L. X. Beckett - Tor/Forge Blog
Close
post-featured-image

Queer Books Coming in 2021 🏳️‍🌈

Happy Pride, y’all!!! We are so excited to celebrate the month, starting off with highlighting all of our new queer SFF books out in 2021. Which one is going to the top of your TBR?


Place holder  of - 92Dealbreaker by L. X. Beckett

Rubi Whiting has done the impossible. She has proved that humanity deserves a seat at the galactic table. Well, at least a shot at a seat. Having convinced the galactic governing body that mankind deserves a chance at fixing their own problems, Rubi has done her part to launch the planet into a new golden age of scientific discovery and technological revolution. However, there are still those in the galactic community that think that humanity is too poisonous, too greedy, to be allowed in, and they will stop at nothing to sabotage a species determined to pull itself up.

ON SALE NOW!

Image Place holder  of - 40Engines of Oblivion by Karen Osborne

Natalie Chan gained her corporate citizenship, but barely survived the battle for Tribulation. Now corporate has big plans for Natalie. Horrible plans. Locked away in Natalie’s missing memory is salvation for the last of an alien civilization and the humans they tried to exterminate. The corporation wants total control of both—or their deletion.

ON SALE NOW!

Image Placeholder of - 91Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell

Prince Kiem, a famously disappointing minor royal and the Emperor’s least favorite grandchild, has been called upon to be useful for once. He’s commanded to fulfill an obligation of marriage to the representative of the Empire’s newest and most rebellious vassal planet. His future husband, Count Jainan, is a widower and murder suspect. Neither wants to be wed, but with a conspiracy unfolding around them and the fate of the empire at stake they will have to navigate the thorns and barbs of court intrigue, the machinations of war, and the long shadows of Jainan’s past, and they’ll have to do it together. So begins a legendary love story amid the stars.

ON SALE NOW!

Poster Placeholder of - 66A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine

An alien armada lurks on the edges of Teixcalaanli space. No one can communicate with it, no one can destroy it, and Fleet Captain Nine Hibiscus is running out of options. In a desperate attempt at diplomacy with the mysterious invaders, the fleet captain has sent for a diplomatic envoy. Now Mahit Dzmare and Three Seagrass—still reeling from the recent upheaval in the Empire—face the impossible task of trying to communicate with a hostile entity. Their failure will guarantee millions of deaths in an endless war. Their success might prevent Teixcalaan’s destruction—and allow the empire to continue its rapacious expansion. Or it might create something far stranger . . .

ON SALE NOW!

Placeholder of  -33The House of Always by Jenn Lyons

In the aftermath of the Ritual of Night, everything has changed. The Eight Immortals have catastrophically failed to stop Kihrin’s enemies, who are moving forward with their plans to free Vol Karoth, the King of Demons. Kihrin has his own ideas about how to fight back, but even if he’s willing to sacrifice everything for victory, the cost may prove too high for his allies. Now they face a choice: can they save the world while saving Kihrin, too? Or will they be forced to watch as he becomes the very evil they have all sworn to destroy.

ON SALE NOW!

The Witness for the Dead by Katherine Addison

When the young half-goblin emperor Maia sought to learn who had set the bombs that killed his father and half-brothers, he turned to an obscure resident of his father’s Court, a Prelate of Ulis and a Witness for the Dead. Thara Celehar found the truth, though it did him no good to discover it. Now Celehar lives in the city of Amalo, far from the Court though not exactly in exile. As a Witness for the Dead, he can, sometimes, speak to the recently dead: see the last thing they saw, know the last thought they had, experience the last thing they felt. Now Celehar’s skills lead him out of the quiet and into a morass of treachery, murder, and injustice.

ON SALE 06/22/2021!

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

In 1345, China lies under harsh Mongol rule. For the starving peasants of the Central Plains, greatness is something found only in stories. When the Zhu family’s eighth-born son, Zhu Chongba, is given a fate of greatness, everyone is mystified as to how it will come to pass. The fate of nothingness received by the family’s clever and capable second daughter, on the other hand, is only as expected. When a bandit attack orphans the two children, though, it is Zhu Chongba who succumbs to despair and dies. Desperate to escape her own fated death, the girl uses her brother’s identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. There, Zhu learns she is capable of doing whatever it takes, no matter how callous, to stay hidden from her fate.

ON SALE 07/20/2021!

You Sexy Thing by Cat Rambo

TwiceFar station is at the edge of the known universe, and that’s just how Niko Larson, former Admiral in the Grand Military of the Hive Mind, likes it. Retired and finally free of the continual war of conquest, Niko and the remnants of her former unit are content to spend the rest of their days working at the restaurant they built together, The Last Chance. But, some wars can’t ever be escaped, and unlike the Hive Mind, some enemies aren’t content to let old soldiers go. Niko and her crew are forced onto a sentient ship convinced that it is being stolen and must survive the machinations of a sadistic pirate king if they even hope to keep the dream of The Last Chance alive.

Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune

When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead. Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop’s owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over. But Wallace isn’t ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo’s help he finally starts to learn about all the things he missed in life. When the Manager, a curious and powerful being, arrives at the tea shop and gives Wallace one week to cross over, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in seven days.

ON SALE 09/21/2021!

Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki

Shizuka Satomi made a deal with the devil: to escape damnation, she must entice seven other violin prodigies to trade their souls for success. She has already delivered six. When Katrina Nguyen, a young transgender runaway, catches Shizuka’s ear with her wild talent, Shizuka can almost feel the curse lifting. She’s found her final candidate. But in a donut shop off a bustling highway in the San Gabriel Valley, Shizuka meets Lan Tran, retired starship captain, interstellar refugee, and mother of four. Shizuka doesn’t have time for crushes or coffee dates, what with her very soul on the line, but Lan’s kind smile and eyes like stars might just redefine a soul’s worth.

ON SALE 09/28/2021!

Even Greater Mistakes by Charlie Jane Anders

The woman who can see all possible futures is dating the man who can see the one and only foreordained future. A wildly popular slapstick filmmaker is drawn, against his better judgment, into working with a fascist militia, against a background of social collapse. Two friends must embark on an Epic Quest To Capture The Weapon That Threatens The Galaxy, or else they’ll never achieve their dream of opening a restaurant. The stories in this collection, by their very outrageousness, achieve a heightened realism unlike any other. Anders once again proves she is one of the strongest voices in modern science fiction, the writer called by Andrew Sean Greer, “this generation’s Le Guin.”

ON SALE 11/16/2021!

post-featured-image

Found Families, Grand Conspiracies, and Angry Ghosts

Image Place holder  of - 65Dealbreaker is the latest book in L.X. Beckett’s Bounceback series, and it drops a vast conspiracy into the laps of a not very traditional family. In Dealbreaker, Frankie Barnes, Maud Sento, the sentient app Babs, and the rest of their packmates find themselves embroiled in something that looks like it might mean the end of the world!

Lex joins us to talk about some of their favorite supernatural and science fiction dramas from South Korea, shows where the adventures are huge, the stakes are high, and the characters’ unorthodox bonds of love and found family are tested by everything from corporate shenanigans to mermaid health emergencies!

By L. X. Beckett


The King: Eternal Monarch: When a portal opens between parallel versions of South Korea, the young king Lee Gon discovers his father’s assassin may be hiding in our world. Detective Jeong Tae-eul is the best person to help, and thanks to a twist of interdimensional temporality, Gon has had a crush on her his whole life. Now that the two have finally met, they need to resolve all of those feelings and unearth the truth.

This show didn’t make quite the splash that Netflix was expecting. Frankly, that’s a shame. There’s two of almost everybody, and it messes beautifully with all the family and friendship dynamics. Gon and Tae-eul are moving within circles where everyone’s neighborhood barista might wear the same face as a palace assassin, a goofy best friend’s counterpart is an elite, sharpshooting royal bodyguard, and someone’s lost love probably has a mysterious double lurking on the other side of a very unstable portal. Like Frankie in Dealbreaker, whose fight against offworld colonialism drags her repeatedly from her family to a space station 11 lightyears from earth,  Lee Gon’s responsibilities to his kingdom and his struggle to manage his double life loop him ever further from Tae-eul, forcing both to juggle their own personal responsibilities with those of the greater good.

Are You Human? Where would we be in science fiction without tormented scientists making  questionable life choices? When widowed AI researcher Oh Ro-ra loses custody of her son to her husband’s family, she builds a robot doppleganger of her darling, Nam Shin. All well and good, right? Except then her son comes looking for her, only to fall afoul of a murder plot.

Ro-ra instantly drops all her research in favor of a scheme to get her robot faux-son to stand in for her badly injured birth child. All robot Shin has to do is move into a fabulous mansion, do the real Shin’s job, flirt with his bodyguard while fending off his fiancé, and, ideally, manage not to get caught in deep conversation with his household Roomba or the self-driving car his company is developing.

Robotic Shin has a sweetness of character that wins over all the people his understandably damaged human brother has alienated over the years. He pulls in a nucleus of people who are desperate to believe in his too-good-to-be-true transformation.

Anyone who’s read Gamechanger and Dealbreaker knows I am a sucker for lovable and helpful AIs. The robot Shin is a truly humane and altruistic entity, and I’d like to think he’d get along with Babs and Crane, but especially Happ.

He is Psychometric: A drama about three survivors of an apartment fire takes several dark turns. Lee Ahn and Yoon Jae-in meet as adults years after the infamous fire, and begin to uncover the many layers of systemic deception hiding the truth about the accident that deprived them of their parents. They are taken under the wing of an unofficial elder brother—Prosecutor Kang Sung-mo. Sung-mo is especially protective of Lee Ahn, who came away from the fire with peculiar psychic powers: when he touches murder victims or evidence from crime scenes, he sees the victims’ last moments. Using psychometry is physically damaging—possibly even life-threatening—and much of the info he gathers in this way is trivial and useless for police. Sung-mo asks Jae-in to help Lee Ahn refine his abilities as they all investigate the past case.

As Lee Ahn and Jae-in learn more about the crime and the cover up, the story behind the fire becomes ever more disturbing. A lot of shows promise viewers that the characters are digging into a mystery that may well destroy them, but few narratives truly deliver on that promise. He is Psychometric’s final revelations are truly blow-up-your-life stuff, offering a dramatic and nuanced conclusion and no easy answers.

Mystic Pop-Up Bar: Wol-ju has to settle scores and resolve regrets for thousands of ghosts and mourners before she can go to heaven. She redeems these longstanding regrets by becoming a bartender on the streets of Seoul. She and her chef, Manager Gwi, are approaching a deadline set by the Lord of the Underworld. Time’s running out and if she fails to help the required number of souls, Wol-ju is bound for hell.

Fortunately, the two of them meet Han Kang-bae , a young man trapped in a minimum wage job. Kang-bae is cursed: anyone he touches reveals their most intimate secrets and problems to him, whether he wants to hear them or not.

Wol-ju hatches a scheme—she’ll recruit Kang-bae as a part-time waiter in the bar and use him to compel people to tell her their problems. He’s reluctant at first, but she promises she can help him get rid of his terrible confession-inducing superpowers. As the three of them start to clear cases Wol-ju and Gwi eventually adopt Kang-bae—who desperately needs some parenting—and dig into the mystery of how he got his powers in the first place.

Kang-Bae’s feelings of abandonment make him something of a spiritual match for Frankie in Dealbreaker. Frankie finds herself in an awkward relationship with a stepparent—Rubi Whiting, from Gamechanger, while coping with estrangement from her own parent Gimlet and the death of two beloved grandparents. The importance of intimacy, mutuality, and friendly affection in so many of these shows and the way that damaged families can reinvent themselves—especially when everyone behaves with affection and good faith—is one of the many things that makes these supernatural dramas so compelling.

L. X. Beckett is the author of The Bounceback series, a new spin on near-future science fiction in this series set on a high-tech Earth that has clawed its way back from environmental collapse and is now on the brink of a technological revolution. Gamechanger and Dealbreaker are both available anywhere books are sold now.

Order Gamechanger Here:

amazons bns booksamillions ibooks2 33 indiebounds

Order Dealbreaker Here:

Poster Placeholder of amazon- 27 Place holder  of bn- 60 Place holder  of booksamillion- 81 ibooks2 20 indiebound

post-featured-image

The Sequels We’ve All Been Waiting For….

They’re almost here…the books we’ve all been waiting for. After so many incredible series starters, we’re excited to finally dive into the next books of some of our most popular SFF series. Check out which books are hitting shelves near you in 2021 here.


book-9780765331458Into the Light by David Weber and Chris Kennedy (Out of the Dark series, coming 1/12/21)

The Shongairi conquered Earth. In mere minutes, half the human race died, and our cities lay in shattered ruins. But the Shongairi didn’t expect the survivors’ tenacity. And, crucially, they didn’t know that Earth harbored two species of intelligent, tool-using bipeds. One of them was us. The other, long-lived and lethal, was hiding in the mountains of eastern Europe, the subject of fantasy and legend. When they emerged and made alliance with humankind, the invading aliens didn’t stand a chance.

book-9781250302137Vengewar by Kevin J. Anderson (Wake the Dragon series, coming 1/19/21)

The Three Kingdoms are shattering under pressure from an inexperienced new King who is being led by an ambitious regent to ignore the threat of the Wreths, in favor of a Vengewar with Ishara. His brother and uncle can see only the danger of the Older Race. In Ishara, the queen lies in a coma, while an ambitious priest seizes power. But he has neither the training nor the talent to rule a nation— or even a city. Ishara is in deadly peril, and the Wreths have not even appeared on their continent.

book-9781250165299Dealbreaker by L. X. Beckett (The Bounceback series, coming 1/26/21)

Rubi Whiting has done the impossible. She has proved that humanity deserves a seat at the galactic table. Well, at least a shot at a seat. Having convinced the galactic governing body that mankind deserves a chance at fixing their own problems, Rubi has done her part to launch the planet into a new golden age of scientific discovery and technological revolution. However, there are still those in the galactic community that think that humanity is too poisonous, too greedy, to be allowed in, and they will stop at nothing to sabotage a species determined to pull itself up.

book-9781250215505Engines of Oblivion by Karen Osborne (The Memory War series, coming 2/9/21)

Natalie Chan gained her corporate citizenship, but barely survived the battle for Tribulation. Now corporate has big plans for Natalie. Horrible plans. Locked away in Natalie’s missing memory is salvation for the last of an alien civilization and the humans they tried to exterminate. The corporation wants total control of both—or their deletion.

book-9780765387752Silence of the Soleri by Michael Johnston (The Amber Throne series, coming 2/16/21)

Solus celebrates the Opening of the Mundus, a two-day holiday for the dead, but the city of the Soleri is hardly in need of diversion. A legion of traitors, led by a former captain of the Soleri military, rallies at the capital’s ancient walls. And inside those fortifications, trapped by circumstance, a second army fights for its very existence.

book-9781250186461A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine (Teixcalaan series, coming 3/2/21)

An alien armada lurks on the edges of Teixcalaanli space. No one can communicate with it, no one can destroy it, and Fleet Captain Nine Hibiscus is running out of options. In a desperate attempt at diplomacy with the mysterious invaders, the fleet captain has sent for a diplomatic envoy. Now Mahit Dzmare and Three Seagrass—still reeling from the recent upheaval in the Empire—face the impossible task of trying to communicate with a hostile entity. Their failure will guarantee millions of deaths in an endless war. Their success might prevent Teixcalaan’s destruction—and allow the empire to continue its rapacious expansion. Or it might create something far stranger . . .

book-97812502226191The Justice in Revenge by Ryan Van Loan (The Fall of the Gods series, coming 7/13/21)

Ryan Van Loan’s The Justice in Revenge, book two of The Fall of the Gods, turns from pirates to politics as Buc learns to navigate society and finds that having power doesn’t mean it’s easy to use it…

Buc and Eld are the first private detectives in the Servenzan Empire. Teenage Buc is a former streetrat, a smartass, sarcastic super-genius. Eld, her patient partner in crime-solving, is a calming influence…who is nonetheless capable of deadly violence. For the right price, these heroes for hire solve mysteries, fight crime, and battle monsters.

book-97812502938242The Exiled Fleet by J. S. Dewes (The Divide Series, coming 8/17/21)

The Sentinels narrowly escaped the collapsing edge of the Divide. They have mustered a few other surviving Sentinels, but with no engines they have no way to leave the edge of the universe before they starve. Adequin Rake has gathered a team to find the materials they’ll need to get everyone out. To do that they’re going to need new allies and evade a ruthless enemy.

Some of them will not survive.

book-97812502093823The Devil You Know by Kit Rocha (Mercenary Librarians series, coming 8/31/21)

Maya has had a price on her head from the day she escaped the TechCorps. Genetically engineered for genius and trained for revolution, there’s only one thing she can’t do—forget. Gray has finally broken free of the Protectorate, but he can’t escape the time bomb in his head. His body is rejecting his modifications, and his months are numbered. When Maya’s team uncovers an operation trading in genetically enhanced children, she’ll do anything to stop them. Even risk falling back into the hands of the TechCorps. And Gray has found a purpose for his final days: keeping Maya safe.

book-97812502938244Wanderers of a Mortal Kind by Kel Kade (The Shroud of Prophecy series, coming 11/9/21) 

No more heroes. The wealthy and powerful. The kings and queens. They all abandoned the world to fate when the chosen one died. All except a small group of broken people. Through dogged determination and maybe a bit of stupid bravery, Aaslo and his friends fought on. They continued the fight even when far greater heroes had given up. Now, Aaslo must turn the tides. In a world swifly falling to chaos, Aaslo is determined to win this war…at any cost. He’s made a deal with fickle fae, setting him and his friends on a collosion course with the gods themselves.

post-featured-image

$2.99 eBook Sale: December 2020

The holiday season is finally here and we’re giving you TONS of monthly ebook deals to brighten up your season. Check out which of our favorite SFF books you can snag for only $2.99 throughout the entire month of December here!


Image Placeholder of - 76Gamechanger by L. X. Beckett

Rubi Whiting is a member of the Bounceback Generation. The first to be raised free of the troubles of the late twenty-first century. Now she works as a public defender to help troubled individuals with anti-social behavior. That’s how she met Luciano Pox. Luce is a firebrand and has made a name for himself as a naysayer. But there’s more to him than being a lightning rod for controversy. Rubi has to find out why the governments of the world want to bring Luce into custody, and why Luce is hell bent on stopping the recovery of the planet.

kindlea nooka ebooksa google playa ibooks2 59 koboa

Placeholder of  -20Spine of the Dragon by Kevin J. Anderson

Two continents at war, the Three Kingdoms and Ishara, are divided by past bloodshed. When an outside threat arises—the reawakening of a powerful ancient race that wants to remake the world—the two warring nations must somehow set aside generational hatreds and form an alliance to fight their true enemy.

kindleb nookb ebooksb google playb ibooks2 70 kobob

 

Image Place holder  of - 81Wild Cards IX: Jokertown Shuffle edited by George R. R. Martin

Bloat, the boy-governor of the Rox, wanted to make Ellis Island a safe haven for Jokers, and made a choice to recruit the Jumpers, superpowered teen outcasts who could steal a man’s body in the blink of an eye. But under the leadership of Dr. Tachyon’s psychotic grandson, the Jumpers grow more vicious and uncontrollable every day, becoming the greatest threat the Wild Cards have ever faced….

kindlec nookc ebooksc google playc koboc

Poster Placeholder of - 96Glorious by Gregory Benford and Larry Niven

Audacious astronauts encounter bizarre, sometimes deadly life forms, and strange, exotic, cosmic phenomena, including miniature black holes, dense fields of interstellar plasma, powerful gravity-emitters, and spectacularly massive space-based, alien-built labyrinths. Tasked with exploring this brave, new, highly dangerous world, they must also deal with their own personal triumphs and conflicts.

kindled nookd ebooksd google playd kobod

Place holder  of - 5Interlibrary Loan by Gene Wolfe

Hundreds of years in the future our civilization is shrunk down but we go on. There is advanced technology, there are robots. And there are clones. E. A. Smithe is a borrowed person, his personality an uploaded recording of a deceased mystery writer. Smithe is a piece of property, not a legal human. As such, Smithe can be loaned to other branches. Along with two fellow reclones, they are shipped to Polly’s Cove, where Smithe meets a little girl who wants to save her mother, a father who is dead but perhaps not. And another E.A. Smithe… who definitely is.

kindlee nooke ebookse google playe koboe

The Unspoken Name by A. K. Larkwood

Csorwe does—she will climb the mountain, enter the Shrine of the Unspoken, and gain the most honored title: sacrifice. But on the day of her foretold death, a powerful mage offers her a new fate. Leave with him, and live. Turn away from her destiny and her god to become a thief, a spy, an assassin—the wizard’s loyal sword. Topple an empire, and help him reclaim his seat of power. But Csorwe will soon learn—gods remember, and if you live long enough, all debts come due.

kindlef nookf ebooksf google playf kobof

The Glass Magician by Caroline Stevermer

New York 1905—The Vanderbilts. The Astors. The Morgans. They are the cream of society—and they own the nation on the cusp of a new century. Thalia Cutler doesn’t have any of those family connections. What she does know is stage magic and she dazzles audiences with an act that takes your breath away. That is, until one night when a trick goes horribly awry. In surviving she discovers that she can shapeshift, and has the potential to take her place among the rich and powerful. But first, she’ll have to learn to control that power…before the real monsters descend to feast.

kindleg nookg ebooksg google playg kobog

The Bard’s Blade by Brian D. Anderson

Mariyah enjoys a simple life in Vylari, a land magically sealed off from the outside world, where fear and hatred are all but unknown. There she’s a renowned wine maker and her betrothed, Lem, is a musician of rare talent. Their destiny has never been in question. Whatever life brings, they will face it together. Then a stranger crosses the wards into Vylari for the first time in centuries, bringing a dark prophecy that forces Lem and Mariyah down separate paths. How far will they have to go to stop a rising darkness and save their home? And how much of themselves will they have to give up along the way?

nookh ebooksm google playh kindleh koboh

Dune: Butlerian Jihad by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

Humans have managed to battle the remorseless Machines to a standstill . . . but victory may be short-lived. Yet amid shortsighted squabbling between nobles, new leaders have begun to emerge. Among them are Xavier Harkonnen, military leader of the Planet of Salusa Secundus; Xavier’s fiancée, Serena Butler, an activist who will become the unwilling leader of millions; and Tio Holtzman, the scientist struggling to devise a weapon that will help the human cause. Against the brute efficiency of their adversaries, these leaders and the human race have only imagination, compassion, and the capacity for love. It will have to be enough.

kindlei nooki ebooksi google playi koboi

Dreamer of Dune by Brian Herbert

Everyone knows Frank Herbert’s Dune. This amazing and complex epic, combining politics, religion, human evolution, and ecology, has captured the imagination of generations of readers. One of the most popular science fiction novels ever written, it has become a worldwide phenomenon, winning awards, selling millions of copies around the world. Brian Herbert, Frank Herbert’s eldest son, tells the provocative story of his father’s extraordinary life in this honest and loving chronicle.

kindle nook ebooks Place holder  of google play- 75 kobo

post-featured-image

Every Tor Book Coming This Winter

We’re closing in on the end of 2020 (BIG SIGHS OF RELIEF), and with that comes some brand new books to curl up with this season. Check out which ones are hitting shelves near you this winter here:

December 1

Image Placeholder of - 82Hollow Empire by Sam Hawke

Poison was only the beginning…. The deadly siege of Silasta woke the ancient spirits, and now the city-state must find its place in this new world of magic. But people and politics are always treacherous, and it will take all of Jovan and Kalina’s skills as proofer and spy to save their country when witches and assassins turn their sights to domination. Hollow Empire is Book 2 in The Poison Wars series. Check out City of Lies, on sale now!

January 5

Image Place holder  of - 65Deuces Down by George R. R. Martin

Deuces Down is the next Wild Cards anthology collection about George R. R. Martin’s alternate superhero history. In this revised collection of classic Wild Cards stories, the spotlight is on the most unusual Wild Cards of them all—the Deuces, or people with minor superpowers. But their impact on the world should not be underestimated, as we see how they’ve affected the course of Wild Cards’ alternate history. Check out the remainder of the Wild Cards series, on sale now!

January 12

Place holder  of - 1Into the Light by David Weber and Chris Kennedy

The Shongairi conquered Earth. In mere minutes, half the human race died, and our cities lay in shattered ruins. But the Shongairi didn’t expect the survivors’ tenacity. And, crucially, they didn’t know that Earth harbored two species of intelligent, tool-using bipeds. One of them was us. The other, long-lived and lethal, was hiding in the mountains of eastern Europe, the subject of fantasy and legend. When they emerged and made alliance with humankind, the invading aliens didn’t stand a chance. Check out Book 1 in the Out of the Dark series, Out of the Dark, on sale now!

January 19

Placeholder of  -80Vengewar by Kevin J. Anderson

Two continents at war, the Three Kingdoms and Ishara, have been in conflict for a thousand years. But when an outside threat arises—the reawakening of a powerful ancient race that wants to remake the world—the two warring nations must somehow set aside generations of hatred to form an alliance against a far more deadly enemy. Check out Book 1 of the Wake the Dragon series, Spine of the Dragon, on sale now!

Poster Placeholder of - 50The Wood Wife by Terri Windling
Leaving behind her fashionable West Coast life, Maggie Black comes to the Southwestern desert to pursue her passion and he dreams. Her mentor, the acclaimed poet Davis Cooper, has mysteriously died in the canyons east of Tucson, bequeathing her his estate and the mystery of his life–and death. As she reads Cooper’s letters and learns the secrets of his life, Maggie comes face-to-face with the wild, ancient spirits of the desert–and discovers the hidden power at its heart, a power that will take her on a journey like no other.

January 26

Dealbreaker by L. X. Beckett

Rubi Whiting has done the impossible. She has proved that humanity deserves a seat at the galactic table. Well, at least a shot at a seat. Having convinced the galactic governing body that mankind deserves a chance at fixing their own problems, Rubi has done her part to launch the planet into a new golden age of scientific discovery and technological revolution. However, there are still those in the galactic community that think that humanity is too poisonous, too greedy, to be allowed in, and they will stop at nothing to sabotage a species determined to pull itself up. Check out Book 1 of The Bounceback series, Gamechanger, on sale now!

February 2

Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell

A famously disappointing minor royal and the Emperor’s least favorite grandchild, Prince Kiem is summoned before the Emperor and commanded to renew the empire’s bonds with its newest vassal planet. The prince must marry Count Jainan, the recent widower of another royal prince of the empire. But Jainan suspects his late husband’s death was no accident. And Prince Kiem discovers Jainan is a suspect himself. But broken bonds between the Empire and its vassal planets leaves the entire empire vulnerable, so together they must prove that their union is strong while uncovering a possible conspiracy. Their successful marriage will align conflicting worlds. Their failure will be the end of the empire.

A Summoning of Demons by Cate Glass

Catagna has been shaken to its core. The philosophists insist that a disastrous earthquake has been caused by an ancient monster imprisoned below the earth, who can only be freed with magic. In every street and market, the people of Catagna are railing against magic-users with a greater ferocity than ever before, and magic hunters are everywhere. As Romy and the others attempt to carry out their mission, they find themselves plunged into a mystery of corruption and murder, myth and magic, and a terrifying truth: the philosophists may have been right all along. Check out the first two books of the Chimera series, on sale now!

The Best of R.A. Lafferty by R.A. Lafferty

Acclaimed as one of the most original voices in modern literature, a winner of the World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement, Raphael Aloysius Lafferty (1914-2002) was an American original, a teller of acute, indescribably loopy tall tales whose work has been compared to that of Avram Davidson, Flannery O’Connor, Flann O’Brien, and Gene Wolfe. The Best of R. A. Lafferty presents 22 of his best flights of offbeat imagination, ranging from classics like “Nine-Hundred Grandmothers” (basis for the later novel) and “The Primary Education of the Cameroi,” to his Hugo Award-winning “Eurema’s Dam.”

February 9

Engines of Oblivion by Karen Osborne

Natalie Chan gained her corporate citizenship, but barely survived the battle for Tribulation. Now corporate has big plans for Natalie. Horrible plans. Locked away in Natalie’s missing memory is salvation for the last of an alien civilization and the humans they tried to exterminate. The corporation wants total control of both—or their deletion. Check out Book 1 in the Memory of War series, Architects of Memory, on sale now!

February 16

The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey

Evelyn Caldwell’s husband Nathan has been having an affair — with Evelyn Caldwell. Or, to be exact, with Martine, a genetically cloned replica made from Evelyn’s own award-winning research. But that wasn’t even the worst part. When they said all happy families are alike, I don’t think this is what they meant…

Silence of the Soleri by Michael Johnston

Solus celebrates the Opening of the Mundus, a two-day holiday for the dead, but the city of the Soleri is hardly in need of diversion. A legion of traitors, led by a former captain of the Soleri military, rallies at the capital’s ancient walls. And inside those fortifications, trapped by circumstance, a second army fights for its very existence. In a world inspired by ancient Egyptian history and King Lear, this follow-up to Michael Johnston’s Soleri, finds Solus besieged from within as well as without and the Hark-Wadi family is stuck at the heart of the conflict. Check out Book 1 of The Amber Throne series, Soleri, on sale now!

Fairhaven Rising by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

Sixteen years have passed since the mage Beltur helped to found the town of Fairhaven, and Taelya, Beltur’s adopted niece, is now a white mage undercaptain in the Road Guards of Fairhaven. Fairhaven’s success under the Council has become an impediment to the ambition of several rulers, and the mages protecting the town are seen as a threat. Taelya, a young and untried mage, will find herself at the heart of a conspiracy to destroy her home and the people she loves, and she may not be powerful enough to stop it in time. Check out the remainder of the Saga of Recluse series on sale now here!

post-featured-image

Excerpt: Dealbreaker by L. X. Beckett

amazons bns booksamillions ibooks2 38 indiebounds

Image Placeholder of - 50L. X. Beckett’s Dealbreaker is the thrilling sci-fi sequel to Gamechanger, perfect for fans of Neuromancer and Star Trek.

Rubi Whiting has done the impossible. She has proved that humanity deserves a seat at the galactic table. Well, at least a shot at a seat. Having convinced the galactic governing body that mankind deserves a chance at fixing their own problems, Rubi has done her part to launch the planet into a new golden age of scientific discovery and technological revolution.

However, there are still those in the galactic community that think that humanity is too poisonous, too greedy, to be allowed in, and they will stop at nothing to sabotage a species determined to pull itself up.

Please enjoy this free excerpt of Dealbreaker by L. X. Beckett, on sale 01/26/2021. 


Chapter 1

The event the Feral5 called their superversary was a Surprise party, meaning that everyone was cosplaying Royal British Navy personnel, and the simulated ship they were aboard was, literally, HMS Surprise. Looking around, Frankie Barnes could hardly see a meter of deck where she and Maud hadn’t had sex.

The anniversary party was an intimate affair—thirty or so of the pack’s collected in-laws and a selection of @CloseFriends. Their packmate Jermaine was up near the wheel, addressing their guests. He wasn’t overly keen on the original Master and Commander fandom, and so had dressed as a Chinese Fleet Admiral from the 2079 reboot of the franchise.

Jerm’s speech covered all the things you usually heard at such events: warm words about Maud and Frankie falling into a bigtime, full-on, hearts-and-flowers romance, about Maud making an enormous leap of faith by becoming Frankie’s primary and marrying into their unorthodox family bubble. “None of the Feral4 knew we were incomplete, not really, not until she joined us.”

All true . . . and the crowd was lapping it up.

Maud herself was turned out in the ragged naturalist’s gear of the Surprise doctor, complete with red-tinted hair and sideburns. The first time she’d seen this particular cosplay, Frankie had found the look compellingly sexy and thoroughly odd. Maud was about as far from a natural redhead as it got. She could have stepped right out of a historical sim set in the EastEuro steppes—one of those wildly popular pony-racing sims about the Mongol Derby, maybe—with her jet hair, sturdy limbs, and a round face.

As usual, she was visibly ill at ease about being the center of attention.

Frankie was about to beeline for her beloved when their other packmates fell into step on either side of her.

Ember Qaderi’s toon wore the half-starved body and the robes of a Persian prisoner of war, also from MC2079. As Frankie took this in, he attempted a clumsy, loose-limbed pirouette.

“You couldn’t chill about the old British Empire for one afternoon?” Frankie subbed.

“Colonization’s a freshly relevant issue in this day and age,” Ember said airily. “Besides, I had to balance out Babs.”

“Fair,” Frankie signed. Their feral fifth had wrapped her base avatar, a tortoiseshell cat, in full dress uniform as Admiral Nelson . . . or some cartoon femme version thereof.

As Jermaine’s speech built to its big finish, the three of them slid between the assembled partygoers, closing on Maud. Everyone raised their glasses and followed Jerm in a very royal round of shouting “Huzzah!”

Frankie offered an arm and Maud eased into her embrace, fitting snugly against her, two spaceships docking. Ember blew her a moji kiss, while Babs generated a purr that went down into the deck and came up as a vibration underfoot.

Contentment—bit of a rarity, that—suffused Frankie. This had been a good idea.

down to join them, catching Frankie and Ember by the hands, completing the family bubble while their gathered guests signed hearts, threw confetti and petals, and made Awww! noises.

“Hang in there,” Frankie subbed to Maud. “They’ll all swing by to throw a few congrats at our feet. And then . . .”

Maud gave her a lascivious grin.

“And then,” she agreed.

“Nice speech, Jerm,” Babs said. “You oughta go into soapboxing.”

“I’ve got as much job as I can handle, thanks.”

“He’s already overachieving,” Maud said, enunciating each word as precisely as if she were cutting diamonds. “If you want speeching, Babs, take it up yourself.”

“I’m on strike, remember?”

One of Jermaine’s fathers walked straight into this bit of banter. He’d disapproved of his son marrying into a bubble containing artificially intelligent beings, so the smile he tried to give them all now was curdled. It vanished altogether when the family’s other sapp, Babs’s codefather Crane, walked up in a butler costume, proffering a tray of champagne flutes.

“Thanks, Crane.” Frankie took two flutes, passed one to Jermaine’s father, and set about distracting him with an earnest monologue about Ember’s latest theoretical maths breakthrough. “If we Solakinder manage to open a seven-wormhole network,” she enthused, “it’ll be down to Ember. And we could never have done it without Jermaine pioneering the new implant tech—”

Char Mwangi tutted. “You make it sound like Jermaine grew the implant tish himself. He is but one member of the innovation team.”

Frankie gave that bit of prosocial wanking the very tiny nod it deserved. “And now he’s in the thick of the quantum-comms experiment. You must be so proud!”

The elder seemed to thaw a little. Crane moved on, buttling in barely legal defiance of the sapps’ work stoppage.

A gust of simulated wind caught the ship’s sails, crisping the fabric out with a gratifying snap. Surprise surged into the waves. Up at the wheel, Frankie’s fellow test pilot, Hung Chan, had booted up a tutorial on the rudiments of ancient seafaring. It was a far cry from flying FTL ships or planting wormholes, but his expression was blissful.

Frankie laid a hand on the small of her back and sent him a quick, secret text, via the pilot’s augment in her sacrum: All good, Pupper?

Any happier, Cap’n, I’d be widdling on the deck! They’re adorable, by the way.

Who?

Your whole fam damly.

She sent thumbs-up and let her gaze rise above her friend, where more of her in-laws—Ember’s mothers, kitted out as usual in licensed Star Trek gear—were high in the mainsail rigging.

Whole fam damly. She wondered, absently, if Hung was angling for an offer to join the Ferals, maybe in some kind of little-brother role. Though Jermaine would be attracted to him, inevitably.

She ran a thumb over the spyglass at her hip, triggering an inapp purchase within the sim. In response, a pod of dolphins made a spectacular, water-spraying leap, arraying themselves around the ship’s bow to cries of delight and applause.

“Such a gracious host,” Maud murmured, fanning herself with her straw hat.

Frankie offered up her best rogue’s grin. “Who says I don’t play well with others?”

“We could get up a poll on that,” Ember said. Jermaine snorted.

“Fuck you very much; the question was rhetorical.”

“And now we’re back on brand,” Babs said.

“Sure, gang up on me. No wonder I spend half my time in deep space—” An elbow to the ribs—Maud—cut her off.

The sim dolphins broke the sheet of the sea again, flinging diamond spray as they cut through the sunlit surface of the water.

The dolphins, the ship, and the party-goers were all illusory. Not so that elbow, or the heat of Maud against Frankie’s body. The two of them were cuddled up in bed, out on the Surface, even as their attention was deep in Sensorium.

Soon their guests would move on to other entertainments, and they would come out of the sim entirely, and . . .

Maud startled, then raised a hand to her face, covering surprise by stroking her sideburns. “There’s your stepmother.”

Rubi Whiting was indeed entering the sim from belowdecks.

This can’t be good.

As if hearing her thought—reading it, more likely, as Frankie hadn’t much of a poker face—Rubi opened with gestural moji, signs meaning no news. Most of their heart-to-hearts started this way: Rubi basically assuring her that nothing had happened to Gimlet, Frankie’s wayward parent.

Relief momentarily unclenched her fists.

“Go.” Maud gave her a nudge.

“Bollocks to that,” Frankie said. “She’s bringing work to a party.”

“You don’t know it’s work.”

“Don’t I?”

“You’d be happy it was work if you weren’t changing projects. Remind her it was her idea—”

“To demote me?”

“Be prosocial: say transfer.”

Hung brought Surprise into a hard turn to starboard, and the ship’s deck tilted. The cosplaying in-laws in the rigging reached down, fingers not quite reaching the fins of their dolphin escort. Frankie felt sun on her face, the solidity of her family around her. She caught a whiff of brine and woodsmoke.

“I’ll be back.” She kissed her packmate, separated herself reluctantly from the cluster of her family, and swaggered over to Rubi in best ship’s captain fashion. Salute? Nah.

“Any word?” After all, nobody’s dead hardly counted as a status update.

“Gimlet has extended their fact-finding mission.” Rubi was running Diplomatic these days, and her toon wore an infestation of tags, notes showing her high position on the Worldsaver Leaderboard, her Cloudsight rating, and her personal value as a currency. The last was one of the many things that made her an oddity—Rubi had inadvertently spawned an economy of favors two decades earlier, during a long-ago political crisis. Now she had an assessed value, like a bank.

Frankie felt her eyes narrowing. “For how much longer?”

“I’ve no idea, Franks.”

Rubi’s fingerling dreadlocks showed a faint encroachment of grey. Cropped close at the left temple, a hexagonal grouping of the dreads—her trademark—was tipped with animated golden honeybees. On the Surface, she wore the same dreads, capped with carved wooden beads. She had long since given up playing sim premieres, but she still carried herself like a fighter.

“Then you’re here to wish us well?” Frankie checked the perimeter icons in her HUD. In her lower peripheral was the number of people following their conversation in realtime. Eleven thousand; hardly anyone. “Happy Superversary, Ferals! I’m printing you a bottle of wine.”

Rubi gave the smallest of headshakes. “Project Bootstrap is finalizing plans for the portal expansion.”

“Opening Portals 6/7?” She signed the slash between the six and seven as she spoke the words—portals six seven—and her fingertips tingled as she sliced the air.

Frankie had been nine when the confederation of human and AI entities collectively referred to as the Solakinder were first contacted by offworlders. The aliens hadn’t really said hello, not at first. They’d logged on to Sensorium’s social networks, begun interfering with global politics, and then, when they got caught, asked—nicely, the first time—if Earth would like to join their greater intergalactic empire.

The answer, initially, had been a polite No, thank you. Not surprisingly, the offworlders had asked again, less nicely, earning themselves a response with a tone more in the region of Piss off!

It was easy to expect the asks would escalate. Possibly escalate all the way to invasion. And so Diplomatic, as led by Frankie’s parents, had negotiated a costly devil’s bargain.

If Earth wanted to maintain its independence without getting swallowed by the Exemplar races, as they called themselves, they would have to develop the technologies that had brought those races to their solar system. What’s more, they had to invent all those #supertechs without any hints from the advanced races.

It was a noninterference rule, of sorts, with Earth as the culture the aliens were—supposedly—not interfering with. Privately, Frankie called it the weaponized Prime Directive.

So far, the Solakinder had opened a loop of five stable wormholes, expanding their footprint within the home solar system. Opening Portals 6/7 would put them within hopping distance of Alpha Centauri and an Exemplar portal there. And just in time, too.

Frankie felt a grin breaking across her face. She didn’t see corresponding excitement on her stepmother’s. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s faster than expected. Your transfer to Quantum Comms has been delayed—”

“Can’t we push up the installation? Loop Maud in?”

Rubi shook her head. “Insufficient time to do the testing.”

Frankie’s mind raced. She’d agreed to the experiment that would patch Maud into the pilots’ off-the-record comms so that the two of them could talk properly, off the record. “If they’re rolling out the new portals, they’ll need every augmented pilot they can get.”

“Exactly,” Rubi said. “You’ll be EMbodying a pegasus out at Emerald Station. Overseeing the launch of Portal7 .”

A twinge of disappointment. She’d hoped to be at Proxima Centauri. Still . . .

“So?” And then, reading Rubi’s expression of concern: “Ember’s maths are solid. It’s not going to be that dangerous.”

“You took the riskiest position when we expanded from three to five portals.” Rubi thrust her hands into her pockets. “You don’t have to jump at hazard duty again.”

“If I don’t, they’ll assign Hung to Sneezy,” Frankie said. “Kid’s good. But.”

Her stepmother shrugged. Unwilling to say more in a public transcript, no doubt.

You think something’s going to go wrong. And if you think that, it’s because . . .

“I’m right, aren’t I?”

Rubi stared at her over the rim of a simulated glass of bubbly. Behind her, party guests were trying to figure out the mechanics of loading the Surprise deck cannons.

It had never seemed likely to Frankie that the offworlders would go from Please give us your planet to Hand it over, kids! to a simple Gosh, we’re sorry, we’ll back off. Come play with us whenever you’re ready.

“You’re right.” Rubi ran a finger over the rim of her glass, letting that sit. And then adding, after too much pause, “If you opt out, Hung goes.”

She meant that Frankie was right about someone sabotaging the Bootstrap Project.

All this time, you’ve been insisting I was paranoid.

Temper simmering, she glanced past Rubi to Maud.

“You made promises, Frankie. Keep them. Pull in your horns; play it safe.”

“Maud will understand if I do one more mission.”

“Are you sure?”

Hazard duty, again, and now even Diplomatic agreed there was actual hazard.

Dolphins broke the water near Surprise, chittering. The sailing ship was a fictional monument to a colonial power—and a reminder of all the damage it had done. Frankie looked at Ember, costumed in his starved-prisoner affect.

Rubi was waiting, face schooled to calmness. She had come already knowing what her wayward stepchild would say.

“I am not opting out of anything,” Frankie told her. “If Sneezy’s where the action is, Sneezy’s where I’ll be.”

Copyright © L. X. Beckett 2021

Pre-order Dealbreaker Here:

Image Place holder  of amazon- 74 Placeholder of bn -98 Image Place holder  of booksamillion- 89 ibooks2 85 indiebound

post-featured-image

$2.99 eBook Sale: March 2020

$2.99 eBook Sale: March 2020

Spring has sprung and that means new deals for March! Check out what Tor eBooks you can grab for $2.99 throughout the entire month below:

Image Placeholder of - 78Pawn by Timothy Zahn

Nicole Lee’s life is going nowhere. No family, no money, and stuck in a relationship with a thug named Bungie. But, after one of Bungie’s “deals” goes south, he and Nicole are whisked away by a mysterious moth-like humanoid to a strange ship called the Fyrantha. Once aboard, life on the ship seems too good to be true. However, she learned long ago that nothing comes without a catch. Nicole soon discovers that many different factions are vying for control of the Fyrantha, and she and her friends are merely pawns in a game beyond their control. But, she is tired of being used, and now Nicole is going to fight.

kindlea nooka ebooksa google playa ibooks2 8 koboa

Image Place holder  of - 60Stealing Worlds by Karl Schroeder

Sura Neelin is on the run from her creditors, from her past, and her father’s murderers. She can’t get a job, she can’t get a place to live, she can’t even walk down the street: the total surveillance society that is mid-21st century America means that every camera and every pair of smart glasses is her enemy. But Sura might have a chance in the alternate reality of the games. Turns out, she has very valuable skills, and some very surprising friends.

kindleb nookb ebooksb google playb ibooks2 29 kobob

Placeholder of  -21The Iron Dragon’s Mother by Michael Swanwick

Caitlin of House Sans Merci is the young half-human pilot of a sentient mechanical dragon. Returning from her first soul-stealing raid, she discovers an unwanted hitchhiker. When Caitlin is framed for the murder of her brother, to save herself she must disappear into Industrialized Faerie, looking for the one person who can clear her. Unfortunately, the stakes are higher than she knows. Her deeds will change her world forever.

kindlec nookc ebooksc google playc koboc

Place holder  of - 2Empress of Forever by Max Gladstone

A wildly successful innovator to rival Steve Jobs or Elon Musk, Vivian Liao is prone to radical thinking, quick decision-making, and reckless action. On the eve of her greatest achievement, she tries to outrun people who are trying to steal her success.

In the chilly darkness of a Boston server farm, Viv sets her ultimate plan into motion. A terrifying instant later, Vivian Liao is catapulted through space and time to a far future where she confronts a destiny stranger and more deadly than she could ever imagine.

kindled nookd ebooksd google playd kobod

GamechangerPoster Placeholder of - 28 by L. X. Beckett

Rubi Whiting is a member of the Bounceback Generation. The first to be raised free of the troubles of the late twenty-first century. Now she works as a public defender to help troubled individuals with anti-social behavior. That’s how she met Luciano Pox. Luce is a firebrand and has made a name for himself as a naysayer. But there’s more to him than being a lightning rod for controversy. Rubi has to find out why the governments of the world want to bring Luce into custody, and why Luce is hell bent on stopping the recovery of the planet.

kindlee nooke ebookse google playe koboe

The Sol Majestic by Ferrett Steinmetz

Kenna, an aspirational teen guru, wanders destitute across the stars as he tries to achieve his parents’ ambition to advise the celestial elite. Everything changes when Kenna wins a free dinner at The Sol Majestic, the galaxy’s most renowned restaurant, giving him access to the cosmos’s one-percent. His dream is jeopardized, however, when he learns his highly-publicized “free meal” risks putting The Sol Majestic into financial ruin. Kenna and a motley gang of newfound friends—including a teleporting celebrity chef, a trust-fund adrenaline junkie, an inept apprentice, and a brilliant mistress of disguise—must concoct an extravagant scheme to save everything they cherish.

kindle nook ebooks Image Place holder  of google play- 66 kobo

post-featured-image

Excerpt: Gamechanger by L. X. Beckett

amazons bns booksamillions ibooks2 56 indiebounds

Image Placeholder of - 65First there was the Setback.

Then came the Clawback.

Now we thrive.

Rubi Whiting is a member of the Bounceback Generation. The first to be raised free of the troubles of the late twenty-first century. Now she works as a public defender to help troubled individuals with anti-social behavior. That’s how she met Luciano Pox.

Luce is a firebrand and has made a name for himself as a naysayer. But there’s more to him than being a lightning rod for controversy. Rubi has to find out why the governments of the world want to bring Luce into custody, and why Luce is hell bent on stopping the recovery of the planet.

Gamechanger by L. X. Beckett is on sale on September 17. Please enjoy the following excerpt.

Chapter 1

Cherub Whiting’s first realworld police raid was nothing like the sims.

She was in a chic Parisian neighborhood with a view of the Eiffel Tower, waiting on a meeting. When @Interpol showed up in her pop-in conference room, she’d been sending pings to a no-show client for the better part of an hour.

Luce, you’re late. Luce, it’s time for our face-to-face. Where are you?

He’d be afraid to skip, wouldn’t he? By the time someone’s social capital got so bad they merited a face-to-face meeting—one in- volving the horrifying carbon cost of flying a lawyer from Toronto to WestEuro, no less—they were desperate to get life back on track. Failure to appear was unheard of.

The drag of jetlag had left Rubi mentally fogged. It dawned only slowly that she was obsessing.

“Can I get a volunteer gig while I wait, Crane?”

Her electronic sidekick had obviously been expecting the request. “A radish pallet across the hall has requested weeding and watering.” Crane’s crisp voice, transmitted via tiny implanted earbuds, had a British accent; he sounded like he was at her shoulder. “Its usual gardener had an emergency.”

“Accept task.”

Rubi’s visual implants superimposed the mirage of a yellow arrow onto the floor, mapping the way to a conference room big enough for twelve. The pallet of seedlings in question had been abandoned mid-job. Thumb-sized plants with leaves like propellers ruffled in a breeze from the open window. Beyond them, the streets of Paris beckoned.

Rubi felt a pang for whoever had been tending the radishes. “Run tutorial?”
“I remember how to weed radishes, Crane.” Nudging aside a delicate stem with her thumbnail, she isolated one of the undesirables, tugging it from the soil. “See?”

“Very good, miss.”

Where was Luce? If they couldn’t convince Cloudsight he could behave prosocially, he’d be remanded to managed care: relocation to the outskirts, mandatory labor on an ecosphere rehab project—topsoil generation, probably—and censored comms. It was a prison sentence in all but name.

You can’t make him appear, Rubi told herself. Breathe. Pull weeds. Enjoy the solitude.

Heavy boots, pounding up the stairwell double-time, filled her with relief.

Finally!

Crane spoke, momentarily drowning out the elephant stampede. “Miss Cherub? Call for you.”

“Is it Dad?”

“Your father’s fine. The call is from your archnemesis.”

“Not funny.”

“No? I’ll make a note.”

“Gimlet Barnes is not my arch—”

Clomp clomp clomp bang! An armored man charged through the door.

Rubi pivoted, squaring off to face the threat . . . and brandishing a fist full of weeds. The move was reflexive, triggered by hours logged in-game.

. . . plus, maybe, the mention of Gimlet . . .

If this had been a game, her implants would have augmented the white-walled meeting room until it was unrecognizable, frosting visuals and sound over mundane reality, porting her into playspace: a dungeon, maybe, a space station, or a canyon in the mythical American Wild West. Instead, the walls lit up with official warnings. Posters scrolled on the plaster, red-and-black placards: POLICE LINE. DO NOT CROSS!

“Don’t move!”

A cop? Luce couldn’t be a cop, could he? With his social deficits?

Official directives crawled the posters: REMAIN IN PLACE! WAIT FOR INSTRUCTIONS!

Rubi had risen to her toes, prep for rolling left if he attacked. Heart slamming, she scanned for weapons.

Like what—a crossbow? Holy water?

Two cameras and a pacification bot drifted over her radishes. “Stand down, mademoiselle! Stand down now!”

Rubi lowered her fists. Of course this policeman wasn’t Luce. He was a stranger.

Handsome stranger, noted an inner voice.

Dammit, stay on task! “Complying as ordered.”

He was tall and olive-skinned, with flyaway hair the color of charcoal and forbidding features: sharp nose, steely eyes. A protective vest, over the base layer of nanosilk he wore as a primer garment, left her to imagine the details of his physique. His bot was armed with a joy buzzer, third-gen Taser tech. Dad claimed that a good jolt would make you wish you’d died.

He would know, wouldn’t he?

@Interpol must have a warrant, because the building hadn’t warned Crane he was coming.

As this thought gelled, a badge resolved on the wall.

@Interpol Special Ops, Agent Anselmo Javier

Pronouns: he/him

Cloudsight Respectability Rating: 59/100%

Agent Javier checked under the old hardwood table, then peered inside a closet filled with folding chairs. “I’m going to search the rest of the floor,” he said. “Wait here, s’il vous plaît.

He left Rubi alone with the drones.

Feigning calm, she peered beyond the radishes to the street. Zoom views from other cameras let her clock a half-dozen meandering residents and tourists.

So, civilians weren’t being diverted away from the scene. Still, there were at least a dozen drones lurking in the shadows. And . . . . . . her mouth went dry.

An autonomous sniper, bristling with tranq darts, was tucked into a balcony across the street. It had its sights on her. As she clocked it, the nanotech primer on its exterior changed color. It blended in with a building pediment covered in anti-pigeon spikes.

As it all but vanished, Rubi felt goose bumps coming up on her arms. A gun. An actual gun.

Crane murmured, “Isn’t this how that 1942 simulation started out?”

“That was a game,” Rubi said. Still, she let the memory raise a smile. Wild with exhaustion, she had torn through a VR sim of Occupied Paris, meeting contacts, passing messages, and setting garlic traps for Vichy vampires.

It was the only time she had let life in Sensorium swamp her studies, had ignored school and all her surface obligations. She should have been memorizing social infraction case precedents before her next law exam unlocked. Instead, she’d stayed online for eighteen hours, sabotaging trains and stealing bomb plans.

The dealbreaker had been her so-called archnemesis. Gimlet Barnes had been brought in by Risto Games in a last-minute twist, to lead a team of German necromancers hunting her resistance cell.

Rubi had lost big in their previous battle, a superhero thing. She’d apparently lost perspective, too. Once Gimlet was in, there was no chance she’d stop, not even for a better shot at leveling her mash-up of careers into a single permajob as a public defender.

Thrill of adrenaline, rat-a-tat of machine guns, crossbow-driven stakes. Sim blood spraying as buildings collapsed. Players and audience tooning in by the tens of thousands.

Stone tumbling to drive a pall of dust skyward, thick enough to curtain the moonlight. Howling werewolf choruses. Bone-shaking blasts of shellfire, stripping the air to gunpowder-laced sandpaper.

But . . . “Never again, Crane.”

“If you say so, miss.”

“I mean it.” She couldn’t fail any more exams without falling off the law school leaderboard.

Materialists would insist it had never happened, anyway.

Manufactured gamer dreams had no meaning in surface reality. But Rubi remembered it—remembered the bombed-out terrain of mid– twentieth century Paris—as if it was her own nursery.

Meanwhile, that camouflaged sniper lurking in the crannies, here and now, prickled at her consciousness.

The @Interpol agent returned. “You are Cherub Barbara Whiting?”

“Yes.”

“Where’s Luciano Pox?”

“Why?”

“Answer the question, please.”

Rubi replied, “He’s sixty-six minutes late.”

“Is that normal?”

“I can’t say.” A camera drone hovered in her peripheral. Trying to unsettle her? “If Luce wasn’t profoundly antisocial, he wouldn’t need in-the-flesh legal support.”

“So, clients often skip?”

Never. Rather than admit this, she said, “He has an emergent seizure disorder. Which means, by the way, you can’t zap him at will.”

“Zap. At will.” The agent raised his eyebrows.

She waited, arms crossed.

Finally, Agent Javier nodded, and the joy buzzer took the window exit, whirring away. “Surely your client has been tested for this alleged disorder.”

“I only just got him into peer counseling.” Rubi had referred Luce to her father, who like her was good with exceptionally difficult people . . . when he wasn’t being difficult himself. “We’ll coax him into getting scanned.”

“Ah! Then you tell Cloudsight that he needs medical allowances made for disability, and so he avoids managed care,” Javier said. “Convenient, non?”

Had he just suggested that disability was something to be exploited? A social hack? “Shorting out at random when you’re trying to make it through the day is, for your information, extremely inconvenient. Play a few neurodisorder sims. Judge for yourself.”

The agent blinked.

Rubi turned back to the radishes, simmering with anger. It wouldn’t help Luce if the Sensorium went viral with footage of her chewing out a cop.

Had they planned to tranq Luce and rush him into managed care without a hearing?

No. He’d have to be a terrorist or #troll . . . and if they suspected either of those things, the block would be teeming with security.

Moving in what—in games, anyway—was a nonthreatening manner, Rubi swept the discarded weeds into a compost bin. She refused to allow herself to search out the sniperbot again—though the space between her shoulder blades itched. She brushed topsoil off her palms, accessed the building helix, and activated the watering app.

Recycled graywater drizzled over the young radishes. Rubi tipped the garden pallet outdoors to face the ever-broiling sun and latched the windowpane. “Task complete.”

“The Pompidou neighborhood farm co-op has boosted your social capital, Miss Cherub,” replied the sidekick app. “Agent Javier, too.”

The two strokes were, very nearly, worth as much as an hour’s lawyering. After the collapse of the global finance networks, rationing had established minimal guaranteed solvency for every citizen—live, artificial, or corporate.

Global Oversight guaranteed calories, housing, meds. It equalized access to work and education. Virtual reality made it all bearable.

Everyone needed a few in-the-flesh luxuries, though, and real-world perks were priced on a sliding scale. That was where Cloud-sight came in: what you paid depended on your reputation. Pricing for privileges, premiums, and in-app purchases went up exponentially, tier by tier.

“Crane, tell the gardener that I hope their emergency resolves happily,” Rubi said.

“She wants you to know her daughter’s a fan.”

“Nice! License the kid a hair clip?”

“Already done. Message from Gimlet Barnes?”

“Crane, stop! I’m in the middle of something.”

“Are you? Agent Javier is elsewhere.” Crane was right: the flinty-eyed @Interpol agent had glazed, presumably diving into Sensorium to commiserate with his drone pilots about the fizzling of their raid.

Rubi pushed aside the thought of Gimlet, of the gamer grudge match she hadn’t quite managed to call off yet. She pinged the @Interpol agent: “I’m due to update Luce’s support ticket. You gonna tell me why you’re after him?”

Oui, d’accord.” If he was affronted by her bossiness, it didn’t show. “This meeting room’s free.”

“No. Somewhere less isolated.” When he frowned, Rubi added, “Come on, Agent Javier. It’s a beautiful day.”

“You can call me Anselmo.”

“Anselmo, then.”

His smile changed the whole landscape of his face; the severity vanished, replaced with sparks of good humor. Despite the guns and his hint of arrogance, she found herself liking him.

“Hold everything but a crisis, Crane.”

“Understood, miss.”

“Thanks.” With that, she whisked up her satchel and walked out past the cop, daring him to object.

Instead, Anselmo fell in beside her.

Nothing like the sims, Rubi thought again, walking fast, getting some distance from that gun platform as she made for the stairs.

Copyright © 2019 by L. X. Beckett

Order Your Copy

Place holder  of amazon- 16 Image Placeholder of bn- 74 Poster Placeholder of booksamillion- 29 ibooks2 66 indiebound

The owner of this website has made a commitment to accessibility and inclusion, please report any problems that you encounter using the contact form on this website. This site uses the WP ADA Compliance Check plugin to enhance accessibility.