( 21 )


When Jos' parents are killed in an attack on their trading ship, the boy is kidnapped by the attackers and then escapes - only to fall into the alien hands of humanity's greatest enemies. He is soon coerced into becoming a spy against the human race.

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When Jos' parents are killed in an attack on their trading ship, the boy is kidnapped by the attackers and then escapes - only to fall into the alien hands of humanity's greatest enemies. He is soon coerced into becoming a spy against the human race.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
In the tradition of Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, Karin Lowachee's debut novel is a riveting story of one young boy's coming-of-age amid interstellar war. Already earning high praise from esteemed authors like David Drake, Tim Powers, and Kevin J. Anderson, Karin Lowachee is clearly a voice of the future for science fiction.
Library Journal
Eight-year-old Jos Musey's childhood ends when his parents' merchant ship falls prey to pirates and slavers. Destined to be the personal slave of his captor, Jos escapes only to find himself a prisoner of the strits, an alien race at war with humanity. Trained as a spy by his captors, Jos is released to become a human weapon but the war he fights is a war to achieve his own destiny. Winner of the Warner Aspect First Novel Contest, Lowachee's sf debut provides a poignant tale of survival and courage reminiscent of Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game. Polished storytelling and convincing worldbuilding make this a good selection for most sf collections. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
David Drake
A vivid, darkly powerful novel of a youth coming to terms with the universe and with his past.
Kevin J. Anderson
WARCHILD is a remarkable and powerful first novel. Well-written, with realistic characters, crystal-clear alien cultures, and compelling moral choices. An outstanding debut.
Tim Powers
Compelling... a harrowing tale of easy treacheries and difficult loyalties.... Lowachee brings her characters to vivid life.
David Feintuch
A magnificent first novel. Characters you'll never forget. An exciting tale of civilizations colliding, and a boy caught between loyalties.
Elizabeth Moon
WARCHILD is a riveting, edgy thriller that packs an emotional punch like a tactical nuke…brilliantly realized alien culture, complex politics both human and alien, and action that crackles with reality…solid in conception and execution. Lowachee conveys uncomfortably well the mental and emotional fragility and strength that come out of war zones.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446610773
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 6/4/2009
  • Pages: 466
  • Sales rank: 816,455
  • Lexile: 690L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.00 (w) x 5.00 (h) x 1.04 (d)

Meet the Author

Karin Lowachee was born in Guyana, South America and moved to Toronto, Canada when she was two. Before her foray into fantasy, she wrote three highly-acclaimed science fiction novels - Warchild, Burndive, and Cagebird. Warchild won the Warner Aspect First Novel Award and Cagebird won the 2006 Gaylactic Spectrum Award and the Prix Aurora Award and was a finalist for the 2002 Philip K. Dick Award. She currently resides in Ontario, Canada.

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Read an Excerpt

We'd memorized schematics of the Diamond-class merchant ships. Our goal was the bridge.

We spread through the ship like a virus.

"Where's our resistance?" Dorr muttered, once we'd reached the command deck. The ship sat curiously silent. Only our booted steps along the deckgrille made noise. Overhead the lights flickered red: warning, warning, warning. Dorr unhooked a singing grenade, poked the settings, then let it go in midair. It shot forward down the corridor and turned the corner, seeking man-sized heat signatures that weren't protected by our coded armor beacons. Dorr flipped the tracker open on his wrist and watched the grenade's route. None of the other teams reported any contact. That meant that none of the rooms or quarters were occupied between here and the bridge.

My gut started to coil. "They're lying in wait," I said, just as the ceiling panels slid aside and fire rained down...

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Table of Contents

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First Chapter



You didn't see their faces from where you hid behind the maintenance grate. Smoke worked its fingers through the tiny holes and stroked under your nose and over your eyes, forcing you to stifle breaths, to blink, and to cry. Foot-steps followed everywhere that smoke went on the deck— heavy, violent footsteps—and everywhere they went, shouts went with them. Screams. Pulse fire.

You hardly knew what to listen for, where that one voice you wanted to hear so badly could be among all the other voices that rose and fell on the other side of your screen. Your shelter. Your cowardice.

But your parents had told you to hide if something like this happened. There'd been drills, even in the middle of your sleepshift, so you knew when the klaxon wailed and Daddy and Mama went for their guns and ushered you into the secret compartment in the floor that you were doing what was right, what you were told to do. Pirates or aliens or the Warboy could attack Mukudori and you had to stay hidden, just in case, just like you practiced. Daddy and Mama would come back and get you when the klaxon stopped and they'd say you did good, Jos. Daddy would call you his brave soldier boy, and you would believe it. When they lifted you out of that hiding place and smiled at you so proud, you didn't feel like an eight-year-old at all.

But they hadn't come back to the secret compartment. The little yellow light in there winked as if something was wrong with it, on-off, on-off, until you shut your eyes and just listened. But you were under the skin of the ship, like Daddy said, and it was quiet. You didn't hear outside, and outside couldn't hear you. It kept you safe. It was too dark so you opened your eyes and looked up, touched the light, touched the rough walls, but time went away with every yellow blink and nobody came. It got too warm, as if somebody had shut the air vents.

You waited until your legs were numb from sitting in that small space and Mama and Daddy didn't come back. Everywhere was silence and you were too scared to move your fingers and unhook the latch that would open a way into the bedroom. But eventually you had to. Eventually you had to find out why Daddy and Mama hadn't come back like they always did at the end of drills. They never forgot. Daddy would brush off your bottom and ruffle your hair while Mama locked the guns back in the cabinet. They thought you didn't know how to open it. But you did. You thought of that cabinet as you finally crept out of the compartment and made a run for the other side of your bed. You peeked above the rumpled covers but there wasn't anybody in the room and you couldn't hear anybody in the outer room either. So you climbed over your bed and then over your parents' and ran to the outer room so you could take the comp chair and use it to get to the cabinet. Quick before somebody came in.

You stood on the chair and poked the right numbers that you'd seen Daddy and Mama use, then the green button, and waited. The cabinet comp beeped, then the lights behind the buttons glowed green and you grabbed the handle and tugged. A rack of guns. You couldn't remember exactly how to use them but you probably could figure it out. You'd seen Daddy and Mama use them on the firing range. Daddy and Mama were good with guns, even though they were engineers. Everybody old enough had to be good with guns, Daddy said, because of the war. Nobody could predict aliens or the symps like the Warboy, and merchants like Mukudori could get caught between some Hub battleship and a strit one, you just never knew. And pirates were worse. Pirates liked to take hostages.

Never can be too safe, Mama said, when she locked away the guns after a drill.

You took the smallest one in the cabinet and looked at it all over, where the activation was, where the safety was, where the kill release was. Your friend Evan was older and he'd explained all the parts before, even though he never let you touch one. But now you could protect Mukudori like Daddy and Mama did, if you had a gun. You hopped down and ran to the hatch to put your ear against it like when you played hide-and-seek with Evan and Derek.

Now you heard the noise, muffled, and smelled smoke very faintly. You didn't want to go out, it was better to hide in the room and wait. But what if something was wrong with the ship and you had to evac? What if something was wrong with the intercom so you couldn't hear the captain telling you to go? What if Daddy and Mama got hung up somewhere and couldn't come back for you? Strits or pirates attacked merchants, Mama said, because the Hub warred with the strits and the pirates were greedy. What if they were out there now? You knew you were breaking regs by opening that hatch but you couldn't sit and wait when it had been so long without anybody coming to tell you anything. You had a gun. You could help.

So you opened the hatch. It took a lot of tugging, and the noise got worse. You crept down the corridor, twitching at every sound. Voices around the corner screamed words Daddy had told you never to repeat. The sound of pulse shots bounced toward you. Someone fell into view. Derek. Just this past goldshift you'd played with Derek in the gym and there he was on the deck, looking at you, but he wasn't looking at you. He was bleeding from his head. He didn't move. The screaming kept on but it wasn't the klaxon, it was Derek's mother. Even distorted you recognized her Martian accent.

Then she went quiet and a suited form walked around the corner. You didn't see the face. It wore a helmet with no markings on it, not like Mukudori helmets, and thin armor. You stared.

You stared. It came toward you like a creature from the vids, black and sleek, scarred on its reflective face, carrying a big gun. Rifle. It took its time. It said, "Kid," in a hollow voice that didn't seem to come from anywhere near where the mouth should have been. It walked toward you like you were no threat, walked over Derek where he lay still and staring. It tracked blood across the deck and that would've made Cap very, very mad.

You went deaf.

You raised your gun and shot the creature directly in the chest. Somehow your fingers had found the release and the trigger and the small gun went pop pop in your hand, spitting out two bright red pulses that burned the creature through its armor and cast it to the deck.

Two more came around the corner, faster.

Your hand spasmed again, raining red on the creatures so they scattered. Then you turned and ran because suddenly space became noisy again. Now you weren't deaf. Footsteps chased you. The creatures chased you. You knew all the towersteps and you took them, holding the rails, hooking your ankles and sliding down the way you'd done a hundred times, playing.

But somewhere along the line you'd dropped the gun. Going down the stairs.

Stupid, stupid Jos. They shouted above you on crew deck, below you from engineering deck. Now you were on the command deck where Cap should have been. You pounded away from corridor mains and into corners you knew from years of exploring. You remembered the best hiding place in the galaxy. You squeezed into that maintenance shaft and shrank back in the shadows, hoping the ship would not lose gravity, violently, and send the loosened grate across the deckplates. You smelled smoke and tried not to breathe.

Mukudori was dying. The steady low thrum of her atmospheric controls whined to a halt. You knew the word "die." You'd seen it now. Somewhere Simone shouted "No!" You heard Hasao screaming for Johann, you heard all the silences after, silence creeping toward you from all over the ship, deck by deck, until nothing remained but your own breathing.

Dead in space.

You lost the gun. You lost the gun and now you had no defense. Were you going to sit and wait for the creatures to leave the ship and shoot it from wherever they'd come from? Mama said that was what pirates did. What aliens did too, because they didn't like to take prisoners. Were you going to go out and look for Cap, for friends, for family? Daddy and Mama didn't know where you were. You shouldn't have left the secret compartment. You shouldn't have gone so far because now if they were looking for you they would never find you. You were in the best hiding place in the galaxy.

You couldn't breathe. The shaft was filling with smoke. You shut your eyes and covered your mouth with the bottom of your sweater but it didn't help. You coughed, big wracking coughs as if your lungs were going to fall out your mouth and onto your lap.

The grate opened and a thick, gloved hand reached in and dragged you into the blinking red lights that meant the ship needed help. You couldn't stop coughing, even when the hands pinched and felt you all over in places nobody was ever supposed to touch-Daddy had said so when you'd gone on stations and into playdens with other kids. But these hands poked and Daddy wasn't anywhere to hear your voice. You kicked and swung fists but the hands hit you then. The creatures kicked you and yelled at you to stop it or they'd shoot you. The violence of it shocked you motionless.

"He ain't armed," one of the creatures said. "He was. This is the one killed Martine."

They hit you again. You stared at their boots. The deck was cold against your cheek. Above your head, far up against the lights the creatures carried on their distant, hollow conversation. You blinked and your eyes ran. Something red made a film over your sight.

"He'll be good. He's strong." "Pretty." "He'll grow. What does he look like, six?" "Hey, kid, how old're you?" Something prodded your back. You couldn't answer. "Look at his tag."

The gloved hand came back, smacked you when you tried to roll away. Your head spun and you couldn't see clearly. The hand reached in your sweater and yanked out the chained disk from around your neck. The reflective helmet that gave no features came close, looking at your face on the tag and all the basic information it held in case you were lost on station and something had happened to your parents or the ship. Something had happened. But these were the wrong people. They wouldn't help you.

In the helmet you saw your own eyes. They were black holes.

"Eight. Small for eight." "Can use a P-90 well enough."

"Yeah, Falcone will wanna see him." The hand let your tag drop, lifted up your head by the hair and turned your face this way and that, then pried open your mouth and looked in. You bit. The creature slapped you again. Hard.

"Gonna have to beat the attitude out," was the last thing you heard.

Copyright © 2002 Karin Lowachee

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 21 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 21 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 15, 2003

    Finally a book that's worth your money

    I don't know about you, but I get tired of getting my hopes up that a book will be great, only to be disappointed time and time again. This book finally broke that cycle of despair. It starts out with approx. 40 pages written in the second person perspective. And here's the shocker - it's not just a gimmick; it actually works. You are seeing the world through the eyes of an 8 year child whose ship (yes, a space ship) is attacked and destroyed by pirates. The adults are killed and the children are enslaved. The use of the second person is a powerful device that pulled me straight into the story - not an easy task with this jaded reader. But it's what happens next, and what continues happening that keeps you turning pages. Characters acting like real people. They don't always make the right decisions, and you don't always agree with them. Heck, you don't even always *like* all of them! But all of them, even the pirates, are understandable and seem real. The characters grow and develop. They get hurt and develop emotional scars. They hurt each other, and they heal. When I finished the book, I put it down, said 'wow' and immediately re-read it again. I haven't done that since I finished Lord of the Rings almost 20 years ago.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2015


    Thoroughly enjoyed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2013

    Started strong

    I love space opera and i had high hopes for this one. It started well and held my interest through half the story. Regetably, the joy faded.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2013

    Read it

    My favorite book of all time

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  • Posted February 14, 2012

    Amazing series

    I let a friend borrow this book and never got it back... 0.0 Lowachee creates a believable future, even down to a genuinely realistic alien species, something I've never before encountered in science fiction. Her characters step out of the book and into the mind; her story strikes the soul with both grief and hope, sorrow and love. Not recommended for young readers, as it deals with mature issues, but any mature sci-fi reader who misses this series is losing out.

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  • Posted March 28, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Great Sci-Fi Book

    I am not sure what the deal is with electronic versions, but they do seem to be prone to more errors that paper back versions, as I noticed several while reading this book. That aside, this story was one of the more uniquely written I have read in a long time. The author took time to develop characters in depth and made it so you really knew them, their underlying motives and battles. It also often felt like the author made a point to describe senses of smell on every page and I do not think locations were given as much detail. All in all however, this book was a fantastic read and easily kept my attention with the fantastic character development and very acceptable plot. Highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys futuristic sci-fi types of books.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2002


    Excellent book. I could not put it down. I hope for the sequel or anything else from Karin Lowachee. If you decide to read it, do not worry about the beginning (the implied child abuse made me almost put the book away, but I am very glad I did not).

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2002

    War and Lost Innocence among the stars!

    I was impressed with this novel! Lowachee's debut novel was one of the most powerful novel of interstellar warfare I've ever read! She tells thetragic and heroic story of a young boy comes of age during terrible interstellar war and the divided loyalities he has in this conflict. Young Joslyn Musey sees his life torn from him as the merchant ship he calls home is attacked by space pirates and he is taken prisoner. Jos's capitivity is under the sadistic pirate called Falcone. Jos escapes only to be captured by earth's enemies the alien race called the Strits and their human allies. He is befriended by Human turncoat general called Warboy and he is taught to become a spy for the strits in their war against EarthHub.He is sent to space battleship, Macedon under the command of charismatic captain Azarcon.Lowarchee's novel is gripping tale of one young man who is torn between the loyalities of his shipmates on the battleship and his alien benefactors. Lowarchee's future is the most impressive I've seen since Cherryh's Union-Alliance novels and the atmosphere of on the ship is so realistic you could almost taste it! The battle scenes were brutally realistic in tone.Characters in Warchild were unforgettable such as our hero Jos who immediately gets our sympathy as he tries to remain loyal to crew of the Macedon and strits. Falcone-the ruthless pirate who uses manipulation and brutality. Dorrs-Jos's commanding officer who has a taste for battle and bloodshed but who will stand by his men if the need arises. Niko-human sympathize general who befriends Jos and who teaches him to become a spy.Lowarchee's chilling vision of warfare in space where children are used as soldiers and spies has eeries resemblance to the conflicts we have in our time. I look forward to the other next novel!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2002

    hoping desperately for a second book!!!!!!!!!!

    when i first saw this book i was put off thinking it would be just a bang-bang, run around and fight, blood and glory story but i've been wrong before so i read a few pgs in the store and that was it i had to buy it and read it all that very night leaving only a few hrs for sleep. but no worries this book is going to be read again and again. I would say something about what actually happens except i would blather on and spill everything so i'll keep quiet about what happens to Jos and let you find out for yourself while i keep checking for another book and hopefully it'll be a sequel.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2002

    A gripping novel

    Ashamed to admit I only bought this book because I REALLY wanted to read something, anything. It is good. For a first novel it is unbelievable. Do not be put off because the main character is eight years old (like I was). It is the story of ¿that¿s life.¿ It is the story of ¿this is how easy misunderstandings and selfishness are¿ and what that means to one person out of billions. Science Fiction is a wonderful vehicle for modern commentary. We can remove ourselves from what is happening. But as with the best Science Fiction writers, Lowachee isn¿t necessarily saying this is what could happen, the results of war for persons, people and planets are being felt right now. Put that together with an author of superior writing ability and the result is a gripping novel and a child that you will not forget.

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    Posted December 12, 2011

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    Posted November 15, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2010

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    Posted May 19, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 15, 2009

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    Posted May 12, 2010

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    Posted January 23, 2010

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    Posted January 20, 2009

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    Posted February 19, 2013

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    Posted March 6, 2010

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