For years, Jeff Noon has existed on the fringes of the science fiction community, a mad surrealist with a penchant for hallucinatory images, whose crazed portraits and landscapes hang on the edges of reader accessibility—and we mean that as a compliment.
Noon has penned a number of bizarre works you’d do well to catch up on, but even if you’ve never encountered his work before, you can jump into his next novel, A Man of Shadows, a science fiction noir story set in a most unusual cityscape, coming later this summer from Angry Robot.
Today, we’re offering up you first look at the book with an exclusive excerpt, which you’ll find below the official summary.
Below the neon skies of Dayzone—where the lights never go out, and night has been banished—lowly private eye John Nyquist takes on a teenage runaway case. His quest takes him from Dayzone into the permanent dark of Nocturna.
As the vicious, seemingly invisible serial killer known only as Quicksilver haunts the streets, Nyquist starts to suspect that the runaway girl holds within her the key to the city’s fate. In the end, there’s only one place left to search: the shadow-choked zone known as Dusk.
A STATION CALLED MORNING
Nyquist stepped down from the train. His fellow travellers either stared at him or avoided him completely as they hurried along the platform, leaving him there, a man alone in a crumpled blue suit and a slanted hat. Smoke from the steam engine filled his lungs. The sky burned fiercely, magnified by the glass panels of the station’s roof. Close by, a team of workers were sluicing the carriages down with hosepipes, creating a rainbow effect as the water met the streams of light from above. The air sparkled and danced. Nyquist was feeling the heat already as he made his way to the ticket barrier. It had been a while since daylight had touched him. It was difficult to tell how long precisely, difficult to count the days and the nights because of the way he lived, the nature of the jobs he took on, the way that the city worked. It was easy to get confused.
A soft mechanical voice intoned from a nearby speaker column: “On your arrival in Dayzone please ensure that all necessary precautions are taken. We hope you…” Nyquist had heard it all too many times. He strode on, pausing only to look up at the large clock in the central dome of the concourse. It was twenty-five to nine. His own wristwatch read twenty-two minutes past eight. Thirteen minutes slow. He shivered a little before adjusting his watch. He felt better just doing this simple act. Fixed. In place.
Many people around him were doing exactly the same thing, changing their watches to the station’s time: it looked like a ritual, so many fingers turning so many winders on so many dials, simultaneously.
Nyquist got himself cleaned up in the gentlemen’s washroom. Braving the mirror, he pressed at the bruise on his face, causing the skin to move around the cut, a livid purple. He thought about covering it up with a sticking plaster but decided against it. The mark was all he had to show for the case: the only payment received. He walked back out onto the concourse and bought a three-shot coffee from a kiosk, most of which he had drunk by the time he got to the car park behind the station. It took him a while to remember where he had left his vehicle. A ticket for overdue stay was stuck under the windscreen wiper. He tore it loose and threw it on the backseat along with his jacket and his hat. The car was baking hot and even with the engine going and the fan sending out cool air, there was little relief. It was an old model in need of repair, or better still replacement. Nyquist felt the ache in his ribs where the punches had landed.
Day and night, it was getting worse.
The stale air inside the car started to move around a little. He looked at the dashboard; the dial read sixteen minutes past one. Nyquist groaned, wondering where all the hours kept going to. He checked his own watch again and used it to change the dashboard clock. Seven minutes to nine. That was better. Everything synchronised. Time to get the day started. He had one more job on the cards, searching for a missing teenager. He had to hope this one came good. The family had told him that the girl had lately become terribly afraid of the dark. Well, there were a lot of them around, these sufferers, and Dayzone was the place for them.
Nyquist drove out of the station’s car park.