When eleven-year-old Nelson's beloved older sister goes missing, he is devastated. She's his only friend and means the world to him. Then his parents join the search and leave Nelson in the care of his crazy uncle Pogo, a plumber who is working at St. Paul's Cathedral in London. There in a dusty crypt Nelson stumbles across an ancient machine that accidentally extracts the so-called seven deadly sins from his soul. The machine turns them into ugly, cantankerous, and embarrassing creatures who follow him everywhere. But there is more to these monsters than meets the eye, and in this off-the-wall debut novel about making friends and taking courage, Nelson finds that these strange newcomers are just the companions he needs for a quest across the globe to rescue his big sister.
About the Author
Garth Jennings has directed many music videos and commercials as one third of the production company Hammer and Tongs. His work includes videos for Blur, Radiohead, Beck, Fatboy Slim and Vampire Weekend. He is the director of two feature films: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005) and Son of Rambow (2007) for which he also wrote the screenplay. The Deadly 7 is his first novel.
Read an Excerpt
The Deadly 7
By Garth Jennings
Farrar, Straus and GirouxCopyright © 2015 Garth Jennings
All rights reserved.
THE SLIPPERY GIANT
You may have heard it said that the eyes are the windows to the soul, and if that's true then these were the eyes of a man whose soul had packed its bags and gone on vacation. These ghoulish eyeballs didn't appear to have any iris at all, just a tiny black pupil in the middle of each bulging white orb. There was no sign of life (let alone a soul) behind them, and yet the body, this enormous, pink-skinned man, was marching along the beach at great speed. He was as tall as a basketball player but didn't look as if he had ever played a sport. His flabby chest and round belly bulged out of an open stripy shirt and his skin looked very strange indeed. You normally can't tell if someone is wearing sunscreen because the idea is to rub it into your skin until it has been absorbed. This man had clearly applied so much sunscreen that his skin had refused to absorb any more of it, so the stuff just lay there in great white swirls on his ever-so-pink flesh.
Carrying this enormous body along the beach were two rather skinny legs that ended in an entirely inappropriate pair of orange socks and brown shoes, and both of his meaty arms were locked around bundles of canary-yellow life jackets. A navy sun hat covered his shiny bald head and made his pink ears fold over like tiny wings.
We all know it is wrong to judge someone simply by the way they look, but in this case I think we can make an exception. This man was very definitely weird.
He stopped suddenly beside a group of teenagers and threw the life jackets he had been carrying onto the sand. The teenagers were much too excited about going on a boat ride to notice all the odd things I've just described. Instead, the slippery giant stood very still and watched as twelve teenagers playfully fought over the six life jackets. The winners of the battle for the life jackets were two boys and four girls, who would be the first to ride in the pea-green wooden fishing boat.
Accompanying the group was Daphne, an art teacher in her mid-forties. Daphne may have come from London, but she dressed just like the local women, hair pulled back in a loose knot, a swirling white cotton dress, a beaded necklace, and a straw handbag hanging over her shoulder. She had been to the Spanish town of Cadaqués on countless school art trips, but she had never before seen anyone like this big chap.
"What happened to the nice man who was here earlier?" asked Daphne, gesturing back toward a small hut farther along the beach. She had booked the boat ride with a handsome local man who had gone back to his hut to fetch the life jackets, and she'd been rather looking forward to seeing him again. Instead, she was now looking at one of the most unattractive human beings she had ever met.
The slippery giant replied too softly for Daphne to hear.
"I'm sorry, what did you say?" said Daphne, lifting her sunglasses to get a better look at him. The man took a step toward Daphne and bent so that their faces were level. His mouth opened to speak and revealed a black tongue and lips, as if he had just been drinking a pot of ink. "He's busy. I'm the skipper now," was his reply. Daphne felt a shiver of goose bumps break out on her skin. For a moment she couldn't speak. It was all too strange and unexpected.
The man turned and waded into the water.
"Maybe we should wait until he comes back!" called out Daphne, her voice rising with concern, but she was fighting a losing battle. Six of her students were already in the boat and the large man was climbing in with them, making it tip dramatically.
"No, stop!" shouted Daphne, and she ran toward the boat, splashing through the shallows. But it was too late. The strange man had twisted the throttle and the water behind the motor was churned into foam. There was a scream. Shouting. But it wasn't any of her remaining students — they hadn't caught on to Daphne's concern and were all still laughing and mucking about in the sand. The scream had come from somewhere else. Daphne turned and saw a crowd around the boatman's hut suddenly part, and the handsome boatman appeared clutching his nose.
"Mi barco! Mi barco!" cried the man as he stumbled toward Daphne.
One of her students, a bubbly girl named Hannah Richards, screamed at the sight of the boatman taking his hand away from his nose and revealing it to be bleeding and pointing the wrong way.
"Este hombre enorme me golpeó la nariz y me robó el barco!" said the man with a great gasp, and Daphne felt her blood run cold.
"What did he say, miss?" wheezed Hannah, unable to take her eyes off the boatman's horribly twisted nose.
"He said ... that huge man punched him on the nose and has now stolen his boat," said Daphne, her voice shaking, and she turned to look back out to sea. The little boat had already reached the rocky peninsula on the southern side of the bay. People were getting up from their beach towels and gathering around the bleeding boatman, who was beside himself with anger.
"I need a boat!" screamed Daphne, turning to face the people on the beach. "He's taken the children! We have to go after him!" But nobody responded to her cry for help, because in her panic Daphne had forgotten to speak Spanish. "Necesito un barco! Él ha robado a los niños!" she pleaded, but her words were drowned out by the sound of the most almighty explosion. It was so loud and powerful everyone could feel it right down to their bones. Daphne turned and looked out to sea. The little green fishing boat, the slippery giant, and the six teenagers in her charge were gone, and all that remained were thick swirls of blue smoke twisting and drifting across the little port of Cadaqués.CHAPTER 2
Exactly one week before that ghastly business with the explosion and the slippery giant, a spectacular dollop of lasagna sat steaming on a plate surrounded by buttered peas in the kitchen of a small terraced house in northeast London. The lasagna was about to be devoured by Nelson Green: an eleven-year-old boy with shaggy brown hair, wide chocolate-brown eyes, and a single brown freckle on the tip of his nose. Beside him sat the world's greatest big sister, sixteen-year-old Celeste. Curled around Nelson's feet was the oldest and smelliest mongrel of all time, Minty, who farted loudly but continued to snore like a donkey, and at the head of the table, wearing a dressing gown and with her wet hair wrapped in a towel, sat the scattiest woman in the entire universe, Nelson's mum. Between forkfuls of lasagna, Celeste carefully painted vivid green polish onto her mum's outstretched fingernails.
"That stuff smells too loud," said Nelson disapprovingly.
"There's no such thing as a loud smell, Nelson." Celeste chuckled. "Mum, what time will you be home tonight?" Nelson tried to block the varnish vapors from getting up his nose by puckering his lips as if about to administer a big, slobbery kiss, but it was no use.
"It won't be a late one," said Mum. "Your father hates these company dinners more than I do."
"What's it for?" Nelson's mouth was so full of lasagna it was fit to burst.
"Er, I think he said it had something to do with a conference he's got to go to in Brussels next week. Is that the place where the sprouts come from?"
She hadn't meant it as a joke but rather a genuine question. Nelson tried to stop himself from laughing, but it backfired and sent lasagna shooting out of his nose instead.
"Nelson Green! That is disgusting!" barked his mum, recoiling in horror. "And put your knees down! Why do you always have to crouch like a frog at the table?" Nelson corrected his posture, pulled a tissue out of his pocket, and wiped his nose.
Celeste took hold of her mother's hands, gently pulled them toward her, and soothingly said, "You have to stay still, Mum, or it's gonna smudge." As she resumed painting the nails, Celeste only needed to raise an eyebrow for Nelson to understand that he had better say sorry as soon as possible.
"Sorry, Mum," said Nelson, and Celeste gave him a slow nod of approval as a receipt for following her telepathic orders. Nelson loved the way he and his sister could communicate without words. It was like having a secret code. They could have whole conversations just by nodding, glaring, raising their eyebrows, or lowering their eyelids. Celeste and Nelson had never even discussed their code. They just knew what the other was thinking.
"Anyway, if their sprouts are anything to go by, I don't think I'd wanna go to Brussels much either," said their mother indignantly.
Apart from Minty wheezing under the table, there was silence while Celeste resumed work on the last fingernail. Nelson scooped up some peas, mashed them into the lasagna, and then lifted a forkful to his mouth — delicious. He decided he could eat lasagna forever, and his stomach gurgled in agreement. "All done," chirruped Celeste as she screwed the cap back onto the bottle of polish.
"You are a sweetheart," said Mum, admiring Celeste's work.
"They look like witches' fingers," mumbled Nelson, but his mum had heard him. There was a short pause before she decided now was the time to fire her "secret weapon."
"Oh, that reminds me, Nelson," she said casually. "I've put your name down for the school drama group." With that bombshell she rose from her chair and started toward the stairs.
Nelson was so shocked and appalled he dropped his cutlery with a loud clatter. Unfortunately he had to struggle like mad to get any words past the enormous amount of lasagna currently occupying his mouth.
Mom paused. "Yes, I thought you'd like that," she said with a wink to Celeste.
"What? Mum! Why would you do that?" begged Nelson.
"There, you see?" said his mother. "You're really good at being dramatic."
"No way. I don't wanna be in a play or act or any of that stuff!"
"Well, you've been at that school for nine months and you haven't made any friends yet. I mean, you don't even join in with sports anymore."
"That's 'cause all my friends went to Marchwood and I don't like anyone at St. Patrick's," pleaded Nelson.
It was true. He had had a few great friends at his primary school, but they had all gone on to the really expensive secondary school outside London and their promises to stay in touch and see each other on weekends had quickly evaporated.
"There's nothing wrong with St. Patrick's. You're just a bit shy, and being in a drama group will force you out of that snail shell of yours."
Nelson tried one last "Please don't make me join the drama club," and several really genuine-sounding versions of "I hate that school!," but it was no use. His mother was already blowing her painted fingernails like a cowboy blowing his smoking guns after a particularly easy shoot-out.
Starting on Monday, Nelson would be joining the drama group. That was final. He looked at his lasagna and decided he'd had enough.
* * *
Celeste lay on her bed sending messages to her friends from her phone. Her mass of curly blond hair radiated in all directions from her face like a child's painting of the sun. Whatever she was writing had made her smile. Celeste had a big smile. She didn't just smile with her mouth, she smiled with her entire face. Add two rosy cheeks, a pair of shockingly blue eyes, a funny little gap between her two front teeth, and you had the very definition of lovely. Like the sun, her presence was enjoyed by everyone, but more importantly, Celeste loved other people, especially her little brother, who was currently underneath her bed, angrily picking out fluff from her mattress. He'd done this ever since he was a baby, especially when he was feeling as annoyed as he was right now.
"Well, I'm not going to join that stupid drama group," huffed Nelson, but he didn't get a reply.
The truth was he didn't have any friends. There was always Simon Hopkins, but he was even shyer than Nelson. Sometimes Nelson would hang out at recess with the Dempsey twins. They were always glad of company, but Nelson didn't really like their games because they would take so long to set up the rules that recess would be over before they had a chance to play anything.
The boy next door, Charles, had shown promise. But a few weeks back they had played tetherball together and Nelson had accidentally hit the ball into Charles's face. Charles went silent, turned bright red, laid down his bat, and climbed back over the wall to his own yard. Nelson didn't see him for at least a week, when he suddenly reappeared like a pigeon on the wall as if nothing had happened. Nelson found his constant presence on the wall a bit too weird and avoided going into the yard after that.
So that was that — Nelson was a loner. He knew it, his mum knew it, and Celeste certainly knew it, but he didn't care. He'd gotten used to being on his own most of the time, and as long as he had Celeste he was just fine, thank you very much.
"Who are you sending messages to?" he asked.
"My friends," said Celeste.
"It's all right for you. Everyone likes you. You're great at everything," mumbled Nelson.
Celeste slid from her pillow and hung over the mattress to look directly at Nelson. Her hair spilled all over the carpet.
Nelson knew she was looking at him, but he was determined not to look back. "Stop making that big face," he said.
"I have told you the secret to making friends, young Jedi," said Celeste in her best Yoda voice.
"You can't do Yoda. I do Yoda," said Nelson dismissively, but that didn't stop Celeste.
"Start you must by pretending to be interested in other people. Only then will you discover, really interested in them you are. Do this and friends you will make."
"Am I really late?" came the voice of Nelson's mum. Celeste sprang up out of Nelson's view to reveal his mother's stockinged feet hurriedly stepping into a pair of green high heels.
"The taxi has been outside for half an hour," said Nelson.
"Oi. How's my little actor?" She crouched on the floor to peer at Nelson.
"Bye then," said Nelson in his best bored voice, and his mother replied with a spectacular burp. Nelson couldn't help but chuckle.
"Gotcha," said his mum, then rolled back onto her heels, kissed Celeste, and clip-clopped along the landing and down the stairs.
"The keys are in the kitchen by the toaster," shouted Celeste, but it was too late, the front door had closed. "She's forgotten the keys again. I'm gonna have to stay up," Celeste said as Nelson wriggled from under the bed and looked out of the window to see his mother climbing into a taxi.
"Do you remember much about your mum?" asked Nelson.
This may sound like a strange question to ask your own sister, but the truth was Nelson and Celeste only shared the same father, not the same mother. Celeste's mother had died when Celeste was only six years old. Apparently their father's hair had turned white overnight and he didn't speak to a soul for almost three months. He would have stayed that way had it not been for the love and comfort of a scatty young lady, whom he eventually married. And that was the same lady who had just left in a taxi.
"I remember little things about her, like when she stroked my hair my head would just fill up with really crazy dreams. I thought she was magic. And if I hurt myself or was sick or something, she'd tell me these amazing stories about her dad, who found a jungle full of magical flowers."
Nelson picked up a framed color photo that sat by Celeste's bed. It was a picture that radiated happiness: a very chubby baby Celeste standing on a beach wearing a red polka-dot cap and matching swimming trunks. Her arms were raised above her head in order to hold on to the hands of her mother, who was bending over her and laughing so much you could almost hear it coming from the photograph.
"And sometimes I wonder if I'm like her. You know, what bits of me I get from her. Not magic fingers and stuff. I mean things like if I laugh or cry at the same things she would have done."
Nelson put the photo down and watched the taxi turn the corner of their street. "If she was anything like you, Cel, your mum must have been brilliant." Nelson breathed on the window and drew a smiley face in the condensation. Celeste pressed Play on her tiny iPod speaker system. The killer bassline of "Seven Nation Army" by the White Stripes began to play, and just as he had done a million times before, Nelson marched around the bedroom like a soldier off to war.
"You'll be a great little actor, Nelson," shouted Celeste.
"Silence, fool!" he commanded.
"I'm serious, you idiot! It'll be the best thing for you."
"I'm gonna fight 'em off! A seven nation army couldn't hold me back!" sang Nelson.
Excerpted from The Deadly 7 by Garth Jennings. Copyright © 2015 Garth Jennings. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
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.
Table of Contents
The Slippery Giant,
Adolph Hitler in a Box,
The Day That Fell to Pieces,
One Dead Nelson,
The Secret Laboratory,
Professor Doody and the Vanishing Toast,
The Pendant and the Fire,
The River of Life,
The Spinning Beach Ball,
The Good News, the Bad News, and the Fireball,
Please Don't Eat the Soap,
Sing Along with Hoot,
Fruit and Nut,
The Power of Crush,
Hello, My Name Is Jesus,
The Empty Head,
The End of the Road,
Don't Drink the Water,
Choose Your Cow,
Abba's Greatest Hits,
The Jelly Freaks,
The Deadly Seven,
The Light in the Dark,
The Admirable Nelson,
Three Weeks, Four Days, Fifteen Hours, and Eighteen Minutes Later,
The Queen of England,
About the Author,