Nova

Front Cover
Vintage Books, 2002 - Fiction - 241 pages
11 Reviews
Given that the suns of Draco stretch almost sixteen light years from end to end, it stands to reason that the cost of transportation is the most important factor of the 32nd century. And since Illyrion is the element most needed for space travel, Lorq von Ray is plenty willing to fly through the core of a recently imploded sun in order to obtain seven tons of it. The potential for profit is so great that Lorq has little difficulty cobbling together an alluring crew that includes a gypsy musician and a moon-obsessed scholar interested in the ancient art of writing a novel. What the crew doesn’t know, though, is that Lorq’s quest is actually fueled by a private revenge so consuming that he’ll stop at nothing to achieve it. In the grandest manner of speculative fiction, Nova is a wise and witty classic that casts a fascinating new light on some of humanity’s oldest truths and enduring myths.
 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - quondame - LibraryThing

I probably read this because of what Jo Walton said in [Why is this Book so Great] Really? I’m not very archetype’d. Interesting and not the same-old-same-old, it nevertheless doesn’t strike me as ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - CeciliaM - LibraryThing

Interesting storyline, but I never quite got captured by it. I felt that the story was broken down in disconnected fragments. It might have had to do with me never getting enough time reading. Each time I took it up again I had to go back to see what was going on. Read full review

Selected pages

Contents

Section 1
3
Section 2
15
Section 3
16
Section 4
25
Section 5
48
Section 6
49
Section 7
58
Section 8
64
Section 16
176
Section 17
182
Section 18
183
Section 19
184
Section 20
201
Section 21
211
Section 22
214
Section 23
216

Section 9
101
Section 10
122
Section 11
127
Section 12
131
Section 13
134
Section 14
136
Section 15
168
Section 24
225
Section 25
227
Section 26
232
Section 27
234
Section 28
239
Section 29
243
Copyright

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About the author (2002)

chapter one

"Hey, Mouse! Play us something," one of the mechanics called from the bar.

"Didn''t get signed on no ship yet?" chided the other. "Your spinal socket''ll rust up. Come on, give us a number."

The Mouse stopped running his finger around the rim of his glass. Wanting to say "no" he began a "yes." Then he frowned.

The mechanics frowned too:

He was an old man.

He was a strong man.

As the Mouse pulled his hand to the edge of the table, the derelict lurched forward. Hip banged the counter. Long toes struck a chair leg: the chair danced on the flags.

Old. Strong. The third thing the Mouse saw: Blind.

He swayed before the Mouse''s table. His hand swung up; yellow nails hit the Mouse''s cheek. (Spider''s feet?) "You, boy . . ."

The Mouse stared at the pearls behind rough, blinking lids.

"You, boy. Do you know what it was like?"

Must be blind, the Mouse thought. Moves like blind. Head sits forward so on his neck. And his eyes--

The codger flapped out his hand, caught a chair, and yanked it to him. It rasped as he fell on the seat. "Do you know what it looked like, felt like, smelt like--do you?"

The Mouse shook his head; the fingers tapped his cheek.

"We were moving out, boy, with the three hundred suns of the Pleiades glittering like a puddle of jeweled milk on our left, and all blackness wrapped around our right. The ship was me; I was the ship. With these sockets--" he tapped the insets in his wrists against the table: click "--I was plugged into my vane-projector. Then--" the stubble on his jaw rose and fell with the words "--centered on the dark, a light! It reached out, grabbed our eyes as we lay in the projection chambers and wouldn''t let them go. It was like the universe was torn and all day raging through. I wouldn''t go off sensory input. I wouldn''t look away. All the colors you could think of were there, blotting the night. And finally the shock waves: the walls sang! Magnetic inductance oscillated over our ship, nearly rattled us apart. But then it was too late. I was blind." He sat back in his chair. "I''m blind, boy. But with a funny kind of blindness: I can see you. I''m deaf. But if you talked to me, I could understand most of what you said. Olfactory nerves mostly shorted out at the brain end. Same with the taste buds over my tongue." His hand went flat on the Mouse''s cheek. "I can''t feel the texture of your face. Most of the tactile nerve endings were killed too. Are you smooth--or are you bristly and gristly as I am?" He laughed on yellow teeth in red, red gums. "Old Dan is blind in a funny way." His hand slipped down the Mouse''s vest, catching the laces. "A funny way, yes. Most people go blind in blackness. I have a fire in my eyes. I have that whole collapsing sun in my head, my visual tectum shorted wide open, jumping, leaping, sparking. It''s as though the light lashed the rods and cones of my retina to constant stimulation, balled up a rainbow and stuffed each socket full. That''s what I''m seeing now. Then you, outlined here, highlighted there, a solarized ghost across hell from me. Who are you?"

"Pontichos," the Mouse offered. His voice sounded like wool with sand, grinding. "Pontichos Provechi."

Dan''s face twisted. "Your name is . . . What did you say? It''s shaking my head apart. There''s a choir crouched in my ears, shouting down into my skull twenty-six hours a day. The brain-end synapses, they''re sending out static, the death rattle that sun''s been dying ever since. Over that, I can just hear your voice, like an echo of something shouted a hundred yards off." Dan coughed and sat back, hard. "Where are you from?" He wiped his mouth.

"Here in Draco," the Mouse said. "Earth."

"Earth? Where? America? You come from a little white house on a tree-lined street, with a bicycle in the garage?"

Oh yes, the Mouse thought. Blind, and deaf too. The Mouse''s speech was good, but he''d never even tried to correct his accent.

"Me. I''m from Australia. From a white house. I lived just outside Melbourne. Trees. I had a bicycle. But that was a long time ago. A long time, wasn''t it, boy? You know Australia, on Earth?"

"Been through." The Mouse squirmed in his chair and wondered how to get away.

"Yes. That''s how it was. But you don''t know, boy! You can''t know what it''s like to stagger through the rest of your life with a nova dug into your brain, remembering Melbourne, remembering the bicycle. What did you say your name was?"

The Mouse looked left at the window, right at the door.

"I can''t remember it. The sound of that sun blots out everything."

The mechanics, who had been listening till now, turned to the bar.

"Can''t remember a thing any more!"

At another table a black-haired woman fell back to her card game with her blond companion.

"Oh, I''ve been sent to doctors! They say if they cut out the nerves, optic and aural, slice them off at the brain, the roaring, the light--it might stop! Might?" He raised his hands to his face. "And the shadows of the world that come in, they''d stop too. Your name? What''s your name?"

The Mouse got the words ready in his mouth, along with, excuse me, huh? I gotta go.

But old Dan coughed, clutched at his ears.

"Ahhh! That was a pig trip, a dog trip, a trip for flies! The ship was the Roc and I was a cyborg stud for Captain Lorq Von Ray. He took us"--Dan leaned across the table--"this close"--his thumb brushed his forefinger--"this close to hell. And brought us back. You can damn him, and damn Illyrion for that, boy, whoever you are. Wherever you''re from!" Dan barked, flung back his head; his hands jumped on the table.

The bartender glanced over. Somebody signaled for a drink. The bartender''s lips tightened, but he turned off, shaking his head.

"Pain--" Dan''s chin came down--"after you''ve lived with it long enough, isn''t pain anymore. It''s something else. Lorq Von Ray is mad! He took us as near the edge of dying as he could. Now he''s abandoned me, nine-tenths a corpse, here at the rim of the Solar System. And where''s he gone--" Dan breathed hard. Something flapped in his lungs. "Where''s blind Dan going to go now?"

Suddenly he grabbed the sides of the table.

"Where is Dan going to go!"

The Mouse''s glass tumbled, smashed on the stone.

"You tell me!"

He shook the table again.

The bartender was coming over.

Dan stood, overturning his chair, and rubbed his knuckles on his eyes. He took two staggering steps through the sunburst that rayed the floor. Two more. The last left long maroon prints.

The black-haired woman caught her breath. The blond man closed the cards.

One mechanic started forward, but the other touched his arm.

Dan''s fists struck the swinging doors. He was gone.

The Mouse looked around. Glass on stone again, but softer. The bartender had plugged the sweeper into his wrist and the machine hissed over dirt and bloody fragments. "You want another drink?"

"No," the Mouse''s voice whispered from his ruined larynx. "No. I was finished. Who was that?"

"Used to be a cyborg stud on the Roc. He''s been making trouble around here for a week. Lots of places throw him out soon as he comes in the door. How come you been having such a hard time getting signed on?"

"I''ve never been on a star-run before," came the Mouse''s rough whisper. "I just got my certificate two years back. Since then I''ve been plugged in with a small freight company working around inside the Solar System on the triangle run."

"I could give you all kinds of advice." The bartender unplugged the sweeper from the socket on his wrist. "But I''ll restrain myself. Ashton Clark go with you." He grinned and went back behind the bar.

The Mouse felt uncomfortable. He hooked a dark thumb beneath the leather strap over his shoulder, got up and started for the door.

"Eh, Mouse, come on. Play something for--"

The door closed behind him.

The shrunken sun lay jagged gold on the mountains. Neptune, huge in the sky, dropped mottled light on the plain. The starships hulked in the repair pits half a mile away.

The Mouse started down the strip of bars, cheap hotels, and eating places. Unemployed and despondent, he had bummed in most of them, playing for board, sleeping in the corner of somebody''s room when he was pulled in to entertain at an all-night party. That wasn''t what his certificate said he should be doing. That wasn''t what he wanted.

He turned down the boardwalk that edged Hell3.

To make the satellite''s surface habitable, Draco Commission had planted Illyrion furnaces to melt the moon''s core. With surface temperature at mild autumn, atmosphere generated spontaneously from the rocks. An artificial ionosphere kept it in. The other manifestations of the newly molten core were Hells1 to 52, volcanic cracks that had opened in the crust of the moon. Hell3 was almost a hundred yards wide, twice as deep (a flaming worm broiled on its bottom), and seven miles long. The caņon flickered and fumed under pale night.

As the Mouse walked by the abyss, hot air caressed his cheek. He was thinking about blind Dan. He was thinking about the night beyond Pluto, beyond the edge of the stars called Draco. And was afraid. He fingered the leather sack against his side.

When the Mouse was ten years old, he''d stolen that sack. It held what he was to love most.

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