn’t slept well in several days. “And your other self? Did you find her?”
“We were too late.”
A wrought-iron patio table stood a little way along the verandah. Behind it stood a wheeled drinks cabinet filled with bottles of all shapes and sizes. Victoria left Berg kneeling where he was and walked over and helped herself to a vodka martini.
A parrot squawked in one of the higher branches, its plumage red against the canopy’s khaki and emerald.
Six weeks ago, Ack-Ack Macaque had tried to talk her out of getting involved with another version of herself but, predictably, she hadn’t listened—and he’d had more than enough to do trying to keep control of his monkey army. The problem with being the alpha monkey was that they all looked to him to tell them what to do and arbitrate all their pathetic squabbles. When faced with any kind of decision, they were more than happy to pass the responsibility up the chain of command until it dropped into his lap. It was the way primate troupes worked; it was also the way the military worked, and he didn’t like it. It was a pain in the hole. He was used to being a maverick, a grunt, an ace pilot rather than an Air Marshal. Being a leader cramped his style.
Considering the figure at his feet, he said, “What are we going to do with him?”
Victoria took a sip from the glass, and wiped her lips on the back of her gloved hand.
“He’s a cyborg, same as before. A human brain in an artificial body.”
Ack-Ack Macaque twitched his nostrils. The man smelled like an old, wet raincoat. He gave the guy a nudge and, arms still cuffed behind him, Berg tipped over onto his side.
“It’s definitely him, though?”
He watched as Victoria swirled the clear liquid in the bottom of her glass.
“Mais oui,” she said. “And you realise what this means, don’t you?”
Ack-Ack Macaque scowled at her.
“Should I?”
“It means Nguyen’s on this parallel, too.”
Ack-Ack Macaque’s hackles rose. His scowl turned to a snarl, and his fingers went to his hips, where two silver Colts shone in their holsters.
“Where is he?”
“Paris, I think. An operation calling itself the Malsight Institute. I had K8 pull up some information on it.”
“And?”
“Officially it doesn’t exist. There’s nothing about it until two years ago. Rumours, conspiracy theories, that sort of thing. Very secretive, government money. Black research. Heavy security.”
“Sounds familiar.”
“If he’s there, and he’s building another robot army, we have to stop him.”
Ack-Ack Macaque growled, deep in his throat. Doctor Nguyen had been the man responsible for creating them both in his laboratories—their own personal Frankenstein. He took the cigar from his lips and rolled it in his fingers.
“We leave in an hour,” he decided. He was overdue for some action, and, after spending the last six weeks trying to sort out the complaints and squabbles of a troupe of irritable, irresponsible monkeys, he was itching to bust some skulls. “Reactivate your husband and recall the crew.”
“What are you going to do?”
“What do you think I’m going to do?” His lips curled back, revealing his sharp yellow fangs. He clamped the cigar back between his teeth. Leathery fingers bunched into fists. “If Nguyen’s here, I’m going to grab the bastard by the ears and rip his fucking head off.”


Macaque Attack is out January 2015
Pre-order UK | US

Netgalley reviewers can request a review copy here now.

Introducing Cannonbridge by Jonathan Barnes

Here at Solaris Towers we're starting to look ahead to next year's schedule, and over next few weeks we'll be in touch with some of our personal highlights from the coming year. So, what what better way to start than by returning to the 19th Century with the critically author of 2007's debut breakthrough novel The Somnambulist, Jonathan Barnes, for his latest foray into this past world....

Ladies and gentlemen, we introduce to you the greatest literary figure of our time: Matthew Cannonbridge.

Flamboyant Matthew Cannonbridge was touched by genius, the most influential mind of the 19th century, a novelist, playwright, the poet of his generation. The only problem is, he should never have existed, and recently divorced 21st century don Toby Judd is the only person to realise something is wrong with history.


Cannonbridge was everywhere: he was by Lake Geneva when talk between Byron, Shelley and Mary Godwin turned to the supernatural; he was friend to the young Dickens as he laboured in the blacking factory; he was the only man of note to visit Wilde in prison. His extraordinary life spanned a century. But as the world prepares to toast the bicentenary of Cannonbridge’s most celebrated work, Judd’s discovery leads him on a breakneck chase across the English canon and countryside, to the realisation that the spectre of Matthew Cannonbridge, planted so seamlessly into the heart of the 19thcentury, might not be so dead and buried after all…

Cannongridge is out February 2015, pre-order in the UK & US now.

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Jonathan Barnes was born in 1979 and was educated in Norfolk and at Oxford University, where he graduated with a first-class degree in English Language and Literature.
His first novel, The Somnambulist, was published in 2007 and his second, The Domino Men, in 2008. Between them they have been translated into eight languages. He writes regularly for the Times Literary Supplement and The Literary Review and has contributed to the Arts pages of The Lancet. He is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Kingston University. He is also the author of several full-cast audio dramas from Big Finish Productions, featuring characters from Sherlock Holmes, Frankenstein and Doctor Who. 

His third novel, Cannonbridge, will be published in February 2015.

His blog - Pantisocracy - can be found at http://jonathanbarnes.blogspot.co.uk/

*** 

As an extra bonus we also have not one, but two cover reveals for you, with our US (artist Erik Mohr) and UK (artist Pye Parr) covers:

US cover by Erik Mohr
UK cover by Erik Mohr
Have a favourite? Let us know know @SolarisBooks or in the comments section below!


Wakening the Crow - publication day review round up


Oliver Gooch comes across a tooth, in a velvet box, with a handwritten note from 1888 to say it’s a tooth from the boy Edgar Allan Poe. He displays it in his new bookshop, and names the store Poe’s Tooth Books.

Oliver took the money from his small daughter Chloe’s accident insurance and bought a converted church to live in with his altered child and wife. Rosie hopes Chloe will came back to herself but Oliver is secretly relieved to have this new easy-to-manage child, and holds at bay the guilt that the accident was a result of his negligence. On a freezing night he and Chloe come across the crow, a raggedy skeletal wretch of a bird, and it refuses to leave. It infiltrates their lives, it alters Oliver’s relationship with Rosie, it changes Chloe. It’s a dangerous presence in the firelit, shadowy old vestry, in Poe’s Tooth Books.

Inexorably the family, the tooth, the crow, the church and their story will draw to a terrifying climax.


“Wakening the Crow is an overt homage to the work of Edgar Allan Poe and the book captures that feel perfectly.” – Kirkus Reviews, November Picks
 
“Like the book Gooch fantasises from time to time about writing, Wakening the Crow is “something so dark and disturbing and demanding of the readers, so odd and unusual and out of the ordinary” that it’s apt, at the last, to be overlooked. If you have the heart for it, however, expect to expose a fiction of human horror of the highest order.” – tor.com

“Gregory invokes the unquiet ghost of Poe, in the figure of a small boy whose shadow looms large, yet deftly manages to surpass the power of Edgar’s darkest imaginings in this fine example of literary horror.” – Horror AfterDark

“Stephen Gregory writes fantastically well.” – Completely Different

“A great read for a dark and stormy night, filled with gothic imagery and a overriding sense of unease.” – Lipsyy Lost & Found

“A masterpiece of dark fiction that weaves psychological horror with hints of the supernatural in a tale of a flawed family, fractured by tragedy, only to have their lives and sanity shattered by the presence of a carrion crow.” – Reclusive Reads

“Highly recommended for not only fans of horror, but also for fans of literary fiction and psychological tales. This book is not easily categorized, but it's worth reading, if only to watch a genius at work.” – Char’s HorrorCorner

“consuming coldness
with musty little secrets
tinged by a nightmare

gloriously different
pure Poe-inspired creepiness”

The author has some beautiful turn of phrases that really catch the reader’s attention.” – Carabosse’s Library

“[Gregory’s] hoarding of details and doling out of information only until you need it is quite masterful… the slow psychological reveal is fast becoming a lost art in storytelling especially in the horror genre. This is why I recommend Wakening the Crow so highly. 4/5” – The Novel Pursuit

“Wakening The Crow is one of the most beautiful, thoughtful, and unsettling novels that I have ever read. A slight deviation from my normal penchant for horror, it did not leave me wanting. Stephen Gregory writes as if he created language; his words are poetry without pretence.” – Andreya’s Asylum

“A wonderful, wicked novel that could have been written by the dark master (Poe) himself. Fiendish.” – Cayocosta72

“This story has the perfect setting, and excellent plot lines that swirl together to create an old time creepy tale. One that doesn’t need blood and gore to frighten.” – Blogga Book

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Wakening the Crow is out now: