Signal Shattered

Signal Shattered

4.1 7
by Eric Nylund

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The Earth is the graveyard of billions, thanks to mathematician and rogue cryptographer Jack Potter and the treacherous extraterrestrial creature known as Wheeler, Jack's one-time business partner in the trade of alien and human technologies. But Potter and a handful of others managed to escape the holocaust thanks to the miracle of teleportation. From the cold


The Earth is the graveyard of billions, thanks to mathematician and rogue cryptographer Jack Potter and the treacherous extraterrestrial creature known as Wheeler, Jack's one-time business partner in the trade of alien and human technologies. But Potter and a handful of others managed to escape the holocaust thanks to the miracle of teleportation. From the cold gray ruins of the Moon, the last pitiful remnants of the human race now stare down at the devastation that one of their diminished species unwittingly helped to bring about. Here at civilization's end, a beautiful Chinese mind assassin, a cold-blooded cybernetics genius, a DNA-manipulating "gene witch," and Jack himself stand at the threshold of a new day — when accelerated evolution will open the door to the full achievement of human potential; when the epic saga of humanity will begin again and Jack will ultimately be redeemed...if he doesn't go insane first.

But Wheeler is still out there — and out to finish what he started. And this universe isn't big enough for Jack Potter to hide himself in.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Nylund's sequel to last year's Signal to Noise opens where its predecessor ended: in orbit around the destroyed Earth, in the year 2071, as rogue cryptographer Jack Potter hides with a few comrades in his secret base on the Moon. Betrayed and haunted by a mysterious alien named Wheeler, who had given him Gateway, a teleportation device, Jack now fights for his life as his asylum is sabotaged by one of his fellows, attacked by his former business partner and penetrated by the insane gene witch Zero, who kidnaps one of Jack's crew members. Through a fiery space battle, Jack and his cohorts escape, only to be contacted by yet another advanced alien race, referring to itself as "Gersham" and offering to hide them from the relentless, bloodthirsty Wheeler. But if Gersham's offer is genuine, why does Jack hesitate to accept? Reunited with three allies--his lover, Panda, a former Chinese spy; Reno, a former double agent; and his old competitor, Dr. Bruner--Jack must not only produce a cure for a schizophrenic disease that threatens to destroy the few humans left, but figure out how to rescue humanity from Wheeler's evil grasp. Crackling with action, techno wizardry and sexual tension, Nylund's novel also features an unlikely mix of cyberpunk sensibility and a heartening focus on character and humanity. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
After the destruction of Earth by an alien "businessman" known as Wheeler, cryptographer Jack Potter and a handful of survivors take refuge on the moon. Pursued by Wheeler and suspicious of one another, they find that their only hope lies in out-dealing the universe's most deadly con artist. Set in a far future where the line between virtual and actual reality has become blurred, the sequel to Signal to Noise combines fast-paced action with cloak-and-dagger intrigue and an imaginative approach to the end of the world as we know it. For most sf collections. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Sequel to Nylund's VR/alien-contact yarn, Signal to Noise (1998). Wheeler, an amoral alien who plunders and then obliterates technological civilizations, duped computer whiz Jack Potter into helping him. But when Wheeler destroyed the Earth, Jack escaped by means of an instantaneous-transfer "gateway." Also eluding Wheeler were ultra-competitive trader Isabel and geneticist Zero, who fled to their own hidden planets, while computer-enhanced spy Panda, warrior Safa, and drunk mathematician Harold Bruner took refuge at Jack's moonbase. Now Jack is battling two saboteurs, and his computer's gone batty. Another survivor shows up, but Jack trusts the devious spy Reno not at all. Wheeler declares that he'll kill one of Jack's friends within 24 hours unless Jack agrees to work for him again. Gersham, another alien, offers sanctuary from Wheeler but won't name his price. Zero, it emerges, has infected them all with his new enzyme, supposedly to enhance their brainpower; instead, it drives everyone schizophrenically gaga. They can't escape to another planet because the gateway's power source is depleted, and, in any case, Wheeler's bugged the gateway and would follow them. Gersham, it transpires, is Wheeler's ex-associate, differing from his partner in that he tortures plundered civilizations instead of annihilating them. Isabel's enzymically helpless, crazy Zero has grabbed Safa, Panda's dying, and the clock's ticking toward Wheeler's deadline. Rather claustrophobic, what with the small cast and tenuous contact with reality. But, nonetheless, mind-bogglingly inventive, with astounding special effects and a headlong, pulse-pounding, do-or-die narrative.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Jack Potter Series

Read an Excerpt

The Earth was dead.

It balanced on the horizon, waning three-quarters full, an angry molten ball. Plumes of volcanic hydrogen sulfide streaked across the tropics of Capricorn and Cancer.

Jack missed the oceans and blue sky.

But the moon was home now, with its craters and black rock. His home and the home of the four other people he had saved.

This lunar landscape had looked better down on the Earth. Up close, it was harsh sunlight and deep shadows ... and too silent. The only colors were the false infrared scarlets and pinks reflected on the faceplate of Jack's helmet. The only sound the whir of his vacuum suit's oxygen recycler.

Velcroed to the thigh pad of Jack's vacuum suit was a black-chrome ball the size of a grapefruit. He ripped it off and examined the reflected stars upon its surface. He should have dropped the thing — hammered it into a million pieces. It was the cause of all this trouble.

No. That wasn't right. He was just as much to blame for the eleven billion murders.

It had started a month ago when he deciphered a signal in cosmic noise. Contained within the static were instructions to build a faster-than-light transceiver. Jack contacted an alien who claimed to be from the Canopus star system. The alien called himself Wheeler.

Wheeler had wanted to trade technologies ... and Jack had been happy to oblige.

Jack first obtained an enzyme that streamlined DNA. It made humans smarter and healthier. With his friends Isabel Mirabeau and Zero al Qaseem, Jack used the enzyme to build an international biomedical corporation. They all got very rich.

Wheeler then gave Jack a black-chromed sphere, a teleportationdevice known as the gateway. Jack ran his gloved hand over the mirrored ball, brushing off the lunar dust.

There were surprises, though, to Wheeler's new technologies.

The enzyme strengthened a person's dominant personality trait. For Isabel, her keen sense of business was heightened to Machiavellian extremes. Zero's abstract, artistic viewpoint was stretched to eccentric extremes.

And Jack's mind?

He gazed at his reflection in the gateway's surface — a smear of eyes and nose and mouth. He wasn't sure what the enzyme was doing to him. His thinking, however, was as jumbled as an unfinished jigsaw puzzle.

There were unforeseen side effects to the gateway as well.

It absorbed the spinning motion of planets to power its teleportations. American and Chinese military forces used their gateways in a world war that lasted a single day. The rotation of the Earth slowed, and tectonic shifts nearly destroyed what was left of the world.

The last surprise, however, was the biggest: Wheeler. His dirty business practices were notorious throughout the galaxy. He needed a fresh voice to broker his deals.

Blackmailed by Wheeler, Jack contacted another civilization and located their home world. Wheeler plundered their technologies, then committed genocide to cover his tracks.

When Wheeler demanded Jack find a second alien species, Jack refused . . . so Wheeler silenced the Earth to protect his operation. He destroyed the planet, the lunar observatory, and the Martian colonies. Eleven erased because of Jack's moral stand.

Isabel and Zero teleported to locations unknown.

Jack fled to his secret installation under the lunar North Pole. Now, twenty-four hours later, oxygen, water, and food were running low.

All in all, it was a lousy deal.

Jack blinked, and stared past his mirror image in the sys gateway. He connected his thoughts to its operating system. Virtual red and blue arrows extruded tangentially off its surface.

He pointed the red vector at himself. The blue arrow he stretched to the horizon.

From the lunar North Pole, Jack took a single step — eighteen hundred kilometers — and teleported to the Michelson Observatory on the far side of the moon.

He stood in four centimeters of silver dust; curls and wisps swirled around his boots. Before him the slope of Mach crater rose thirty meters. For an instant, Jack felt like he was still on top of the moon ... and here. In both locations for an instant.

Jack's breath caught in his throat. It wasn't the sudden shift in position that threw him-but the bodies: seven people in vacuum suits were sprawled in the dirt.

They must be from the observatory, outside when Wheeler arrived yesterday. There was no IR differential from them. Dead cold.

Jack had not seen the consequences of his actions face-to-face. Every time he looked up at the Earth, though, he imagined a blasted landscape of corpses that must look like this ... only multiplied a billion times over.

The nearest figure lay facedown. Jack knelt, turned it over, and saw a woman's features inside the semireflective helmet. Her eyes were wide open, watching Jack. He pulled back and caught his own reflection in her faceplate. Depending on how he focused, he saw her features, or his, or a dozen images of both their mirrored faces.

Jack should have said a prayer. But what good or his, that do? If there was a God, He would have never let this happen. He would have never let Jack get away unpunished.

Jack couldn't stand the dead woman's unblinking stare, so he sprinkled dust over her faceplate. He'd come back later and bury her.

He stood and noticed tracks around the body besides his: clear bootprints in the talc-fine powder. They had a diamond pattern different from his sawtooth imprint or the dead engineers' contoured treads.

Some impressions in this lunar dirt were over a century old. Armstrong, Aldrin, all the heroes and scientists that followed, no one ever tidied up after those guys. Now the moon was a mess of tracks and treads.

These prints, however, were crisp. All others had been blurred by recent shock waves. So whoever had made them had done so after Wheeler had come and gone.

Another survivor?

It wasn't necessarily good news. Jack loosened his Hautger SK semiautomatic in its holster. He followed the tracks up the crater's ridge. Seventy paces — then they abruptly vanished...

Meet the Author

Eric S. Nylund received a B.S. in chemistry from UC Santa Barbara and a Masters in theoretical physics from UC San Diego. A 1994 graduate of the Clarion West writers' workshop, he is the author of three previous novels, and has recently completed A Signal Shattered,the sequel to Signal To Noise. He lives with his wife in Seattle, Washington.

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Signal Shattered 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Not truly a sequel, more a continuation and conclusion of the earlier Signal to Noise. As in the prior book, the technobable and pseudoscience occasionally become overly dense, but the action and characters carry the novel along to a satisfying conclusion, something scifi novels often fail to achieve.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you read Signal to Noise, you must read this book. It gets a little far-fetched, but that's what sci-fi is all about. Good ending that makes you want to read more into the future of this fictional cosmo world. Strays from physics some, but explores the realm of problem solving in a multi-plexed state.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read the second book first. The way that different technology is linked is really great. Uses cutting edge or theoretical technology of today to show some possibilities in the near future. I found both books very hard to put down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This sequel is a huge let-down from the first book, which was amazing. I'd recommend highly that you read Signal to Noise, but that you stop there. Signal Shattered is farsical, a complete departure from any scientific basis. The first book was believable. You could accept that he contacted alien races and communicated with them. But this book is just ridiculous. He ruined the book with a type of out of control cloning that could never be possible in this universe. Still, it's not bad, it has good elements to it also, but not really worth reading either.