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A cyber-dystopian world unlike any other.
In a near future Tokyo, every actionfrom blinking to sexual intercourseis intellectual property owned by corporations that charge licensing fees. A BodyBank computer system implanted in each citizen records their movements from moment to moment, and connects them to the audio-visual overlay of the ImmaNet, so that every inch of this cyber-dystopian metropolis crawls with information and shifting cinematic promotainment.
Amon Kenzaki works as a Liquidator for the Global Action Transaction Authority. His job is to capture bankrupt citizens, remove their BodyBank, and banish them to BankDeath Camps where they are forever cut off from the action-transaction economy. Amon always plays by the rules and is steadily climbing the Liquidation Ministry ladder.
With his savings accumulating and another promotion coming, everything seems to be going well, until he is asked to cash crash a charismatic politician and model citizen, and soon after is charged for an incredibly expensive action called “jubilee” that he is sure he never performed. To restore balance to his account, Amon must unravel the secret of jubilee, but quickly finds himself asking dangerous questions about the system to which he’s devoted his life, and the costly investigation only drags him closer and closer to the pit of bankruptcy.
In book one of the Jubilee Cycle, Cash Crash Jubilee , debut novelist Eli K. P. William wields the incisive power of speculative fiction to show how, in a world of corporate finance run amok, one man will do everything for the sake of truth and justice.
Skyhorse Publishing, under our Night Shade and Talos imprints, is proud to publish a broad range of titles for readers interested in science fiction (space opera, time travel, hard SF, alien invasion, near-future dystopia), fantasy (grimdark, sword and sorcery, contemporary urban fantasy, steampunk, alternative history), and horror (zombies, vampires, and the occult and supernatural), and much more. While not every title we publish becomes a New York Times bestseller, a national bestseller, or a Hugo or Nebula award-winner, we are committed to publishing quality books from a diverse group of authors.
About the Author
Eli K. P. William, a native of Toronto, currently works in Tokyo as a Japanese-English translator. He has also written for the Japan Times , Now Magazine , and the Pacific Rim Review of Books. Cash Crash Jubilee is his first novel.
Read an Excerpt
Cash Crash Jubilee
Book One of the Jubilee cycle
By Eli William
Skyhorse PublishingCopyright © 2015 Eli K. P. William
All rights reserved.
A pane of darkness descended on the room for an instant, blacking out the hazy image of a man sitting in a garden, like a curtain falling on a mid-performance stage.
These fleeting slivers of absence came and went intermittently, relentlessly, and Amon Kenzaki did his best to fight them off for as long as he could bear, in the hopes of filling his bank account. But it wasn't easy, even for him.
For the umpteenth time, the man in the garden said: "Blinking is money. Blinking is choice. Blink less to save yourself, to save yourself, to save your moneeee —" He extended the final vowel, humming it in monotone until his voice grew crackly and he ran out of breath.
Sitting alone on a chair in his apartment, Amon was taking an online blink reduction seminar. By mastering this simple method, the promotional video had promised, students could reduce their number of blinks per minute and, with daily practice, retrain their eyelids until blinking less frequently became automatic.
The man in the garden was called "the guru." No one seemed to care if he had another name, least of all Amon. He had richly-tanned skin and long silken hair tied in a ponytail. He sat on an emerald green rug, his legs crossed with each foot resting on the opposite thigh, his hands stacked palms down on his lap and his eyes half-closed. A gray shawl, with a pattern of lustrous, burgundy stitching looping elegantly along the edges, was wrapped diagonally over his right shoulder and around his waist. In front of him was a still, clear pond. Behind, lush ferns bowed out of porcelain flower pots the size of kegs. The pond reflected the guru's seated form along with the garden background. The reflection and the original evenly split Amon's visual field top to bottom, forming a symmetrical double-image like a mandala. This scene was projected for Amon on his eyescreen, a display integrated with his eyes, appearing as a semitransparent overlay on the cream-colored walls of his room. Every time he blinked it disappeared for a fraction of a second and returned.
"Find the space without space where the eyelid meets the brow," said the guru. "There in the emptiness you will find the frugal mind, the parsimonious mind, the creditable mind."
Amon sat motionless on a fold-up chair with his spine straight, his feet flat on the floor, and his palms resting on his thighs while listening intently to the lesson. As instructed, he focused on the top of his eyelids. The trick was to keep the eyes open until they felt dry but close them just before they started to sting. Close too early and the time until the next blink would be that much shorter. Wait too long and the body would detect strain and compensate by making the eyes more sensitive, hastening the onset of stinging in the next blink cycle and spurring a premature shut. But with consummate timing, the duration of the dry sensation could be extended to its limit, and with successful repetition, the eyes would gradually adjust, incrementally postponing stinging and lengthening the period between each blink nanosecond by nanosecond.
After a few minutes of silence, the guru repeated his mantra: "Blinking is money. Blinking is choice. Blink less to save yourself, to save yourself, to save your moneeee —" Many voices joined in unison with the guru, layering over and amplifying his voice. Unlike the other students participating from their various locations, Amon remained silent. The website audio settings made the guru's voice loudest, and the heavily-accented Japanese he spoke stood out in the mix. It was difficult for Amon to identify what kind of accent. It might have been Indian; it might have been Chinese; it might also have been German, or a hybrid of all three. Whatever the origin, distinctive pronunciation and intonation endowed the guru with a certain exotic authority, as though coming from a distant, undefined land were a prerequisite to be an authentic master of frugality. The guru went quiet, leaving the students to chant without him. Placid intensity seemed to radiate from his tanned forehead, as though he were deeply focused on something ... perhaps his eyelids.
"Blinking is money." Amon reflected on this phrase. The wording was a bit crude, but he had to admit the statement was true. More blinking=less money. Less blinking=more money. Like every other action, blinking was a kind of intellectual property, the usage of which required payment of a licensing fee. Every time he blinked, jumped, sang, downloaded music, played hopscotch, ate a waffle, or did anything by choice, the network of sensors and chips implanted invisibly under his skin detected the corresponding muscle movement and nerve signals. This embodied computer system — his BodyBank — then transferred the action-data to GATA, which checked who owned the rights to the action-property at that moment and gave them permission to withdraw the money instantly from his account.
A single blink wasn't all that expensive. In fact, compared to other daily actions like walking and eating, the price of each blink in the action-transaction marketplace was relatively cheap. But people were incessantly blinking, thought Amon, and the costs added up like grains of sand falling one by one through an hourglass until, before you knew it, a significant portion of creditime had been spent.
Differentiating the sensation of dryness from stinging and anticipating the critical moment before one changed to the other required a subtle awareness that took weeks to cultivate, and full habituation of the eyes took many months more. This meant a sizeable investment of creditime, but it seemed worth it to Amon. According to PennyPinch, his accounting consultant application, the cost of tuition would be paid off in one month if he could cut down by a quarter blink per minute — a conservative estimate given that the website promotional video had promised a reduction by two.
However adept he became though, blinking costs could never be brought to zero. A certain portion of every day required the use of sight — working and commuting hours at the bare minimum — during which time blinking was inevitable; and, as Amon was pained to admit, any attempt to keep his eyes constantly peeled would be overridden by reflexes that protected them from damage. Keeping the eyes closed too long — even while resting — was equally risky in its own way, as GATA might interpret this as sleeping, napping, daydreaming, or some such action even more pricey than blinking. Amon remembered an era when squinting had been the trendy alternative in cost-cutting circles, but the fee had risen over the years perhaps due to increased demand, making this approach no longer feasible. Easy shortcuts were invariably false trails when it came to budgeting. The essence of deep frugality was devoted training; meticulously honing choices in the narrow realm of volition left for Free Citizens between involuntary bodily functions and the uncontrollable world, as though walking a tightrope between the twin precipices of fate.
Without changing his upright posture, the guru picked up a handful of lavender petals from a straw basket at his left side and tossed them into the pond. The petals fluttered briefly in the air as they fell, bleached almost white in the sunlight, before landing gently in the water. Circular ripples expanded outwards from each impact point, colliding with each other and breaking into fragments of intersecting arcs that wavered on the verge of dissolution. Some petals remained floating on the elastic tension of the water's surface, and others, located at the meeting point of multiple subtle waves, were engulfed by the gentle sloshing and sank slowly out of sight.
"Don't give in to the craving mind, the spending mind, the bankrupt mind. Embrace the frugal mind, the parsimonious mind, the creditable mind."
Amon had been sitting still so long there was now a kink in his neck, and his buttocks felt numb from the pressure of his own weight against the hard plastic seat, but he would not give in to the spending mind and resisted fidgeting even the slightest. Some tenets of the guru's philosophy, like prohibitions on eating yeast and sleeping with pillows, Amon found difficult to accept. And he felt no solidarity with the anonymous students whose voices he heard, as they seemed to believe that chanting out loud was a meritorious deed that would one day reap pecuniary rewards while Amon saw such vocalization as a senseless waste of money. Instead, he preferred to recite in his mind, the only domain in existence where all actions were complimentary.
Superstitions aside, the guru's techniques were great allies in the battle for thrift. He also offered a breath reduction course that Amon had completed the previous winter. With daily practice he had managed to bring his total monthly expenses down by 0.06 percent, a result he found very satisfying. He had also enrolled in the guru's voiding and urination reduction courses, but withdrew when these actions were nationalized, making them a part of the public domain and no longer subject to licensing fees. Headed by the great leader Lawrence Barrow, the ruling Moderate Choice Party was pushing for nationalization of blinking, insisting it was not truly volitional but merely an autonomic physiological function. This gave Amon some hope that all the guru's methods might one day become obsolete, allowing him to invest his creditime elsewhere. Yet fierce debate raged on with the Absolute Choice Party, which opposed such policies to increase spending and pushed instead for privatization of heartbeating. With no resolution to the wrangling in sight —
The guru whipped his right hand out and snatched at the air before him, as though sensing Amon's wandering mind floating there and wrenching him back to attention. The ripples in the pond had dissipated, and the few petals remaining on the surface bobbed and swayed softly.
Amon tried to dissolve his discreditable thoughts and pay attention to his eyelids, but something was nagging at him, and this time it wasn't perennial political issues. He usually took pride in his ability to focus — his concentration test score had been perfect after all, a rare achievement only matched by prodigies like Chief Executive Minister Lawrence Barrow. But today something was wrong. Extraneous thoughts crept into his mind like worms into a dark burrow. The more effort he put into blocking them out, reinforcing the cave walls, the more persistently they encroached, squirming and gnawing ravenously at whatever he paid attention to. Meanwhile, his blinks kept firing off rapidly irrespective of his intentions, like a camera shutter gone haywire.
It had been almost twelve hours since he'd contacted Rick and still there was no answer. But if I don't hear back soon then ... And what if he ... a rampant swarm of fears and apprehensions disrupted his attempts to change the mental subject and direct conscious efforts back at his blinking.
Reluctantly accepting his lack of clarity, Amon did a combination of slight twitches with his right index and middle finger. The sensors in his hand recognized the command for close window and the scene of the guru disappeared. All that remained was the unmade futon at his feet, the cream wall ahead, and his action-transaction readout, a small box of text in the bottom right corner of his eye that inexorably recorded his lifetime of enacted choices and their ever-fluctuating price. Without moving his head, Amon glanced at the readout:
He watched as the owner of blink rapidly changed hands: first it was Xian Te, then the TTY Group, then R-Lite, all within thirty seconds. These companies were based outside Japan, so the licensing fees had to be paid in their respective foreign currency. Amon kept the money in his checking account diversified, so that his smart trading application, CleverBarter, could automatically pay his bills in the currency with the best exchange rate at that moment. But Amon had set the readout to display fees in the equivalent Japanese yen value, which he found more intuitive. The price for each execution of blinking bounced around constantly, although for the time being it never strayed far from five-hundred yen. This was actually a misleadingly low price, Amon knew. It had to be corrected for early morning economic stagnation. By the time afternoon inflation kicked in, all licensing fees would be much higher, perhaps exponentially higher depending on how badly the morning market crashes went. Amon activated PennyPinch to help him tally his blink expenses that morning. The result appeared immediately. His performance was poor: in fact, the blink frequency had been slightly above his average. Amon sighed.
Amon hated sighing, but whenever he failed to be frugal, bone-deep guilt and disappointment overcame him, and the urge became irresistible. Sighing was dangerous for him. It was an expensive act that wasted his funds and amped up his guilt further, which in turn made him want to sigh again. If he wasn't careful, he could get caught in an unending spiral of sighing about sighs about sighs that would plunge him into the pit of bankruptcy. Of course nothing approaching this had ever happened. He had never sighed more than twice in a row. Yet the downward sigh spiral was his deepest fear, something that might have manifested in his nightmares, if his sleeping life had been filled with anything other than the dream, the only dream he ever had anymore ...
For some reason, he found himself wondering what it would be like to be the wall before him. The wall had no impulses to quell or desires to prioritize. No incentives to succeed, nor consequences if it didn't. Admittedly it also had no BodyBank, and Amon could hardly envy existence without money and freedom. (He might as well have envied bankrupts!) All the same, he found himself wishing the wall would imbibe his consciousness with just a taste of its droning, dull stasis.
Soon a circular patch of skin on the center of his belly began to vibrate and the ding of a twentieth century cash register went off, his alarm telling him it was creditime to head off for work.CHAPTER 2
A TOKYO SUBWAY
The salarymen and office ladies were crammed together so tight on the train it was as though their bodies had fused into one; a thousand-headed beast swaying to and fro with each acceleration and deceleration, each bump or snag on the track. Vertical poles were installed near the doors, and plastic loops hung in rows from two rails running in parallel along the length of the ceiling, but many commuters were stranded out of reach from these handholds. A cluster of them leaned on Amon for support as he stood gripping an overhead rail with two hands, his body an integral strand binding the disparate fibers of this amalgamated organism.
A foot or so taller than most, Amon looked out over a dense headscape topped with trim haircuts. The supporting necks poked up from white collars drawn tight with conservatively-patterned ties and edged with dark jacket lapels. Despite their expressions of stifled discomfort and vacant denial of their surroundings, every one of these commuters, men and women alike, managed to look exquisitely good. All eyes were clear and animated, all hair was lustrous and meticulously set, all lips were moist and vibrant, all teeth straight and gleaming white, all features in just the right proportion, size and arrangement to bring out that person's best qualities. They were so impeccably beautiful you could take any person at random, magnify their skin a hundredfold, and it would look just as glassy smooth, without bumps, misplaced hairs or even pores.
This supernaturally attractive crowd was visible to Amon by way of the ImmaNet, a global communication network that matched up the world seen by the naked eye with a veneer of graphics and information infoseen by the eyescreen integrated into every Free Citizen's retina. Using a kind of software called digimake, it was easy to design a personalized overlay and attach it to your body, as though sketching a portrait on tracing paper, modifying it, and pasting it atop the model. When the people around Amon moved, the ImmaNet ensured their digimade appearance moved with them, the digital world inextricably bound to its naked counterpart. There were no bad hair days, no bulging veins, no sunspots or hairy moles, no red eye, yellow teeth, dangling nose-hairs or crooked smiles, no crumpled shirts, mismatched ties or poorly-fitted suits. Average faces were coded with distinction, strange faces averaged into charm, the power of digimake cleansing the metropolis of ugliness like the alchemical light of some esthetic deity.
Excerpted from Cash Crash Jubilee by Eli William. Copyright © 2015 Eli K. P. William. Excerpted by permission of Skyhorse Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This was easily the best book I have read in a long time. I binge read it over the last 3 days, stopping only to work and eat. I barely got any sleep the last few days because I couldn't put this book down. The story was fantastic, the ending was satisfying but frustrating because I didn't want it to end. This book really does justice to Orwell and Huxley. The story is extremely deep with amazing thought out twists and turns and never feels shallow or rushed. The world is fantastic. The details blend so well with the story that I never found myself confused or lost in the vastness of the Free World. The characters are bizarre enough to fit the world, but still real enough to empathize with. I am usually very wary of dystopian novels nowadays because of how teen fiction has taken over the subgenre, but William swooped in and saved the essence of dystopian sci-fi with this novel. I'm proud to have this book on my shelf. The only upside to waiting for the next book is that I will finally get some decent sleep.