- Pub. Date:
Magic is real, and hungry--trapped in ancient texts and artifacts. Only a few who discover it survive to fight back.
Join Detective Sal Brooks, newest recruit to a black-ops magic hunting team backed by the Vatican, as she travels the world to keep the supernatural in check. Just remember: watch your back and don't touch anything.
Fans of Supernatural, The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and The Da Vinci Code will love this epic urban fantasy. Bookburners Season 3 is written by Max Gladstone, Margaret Dunlap, Brian Francis Slattery, Andrea Phillips, Mur Lafferty, and Amal El-Mohtar and presented by Serial Box Publishing.
Related collections and offers
About the Author
Before joining the Bookburners, Margaret Dunlap wrote for ABC Family's cult-hit The Middleman in addition to working on SyFy's Eureka. Most recently, she was a writer and co-executive producer of the Emmy-winning transmedia series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, and co-created its sequel Welcome to Sanditon. Her short fiction has previously appeared in Shimmer Magazine. Margaret lives in Los Angeles where she taunts the rest of the team with local weather reports and waits for the earthquake that will finally turn Burbank into oceanfront property. She tweets as @spyscribe.
Brian Francis Slattery is the author of Spaceman Blues, Liberation, Lost Everything, and The Family Hightower. Lost Everything won the Philip K. Dick Award in 2012. He's the arts and culture editor for the New Haven Independent, an editor for the New Haven Review, and a freelance editor for a few not-so-secret public policy think tanks. He also plays music constantly with a few different groups in a bunch of different genres. He has settled with his family just outside of New Haven and admits that elevation above sea level was one of the factors he took into account. For one week out of every year, he enjoys living completely without electricity.
Andrea Phillips is an award-winning transmedia writer, game designer and author. Her debut novel is Revision, an SF thriller about a wiki where your edits come true. She has also worked on iOS fitness games Zombies, Run! and The Walk; The Maester's Path for HBO's Game of Thrones; human rights game America 2049; and the independent commercial ARG Perplex City. Her nonfiction book A Creator's Guide to Transmedia Storytelling is used to teach digital storytelling at universities around the world. You can find Andrea at andreaphillips.com, or on Twitter at @andrhia.
Mur Lafferty is the author of The Shambling Guides series from Orbit, including The Shambling Guide to New York City and Ghost Train to New Orleans. She has been a podcaster for over 10 years, running award-winning shows such as I Should Be Writing and novellas published via podcast. She has written for RPGs, video games, and short animation. She lives in Durham, NC where she attends Durham Bulls baseball games and regularly pets two dogs. Her family regrets her Dragon Age addiction and wishes for her to get help. She tweets as @mightymur.
Amal El-Mohtar has received the Locus Award and been a Nebula Award finalist for her short fiction, and won the Rhysling Award for poetry three times. She is the author of The Honey Month, a collection of poetry and prose written to the taste of twenty-eight different kinds of honey, and contributes reviews to the LA Times and NPR Books. Her fiction has appeared most recently in Lightspeed, Uncanny Magazine, and is forthcoming in The Starlit Wood anthology from Saga Press. She divides her time and heart between Ottawa and Glasgow. Find her online at amalelmohtar.com, or on Twitter @tithenai.
Read an Excerpt
Sal Brooks watched monsters dance on the wall.
She recognized the shapes of bulls and deer and antelope, though the beasts on the walls had different names. These were ancient creatures, gone now, or diminished, like elves in those Hobbit books. You never saw aurochs any more. That thing with the branching brain-cell horns, like a reindeer drawn by someone on a bad trip, was apparently a Megaloceros, which Liam claimed meant big horns. Sal felt that being unable to think of a better name for a monster reindeer than big horns suggested there was something wrong with the scientific imagination. She could not deny, though, that the horns were big.
The creatures circled the cave, huge and vital. Red horses pranced; a white bull squared off against a herd of smaller cattle. A man with a bird's head hefted a spear before a shaggy bison. Long-gone artists had woven the rock's colors and striations into their work. Ruddy iron stains framed the earth, and paler limestone the sky.
The tour guide spoke French, which Sal had come to accept, this being France. Since he wasn't ordering coffee or talking about pain au chocolat, she was lost, but she might as well make up her own translation. "Thousands of years before Christ, before Rome and Egypt and, like, Gladiator and Kull the Conqueror and all that other stuff your kid brother used to geek out over, early humans descended into this cave with brushes they made themselves from bits of actual horse, with paints mixed from dirt and berries, and, in the middle of what was no doubt a gross, hard, short life, they made all this, down in the bowels of the Earth. And you think this space is claustrophobic now? Imagine what it would have been like without lights. Imagine what it would have been like not knowing what waited deeper in these caves, or what used them when you weren't around."
Liam, beside her, at least confined his disgust to a whisper. "Milton Keynes prehistory, is what this is."
"Shhh. I'm listening."
"You don't speak French."
"This guy does a good spooky voice."
"And so," her imaginary translation continued, as the pock-faced tour guide reached for a light switch set beside the cave door, "we must not look upon the paintings of Lascaux only with the eyes of our, um, our normal eyes—" Sal would be the first to admit her melodramatic speechifying needed a lot of work. Have to work on that if I intend to keep at this whole world-saving thing. "—but with the eyes of our minds and hearts. To understand the genius of these long-dead artists, we must see them in their intended light."
The tour guide flipped the switch, and the world went dark.
"Oh, come off—"
She shushed Liam. "Don't ruin this."
In the dark, from the tour guide's direction, Sal heard the unmistakable sound of someone failing to operate the safety wheel on a Bic lighter, followed by a curse, a few sparks that did not relieve the velvet dark, and a second, more muffled curse. Liam chuckled; she ignored him and waited. Other tourists breathed around her. She could feel them without touching them. Their bodies radiated warmth. Ten thousand years, twenty thousand, before, they would have clustered like this in winter, against the dark and cold. They would have breathed the same air.
The flame took.
Sal had turned away to save her night vision. She and Liam stood with their backs to the fire, surrounded by sparks in other tourists' eyes, and on the walls by shadows that were almost gods. Between the flickering lighter flame and the rock wall striations, the beasts moved. She had thought they danced before, but that was only a trick, a suggestion of movement. In firelight they lived. The aurochs drew breath. The Megaloceros shook its heavy horns. She felt herself with another body, shaggy, ancient, leather-clad and hungry and full of strength, the root and backbone of a world.
"It's only a model," Liam said, and she elbowed him in the ribs.
"I'm just telling the truth," he was still protesting two hours later, as they wandered through the museum zoo. Two kids ran up to the pony enclosure and plastered their faces against the fence. The clunk of their colliding skulls spooked the ponies, not to mention Sal. Their parents didn't seem to mind. The kids laughed.
"You don't have to be such a tool about it."
"My point, and I don't see why this does not bother you as much as it does me, is that it's silly to pretend you're seeing something magical when you're not. There are real Lascaux caves, not far, let's see, thataway." He pointed dramatically, and two passing college girls executed a noticeable head-twist to follow the muscles working under his T-shirt. "That cave wasn't even a real cave! It was a bloody concrete bunker!"
"They don't let people in the real cave anymore." Sal opened the brochure, and guided them back toward the museum. A cow mooed behind a fence, and she thought it lacked a bit, compared to the aurochs in the cave. "They let people into the real thing for twenty years, and they breathed so much all the paint was about to fall off the walls from the CO2. And before you ask, we can't just pull some Vatican favors to get into the real cave system. There was some sort of mold infection back around the millennium. They don't even let scientists down there these days."
"I can search Wikipedia as well as the next man, thank you." The museum doors closed out the lowing cows behind them. "If not better. And my point is not that they should let us into the real caves, I understand the whole preserve-the-priceless-artifacts routine. I just think it's absurd for us to pretend a concrete bunker, for the love of Christ, is the real thing."
"It's an exact replica."
"Some things," he said, "you cannot replicate. Not even on Star Trek."
"What?" That earned her a sidelong glare from Liam, skeptical, suspicious: Was she playing ignorant to poke fun at him, or did she really not know what he was talking about? Sal liked this game. If the rest of Team Three were going to be insufferable nerds all the time, she might as well get some fun out of it.
"Never mind. If we leave now, my point is, we still have time to register for the vineyard marathon tomorrow. Bordeaux is only about an hour's drive that way."
"Just because you—" She glanced around, but no one was close enough to hear except for a few Paleolithic mannequins clustered by the safety of their diorama fire. "Just because you're no longer worried you might be possessed by a demon, you're not obligated to get as drunk as possible at every opportunity."
"Not every opportunity, no. But I feel I owe it to myself to take advantage of particularly appealing ones." He stretched his hands over his head. "Too much boozing would interfere with the gym routine, at any rate. But have you ever heard of such an ideal arrangement? On the one hand, a twenty-some-odd-mile run, and on the other, a glass of wine at every vineyard you pass. Tell me that doesn't sound fun."
Sal thought about wine hangovers, and thought about the one time her college roommate goaded her into a half marathon, and thought about both of these at once. "We're here to investigate."
"Look, I understand your fetish—"
She raised an eyebrow. "Did you really have to use that word?"
"—for data-driven policing, it's an expression, dammit, and trust me I share your desire to leave the Vatican far behind for a few days, but we've done what we came to do. There's nothing wrong in Lascaux. So we might as well enjoy our furlough for a good run and an egregious hangover, and chalk this one up as a false positive."
"You were the one who set up the flags."
"And they were the right flags, and this did look like a good lead! The discovery of a new cave complex scores points for ancient and mysterious and artwork, plus the territory is within our jurisdiction, and if this was a false positive, as we both agreed seemed likely before we even ran this trip up the auld flagpole, we haven't set the Vatican's travel budget back much."
She sat on the rail next to the Paleolithic family. A plastic mother suckling her plastic baby looked up at Sal with an expression of holy dread. That seemed fair. "We've only been here a few hours. I want to be sure nothing's wrong before we leave."
"There's no shame in finding nothing." He settled beside her. "Surely you didn't stop a crime on every patrol, back when you were a cop. We might not agree with Cardinal Fox on much, but if our new lord and master has anything to recommend him, it's his insistent harping on operational readiness. You don't need to find something bad for this to have been a good idea. And so long as we've come out here on vacation to test it, we may as well enjoy ourselves on the way home." He held out his hand.
She accepted, and found, for the first time since their short-lived, ill-founded, and mutually embarrassing relationship breathed its last two years before, that she could take some friendly comfort in his touch. Even if he had been a dick about the fake cave. "You know," she said, "you really have been different, since Belfast."
"So say we all." He crooked a smile, which usually meant he'd made a joke she didn't get.
Sal was about to ask him to explain the reference when she heard a woman scream.
They jumped to their feet, and ran toward the cry.