The Gift of Fire / On the Head of a Pin: Two Short Novels from Crosstown to Oblivion [NOOK Book]


New York Times bestselling author Walter Mosley delivers two speculative tales, in one volume, of everyday people exposed to life-altering truths. The Gift of Fire In ancient mythology, the Titan Prometheus was punished by the gods for bringing man the gift of fire—an event that set humankind on its course of knowledge. As punishment for making man as powerful as gods, Prometheus was bound to a rock; every day his immortal body was devoured by a giant eagle. But in The Gift of Fire, those chains cease to ...
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The Gift of Fire / On the Head of a Pin: Two Short Novels from Crosstown to Oblivion

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New York Times bestselling author Walter Mosley delivers two speculative tales, in one volume, of everyday people exposed to life-altering truths. The Gift of Fire In ancient mythology, the Titan Prometheus was punished by the gods for bringing man the gift of fire—an event that set humankind on its course of knowledge. As punishment for making man as powerful as gods, Prometheus was bound to a rock; every day his immortal body was devoured by a giant eagle. But in The Gift of Fire, those chains cease to be, and the great champion of man walks from that immortal prison into present-day South Central Los Angeles.
On the Head of a Pin Joshua Winterland and Ana Fried are working at Jennings-Tremont Enterprises when they make the most important discovery in the history of this world—or possibly the next. JTE is developing advanced animatronics editing techniques to create high-end movies indistinguishable from live-action. Long dead stars can now share the screen with today’s A-list. But one night Joshua and Ana discover something lingering in the rendered footage…an entity that will lead them into a new age beyond the reality they have come to know.

At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
While Mosley is best known for his Easy Rawlins mystery series, this “double” of two short novels demonstrates his proficiency with high-quality speculative fiction and are equally accessible to mystery and fantasy readers. In “The Gift of Fire,” the Titan Prometheus, tortured by an eagle sent by Zeus as punishment for sharing divine knowledge with mankind, manages to escape to present-day Los Angeles, where he adopts human guise. The reality-bending “On the Head of a Pin,” focused on a technological breakthrough that accidentally led to “the most important discovery in the history of this world, or the next,” is even stronger. Both are distinguished by Mosley’s often biting descriptions of humanity’s humble place in the universe. Fans of thoughtful, subtly eerie present-day fantasy will eagerly await future Crosstown to Oblivion novellas. Agent: Gloria Loomis, Watkins-Loomis Agency. (May)
From the Publisher
“One of this nation's finest writers.”

—The Boston Globe

“A writer whose work transcends category and qualifies as serious literature.”


“Mosley is one of the most humane, insightful, powerful prose stylists working today in any genre. He’s also one of the most radical… Immerse yourself in the work of one of our national treasures.”

The Austin Chronicle

“Walter Mosley delivers the goods...explosively distilled prose as powerful as homemade booze.”

Chicago Tribune

Library Journal
With this volume, Mosley (All I Did Was Shoot My Man), a longtime sf fan, launches a new series of speculative novellas published as double sets. In "On the Head of a Pin," an animatronics company opens a portal to other worlds, but the powers that be co-opt it for their own purposes. In the disturbing "The Gift of Fire," Prometheus escapes from the mountain where he's been chained for millennia. He flees to Los Angeles to rekindle the flame he lit in our souls thousands of years past. Prometheus implants a spark in a disabled African American boy, who preaches love and respect, and the establishment comes down on him like a hammer. VERDICT What's missing here is Mosley's sure hand with characterization. These characters seem more ciphers than real people. There's no denying, however, Mosley's anger at how we waste our promise and his pessimism about our chances of redemption. For all its flaws, this slim book is worth reading. Mosley fans will devour it. [The next book, Merge/Disciple, will be published this November.—Ed.]—David Keymer, Modesto, CA
Kirkus Reviews
Moving far from the milieu of Easy Rawlins and Socrates Fortlow (Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned, 1997, etc.), Mosley offers two novellas in one volume, part of a series entitled Crosstown to Oblivion, the common theme being, "a black man destroys the world." In The Gift of Fire, the Titan Prometheus escapes from the bondage and torture imposed on him by the Olympians for bringing mankind the gift of fire and alights in present-day Los Angeles, intent on bringing humans a second gift: that of enlightenment, so they can free themselves from unwitting slavery at the hands of those selfsame Olympians. But so spiritually impoverished is the modern age that Prometheus finds he cannot bestow his gift without killing the recipients or driving them insane. Finally he comes upon a physically helpless black boy, Chief Reddy, who fantasizes about being a superhero and saving the father he never knew from the forces of doom. What happens next will come as no surprise to fans of Robert A. Heinlein's classic Stranger in a Strange Land. Flip the book, and read again from the front, like the old Ace doubles, to encounter On the Head of a Pin, where Joshua Winterland works as a documenter at a company designing a fiber-optic tapestry, the Sail, intended for advanced animatronics editing techniques. But to everybody's surprise, the Sail turns out to be something quite different: a window into alternate worlds and times. Joshua finds he's particularly attuned to the device and soon contacts beautiful Thalla of the Alto, a future race created by humans and perpetually threatened by a remnant humanity guided by a huge computer. Complications ensue when the government gets wind of the device. Ingenious and mystical, although readers familiar with fantasy and science fiction will find little new or provocative here. Fans of Mosley's gumshoe noir books (or Blue Light, 1998, his earlier foray into the domain) will certainly wish to investigate.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429985765
  • Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
  • Publication date: 5/8/2012
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 671,666
  • File size: 943 KB

Meet the Author

Walter Mosley

WALTER MOSLEY is one of the most versatile and admired writers in America today. He is the author of more than thirty-four critically acclaimed books, including the major bestselling mystery series featuring Easy Rawlins. His short fiction has been widely published, and his nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times Magazine and The Nation. He is the winner of numerous awards including an O. Henry Award, a Grammy, and PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He lives in New York City.
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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 12, 1952
    2. Place of Birth:
      Los Angeles, California
    1. Education:
      B.A., Johnson State College
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt


I WAS WORKING AT Jennings-Tremont Enterprises (JTE) when Ana Fried and, I suppose, the rest of us, quite by accident, happened upon the most important discovery in the history of this world, or the next.
JTE’s primary work was developing advanced animatronic editing techniques for film. It was our job, or at least the job of the scientists and programmers, to develop animation tools that would create high-end movies indistinguishable from live action.
Joseph Jennings’s childhood dream was to make new movies with old-time stars. He wanted Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre side by side with Rudolph Valentino, Myrna Loy, Marlon Brando, and Natalie Portman. These new classics, he envisioned, could be made in small laboratories by purely technical means. Had we been successful, the stock in JTE would have been worth billions. Instead, we were secretly vilified, physically quarantined, and warned, under threat of death, not to create documents such as this one. Writing this memoir, my second act of true rebellion, is necessary in spite of the danger because there must be some record of what really transpired in case the government gets to me before the Alto arrive.
But I don’t want to get ahead of myself.
My name is Joshua Winterland. I suppose you could call me a failed writer. Failed is a harsh word but valid in this case, because all my life I wanted to be a playwright. I’ve written thirty-seven plays that have each been rejected by every theater, playwriting competition, and creative writing school in the country.
I am thirty-nine years old and have been writing since the age of nine.
When I realized that I’d never be successful, or even produced, as a playwright I began work as a technical writer for a succession of various companies and institutions in California’s Silicon Valley. I was the guy who wrote the manuals for new hard- and software. My day’s work was to help consumers figure out what tab to hit and where to look up the serial number, how to register online or over the telephone, and what safety precautions to take before turning on a new system.
My fate was recast when the country went into a serious economic recession and, coincidentally, my girlfriend, Lena Berston, woke up one day to realize that she was in love with my childhood friend Ralph Tracer.
Lena told me one morning, before I was off to work at Interdyne, that Ralph had called because he was coming in from San Francisco that evening and she had offered to cook dinner for the three of us. I thought this was odd because Lena rarely cooked on weeknights, and she had always said that Ralph wasn’t her kind of person.
“It’s not that I don’t like him,” she’d said more than once, “but he just doesn’t interest me.”
I didn’t give it any serious thought. Ralph was a good guy. I’d known him since junior high school in Oakland. He was from a different neighborhood but we made an early bond. We’d talked to each other at least once a week since I was thirteen years old, sharing our boyhood dreams. I planned to be a playwright and he wanted, in the worst way, to lose his virginity.
Our goals alone spoke volumes about the value of reduced expectations.

Copyright © 2012 by Walter Mosley
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 22, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Not Recommended

    Mosely is known for writing murder mysteries and not science fiction. This book (On the Head of a Pin) is hard to read and follow. I usually completed reading a Mosley novel within 2 days, but not this one. I probably will not finish reading this novel.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted October 16, 2012

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    Posted May 12, 2012

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