Book of Reality

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Book of Reality finds Score, Helaine, Pixel, and Jenna journeying back to Calomir, Pixel's home planet of virtual reality. Pixel hasn't been back to Calomir since being snatched from the futuristic planet when he was first pulled into the magic and danger of the Diadem. Pixel wants to see his parents again-and bring Jenna home to meet them.

But instead of a happy homecoming, the four young magic-users find treachery, slavery, and deceit on ...
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Overview

Book of Reality finds Score, Helaine, Pixel, and Jenna journeying back to Calomir, Pixel's home planet of virtual reality. Pixel hasn't been back to Calomir since being snatched from the futuristic planet when he was first pulled into the magic and danger of the Diadem. Pixel wants to see his parents again-and bring Jenna home to meet them.

But instead of a happy homecoming, the four young magic-users find treachery, slavery, and deceit on Calomir, including a dark secret from Pixel's past. Can they find Pixel's parents, liberate the enslaved Drones, and win the battle against the evil force that not only controls Calomir, but also intends to conquer the entire Diadem?

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780738708430
  • Publisher: Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd.
  • Publication date: 2/1/2006
  • Series: Diadem Series , #9
  • Pages: 216
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.32 (w) x 8.26 (h) x 0.53 (d)

Meet the Author

John Peel was born in 1954 in Nottingham, England. He attended Nottingham University and began his writing career as the editorial assistant for England's Apparel Production and Marketing. He later worked as a comic-strip writer for Marvel Comics in London, and was until recently the overseas television critic for England's Starburst magazine. Since immigrating to the U.S.A. in 1981, John Peel has worked as a contributing writer and editor for numerous media-based magazines. He now writes novels full-time from his home on Long Island, where he resides with his wife, Nan, their wirehair fox terrier, Dashiell, their orange, spotted tabby, Amika, and their miniature pinschers, Loki (aptly named after the Norse god of mischief and destruction), Bartleby, Shadow, Reggie, Tievel, Rocky, Anubis Princess and Lady Penelope.

He has just sold his first film script, Haunting Adrian, which is expected to commence shooting in the near future.

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Read an Excerpt

1

"I think I'm going to barf," Score said. "I don't know how much more of this I can take."

Helaine glared at him. "Why do you have such a problem with the fact that Pixel and Jenna are so happy? Perhaps you're jealous? Or perhaps you want what they have, and are too cowardly to seek it?"

Score rolled his eyes. "Please," he begged her. "Sigmund Freud or his equivalent isn't going to be born on your world for a few hundred years yet. Don't try to psychoanalyze me."
Helaine sniffed and tossed her long, dark hair. "Don't think I haven't noticed that you always bring up the fact that I'm from a world five hundred years behind yours whenever you don't like what I say. I may not unmotor cars and flying machines, but I resent the implication that I must be stupid."
Score knew he was treading on thin ice here. He liked Helaine a lot, and he was sure she liked him. But her temper and her sense of honor were both razor sharp. It wouldn't take much to get her angry, and when she got angry, things tended to get broken. Like bones . . . "I don't think you're stupid," he protested. "Quite the opposite. It was just a joke, okay? Not a very good one, I'll admit. But seeing Pix and Jenna smooching every time I turn around upsets me."

"Why should it do that?" Helaine asked him. "Is it because you want to smooch with Jenna?" There was a very dangerous glint in her eye.

"No way!" Score protested. "I mean, she's cute, and nice, and all. But she's not my type."

"Oh? And just who is your type?"

Score swallowed. He really had to learn to watch what he said before blurting things out. "Nobody. I'm aloner, remember? I don't form emotional attachments-they tend to backfire on you."

"Oh? So you don't like me, then?"

This was getting way beyond his control now . . . "Of course I like you-you're probably my best friend in the worlds. I just don't like you in that way."

Helaine scowled. "In what way?"

Score gestured across the room of the castle they all shared. Pixel and Jenna were at the far end, snuggled together, both reading the same book, arms around one another. "That way."

"You wouldn't wish to read with me?" Helaine asked him.

He was almost certain there was a smile twitching at the corner of her lips. Of course, since this was Helaine, it might just be because she was anticipating beating the daylights out of him. "You know very well what I mean," was the best he could manage.

Helaine drew herself up to her full height, her head thrown back, an arrogant look on her face. "And what makes you think I would want to kiss you?"

"Nothing," Score said hastily, throwing up his hands. "I didn't mean to raise the subject. It's just that I'm so annoyed by seeing those two holding hands and lookall sickly at one another. I sometimes think we were better off before Jenna turned up."

Helaine snorted. "I have said that plenty of times." She and Jenna were from the same medieval planet, but where Helaine was the daughter of Lord Votrin, and very aristocratic, Jenna was a peasant's daughter. The two had stopped their fighting, but they could hardly be called friends. "But she does have her uses." Jenna was a healer, her special magical talent. Considering the amount of trouble the four of them managed to get into, this was a most helpful ability.

Score glanced over at where Pixel and Jenna had stopped reading and were now talking in low voices that didn't carry across the large room. "Yes," he agreed. "And nice legs." He knew as soon as he'd said it that this was a mistake.

"Boys!" Helaine exclaimed. "You're all the same! You value appearances more than substance." She stuck a finger in Score's face. "There is more to life than a pair of pretty legs."

"Well, you should know," Score growled back. "Yours are even nicer than hers. And you kick butt with them better."

That stopped Helaine in mid-rant, as she thought about what he had said. She seemed to be almost conthat it had been a compliment. Before she could say anything, though, Pixel and Jenna climbed out of the tall-backed chair they had been sharing, and started to walk across the room.

"If we're not disturbing the two of you," Pixel said, "we'd like to talk."

"You're not disturbing us," Score assured him quickly. "We were just fighting, as usual."

Jenna grinned at this. She might be a relative newto their band, but she had gotten quite used to their odd ways. "Pixel and I want to take a trip, and we wondered if you'd like to go with us."

That sounded like a great idea to Score-anything right now to distract Helaine. "Great-where are we off to?" He tried to forget that their last trip had left them running for their lives from pirates. Thankfully, Jenna had conjured up a Portal in time for them to esShe was getting quite good at magic now, after a shaky start.

"I'd like to go home," Pixel explained. "To Calomir." He chewed at his lower lip. "Both you and Helaine have been home to see your families. I thought it might be nice to see mine."

Score grimaced; his trip home had taken him back to his abusive father, Bad Tony Caruso, a would-be crime boss in New York. And Helaine's trip home had landed them in the middle of a war. Still, he couldn't see that there would be any danger in visiting Pixel's parents. They lived in Virtual Reality, hooked into their House computer, their minds roaming wherever they wished. "Yeah, how long has it been?"

Pixel sighed. "Years. I can't recall the last time that I saw them for real. They visited me pretty frequently when I was online, but physically . . . ?" He shook his head. "They probably haven't even missed me yet."

Helaine smiled. "Then we should all go and see them," she decided. "I should like to meet your parThey raised a very pleasant son. Unlike some people." She glared at Score.

"Well, we do have another reason for wanting to see them," Pixel admitted. He was still holding Jenna's hand, and held it slightly higher. "I want them to meet Jenna. And Jenna to meet them."

Score rolled his eyes. "Are you sure we won't be inhe asked. "I mean, the first time you bring a girl home to meet your parents . . . Isn't that kind of a personal thing?"

"Well, I'd like them to meet you and Helaine also," Pixel said. "In case they are worried about me, this way they'll know I'm okay. I mean, with friends like you guys, they'll see that I'm fine."

Score snickered. "Yes, I can see it now. You exthat the four of us live alone, unchapperoned, in our very own castle. They're going to be really relieved. Pix, parents tend to overreact. They're going to suspect hot tub parties, underaged drinking, and all sorts of stuff. They won't believe how boring most of our days here are."

Pixel looked puzzled. "Our days are very rarely dull. We have way too many adventures for that."

"Yes, that's another thing I wouldn't stress to them," Score added. "Risking your life, fighting monand insane magicians, pirates and so forth . . . It's not really going to reassure them, you know. Maybe you should stress the picking of flowers, playing with unicorns, and so on."

Helaine glared at him. "You suggest he lie to his parents? That is so typical of you."
"Not lie as such," Score protested. "Just edit the truth a bit. It's safer when you deal with adults. The whole truth tends to make them panic and assume the worst. They're likely to ground him for the rest of his life."

"I'm sure they'll be very understanding," Jenna said. "After all, their son is, and he must have gotten it from somewhere."

"Probably from the computers that raised him," Score muttered. "Well, don't say I didn't warn you."

Helaine smiled at Pixel. "I, for one, am most curito see your world," she informed him.

"This is it?" Score asked, staring around in disbelief. With the help of their adult magician friend, Shanara, they had created a Portal to Calomir. Calomir was on the Outer Rim of The Diadem, where the magic was weakest. A Portal could be created to travel there from other worlds closer to the center of the Diadem, but a Portal couldn't be started on such a world. Their only way back off Calomir was for Shanara to reopen the Portal that brought them here, otherwise they would be trapped here. Shanara didn't mind waiting for them to call on her to help them out.

So the four friends had stepped through the gateway between worlds, and found themselves here. Score stared around in disbelief. There were houses on a substreet; all the houses were absolutely identical-just blocks with roofs and doors. No windows, no mail boxes, not even any house numbers. None had gardens beyond a small strip of grass. There were no cars in the road and no people about at all.

"This looks like boredom central," Score com

Pixel grinned. "Now you can see why I like the Diadem so much."

Helaine shook her head. "Well, I can see why you got lost when you left your House," she said. "Everything looks identical."

"How are you going to find your way back home now?" Jenna asked.

Pixel held up his ruby. "I have an advantage this time," he said. "Magic." He concentrated, and a thin beam of red light flashed from his gem and straight to one of the houses about a quarter of a mile away. "Finding things magically helps a lot."

"Yes," Score agreed. "I'd hate to have to search every house looking for yours. It would take forever."

"The other Houses wouldn't let you in," Pixel inhim. "They would see you as an intruder and call the police. Don't forget, the Houses here are intel

"More so than the people, probably," Score mut"What a dump. It's so lifeless. Sorry Pix, but your home town isn't a patch on New York." He grinned. "Hey, maybe a few New Yorkers would liven this graveyard up a bit."

"We're not here to change things," Pixel reminded him. "This is just a visit home, so my folks can meet my friends. Especially my girlfriend." He gave Jenna's hand a squeeze, and they gazed adoringly at one another.

"Enough with the goo-goo eyes already," Score complained. "I just ate."

"You're just jealous," Pixel said.

"No, I'm just nauseous." But nothing seemed to penetrate Pixel's happiness, so Score settled down. He glared at Helaine, who seemed to be grinning to her"And what's with you?"

"Just . . . thinking," she replied. He hated it when she got all mysterious. She had a habit of being deep, and that bothered him at times-when he was pretty certain she was thinking about him.

Thankfully, it didn't take long to reach Pixel's House. Pixel walked to the door, and called out: "Let me in."

"There are unknown persons with you," the House said, in a pleasant voice that was mechanical, but still managed to sound worried.

"These are my friends," Pixel informed it. "They are to be allowed admittance to the House whenever they request it."

"This is highly unorthodox," the House complained.

"Maybe," Pixel replied. "But just do it, okay? Now, how about opening the door?"

The House said nothing, but the door sighed open. Pixel led the way within. Score was last through the door, which sighed shut behind him. This bothered him a little; it was too much like being inside a prison cell. All the light was artificial, as there were no winThey were in a smallish kitchen, which was imneat.

"My room's this way," Pixel announced, and led them into another small space. There was a closet, a bed, and a strange-looking apparatus that looked like the kind of hair dryers used in New York to dry women's perms. Nothing else.

"Your parents must love the neat way you keep this place," Score commented. "Not even a sock out of place."

"The House keeps everything tidy," Pixel said. "And I don't need decorations when I'm online most of the time anyway." He gestured to the apparatus. "Inside that, I can be anywhere."

"Yes, I can see why you'd want to be anywhere but here." Score shook his head. "So, how about letting us meet Mom and Dad Zombie?"

"This way," Pixel said. He led the way out of the room and down the small hallway. There was another door there, this one closed. "My parents' room," he announced. He tapped on the door, but there was no reply. "I'm sure they're online," he said.

"Why would they be anywhere else?" agreed Score. "So, how do you wake the sleeping beauties?"

Pixel looked up toward the ceiling. "House, can you tell my parents that we're here?"

"I am unable to comply," the House replied.

Pixel scowled. "Why not?"

"I cannot say."

Score snickered. "It sounds to me like your House has an attitude." Pixel looked worried. "House, just open their door, then." There was no response.
"Open the door, I said!" There was a short pause. "I am unable to comply with your request," it answered.

Score realized that the time for his jokes was past. He touched the emerald in his pocket, which enhis ability to transform things from one form to another, and focused on the door. "I do hope they aren't doing anything private," he muttered. Then he turned the door into air.

The four of them stared into the room.

It was completely empty.

Score shook his head. "It looks like your parents


moved while you were out," he muttered. "This doesn't make any sense," Pixel complained.

"House!" he called sharply. "Where are my parents?" "I cannot say," came the calm reply.
"I may be from a backwards world," Helaine com"but this House seems to be deliberately evaIt keeps telling you that it cannot say-not that it does not know."

"Good point," Pixel agreed. "House, do you know where my parents are?"

"No."

"Why not?" Jenna asked abruptly.

"Because they do not exist."

Even Score felt a chill crawl down his spine at that reply.
"Sir!

Section Supervisor Nine turned from his monitors as one of his underlings came to a stiff halt beside his chair. "Yes?" he asked, annoyed at being interrupted. But his staff knew better than to bother him with anytrivial.

"The alert that you placed a year ago has just sounded," the woman reported. She checked a small hand-held monitor. "A Shalar Domain."

The Supervisor recalled the case immediately-the boy who had vanished mysteriously. "He is registering."

"Yes, sir. He seems to somehow be back inside his House. Monitoring cannot trace him before that. Perhaps there is a fault."

"Perhaps there is not," the Supervisor snapped. "Do not try to analyze this. It is not your concern. Alert a retrieval team. The boy and anyone with him is to be considered highly dangerous. They are to apprehend Domain and any companions. Take no chances, but the boy must be taken alive for questioning."

"Yes, sir." The woman didn't understand, of course, but it was not necessary that she should. "Shall I reback to you when he is apprehended?"

"No." The Supervisor stood up. "I shall be with the Overmind. He will know.

The woman nodded, and rushed off to obey her orders. The Supervisor started off to report to the Overmind. He didn't understand what was happening, either. But he would. This Domain would be taken and interrogated-and then destroyed for breaking the unlaws of the Overmind.

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