Emissaries from the Dead

Emissaries from the Dead

by Adam-Troy Castro

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Overview

Two murders have occurred on One One One, an artificial ecosystem created by the universe's dominant AIs to house several engineered species, including a violent, sentient race of sloth-like creatures. Under order from the Diplomatic Corps, Counselor Andrea Cort has come to this cylinder world where an indentured human community hangs suspended high above a poisoned, acid atmosphere. Her assignment is to choose a suitable homicide suspect from among those who have sold their futures to escape existences even worse than this one. And no matter where the trail leads her she must do nothing to implicate the hosts, who hold the power to obliterate humankind in an instant.

But Andrea Cort is not about to hold back in her hunt for a killer. For she has nothing to lose and harbors no love for her masters or fellow indentures. And she herself has felt the terrible exhilaration of taking life . . . .

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061443725
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 02/26/2008
Pages: 400
Product dimensions: 4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 1.00(d)

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Emissaries from the Dead
An Andrea Cort Novel

Chapter One

Habitat

I've never been a fan of natural ecosystems.

I know they're romanticized. They're great for people who like to swat bugs, step on feces, and catch strange diseases, an odd subsection of humanity that has never included myself. I grew up in urban orbital habitats and pretty much know better. But even I must admit that natural places evolve by accident and therefore can't be blamed for their high level of unpleasantness.

Artificial ecosystems, engineered by sentients who know we're better than that now, are just plain perverse.

The cylinder world One One One was an eloquent case in point.

It was so wrong, in both concept and execution, that it exalted even the most appalling messes arranged by Nature. Like most constructs of its kind, it rotated at high speeds to provide to the internal environment a simulated gravitational pull away from its axis of rotation. That's just basic engineering, so old that dumb old Mankind considered it a brilliant idea long before we went into space and put the basic idea into practice. But most cylinder worlds orbit planets, or hang around inside solar systems, and are built by sentients who evolved on planets to support life that likes to walk around on a solid surface, even when that solid surface has a horizon that curves up on both sides. As a result, they house their habitats on the surface that best approximates planetary notions of up and down: that is, the outermost "floor."

On One One One, the independent software intelligences known as the AIsource had turned that usual model upside down. Thestation itself was situated in deep interstellar space, a good twenty light-years from the nearest inhabited world, and far from any of the territories claimed by any of the major spacefaring species. We never would have known about it if they hadn't given us the address. Its habitable interior centered on an Uppergrowth of knotty vegetation clinging to the interior station axis. The crushingly dense lower atmosphere was a poisonous soup of thick toxic gases above a sludgy organic sea. Only in the upper atmosphere, near the central hub, was there a thinner oxygen–nitrogen blend of the sort congenial to the life-forms the AIsource had engineered.

The AIsource determination to get into the God-in-a-bottle business struck me as quixotic at best and insane at worst. And pointlessly grandiose, as well. The average human cylinder world is about ten kilometers long by two kilometers in diameter, which strikes me as a compact, manageable size that shows a little sense of humility in matters of cosmic scale. There are some leviathans, like my base of operations, New London, of up to ten times that size. All right, so we need big cities. But this place, One One One, was approximately a thousand times longer and some fifty times fatter than even New London: pretty excessive for the housing of a few brachiating apes who had to spend their entire lives clinging to bioengineered vines. It defined the concept of inexact fit.

Either way, it was an upside-down hell.

Even as the sleek AIsource transport ferried me into the habitat, I mentally catalogued everything I found disturbing here. The storm clouds far below were like a roiling brown cauldron, flashing with sudden light whenever charged by the violent forces at their heart. The giant winged things who sometimes ventured above those were like dragons out of a bad fairy tale: their wingspans up to two kilometers across, the force of their flight leaving entire storm systems in their wake, their sudden screeching dives into the opaque clouds acts of epic predation on creatures nobody flying at my current altitude had ever seen.

I'd been assured that the dragons never ascended as high as the Uppergrowth latitudes. I'd also been advised not to bother thinking about them, as they had nothing to do with the reason I was here.

It was like that old joke: Don't think about the elephant.

(But it's there.)

Don't think about it and it'll go away.

(But it's there.)

You're still thinking about it.

And so on.

The Uppergrowth, dotted here and there with the sluggish forms of the Brachiators, was a vast gray surface of compact, knotted vines that loomed over this world like a hammer waiting for the best opportunity to fall. The thick black pylons that every hundred kilometers or so descended from that Uppergrowth into the cloudscape were anchored at their apparent midpoints to the glowspheres that served as One One One's suns, and looked far too flimsy to hold such balls of corruscating fusion. The glowspheres themselves cast a light harsh enough to burn purple afterimages on my retinas, and there were so many of them that my transport cast multiple, competing shadows on the Uppergrowth above me.

I regarded it all with my usual grim reserve, dimly aware that I'd fallen back into a nervous habit that had plagued me for years: one index finger twirling the single lock of long, black hair that dangled from the right side of my head. Since the rest of my hair is cut very short, the many people who hate my guts like to say I keep that lock long to feed the tic and for no other reason. I know the habit drives people to distraction and therefore practice it whenever I can. I'm too uncomfortable in the presence of others to tolerate their comfort in mine.

The flight might have been bearable if the transport had been properly enclosed; but, no, it was a roofless model, protected against precipitation and wind shear by ionic shielding, offering a ride so smooth that had I closed my eyes I wouldn't have experienced any sense of motion at all. But I knew I was not enclosed. I knew that given just one moment's suicidal madness, it would have been all too easy to hop over the waist-high bulkhead and plunge to my death. I knew it and I could not ignore it.

Emissaries from the Dead
An Andrea Cort Novel
. Copyright © by Adam-Troy Castro. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are Saying About This

Robert J. Sawyer

“SF at its best… A clever, thought-provoking page-turner. Bravo!”

Jack McDevitt

“Adam-Troy Castro has given us the ultimate high-wire thriller.”

Michael A. Burstein

“The most powerful science fiction novel of the year.”

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Emissaries from the Dead 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
STBEEMAN More than 1 year ago
I hadn't expected to enjoy this book. In fact, I picked it up on several trips to Barnes and Noble and just put it right back on the shelf, thinking the blurb on the rear cover didn't describe a book I would enjoy. Boy was I ever wrong! Castro envisions a gritty crime drama set on an artificial world in the far future, and his characters are complex, dark (and sometimes darkly ironic!), and the plot keeps you guessing all the way through the book. I don't want to give away a bit of the plot, so no summary or spoilers, but the story kept me guessing very close to the conclusion. For me, that's very unusual, and it was a pleasant surprise. Emissaries from the Dead is a great spy novel, murder mystery, adventure, and in a strange sort of way, a romance. It is a rare piece of writing, especially from a first-time author.
misura on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Although the basic plot is a murder mystery (in space! or, well, on an artificially created world), things get quite a bit more complicated as the book progresses. The setting and the world building is interesting, and in typical murder mystery tradition, there's a twist in the end that you hopefully didn't see coming.As one of the other reviewers commented, especially near the ending of the book, the main character (who tells the story in first pov) tends to say stuff like: 'I finally understood this and this' or 'Now I knew what had happened then and then', only without sharing why, exactly, this and this was so or what, precisely, had happened then and then. This can get a little annoying, especially when the eventual exposition takes place in a conversation and a monologue - it's all telling and no showing, and it just felt like maybe that could have been handled better.
ben_h on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The writing was a little clunky, but the classic mystery structure drew me in. Also, as a misanthrope, I enjoy reading about misanthropic main characters (e.g. [book: Generation Loss]).
TheDivineOomba on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is one of the first Science Fiction in Space books that I've read in a long time that managed to hold my attention. It has likable characters, an interesting world, interesting Artificial Intelligence, and a great mystery.It does have its faults, for example, Andrea is considered a monster by her society. But, I'm not sure if she is. Also, the AIs seem a bit too human - I'd say more, but I'd be giving away a large amount of the plot. Outside of these two issues, the book is solidly written and an enjoyable read.
aarondesk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One big piece of melodrama. Could have been much better - interesting ideas and setting, but it would be better suited for prime-time or daytime television than a novel with all the sappy corny bits.The author has this habit of announcing that something important is just about to be unfolded, only to wait several pages to announce it. Very annoying.The 2-3 themes present in the book get pounded into you that it's like listening to a piano with only a few keys.
FicusFan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book, but the reading of it was not fun. I am not sure why, I wouldn't call it badly written, but it was like trying to walk through deep, quick drying cement. It was very slow and while it was interesting, it didn't grab me until almost the end of the book. Not sure what the issue was.The story follows a government diplomat, Andrea Cort, who is a virtual prisoner. She is a survivor/perpetrator of a mass tragedy. Being indentured for life to the government is the only thing that keeps her free and alive. Other governments want to prosecute her for what her 8 year old self did.Her world is made up of various worlds and governments, some human, some not. They have a confederation, that dictates how they treat each other, but allows them to do whatever they want to their own citizens. Many people sell themselves into service with a government to get away from their circumstances. If they survive and complete their term, they get pension benefits that allow them to travel and to live as they like.Besides the organic lifeforms in their civilization, there are computer intelligences, AIs. They have been around longest, and pursue their own agenda. They are more powerful than the organics, and are treated gingerly.Andrea is sent to a large enclosed habitat in space. It has been created and is administered by the AIs. They have created a life form just for the habitat, which is primitive, but sentient. The AIs control access and all activities in the habitat. Humans have been chosen as the species that can study the Brachiators. There is a team of indentured scientists there. Andrea has been called in because there is a murder, and given the AI control they are the likely suspect. Because of their power, and ubiquity they can not be charged, or tried as the perpetrator. Her handlers want her to find a scapegoat and close the case. Of course Andrea has other ideas. She wants to find the real killer, and doesn't care who she pisses off in the process. The habitat has almost no horizontal spaces, everything is vertical, and the Brachiators live by clinging to giant vines. The humans have a platform where they have ships and offices, but they must venture out into the vertical vines to live and work with the Brachiators. They sling cables, hammocks and hanging tents between the vines and it is out in the vines that the murder occurred. Andrea was told she was specifically asked for, something that those on site deny. There has also been another murder while she was in transit. There are more murders when she is there.The book is the story of Andrea's investigation, her trying to find out the true story of how the murdered people fit in and interacted in the challenging environment. Many of those left behind have secrets that she must ferret out. Even the Brachiators are involved in one murder. Andrea is also fighting with her own demons, her government handlers who deem her expendable, and with the AIs who are being less than forthcoming.As I said I enjoyed the book. I liked Andrea and some of the people on the habitat. The habitat and the Brachiators were interesting, as were the AIs. The aliens were well done, and the humans were believable. Andrea was a bit rough, but she warms up towards the end. There are also a couple of a twists at the end, which I thought worked well. It took a while to really grab me, but it was worthwhile all along. It is the start of a series, and I have the second book and will keep reading. I hope the writing issue will work itself out.
LeHack on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Andrea Cort has been sent to One One One, an artificial ecosystem, to investigate a murder. When she arrives, she find there have been two murders, not one. One One One's community is made up of indentured humans, Brachiators, created by the Artification Intelligence source, AIsource. The humans live in the Upergrowth, a suspended hammock system intertwined with vines, suspended up a poisoned atmosphere below complete with stormclouds, lightning, and flying dragons. The hammock system takes skill to learn to move around. The humans must develop their abiity to pull themselves around by cables and vines, walk on hammocks (think of the blowup trampolines at kid parks and indoor playgrounds) and get over any fear of heights as vertigo could cause an immediate fall into oblivion. Andrea investigates these murders to find people are what they seem. She has one harrowing experience during an experiment that had this reader almost experiencing vertigo while reading. Politics, mystery, espionage, betrayal. I found I hated to put the book down during the second half of the book.
GwenH on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Emissaries from the Dead", by Adam-Troy Castro, is at once a science fiction novel and a mystery novel. The story takes place on a space habitat built by the AIsource, a coalition of artificial intelligences. The story is told from the perspective of Andrea Cort, a Diplomatic Core investigator, come to investigate a murder in a tricky inter-species political situation.Castro's world-building is impressive and has a distinctly alien feel to it. His world is populated with genetically engineered creatures and an upside-down environment on a massive scale. The habitat is a skillfully drawn and complex ecosystem. Complementing this are well developed political, social, and commercial systems, from the Diplomatic core, to novel forms of personal relationships. The mystery part of the story comes complete with a dead body and more. It might border on overly convoluted on some points, but it does mostly all work out in the end, and with some interesting twists and turns. The main character is neither a cuddly soft cutie or a female daredevil warrior. She's more of a bureaucrat with issues, and not entirely likable. She's efficient, not warm. The story is from her point-of-view and we are often privy to her inner conflicts about her past. I was, however, occasionally annoyed that even though we as readers were looking at the world from her perspective, she often alluded to knowing something that she would then withhold from the reader. Still, it entertainingly left the reader with hints to piece together.The science fiction is substantial enough that I can easily recommend this to SF fans. I'd also expect that a fan of mystery novels, willing to make a bit of a departure from the usual mystery, might enjoy it. Not every question is answered, but neither are there any cliff hangers, just a world with enough mystery left to entice the reader to look forward to the next job Adrea Cort might take on.
sensitivemuse on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
At first, when I started reading this book it was a little hard to follow. I was nearly overwhelmed with such high tech descriptions with hardly any explanation as to what they were and their purpose, so the setting was very hard to picture and the book was hard to get used to at first. However after a couple of chapters the book slowly started to reveal itself and the plot was interesting and engaging to begin with, it was hard not to let it go. First time readers, don't let the science deter you from reading. Focus on Andrea Cort, as she was a very entertaining character - albeit not very likable. She's very cold, misanthropic, and used to being hated in return. Yet despite those flaws it makes Andrea a very realistic character and although not likable, you can't help but warm up to her as you read further into the book. The plot was good and interesting, and the setting is what makes it most interesting. The system created by AIs, and indentured humans certainly give it a very distinct sci fi flavor to it but also it incorporates the characteristics of a mystery well enough to merge the two genres nice and neat. However, there is more heavier emphasis on the science fiction part, which makes me think mystery lovers would not really attempt to read this novel in the first place (however I greatly encourage them to try!). The setting does take a while to get used to, as it's not your average everyday planet. Things however do fall into place and start to make sense as you progress through the novel, and it does make for an exciting read as Andrea gets closer to solving the mystery as to who might have committed the murders. It is rather nice when everything does fall into place and it does make sense, it made the story complete and satisfying.What I really liked about this novel is Andrea actually takes the time to explain about herself, and how she got into her present situation as a Counselor for the Dip Corps. It gave her character a well rounded out background and made her more three dimensional (so to speak). Eventually as the book progressed, I found myself liking her despite her flaws and faults. What I also enjoyed was the subtle changes to Andrea's personality as time passed through the story. She herself wasn't prepared for the changes and it was nice to see her try to resist them but at the same time attempting to accept the changes as well. It certainly made her more realistic than other characters I have read in these types of novels.The only flaw I can see with this book is the beginning, it does get a little difficult to get into the story. It was hard to comprehend but don't let it scare you away from reading it, it's certainly well worth reading through. As I have mentioned before, once the pieces do fall into place, it makes a very satisfying read.Overall, this book is really geared towards sci fi fans, but those who love mystery and are ready to go for something completely different give this book a try. I'm looking forward to reading the next Andrea Cort novel myself.
MarFisk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Emissaries from the Dead by Adam-Troy Castro is downright bizarre and completely compelling. I chose this book because it was about futuristic diplomacy, but the very beginning shows just how broad that definition is. This is a science fiction novel, that much is clear from the first page, but really it¿s a psychological thriller. There¿s so much going on that doesn¿t quite make sense but at the same time you¿re right with Andrea Cort as she tries to put the pieces together, hampered by her own limitations. I did have a point when I wondered if there were any clues for me to put together. I¿d collected some, but none of them offered up a clear sight of an answer, so I questioned if the book had that ability. By the end, that concern was dismissed wholeheartedly. Not only had the clues I¿d collected actually come to have meaning, but I¿m kicking myself for missing something obvious, something that the other characters missed as well because they were thinking too narrowly, but I normally do better.On the diplomatic side, this is more of an anthropological novel with the diplomats responsible for first contact. However, I can easily make the leap that those functions would become entwined as first contact and species relations became a matter of policy rather than academia. The world this novel is set in has levels of complexity that build on each other and provide fertile ground for the related novels hinted at to come. At the same time, the relationships and situations brought up within these pages make sense. Both the look at bureaucracy and the corporate extreme, while pessimistic, have clear seeds in our current world. This is a logical extension of humanity as existing today, with the added levels of other sapient species, including non-human artificial intelligences that spawned out of biological cultures that have long since died out.Which brings me to my greatest surprise. I¿m avoiding spoilers because this book is definitely one you need to experience in the order given to comprehend the results, but I do want to comment on the ending. As I approached the last few pages, I experienced a vague dissatisfaction because I was sure there was no way to wrap up some of the bigger layers, the ones outside of the scope of Andrea Cort¿s actual investigation. The investigation wrapped up if not tidily then at least appropriately considering the aims of all those involved (there were some facts that were to be suppressed no matter what, or so Cort was told in her initial briefings). And that was the surprise. After I¿d given up hope, after I¿d assumed the issue in mind would be spun off into a sequel, resolution happened. Not closure as there are definitely the seeds of another novel to come, but resolution. I hadn¿t given Adam-Troy Castro enough credit.So going back to my original statement, this book was bizarre, strange, weird, not what I was expecting, and I¿d definitely recommend it. Many were the times when I struggled to put it down because I had other things I had to get done; I often enough thought, ¿just one more scene,¿ or ¿I¿ll read to the end of the next chapter,¿ because I didn¿t want to step out of the kaleidoscope that was life on One One One.If you like thrillers, the twisted works of the human mind, first contact, seeing the dangers of bureaucracy, and half a dozen other things people enjoy, there¿s something here for you.
MarkCWallace on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I picked up the book because another reviewer commented that finally someone had made a protagonist dark & guilty. Despite that, I almost didn't make it through the first chapter. Mr. Castro is overly fond of presenting the reader with the middle and filling in the beginning much later. Give it two chapters before you abandon it in disgust.The mystery story is well done - the clues are there to see and if you're not distracted it is possible to solve it along with the main character. Mr. Castro does a good job of obscuring the mystery with several other mysteries interwoven with the core mystery. And most of the puzzles do wrap up in the end. The book is set inside an unimaginably large habitat where humanity has contact only with a tiny fraction near the outer skin; acrophobia is a major plot element. Since I don't share that particular neurosis, I occasionally had to make an effort to connect with the main characters.A good science fiction novel should have novelty. Should have elements which are not possible in our world, but which make us want to think about the implications. There are several here - including a character who lives in two bodies, and some Artificial Intelligences with some puzzling set of views. Two or three of the characters are well enough imagined to be interesting. I think that the main character's self loathing is over the top - perhaps appropriate to her crimes, but I think she would have been a more interesting character if her crimes were more comprehensible. Be warned that the ultimate resolution of those crimes is deferred for a future book, and is, I think, one of the weaker elements of the book. I'll read the next one.
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Sensitivemuse More than 1 year ago
At first, when I started reading this book it was a little hard to follow. I was nearly overwhelmed with such high tech descriptions with hardly any explanation as to what they were and their purpose, so the setting was very hard to picture and the book was hard to get used to at first. However after a couple of chapters the book slowly started to reveal itself and the plot was interesting and engaging to begin with, it was hard not to let it go. First time readers, don't let the science deter you from reading. Focus on Andrea Cort, as she was a very entertaining character - albeit not very likable. She's very cold, misanthropic, and used to being hated in return. Yet despite those flaws it makes Andrea a very realistic character and although not likable, you can't help but warm up to her as you read further into the book. The plot was good and interesting, and the setting is what makes it most interesting. The system created by AIs, and indentured humans certainly give it a very distinct sci fi flavor to it but also it incorporates the characteristics of a mystery well enough to merge the two genres nice and neat. However, there is more heavier emphasis on the science fiction part, which makes me think mystery lovers would not really attempt to read this novel in the first place (however I greatly encourage them to try!). The setting does take a while to get used to, as it's not your average everyday planet. Things however do fall into place and start to make sense as you progress through the novel, and it does make for an exciting read as Andrea gets closer to solving the mystery as to who might have committed the murders. It is rather nice when everything does fall into place and it does make sense, it made the story complete and satisfying. What I really liked about this novel is Andrea actually takes the time to explain about herself, and how she got into her present situation as a Counselor for the Dip Corps. It gave her character a well rounded out background and made her more three dimensional (so to speak). Eventually as the book progressed, I found myself liking her despite her flaws and faults. What I also enjoyed was the subtle changes to Andrea's personality as time passed through the story. She herself wasn't prepared for the changes and it was nice to see her try to resist them but at the same time attempting to accept the changes as well. It certainly made her more realistic than other characters I have read in these types of novels. The only flaw I can see with this book is the beginning, it does get a little difficult to get into the story. It was hard to comprehend but don't let it scare you away from reading it, it's certainly well worth reading through. As I have mentioned before, once the pieces do fall into place, it makes a very satisfying read. Overall, this book is really geared towards sci fi fans, but those who love mystery and are ready to go for something completely different give this book a try. I'm looking forward to reading the next Andrea Cort novel myself.
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