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His name, even the color, filled me with a furious fire of pure hatred.
Years ago, Tula Bane was beaten and left for dead on a remote space station far from Earth, her home planet. She started with nothing and had no one, but over time, she found a home, a family, and even love. When it's discovered that the abandoned planet beneath the station is abundant with a rare and valuable resource, aliens from across the galaxy race over to strike it rich. With them comes trouble, like the man who nearly killed Tula years agothe man she has dreamed of destroying ever since.
In this sequel to Tin Star, Cecil Castellucci takes readers on an extraordinary adventure through space in a thrilling and thoughtful exploration of what it means to love, to hate, and to be human.
About the Author
Cecil Castellucci is the two-time MacDowell fellow and award winning author of many books and graphic novels for young people, including Tin Star (a 2015 Sunburst Award winner), Boy Proof, The Plain Janes, First Day on Earth, The Year of the Beasts, and Star Wars: Moving Target - A Princess Leia Adventure.
Read an Excerpt
Stone in the Sky
By Cecil Castellucci
Roaring Brook PressCopyright © 2015 Cecil Castellucci
All rights reserved.
No one is safe when the warning sirens on a space station blare.
It could be anything. Imperium battleships. Meteor storm. Asteroid. Pirates. Or maybe my mortal enemy, Brother Blue, the man who killed my family and left me for dead.
I stood in the arboretum staring at Quint, the planet that the station orbited. It was a terrestrial planet, a bit smaller than Earth and mostly made of rock and metals with a gray looking ocean. There was a rust-colored fertile line, the Dren Line, which cut the planet as though it were wearing a belt. It was there that the planet had the tiniest hint of color. It was my favorite part to look at.
I was light years away from the girl I'd been on Earth. I could hardly remember who she was. At first, I had not wanted to go to space. My mother had dragged my sister, Bitty, and me away from Earth, which was reeling from climate change and pandemics. My mother had been charmed by Brother Blue's promises of a fresh start by expanding to new planets and of Humanity living in the stars through his organization, the Children of Earth, and eventually so had I.
I had believed in him.
After our colony ship, the Prairie Rose, left without me, it blew up en route to Beta Granade, the planet we were supposed to colonize. My mother and sister were dead not even knowing that I had been abandoned here on this space station. They died thinking that I was being taken under Brother Blue's wing, being groomed to have a high place with the Children of Earth, aiding in the formation of past and future Earth colonies that didn't even exist.
Before he left me stranded on the Yertina Feray, I had been keen on helping him with his mission. Once I'd left Earth, I'd always imagined that I would be a settler. I'd grown to love the idea of it.
What a joke that dream was now. He'd fooled us, and in a way, I was dead, too.
The strobe lights continued to pulse in time to the sound of alarms, which indicated that all inhabitants should get themselves down to a shelter immediately.
"We should not tarry, Tula," said Thado, the arboretum caretaker, as he pressed a button with his long tentacle-like arm to close the lead panel over the window. The curtain would help to minimize the station's radiation levels and protect the precious plants he cared for. My view of Quint disappeared.
I felt blinded, just as I was by so many things that had happened so far in my short life.
I heard the door slide open and the familiar steps of Tournour's boots. He'd come to make sure that I was accounted for and to let us, his friends, know what the actual danger was before he went about his duties.
"Solar flare," Tournour said. Thado blew air from his blowhole in relief. There were so many things in space that were worse than a solar flare, not that that was something to be shrugged off. But to me and my friends, the Imperium attacking us would be worse.
Tournour approached me and squeezed my hand.
"Tula, you have to get to a shelter." I looked at up at him. His antennae were very still, showing his full attention. Since he had made his feelings known to me, there was something about his face that reassured me that everything was going to be all right.
"Is there anything I can do to help you?" I asked.
He shook his head. I fixed my eyes on the triangle patch of skin between his antennas, which flushed a little darker when he was near me.
"Standard protocol. Annoying but necessary," he said, squaring his broad shoulders. "I'll catch up with you when the all clear sounds."
As we walked quickly to the exit, he calmly clicked his communiquer and started issuing commands to his people. Tournour was the chief constable, and the Yertina Feray Space Station was in his care. He took that job very seriously. When he was on duty, he had a grace about him that commanded authority. He walked with a straight back that made his long limbs look longer, and I followed his orders immediately when he was like this.
Thado was right on our heels. He was a Dolmav and to me he always looked like a sea creature, swimming through the air as he caught up with us. Despite the fact that I was Human, these two aliens were my only real friends on the space station, and they would not let harm come to me if they could help it.
I knew after what they'd seen me through that I would always do the same for them.
As we exited the arboretum, Thado pressed a basket of trests, my favorite fruit, into my hands. They were green and thick skinned with purple seeds on the inside. They were annoying to eat and their juice stained everything, but they were sweet and high in the vitamins many species needed and did not get enough of in space. They were also easy to grow, and that was why most space stations and ships grew them. Best of all, they staved hunger away for most aliens. They had become a staple in most alien diets. He knew they would be welcome in the underguts shelter where I would take refuge from the storm.
"Thank you," I said. It was these small kindnesses that had kept me alive these past three or four years and had helped me to carve out my life bartering favors and goods.
"Good that it's a storm and not the Imperium passing by," Thado said.
Even though he and Tournour worked for the Imperium, they had no love for it. Here on the Yertina Feray we were far enough away from the center of things that they could afford to resist in their own tiny ways. But it would be good for no one if we were inspected.
"Or invading," I said.
The Imperium was a military governing force that they had to obey. The Imperium had taken control in a coup a few years back from the League of Worlds, and it seemed to roll over planets, stations, and species.
There were five Major Species, or those who had more than twelve colonies scattered throughout the galaxy. The balance of power shifted among these five — Brahar, Loor, Dolmav, Per, and Kao. Those with more than five colonies but fewer than twelve were considered Minor Species. Below that, species were barely considered spacefaring. But under the League of Worlds, those could petition for planets to colonize and in that way they could grow in time to be Minor Species and eventually have some voice in the way the galaxy was governed.
The Imperium wanted to cease colonial expansion. The Brahar were the instigators of the coup, preying upon those officials in the Major Species who fed on greed. They changed the way things were done in the galaxy. First, it was the razing of planets, which was unheard of in the past. They started with the planets that housed simple organisms; they went in and took every resource, rather then earmark them for expansion by Minor Species. Then they took worlds where there was potential for intelligent life to bloom; where the League of Worlds would leave those planets alone, the Imperium did not. And there were rumors of culling the planets of the species that they determined to be less desirable.
Under the Imperium, every species was out for itself. Brother Blue had managed to get Earth to avoid the Imperium razing by exploiting the five-planet loophole, making it seem as though Earth was fully Minor. Only there didn't seem to be any Human colonies at all. That's what I'd inadvertently discovered when he stranded me here, and what made him ask me to kill my friends Reza and Caleb.
I hadn't done that, of course. I'd put them into cryocrates and shipped them off to the Outer Rim.
Everyone, including me, was afraid of the Imperium. No one could travel freely anymore without a special pass. No species could speak up without being silenced. It was seemingly unstoppable. Tournour and Thado worked undercover, collaborating with the Imperium to keep us safe on this far outpost.
"Tournour works quite hard at making sure the Yertina Feray isn't even a blip on the Imperium radar," I said.
"I'm thankful every day for that," Thado said. "He makes my unfortunate collaboration with them bearable."
"Be safe, Thado," I said.
Living in space was not safe. One could only hope that the metal that housed us would stay together and protect us from the dangers we faced daily.
"As you," he said. I knew he was giving me a blessing in his language, but the nanites that swam in my bloodstream and in my brain to help me translate sometimes failed when it came to sayings, idioms, or songs. Universal Galactic was not a poetic language, so when an alien wanted to give you a truism, they spoke their mother tongue. The nanites helped to fill in those gaps.
The nanites still amazed me. To think that I had small intelligent nanobots swimming through me regulating the gases in my lungs and attaching to my brain stem to help me translate and speak to other species was nothing short of a miracle. Every species had their language, and sub-languages, but the standard for all aliens to use was Universal Galactic. Universal Galactic was not easy to learn, but for almost all species it was doable.
The nanites helped with the precise understanding that was necessary when negotiating or governing. They were expensive to get, though, and not everyone had them. I only had them because my old Hort mentor Heckleck had stabbed me with his barbed tongue to inject me with them. I was lucky to have them. It gave me an advantage despite being a Human, a species that most aliens disliked dealing with.
Thado and I parted ways. He went up, and I went down to the underguts.
I could have chosen to be assigned, like him, to the shelter where the more affluent waited out these kinds of cosmic events in luxury. Instead I chose to remain assigned to the station's underguts shelter where there were too many aliens crowded into too small a space.
The underguts was where all of the rabble like I once was ended up. It was housed in the very bones of the station. It was a shantytown of metal bins and desperate aliens who had no means to live in the residence rings and no currency or way to leave the Yertina Feray. Most of them would beg for jobs from the few ships that docked here. They may have been looked down on, but I knew that they were the backbone for the whole underground economy here. I had lived there for my first two years on the station, scraping together an existence first by being an errand girl for Heckleck, and then striking out on my own dealing in barter and favors.
I felt a pang for a minute thinking about Heckleck. Were he alive, he would not go to an underguts shelter if he could help it. A good time to get a good price for things is when people are facing their mortality. Rich people have the most to barter when they think they are in peril.
Heckleck was always looking for a good deal.
The underguts shelter was no place of luxury. It was the dregs of the station, near the shantytown. Even though I had gotten myself out of the underguts, when a lockdown happened, I always threw my lot in with them.
I had a soft spot for the forgotten and overlooked. Because once upon a time that had been me.
In a way it still was.
When I got to the shelter, a thick-metal-walled room deep in the center of the station, I could smell the fear on everyone. Aliens were sitting everywhere they could. There were no beds in this shelter, so aliens would string up hammocks and put makeshift bedding on the floor. It was crowded and uncomfortable. I didn't have to check to know that there was not one Human in the bunch. When I first arrived on the Yertina Feray, it was nearly two years before three Human Youth Imperium cadets became stranded on the station. That was when everything changed for me. When I discovered the depth of Brother Blue's betrayal.
But those Humans had been gone for over a year, ever since I sent Reza and Caleb, who had become my close friends, to the Outer Rim, frozen in deep sleep in cryocrates. I had no choice — I had to save their lives, although my fear was that those crates had become their coffins. The third one, Els, had met her death here on the station. Brother Blue had killed her for what she knew and because he thought she was me.
I squared my shoulders. This was not the time for regrets. This was the time to make sure that I made it through another day.
I signed in with the Brahar guard and tried not to shudder when her reptilian-like scales brushed my hand. They reminded me of a purse or a belt. The Brahar were cold blooded and cold hearted. It was their world that had set the Imperium into motion, and so they seemed to always be in charge whenever there was an emergency.
"We've run out of salt paks," she said.
I knew that this shelter had probably never had them. She waved me away as the next aliens checked in and the long last siren wail signaled that shelter doors would now close. There was no leaving now until the all clear sounded.
I walked around the shelter and began handing out the trests to the aliens holed up in there with me. We would be huddled together for at least thirty hours, and the aliens in the underguts were always lacking in the essentials that I now had.
I didn't want to forget where I had come from, so I freely handed out what I could during these lockdowns. Real fruit was always a welcome treat on a space station, but during the long uncertain hours of waiting in a shelter, it was a piece of comfort.
It made me feel good — Human — to be able to help others in some small way. I had made it clear long ago that these were not favors owed to me, but I was no fool. I knew that my good will went a long way in keeping me in every alien's good graces. I liked to think of it as insurance. It was hard enough being Human. And if Heckleck had taught me one thing, it was to always have favors in the bank that you could call in.
When the last trest was handed out, I settled in, finding a space where I could. Then there was nothing to do but sit with my thoughts.CHAPTER 2
This space station, the Yertina Feray, was likely the only home I would ever know.
At times, that depressed me.
I had always hoped beyond hope that the colonies Brother Blue had promised the Children of Earth really did exist. I said the names of the colonies to myself in a pattern to pass the time. Killick. Kuhn. Marxuach. Andra. Beta Granade.
But I knew that if any people were living on those planets, it was probably only a handful of Brother Blue's stooges, who manned radio stations to give the illusion that anyone was there. I knew the truth, but I had no one to tell. If I did, Earth would be in danger of being destroyed. And as much as I wanted to take Brother Blue down and expose him for the lying conniver that he was, I would not doom Earth.
Brother Blue and his organization, the Children of Earth, had been scamming people like my mother into giving him everything for a chance to settle the stars for decades. And when the Imperium rose to power, he had taken advantage of his scam to trick the Imperium into thinking that Humans had five colonies and were an up-and-coming Minor Species. He did it as much to get power and riches as he did to save his own skin. But I had to admit that he had saved Earth in the process.
I wondered what had happened to those other colonists who'd bought into Brother Blue's tall tale. Had their ships blown up like the Prairie Rose? Or had he let them loose into the universe to wander like the other Humans who couldn't go back home?
There were only Humans on Earth and Humans who wandered. I was neither. Or maybe I was both.
Solar flares were nothing to sniff at. They could be dangerous to the station depending on where we were on our rotation around Quint. If we took it full force, electrics could be fried, ships could lose navigation, and radiation levels could swell. For some species that was not a big deal; for others, even a minor shift in radiation levels was catastrophic.
I soothed myself with this thought: it was a known problem with set solutions. There was time to take shelter once the sun erupted since it would be hours before its radiation reached us.
It was the unknown events that were terrifying — asteroid or meteor showers, or something that compromised the station. We were only a bulkhead thickness away from space and nothing, except perhaps for some hearty bacteria, could survive outer space. And then there were the alien threats, like the Imperium and its plans or the increasing rumors of attacks by Pirates on small ships on trade routes. One unknown event thousands of light years away was sometimes way more dangerous than a solar flare.
It made me angry that Earth had fallen to the Imperium after having been isolationist for so long. When the Imperium came, half the planet wanted to fight, but the other half was afraid, so when Brother Blue swept in with his five colonies and a way for Humans to be folded into the galaxy, they took it. They were now under its thumb. The Imperium protected Earth from being razed like other worlds. Then again, every planet that could colloborate did. The planets and species that had fought had dwindled — or disappeared.
His name, even the color, filled me with a furious fire of pure hatred.
One day I'd out him, maybe even kill him, for the things he'd done. One day the time would be right, and I'd expose him. Earth would know that there were no Human colonies on the planets he'd claimed to colonize: Killick, Kuhn, Marxuach, Andra, Beta Granade.
Excerpted from Stone in the Sky by Cecil Castellucci. Copyright © 2015 Cecil Castellucci. Excerpted by permission of Roaring Brook Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This series (there's two and a novella) are by far my favorite SF YA series ever, and I love a lot of SF YA! I will be a firm Castelluci fan from now on. Now, I need to go buy the rest of her books!
From the moment I finished the last sentence of Tin Star last year, I have been anxiously awaiting to return to the world of Tula Bane. Stone in the Sky was preordered and read in doses in order for me to be able to sleep and continue having my day job. From the moment I opened the book and read the dedication "To the suns that warm. Human or star." I had chills and knew this was going to be exactly what I wanted it to be. Before continuing with my review, I highly recommend reading Tin Star first. Not only does the second book continuously reference characters and events from the first book, to know Tula as a character you need to see where she's been. She's an amazing narrator, but it is a much more powerful experience going through the events with her than through the gaze of her hindsight. Also, the relationships in the second book are continued from the first, and I believe without having read the first book, they are not fully explained. And, now, onto the review (and possible spoilers for those who have not read the first book)... Tula Bane is now the owner of a shop in the space station Yertina Feray next to the abandoned planet Quint. She is making good business, and seems more or less comfortable as she lives with the decisions made in the previous book, is continuing with Tournour, and still has her deep seeded (and well-founded) hatred for Brother Blue. Like the first book, the action picks up almost immediately, and a new adventure for Tula begins. I do not want to go into the details, but I will say the book is sparse in detailed descriptions of the tangible, but this sparseness is part of Tula's wonderful narration. She is very introspective and straight-to-the-point, even when it hurts-- "I had a soft spot for the forgotten and overlooked. Because once upon a time that had been me. In a way it still was." Her narration allows for a lot of action to happen without a lot of pages passing by, and it may not appeal to all, but it was exactly my kind of book. This book had a lot more action in travel and events than the first book, and it was longer. While I anxiously wanted to know more after reading the first novel, I felt this one ended with a more settled conclusion. The world expanded in this book, and I loved learning more and having previous questions from the first book answered. I felt this book tied up loose ends from Tin Star, while leaving a brighter uncertain future. I love the relationships between the characters, and Tula's development from focusing more on her own survival (most of the first book) to he survival of something bigger. She is the best part of the series. Not only is she strong and determined, but in a more relatable way to most girls. She is not a lean fighter, or a tough warrior woman, but a smart and resourceful heroine, who survived in her own right. And, she'll admit her weaknesses without having them be part of what defines her. I loved when she compared herself to another female character who was a fighter. "...she fought with a ferocity that I could barely understand. If I had used my brains and charm to survive on the Yertina Feray, she had clearly had to learn to use her brawn to survive wandering." Tula Bane is an understate hero, and one of my favorites. I'm definitely a Tula Bane fan. I definitely recommend this set of novels to anyone who loves science fiction young adult books, or a great no nonsense narrator.
As much as I enjoyed Tin Star last year, the ending left me feeling like I needed (and wanted) something more to the story. Fortunately for me, Stone in the Sky quickly followed and as a sequel it absolutely delivered in every way I hoped it would. Reasons to Read: 1. Incredible world building: While Tin Star introduced us to a breathtaking sci fi world, Stone in the Sky fills us in on all the details. Tula ends up leaving the Yertina Feray and we get to explore the galaxy with her as she embarks on a continuation of her adventure. And this is where the story really shines, because it becomes clear that while there are only two relatively short books in the Tin Star series, Cecil has clearly put in a significant amount of time with creating and developing a world in which Tula's stories take place. 2. Huge revelations for the plot: Tula had her own theories about Brother Blue and the Human colonies as set out in Tin Star, but I really appreciate a story that clearly follows up on those questions and provides some answers. We don't get to find out everything, but the story is certainly resolved and satisfying. I had so many questions while reading the first book and I was so pleased to see they were answered in Stone in the Sky. But more importantly, I loved how thoughtful and complex the story was. 3. A thoughtful look at humanity: Tula often considers and compares Humans to the other aliens she encounters. She's a thoughtful character, and her responses and comments on other species are truly fascinating. This comparison also serves a purpose as it reveals more about humanity and Tula's own character. We can see how we take certain traits for granted, which are not shared by other alien species. And interestingly, this reveals more about why Tula has reacted in such a way to the events in her life. Cecil Castelluci writes brilliant sci fi books, and while these are not the most action-oriented books they are some of the most thought-provoking and complex YA books available. They are written beautifully and feature lovely prose and subtle ideas incorporated within the overarching story. I would advise readers that this is not a fast-paced series, so readers should not expect that nor turn to the Tin Star books for that type of read. These are books that can be read at a slower pace, in order to be truly appreciated and so as to not miss any of the fine details! ARC received from publisher for review; no other compensation was received.