Ben Macintyre * Tony Tetro * Robert Harris * Hannah Sward * Kaoru Takamura * Stephen King * Cat Rambo * Kerry Dolan * S. A. Chakraborty
Surely no one expects Charlie Reade to be able to concentrate in class when he’s been ferrying $115k worth of gold in his backpack, and has just been bequeathed land, house, and more gold than anyone ever dreamed of in their entire lives? And has just seen a dead giant cockroach in a shed? Let’s give it a try, however.
Charlie Reade is sitting in class, it’s Period Six, the course is America Today. Teacher calls on him just as he’s beginning to daydream about Wizard of Oz:
“Charles, have you fallen asleep back there? Or perhaps my mellifluous voice has hypnotized you? Entranced you?”
“No, I’m right here.”
“Then perhaps you’d give us your considered opinion regarding the blue-on-black shootings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling.”
“Bad shit indeed. Please feel free to reenter your trance state, Mr. Reade.— Fairy Tale, pp. 185 – 186
Self has an objection: Are American teachers, she means real life American teachers, really this witty? She thinks not!
Dad “was an insurance claims adjuster, and he told me once that the only pure accident he ever heard of was a man in Arizona who was killed when a meteor hit him in the head.”
No one writes like Stephen King, no one.
Captain Nicolette Larson’s trusty right-hand humanoid, Darby, is eight feet tall and has four arms (Now wonder he’s such a demon in the kitchen!). The other assistant is Skidoo, who is either a squid or an octopus. Atlanta, one of the twelve heirs to the Empress of the Hive Mind, caught Skidoo in flagrante delicto with Milly the pastry chef.
Now, where was I?
The crew are now prisoners of the meanest pirate in the Known World, Tubal Last (Author Cat Rambo couldn’t come up with a better name for her pirate? She already named the main ship You Sexy Thing!)
They are outfitted with gold bracelets that function as a sort of monitor. When the guard moves to Skidoo (Self is almost sure Skidoo is a squid), he realizes he’ll have to use something other than a bracelet.
Guard: “You gotta get tagged. The others can’t slip out of that bracelet, but you sure as hell can.”
Skidoo: “You are being a handsome one. Perhaps is being a deal possible?” (Skidoo gave a seductive, sinuous wriggle)
Guard: “Honey, I’m not wired that way. But points for trying.”
She extended a tentacle with a sigh.— You Sexy Thing, p. 198
The ship You Sexy Thing has its own agenda! It is programmed to deliver the putated hijackers — the owner and staff of the Last Chance restaurant from TwiceFar Station — to IAPH (the International Association of Pirate Havens) but it has secretly decided: “not until I learn how to cook!”
Because, the whole time, Thing has been absorbing lessons from the chef and has been experimenting with meals, and then recording the emotions of the crew as they partake of its meals — hunger, pleasure — and this has become Thing‘s addiction.
Self feared, the first time she realized Thing had agency, that the book was entering HAL 1000/2001 Space Odyssey territory. Who knows, it still might veer that way. In the meantime, the crew has discovered that they have a stowaway: one of the twelve heirs to the Empress of the Hive Mind, a 17-year-old who was shipped to TwiceFar Station in a crate — Quel mystère! Good thing the chef decided to open the crate, just before the explosions that destroyed the station!
You Sexy Thing is not the first ship that Captain Niko (short for Nikolette Larson? Ho ho ho) has been on. She has at least a passing acquaintance with one other ship, called Constant Craving.
HA HA HA HA HA HAAAAAA
To get access to You Sexy Thing, she had to use a password. Guess what it is? Clue here.
You Sexy Thing comes clean to Nikkolette Larsen, owner/operator of the Last Chance, a restaurant on TwiceFar station:
Need self add: SPOILER ALERT!
“I no longer believe that you killed Arpat Takraven. Takraven likes to express humor, and I believe this was another of his jokes. You are inconvenient, and consume many resources, but it is amusing to watch you play and I do not intend to release you until I have learned to cook.”— You Sexy Thing, p. 125
This book is a wild ride!
P. S.: “It” is the ship. “Niko” is Nicolette Larson, proprietress of the TwiceFar Station restaurant Last Chance (Self’s brain keeps thinking of the singer with the same name, which is distracting)
Perhaps a good baseline would be to serve the meal that it had planned, and then elicit their feedback as thoroughly as possible . . .
It said, “Tell me what you want to eat. Then tell me how you want it presented.” It allowed the place settings to sink back down into the table’s surface, then the table decorations and napkins as well.
Niko said, “Very obliging of you. I would like a class five plant-based protein soup, spiced with flavonoids, toasted coriander seeds, and ground cumin at a ratio of four parts to five, and containing chickpeas or another class four legume. With that I will have class twenty-seven not milk and a plain wheat-based bread in cracker form. A simple white porcelain bowl and plate with basic human flatware.”— You Sexy Thing, p. 101
The ship, aware of everything happening in its interior, could not help but notice. He was memorizing the ship’s interior, the Thing thought, despite the fact that the ship could change it unexpectedly. Was the creature unaware of that, or did it not care? Was there some other purpose to the mapping? The ship could not think what that might be, but there was something unnerving about the way that the creature moved down the hallways, its hood pulled back to expose its face to the air, its eyes entirely — as far as the ship could tell — closed.
As it continued, another thing alarmed the ship. The creature was now exploring without bothering to open its eyes at all, but it was not stumbling or tripping as it did so, as though it already knew the space.— You Sexy Thing, pp. 88 – 89
Aside from that very unique name for a spaceship, the ship itself is alive, sentient, its inner walls actual skin. The governing intelligence is not a computer, it is AI. If someone spits on the floor, that spittle is immediately absorbed and analyzed, to ascertain whether that person’s health falls “within expected parameters.” The plucky crew (Plucky crews seem all over science fiction these days) boards to escape an attack on TwiceFar Station, at the outer edges of the known galaxy, after the death of the ship’s captain — but not before the captain gives the crew the magic password, I believe in miracles. It turns out that the password is code for: I’ve been murdered and these people are trying to steal my ship; go directly to the prison planet. All arguments are futile: the password has been given, the ship cannot deviate from its course. Luckily, the crew includes two entities known as Thorn and Talon, twin children sold to the Holy Hive Mind by their mother. Thorn and Talon are made into the Holy Hive Mind’s “shock troops” — they can transform from human into battle lion, “fierce and nigh unkillable, with a lion’s ferocity armored by nigh impenetrable magic, fangs and claws metal augmented, deadly.”
Let’s see what Thorn and Talon can get up to, shall we?
Also: self is so dense that she didn’t get the connection between the song (You Sexy Thing) and the password (I Believe in Miracles). Thanks to Tony Robles for sending her the link to the song.