Thousand Deaths

Overview

This volume of science fiction thrillers contains a novel and seven short stories centered on the semi-autobiographical character Sandor Courane. The collection?s feature novel, In the Wolves of Memory, paints a world where Earth?s governing body, the Representatives, has relinquished control to an increasingly intelligent and self-aware computer known as TECT. Deemed a social misfit and banished from Earth to Planet D for his inability to fall in line, Sandor finds the new planet?s idyllic environment and ...

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A Thousand Deaths

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Overview

This volume of science fiction thrillers contains a novel and seven short stories centered on the semi-autobiographical character Sandor Courane. The collection’s feature novel, In the Wolves of Memory, paints a world where Earth’s governing body, the Representatives, has relinquished control to an increasingly intelligent and self-aware computer known as TECT. Deemed a social misfit and banished from Earth to Planet D for his inability to fall in line, Sandor finds the new planet’s idyllic environment and fulfilling lifestyle to his liking—at first. Upon discovering that all of the inhabitants of Planet D succumb to an insidious, debilitating disease, Sandor embarks on a race against time to discover the meaning behind Planet D, the motives of TECT, and the mysterious malady. Utilizing a unique approach with the use of flashbacks, this powerful story, with poignant and sardonic tones, is a heartrending display of one man’s pain and absolution.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Aheartfelt homage to the late (and largely underappreciated) SF author Effinger (1947-2002), this intimate collection of stories revolving around his literary alter ego, hapless genre writer and editor Sandor Courane, offers a poignant glimpse into the author's psyche. Central to the collection isThe Wolves of Memory, a deeply allegorical novel in which Courane, banished from Earth by the computerized overlord TECT after numerous career failures, finds himself exiled on a bleak world where he and other outcasts slowly succumb to an alien neurological disorder. Struggling with increasing memory loss and the deterioration of his body, Courane finally finds what he has been seeking all along: fulfillment. Also included are seven sardonic short stories that pit the ill-fated Courane against, among other things, a bibliophilic time traveler and a witch who lives off the Pennsylvania Turnpike. A touching afterword by Andrew Fox as well as visually stunning cover art by John Picacio make this bittersweet collection one to be cherished. (June)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781930846470
  • Publisher: Golden Gryphon Press
  • Publication date: 6/1/2007
  • Pages: 365
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Meet the Author

George Alec Effinger was the author of Budayeen Nights, The Exile Kiss, A Fire in the Sun, and When Gravity Fails. He was the recipient of the Hugo Award, the Nebula, and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award.

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Read an Excerpt

A Thousand Deaths


By George Alec Effinger

OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA

Copyright © 2007 The Estate of George Alec Effinger
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4976-0552-7


CHAPTER 1

When his arms began to get weary, Courane put the corpse down on the sandy soil, sat with his back against a rough warm boulder, and tried to remember. He closed his eyes for a long time, listening to the faint whisper of the wind blowing the topmost layer of sand toward the western horizon. Courane's breathing was slow and easy, and he was as comfortable as a napping baby. He breathed deeply, enjoying the hot freshness of the afternoon. A buzzing insect disturbed him, lighting on his ear, and he made a rather indolent swipe to chase it away. He opened his eyes again and saw the young woman's body.

He tried, but he couldn't remember who she was. Or who she had been. He couldn't remember why he was sitting in the hot sun with her. He examined her as well as he could without getting up and taking a closer look. She had been pretty. He couldn't tell how long she had been dead, but the irreversible effects of death had begun to distort her face and form. Yet, even through the grotesque deformity of her life's end, she touched him. Courane wondered if he had known her while she was alive.

There was a tiny movement near his left foot, and it attracted Courane's attention. Two tiny glass eyes peered at him from a pocket in the sand, a concavity the size of his thumb. A tan snout twitched and disappeared. Courane laughed. He loved animals. Hestretched out on the ground and rolled over on his stomach. He rested there while quick-moving shadows of clouds skimmed over the empty landscape, covering him briefly like a dream of death. He closed his eyes again and slept.

The sun was setting when he awoke. He was startled and a little afraid. He didn't know where he was, and when he stood up and looked around he learned nothing. As far as he could see in every direction there was only flat waste, dotted frequently with broken boulders. There were no trees to break the lonely mood, nor even clumps of dry dead grass. Only a few feet from where he stood there was the body of a dead woman, a young woman with long dark hair and skin the bloodless pallor of the grave. Courane thought that there must be some reason they were together. There must be something in the past that connected them, man and woman, living and dead. He could not remember. He wanted to go on, but he didn't know where he was going. He was afraid to start walking until he did recall, and he didn't dare leave until he knew for certain if he should leave the girl's body or carry it with him. He wished that he could remember how he had gotten to this silent dead place.

Long after night fell, he realized that he was intensely uncomfortable. He sat shivering in the desert coldness, trying to identify the immediate source of his suffering. There was no way to measure time, and he didn't particularly care to know how many hours had passed, but after a few minutes he knew that he was painfully thirsty, and that earlier he hadn't been. Either that, or he had been but hadn't realized it. He patted his shirt absently, in a thoughtless searching gesture. He had nothing to eat or drink with him, but he looked anyway. He found a torn piece of paper in a pocket, with a message on it. It said:

Her name is Alohilani. You and she were very much in love. You must take her back to the house. Keep walking east until you get to the river. Follow the river downstream to the house. East is the direction of the rising sun. They will help you when you get there.


Courane read the note twice, not comprehending it at all even though it was in his own handwriting. The wind was cold and cut him like knives. The sand stung his face and brought tears to his eyes. He stared at the words and his vision blurred. He knew that it was a terrible thing to forget the woman he loved. He wondered how that could happen. He hadn't been lonely before, but now he felt a deep aching. He put the paper back in his pocket and sat down beside the young woman's corpse. He wanted to hurry to the house, but he had to wait until the sun came up. He wanted to get the help of whoever was there but until morning he was helpless.

Courane tried to sleep but the fierce coldness and his thirst deprived him of rest. He sat by the boulder and thought. Her name was Alohilani. It was a pretty name, but it meant nothing to him. It occurred to him that he knew her name now but not his own. That didn't seem important for some reason. He yawned and looked up at the stars. The stars were home. That strange thought formed in Courane's mind, like the first bubble in a pan of boiling water. Like a bubble, it burst and disappeared and was forgotten. Courane shivered and clutched himself and hunched against the sharp attack of the wind. Sometime before dawn he drifted into placid, dreamless sleep.

The warm wind, blowing from the opposite direction, throwing veils of sand into his face, woke him. The sun was well over the horizon. Courane stood and stretched and rubbed his face. He was surprised to find the body of a young woman beside him on the ground. He couldn't recall who she was or where he was, and he didn't know what he ought to do. He felt small and forlorn and, as the minutes passed and he stared at the swollen, lifeless woman, Courane heard himself whimper. He was hungry, but there was nothing at all nearby that might provide him with even a meager breakfast. He took a deep breath and resigned himself. There was neither road nor sign of human settlement in sight, and he didn't have the least idea how he ought to proceed. He sat down again and waited. The breeze blew almost steadily and the sun felt good on his shoulders, but he guessed that by midday the heat would become intolerable, and that at night all the warmth would bleed away and he would suffer with the cold.

An hour after awakening he found the piece of paper in his pocket. He was filled with joy. He read the directions several times and, though he didn't understand what they meant, he was given a new energy to obey his own instructions. He narrowed his eyes and looked to the horizon below the morning sun; he chose a landmark to walk toward. Then he bent and picked up the body and slung it clumsily over one shoulder. He leaned forward under the burden and trudged toward the eastern horizon. The sandy soil made walking difficult and Courane was soon out of breath, but he didn't stop. He had to get the woman back to the house before it got dark. After the sun set, he wouldn't know in which direction to walk. He worried about that for a little while, and then he forgot all about the problem. He muttered to himself as he went, and he was as unaware of the passage of time as he was of his own pain.

Courane took a rest in the middle of the afternoon. The place he chose for his break was identical to the place he had spent the previous night. The sand and the rocks were the same. As he sat in the sparse shade of a tall weathered rock, he watched a fly crawling along one of the woman's arms. He had dropped her roughly to the ground, and one stiff arm stuck out as though she were indicating something to the southwest that intrigued her. The fly walked along the fine sun-paled hair of her arm. Her name was—

—Alohilani! He remembered. He smiled at the achievement, but then his face contorted with grief. He wept loudly and helplessly as his thoughts battered him cruelly.

His memories were fugitive visions, and he clutched at them greedily on the occasions when they presented themselves. He studied them all to the smallest detail, disregarding the pain they threatened. He didn't care about pain any longer. He needed to know the truth. He needed to know who he was, where he came from. He needed to know where he was going, what he was doing. He needed to know why Alohilani was dead, and why his mind functioned only at widely separated moments, with bewildering gaps in continuity and understanding.

Courane felt a little sting on the back of his neck and at that moment he remembered how it had been.

TECT informed him that he had failed for the third time, had used up his last chance and had wasted it like a kid with an extra dollar. He went home to his small apartment in Tokyo and waited for the verdict and the sentence. There was no doubt that he was going to be found guilty. TECT had no margin of compassion. In all his years, Courane had never heard of anyone else who had failed as he had, and so he had no idea what TECT would decide to do with him. His imagination ran wild, picturing everything from death by etiolation to being condemned to life as one of TECT's hired social deviates, an addict perhaps, or a member of some squalid ethnic group.

There was a tect unit in the foyer of the apartment building. When the verdict and sentence were decided, they would be transferred there. No doubt the building's superintendent would run up the stairs with his usual mad energy to give Courane the news. Courane could wait. He put on a tape of Copland's Appalachian Spring and laid down on the couch. He ought to call his parents, he knew, but he wanted to put that off as long as possible. It would be humiliating, and his parents would be crushed by the news. While he waited, Courane read over the notice he had received at work.


**COURANE, Sandor - RepE Dis4 Sec27

Loc39-Gre-834

M232-86-059-41Maj

11:07:47 10 January 7 YT - DatAdvis**

**COURANE, Sandor:

Notification of failure to fulfill TaskFunc (Charges and Specifications follow).

**COURANE, Sandor:

When an individual fails at his first appointment, the supervisors and TECT in the name of the Representative look on the failure tolerantly and with good grace. After all, there is a strong possibility that test scores may have given an incorrect picture of an individual's aptitudes. After the second failure, TECT in the name of the Representative is still anxious to help the individual; perhaps a clearer profile is beginning to emerge.

**COURANE, Sandor:

BUT AFTER THE THIRD FAILURE, TECT IN THE NAME OF THE REPRESENTATIVE MUST VIEW THIS RECORD AS A TREND THAT MUST BE HALTED. IT SEEMS PROBABLE THAT THE INDIVIDUAL IS BEHAVING IN A MANNER DETRIMENTAL TO SOCIETY AS A WHOLE.

**COURANE, Sandor:

Consequently, TECT in the name of the Representative regretfully informs you that you are on trial for Willful Contempt of TECTWish.The verdict will be ready for you in one hour. You must comply with the verdict and the sentence. Failure to do so will be considered an act of revolutionary aggression, and you and your loved ones will be used as tragic examples.

**COURANE, Sandor:

No indication that the addressee understands the above is necessary.

Please stand by for further directives**


It was easy enough to understand. Courane's foreman, Sokol, had had a ghoulish pleasure in giving him the report. Courane could hardly blame the man. It was a marvelous novelty. In the small room, the Copland forged ahead without regard for Courane's feelings. The verdict should be coming through very soon. In a minute or two, old Mr. Masutani would be knocking on the door, bringing the news. Courane was in no hurry. He could wait.

Then, as the music paused between sections, Courane heard Mr. Masutani call his name. "Courane, come downstairs. There's an important message for you on the tect."

"I know, I know. I'll be right down." Courane sighed. There was nothing to do but get it over with. He went to the door.

Masutani looked at him and smiled. "Does it have to do with why you came home from work so early?"

"I guess so." He led the way downstairs to the foyer.

"Did you lose your job?"

"Would you mind giving me a little privacy, Mr. Masutani?" The red ADVISE light was blinking, but Courane ignored it for a moment.

Masutani raised an eyebrow. Privacy! He snorted at the European boy's bad manners, but he turned and went back into his own little den.

Courane went to the tect terminal. "This is Sandor Courane," he said.

The tect hurried through the preliminary data symbols, then presented Courane with his destiny.


**COURANE, Sandor:

TECT in the name of the Representative has studied the records of your first labor assignment in Pilessio, Europe. As you will recall, your performance there did not meet the minimum standards of the community. Therefore, you were given a second assignment in New York, North America. TECT in the name of the Representative has analyzed your second attempt at finding a profitable career, and arrived at the same conclusion. You were graciously offered a third opportunity in Tokyo, Asia, and TECT in the name of the Representative has been informed that you have followed the pattern of your earlier failures.

**COURANE, Sandor:

It is not the purpose of TECT in the name of the Representative to search out criminals merely to punish them. It is TECT's essential duty to find a place for each individual, a role that will utilize the individual's talents to the utmost, provide the individual with an opportunity to grow and express himself, and benefit the community at large with the fruits of the individual's labor.

**COURANE, Sandor:

When an individual seems to be working to deny these benefits to the community, it is the responsibility of TECT in the name of the Representative to persuade the individual to change his behavior or, failing that, to remove the individual from the life of the community at large.

**COURANE, Sandor:

That this is true in the case of COURANE, Sandor, M232-86-059-41Maj, is the final decision of TECT in the name of the Representative. It is not necessary to protest innocence. TECT in the name of the Representative is aware that COURANE, Sandor, has committed no crimes of violence, passion, or fraud. COURANE, Sandor, has broken no laws, transgressed no moral imperatives, flouted no statutes, nor contravened sacred traditions, codes of conduct, established precedents, or principles of civilized behavior. In short, he has done nothing in an overt manner, premeditated or otherwise, for which to be punished.

**COURANE, Sandor:

Yet the community at large demands that COURANE, Sandor, be dealt with by removing him from the fellowship of the people and their Representative, and of TECT in the name of the Representative. In response to this compulsory obligation, TECT in the name of the Representative has selected for COURANE, Sandor, a plan that will enable the community at large to enjoy his absence without causing the individual himself the inconvenience of such solutions as summary execution.

**COURANE, Sandor:

You are ordered by TECT in the name of the Representative to report to TECT TELETRANS Main Substation in New York, North America, at 12:00:00, 11 January, 7 YT. Failure to do so will be considered Contempt of TECTWish and you will be hunted down like a dog and slain in your tracks.

**COURANE, Sandor:

No appeal is permitted. You are advised to make whatever final arrangements you feel are necessary. You will be allowed to take with you no more than five pounds of clothing, essential medications as described in your permanent personal file, a photograph of your parents and one of your spouse if you are married, but nothing else of a personal nature or otherwise.

**COURANE, Sandor:

No indication that the addressee understands the above is necessary. There will be no further directives unless COURANE, Sandor, does something foolish**


"They really hit you over the head with it, didn't they?" said Mr. Masutani.

Courane turned around quickly, startled. He was bitter and upset, and he didn't like having the superintendent sharing his moment of defeat. "Leave me alone," he said.

"Will you be staying here tonight? They want you in New York by noon tomorrow."

"I don't know. Maybe I'll see my parents tonight."

Masutani coughed. "If you won't be here, let me know. I want to move your mattresses down here." Courane said nothing. He went back to his apartment, his thoughts jumbled and bleak.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from A Thousand Deaths by George Alec Effinger. Copyright © 2007 The Estate of George Alec Effinger. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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