When the next generation of technology seeps into the brains of the next generation of people, former medical student turned journalist Nat Idle must investigate and stop the invasion.
In the tradition of Lisa Gardner, Steve Berry, and Joseph Finder, Richtel has delivered a whip-smart page-turner that melds cutting-edge science with a technological mystery and a shocking finale. A deftly told tale, the scariest part of The Cloud is how close to reality it could be.
The Cloud, the second in the Nat Idle series, includes a bonus short story, "Floodgate."
|Product dimensions:||4.20(w) x 7.40(h) x 1.20(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
By Matt Richtel
HarperCollins PublishersCopyright © 2013 Mat Richtel
All rights reserved.
I stare into the dark tunnel and find myself imagining how it would look to Isaac.
To an eight-month-old, the shadowed subway opening wouldn't seem ominous. It would be a grand curiosity. Shards of reflected light frame its entrance like shiny pieces of broken glass. Would Isaac try to touch them? Would he finger a droplet of misty water rolling down the jagged wall and put it on his tongue?
The cavern wouldn't frighten my son. It would excite him with possibility and mystery.
A horn blares and I flinch. The night's last express approaches. I'm without company on the below-ground platform but I am joined by a wicked aroma. It's coming from a green, paint-chipped metal trash can that, from the scent, must contain a day's worth of half-eaten fruit and the carcass of an extremely dead sandwich. The trash can sits along the wall, beneath a dimly lit poster advertising a service that promises to turn your mobile phone into a day-trading terminal. More garbage. "Buy Low, Sell High, Commute Profitably."
Isaac would love little more than exploring the contours of the iPhone with his mouth.
I turn back to the track and squint across the platform. I'm looking for the woman with the tri-athlete's calves. I saw her upstairs at the turnstile, a brunette with darkly tinted skin wearing a skirt and a look of compassion. I watched her put some money in a cup at the feet of a figure sitting in the shadows upstairs, and she turned away with a kindly, worried look.
How come all the beautiful women who look like they were born to heal the damaged are going a different direction than me on the train?
Would she be a great mom?
Would she be impressed that tomorrow I become this year's recipient of a national magazine award for investigative reporting? Would she help me feel impressed? A rumbling roars from the tunnel. It's not yet my train, the K, but the nearing Express, expressing. Over the din, I hear rustling from behind me; something heavy hits the pavement. A boot step, then another. I turn to see a mountainous man in a leather jacket materialize from the darkness, stumbling toward me. He's the picture of a San Francisco drunk, downtrodden but wearing a fashionable coat with collar upturned, curly beard, and dark shades.
I'm tempted to ask him if he's okay as the train whooshes out of the tunnel into the station.
The drunkard lunges, or trips. He careens toward me, leading with his arms as if pushing through a revolving door.
The train's warning horn explodes.
Powerful palms crash against my chest, fingers claw my sweatshirt. I stumble backward toward the track. I flail to cling to his beefy forearms.
I feel the train pass behind me, airbrushing my scalp. Isaac. My son. Will I see him again?
One last tactic.
I yank the drunk on top of me. Our momentum abruptly changes. We fall straight down to the pavement. My backpack slams into the ground. My spine unfolds. Crack. I see an instant of light, then one of black, then a hazy return to the moment. I smell something like burning tires. Then cologne. I feel intense pressure on my chest.
The mountain man lies on top of me. I think: The base of my skull hit the edge of the concrete platform, but after the train passed. I'm alive.
I frantically push and kick the man from atop me. I claw the cement, then roll, panting in downward dog. I run a triage check. Limbs moving, no obvious fractures. I feel sticky warmth at the back of my skull, a cut but not deep, and shy of the heavy capillary bed on top of my head that would bleed profusely and require stitches. I attended med school a decade ago, before quitting to become a journalist, but I'm still fluent in the anatomy of survival.
I look up to see the drunk. He's ambling awkwardly. He holds his arms close to his chest. He disappears into a darkened stairwell. From his pocket, something falls, a piece of paper, onto the damp cement.
"Don't move. You might be hurt." The voice comes from my right.
It's the brunette, the one from the turnstile.
I blink hard. She's blurry.
"Breathe." She kneels and extends an arm and puts fingers on my shoulder.
Her touch brings attention to the acute pain near my deltoid. The strap of my ratty black backpack must've given me a nifty friction burn. But it also probably spared me a rougher fall. The pack, which follows me everywhere, contains an overflow of magazines and notes, the flora and fauna from which journalism sprouts and, tonight, a serendipitous pillow. Lucky I left my laptop home today, for its sake and mine.
I picture the man coming at me, falling but somehow purposeful, his face camouflaged.
"Say something," the brunette encourages. "Did you know that guy?"
I don't express my thought: the drunk's skin was pulled tight against his forehead and around his eyes. Scleroderma means "tight skin." Its presence can indicate a rare disease of the organs, very rare, so these days it is much more likely to indicate a visit to the dermatologist; drunk recently had an injection of Botox that tightened his wrinkles. Rich drunk.
My scrutiny is a sign of my own condition: excessive medical analysis. Some people focus on faces, or names. I remember pathologies. My not-very-exciting sixth sense is seeing illnesses and physical conditions, a vestige of med school. Jaundice, clinical water retention, lazy eye, gout, misaligned spine, all the herpes variants, emphysema cough, flat-footedness. The obsessive medical labeler can identify the flat-footer even when the condition hustles by, wearing shoes. Even though I'd abdicated a career in medicine for one in medical journalism - after realizing I lacked the intensity and rigidity to be a good doctor - can't shake associating humans with their conditions. "It doesn't feel right." I look in the direction the man stumbled away.
"What? Your head?"
I stand, feeling her fingers fall away. I wobble, get my footing, walk unsteadily to the piece of paper that fell from the man's leather jacket. I pick it up.
It is lined and legal sized, creased and smudged with black grease. I unfold it and discover two names written in blue pen. One name is Sandy Vello. Doesn't sound familiar. The other name does.
"What is it?" The brunette puts a hand on my arm. I point to my name on the piece of paper. She shakes her head, uncertain what I'm talking about.
"This is my name?"
"I'm Faith." She's still not getting it: My name was on a piece of paper that fell from the pocket of a man who nearly turned me into a subway smoothie.
"That wasn't an accident." I clutch the piece of paper in both hands.
"Do you think you need an ambulance? I suspect you're in shock."
I look at Faith. She's biting the edge of her bottom lip with perfect teeth, her head tilted, concerned, empathic. Early thirties, jet-black hair, arched eyebrows, soft features, irresistible grace of the genus Beautiful Person. My eyes lock on her for a millisecond more than is appropriate. I am struck by an urge to make her laugh. But it's overwhelmed by a more powerful compulsion.
I look at the stairs where the man disappeared. I sprint after him.
Excerpted from The Cloud by Matt Richtel. Copyright © 2013 by Mat Richtel. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
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.
What People are Saying About This
“A pulse-pounding, down-the-rabbit-hole-tale where everyone has a secret, information comes at a deadly price, and danger is always closer than you think. Be prepared to stay up very late; this book is worth it!”
THE CLOUD is a non-stop, paranoid thriller whose terrors are all too believable. Richtel spins today’s cutting-edge technology into a story that will keep you guessing to the last pageand render you speechless when its final secret is revealed.