A science fiction thriller by the author of Night Watch , the hit novel that inspired two major motion pictures Five months after the horrific accident that left him near death and worried that he’d never fly again, master-pilot Alex Romanov lands a new job: captaining the sleek passenger vessel Mirror. Alex is a spesh—a human who has been genetically modified to perform particular tasks. As a captain and pilot, Alex has a genetic imperative to care for passengers and crew—no matter what the cost.His first mission aboard Mirror is to ferry two representatives of the alien race Zzygou on a tour of human worlds. His task will not be an easy one, for aboard the craft are several speshes who have reason to hate the Others. Dark pasts, deadly secrets, and a stolen gel-crystal worth more than Alex’s entire ship combine to challenge him at every turn. And as the tension escalates, it becomes apparent that greater forces are at work to bring the captain’s world crashing down.
|Publisher:||Open Road Integrated Media LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.30(d)|
About the Author
Sergei Lukyanenko was born in Kazakhstan, then a republic of the Soviet Union. In 1985 he entered the Alma-Ata Medical University, where he began to write science fiction and publish his first books. Though Lukyanenko completed his medical course, he realized that he would never be a doctor. In 1997 he moved to Moscow, and since then has published prolifically. Many of his works have become bestsellers and have won science fiction awards. Night Watch and Day Watch were released as films in 2004 and 2006, respectively. Lukyanenko’s writing has been translated into more than twenty languages and continues to be hugely popular.
Read an Excerpt
By Sergei Lukyanenko
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2014 Sergei Lukyanenko
All rights reserved.
Alex gazed into the sky.
Its appearance was strange. Irregular. Unprecedented.
The kind that happens over worlds still unspoiled by civilization. The kind of sky that might happen over Earth, humanity's home planet, a world trashed and flushed clean three times over.
But over Quicksilver Pit, the industrial center of the sector, a planet of three shipyards with all the necessary infrastructure, this kind of sky simply should not be.
Alex gazed up.
Clear, iridescent blue. Scattered threads of clouds. Pink glow of the setting sun. A glider gamboling as playfully as a puppy in a snowdrift. Never before, not through the hospital window, not on the planetary news programs, had he seen such a sky over Quicksilver Pit.
There was something odd about the whole city today. The setting sun splashed a warm pink over the walls of the buildings. The last remnants of dirty snow clung to the support columns of the old monorail, spaced out along the highway. Once in a very long while, a car would rush by, as if afraid to tear the silence, slipping away so fast it seemed in a hurry to escape this suddenly unfamiliar, pink world.
Or maybe this was the way the world should look to a person just emerging from five months' confinement to a hospital ward.
"No one meeting you?"
Alex turned to the guard. Whiling away his time, bored in his plexiglass booth, the guard cut a strapping figure. Ruddy cheeks, shoulders three feet wide, a stun gun on his belt, and a bulletproof vest over his uniform—as though someone planned to storm the hospital.
"I don't have anybody."
"You from far away?"
"Uh-huh." Alex reached for his cigarettes. Drew the smoke of the strong local tobacco deep into his lungs.
"Need a taxi? You're dressed kind of light for this weather, friend ..."
The guard was evidently eager to help.
"No, thanks. I'll take the rail."
"Comes once an hour," warned the guard. "It's free public transport, for the naturals ..."
To be honest, he looked like a natural himself. Not that you could tell anything by looks.
"That's why I'm taking the rail, 'cos it's free."
The guard gave Alex a once-over, then glanced at the hospital buildings behind him.
"No, no, I am a spesh," explained Alex. "I'm just broke, that's all. Work insurance plan. I couldn't have paid for the treatment myself. They could have brought me here in a basket... well, maybe they did. I don't remember."
He slashed a hand across his own waist, indicating the invisible line that, five months ago, had divided his body and his life in two. He felt an overwhelming need to share, to talk to someone who hadn't seen his medical charts, someone who would listen, appreciate, click his tongue ...
"Rotten luck," sighed the guard. "Well, now you're all right? Main parts back to normal?"
Alex stepped on the cigarette butt and nodded in response to the guard's conspiratorial smirk.
"Like new ... Well, thanks."
"For what?" replied the guard in surprise.
But Alex was already on his way to the road. He walked fast, not looking back. They had really done a splendid job of patching him up. He couldn't have wished for better treatment ... especially in his situation. But now, since having signed the last insurance document half an hour ago, affirming that he had no complaints against the medical personnel and proclaiming his condition "identical to pre-trauma state," nothing connected him to the hospital anymore. Absolutely nothing.
Or to this planet, for that matter. But leaving Quicksilver Pit would be much harder.
On the side of the highway, he waited for a speeding car to pass, a luxurious, sporty, bright-red Cayman. Crossed over to the monorail support column, and walked up the spiral staircase—the elevator, of course, was out of order.
"Well, we're on our own again, just you and me. Right, Demon?" he said into the air. Then glanced sideways at his shoulder.
Alex's clothes really were all wrong for the weather, even this unexpected thaw which had burst upon the city on the eve of Independence Day. His jeans and shoes, bought for pennies donated by a local charity fund, were more or less all right. But the leather vest over a sleeveless jersey looked weird.
At least his Demon seemed to be having a good time.
It lived on his left shoulder: a color tattoo some four inches tall, a small demon with a pitchfork in its hands, who stared into space with a gloomy and disapproving air. Its long tail was wrapped around its waist, probably to keep the Demon's legs from getting tangled up in it. The Demon's short gray fur looked like a set of fuzzy clinging overalls.
For a while Alex stared suspiciously at the Demon's little face. It wore an inquisitive, calm expression. Self-assured.
"We're gonna make it, bro," said Alex. He leaned over the guardrail of the train stop, looked down below, spat onto the shiny steel rail.
There was nobody else around. Maybe the free municipal transport was unpopular, or maybe it was just that kind of day. A day of a blue sky, a pink sunset, the end of a holiday. Yesterday the whole hospital had celebrated ... Even Alex, formally still a patient, was given some alcohol, mixed with glucose and vitamins.
Here at the height of some thirty-two feet, gusty wind reigned supreme. Alex even considered going back down and taking shelter behind the column while he waited for the train. But, after all, it was more interesting up here. There was a panoramic view of the city, its even rows of skyscrapers, its grid of straight roads already showing bright flashes of ads. It was a very geometrical city. On the other side, beyond the empty, long-derelict fields, he could make out the dim outlines of the spaceport. The port was too close to the city, Alex thought ... Well, maybe that was what had saved his life. His surgeon had let it slip that the life-support IC unit to which Alex had been connected spent its back-up battery power and clicked off just as he was put onto the operating table.
Who could have ever guessed he would actually need his comprehensive insurance policy one day? Someone in the office of the Third Freight-and-Passenger station would gnash his teeth signing off on the medical bills. Well, they didn't really have a choice.
"We'll make it," he promised his Demon again. Spat once more onto the rail. Felt a slight tremor. The monorail car was drawing near.
It moved at a very leisurely pace. Alex estimated its speed at thirty point two miles per hour. It was completely covered with spirited graffiti, as though the car was trying to compensate for its lack of speed by the intricate brightness of its decoration. It was almost dusk, and some of the signs and drawings gave off a dim phosphorescence; others sparkled, flowed, changed colors.
"Don't you dare not stop ..." murmured Alex anxiously, but the monorail car was already slowing down. With a hissing sound, it opened its wide door, decorated with a fairly talented caricature of Quicksilver Pit's president, Mr. San Li. Alex smiled at the thought of how much better this would have looked in the hospital than the obligatory copies of the president's portrait in every ward. He entered the monorail car.
The inside didn't look any better than the outside. Hard plastic seats, a derelict TV screen on the dead-bolted partition separating the passengers from the driver. The passengers fit right in.
A dozen young hoodlums, sprawling in their seats in the back corner of the car. Typical naturals of the type that make do with dirty work. All were drunk. All were dopers. All were staring at Alex with the same torpid curiosity. Just a few paces away, dozing off in her window seat, sat a girl of about fifteen, as dingy and scruffy as the rest of them, dark circles under her eyes.
Alex sat down at the head of the car. With a jolt, it started up again.
"What do we think of the locals, Demon?" he asked, glancing at the tattoo. The Demon's little face twisted into a grimace of disgust.
"I'm with you," whispered Alex. Tried to make himself a little more comfortable, fully realizing the futility of the attempt.
Well ... At least it was warmer inside ... He thought he might even nod off for a bit, while the monorail was crawling through the suburbs.
"Get away from me!"
Alex turned around.
Great. Just what he needed. A chance to be heroic. Right out of the hospital.
One of the guys had moved next to the girl. He was slowly, unhurriedly unbuttoning her coat.
"I said, shove off!" said the girl harshly.
The other naturals just watched. Both their pal and Alex. Hell, would they have had the guts to try this if he were wearing his master-pilot uniform?
But who would think him a spesh now?
The girl glanced at Alex. The expression in her eyes was nice. Incongruous with the rest of her appearance.
"Tell me, Demon, do we need this?" asked Alex.
The tattoo on his shoulder didn't say anything. It couldn't talk. The Demon's lips were tight, and its fists opened slightly, letting out its claws. Its squinting eyes filled with fiery red.
"You sure?" asked Alex with a sigh. Got up and walked toward the girl. The guy next to her immediately turned, tensed. He wasn't as drunk as he let on. The whole group got quiet.
"She isn't interested," said Alex.
The guy licked his lips, got up. Alex saw rough, bulging muscles rolling under his coarse sweater. Looked like an altered body. Probably modified for physical strength. Really bad news ... Guess this wasn't just public transport for the naturals.
"She's interested," the guy informed him. "Just playing hard to get. The way we do it 'round here. You got that? Two's fun, three's a crowd, get it?"
A harsh slurring accent made his speech barely intelligible. Seemed like in pursuit of physical strength, all other functions had been minimized.
Alex looked at the girl.
"It's okay," she said. "I'm all right, thanks."
The Demon on his shoulder looked perplexed.
"Yeah!" said the fellow triumphantly, bending towards his newly subdued prey.
"I said shove off, you jerk!" said the girl sharply. "You stupid, or what?!" Alex leaned on an empty seat. The situation was getting interesting.
The guy let out a low growl—his small mind just could not process the need to retreat. He stretched out his hand, casually sinking it into the girl's open coat.
"I warned you," she said.
Her first blow doubled up the pseudo-natural. Her second, with spread-out fingers, broke through his sweater, where a bloodstain instantly appeared. The third blow smashed his head into the window. It crunched, covered with a web of cracks, but held together.
A moment later the girl was standing next to Alex. The hoodlums, stunned, sat speechless.
"Any of you move, and you'll catch hell," said the girl quietly.
The fellow slowly sank to the floor. Groaned, holding his head in his hands.
Alex glanced sideways at the Demon.
The creature smirked, crouched, as if ready to leap off his shoulder to join the fray with relish.
"I liked it, too," said Alex. The car slowed down, the door hissed, opening.
"We'd better get off," Alex told the girl.
"I'll manage," she answered curtly.
"I almost believe you. But how'll you manage the police? Let's go."
Somewhat cautiously, he took hold of her arm. The girl obeyed.
They jumped out onto the platform, and the monorail door closed behind them. Could the driver have stopped just for them? The naturals had already come back to their senses. Some of them were helping the altered fellow get to his feet. His head wobbled slightly as he tried to walk. Others were shaking their fists at the window.
"I wasn't bothering them!" exclaimed the girl.
She raised her hand, shaking off a few droplets of blood.
"That kind doesn't need any bothering."
Alex watched the monorail depart. It had already sped up to about forty miles an hour, probably the best it could do. As if the driver had decided to get the brawlers as far apart from each other as possible.
"Did you notice—that guy was also a spesh?"
"A spesh?" she said with a note of curiosity, omitting the "also." Maybe she didn't want to deny the obvious, or maybe she just hadn't noticed. She sniffed, got out a crumpled handkerchief, wiped off her hand.
"Yeah, maybe. He recovered too fast."
Alex watched the girl with growing curiosity. She really couldn't have been more than fifteen ... and considering the obvious alteration of the body ...
"What's your name?" he said. The girl glanced at him as though he was asking about her banking code. "I'm Alex, spesh."
"Kim ..." and after a short pause, she added, "spesh."
"And this is Demon," Alex turned slightly, showing her the tattoo on his shoulder. "Just Demon."
The Demon smiled an ingratiating smile, crossing its legs, hiding its tail behind its back, and leaning on the pitchfork as though it were an elegant walking stick. Kim's face promptly grew serious.
"It ... He wasn't like that before. I saw ..."
"Of course. Demon can change."
A look of distrust came into her dark eyes. Well ... Quicksilver Pit was, after all, a backwater place, despite its status as an industrial center.
"Don't be afraid," said Alex. "It's just an emotion scanner. See?"
Kim didn't pretend to understand and just shook her head.
"It's not much, really. A liquid-crystal screen inserted right under the skin. Look at my Demon, and you know what I'm feeling. Afraid or angry, thinking or daydreaming ... it's all right here."
"Wow! Neat ..." The girl stretched out her hand, threw a questioning glance at Alex, then cautiously touched his shoulder.
The Demon smiled very slightly.
"I like that," said Kim. "And you don't mind being all exposed like that?" "When I mind, I turn off the lights." At this, the Demon's smile grew a bit wider.
"I see," the girl nodded. "Thanks for your help, spesh Alex. Best of luck to you!"
She ran down the stairs, lightly, easily, not a hint of fear at the shaky railing and more than a thirty-foot drop below her. Alex leaned over, watching her descend, barely visible in the dusk. They were somewhere at the very edge of town; all around stretched row upon row of dark and seemingly abandoned buildings. Maybe these were warehouses, maybe long-closed factories, or tenements so ugly that no one could bear to live there.
"Hey, friend-spesh!" shouted Alex, as the girl reached the ground below. "You hungry?"
"Very." Kim answered simply. "But I'm broke."
Alex glanced at the Demon. It shrugged.
"Yup, we're out of the habit ..." agreed Alex, and jumped over the railing. Thirty-two feet. Free-fall acceleration on Quicksilver Pit was twenty-seven point two feet per second. He turned in the air, assuming the right position, bending his knees at impact, and then squatting slightly to counteract inertia. A leap like this would cost a natural a broken spine. Alex's body reacted precisely as it was designed to.
A soft, muted wave of pain rolled through him, while the reconstructed tissues absorbed the impact. Alex straightened, looked at the girl.
Kim stood in a fighting pose, a strange one impossible for any natural, a stance from the yu-dao martial art. Legs forward, as though they had been broken and twisted at the knee, torso leaning backward, left hand, palm open toward Alex, at her face, and right arm thrust forward.
A sixth-level defensive stance.
"I'm not attacking," said Alex quickly. "Friend-spesh, this is not an attack. I was simply trying out my body."
Kim straightened up smoothly. It seemed to Alex that he could hear the light rustle of her joints coming out of fighting mode.
"Who are you, spesh Alex?"
With a glance, the girl assessed the height of his recent jump.
"Thirty-two point two feet. My impact velocity was ..."
"You've been modified for gravity overloads?"
"Exactly. I retain mobility at six Gs and consciousness at twelve."
"And measure distances like a radar."
"Both distance and velocity."
Alex stretched his hand toward her.
"Friend-spesh, I have the money to buy dinner for two. Would you accept my offer, no strings attached, no payback expected?"
Excerpted from The Genome by Sergei Lukyanenko. Copyright © 2014 Sergei Lukyanenko. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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
The Genome By Sergei Lukyanenko The idea that by genetic manipulation you can change a person physically and mentally by changing their genome is an intriguing scientific background to this space odyssey, mystery book. The Genome, is a great scientific speculation that could have been written my Asimov or Sagan and would have been ground breaking. The book looks into genetics and hypothesis that our genes are what cause our nature. If we could change and control our genetic material, be able to enhance our sight, change our personality we could specialize and define our lives before birth. The book looks in the ramifications after this capacity has been reached. Would society define us by our human nature, or by the specifications given to us in the womb? How would we see ourselves, how would we change our nature if we find we are not on the correct path for us? What would our relations be with other societies, other races be affected by our specifications of how human nature? This is a theoretical book looking at concepts of humanity, life, slavery, and destiny. Like great science fiction writers Sergei Lukyanenko has tried to stretch the limit of our technological knowledge and express his concerns, and aspirations of how the world could be would be in the future.
Initially, this book had my attention from page one. After reading a chain of flat books, I was so thrilled to find a story I didn't know I was looking for. I had dreams of Firefly, meets Farscape with a dash of Russian....hmmmm.... sort of broody, dark, philosophy that seems to emanate from the Night Watch series. Oh joy. Then the book started to irk me a bit. Unlike in Night Watch, smoking just seems out of place in this setting. The doctor, cargo tech, gunner, linguist and junior pilot-spesh Janet's role in this story is to serve drinks and have sex with various crew members. I kept picturing and erotic version of the Next Generation's Guinan - ugh!. Kim, at 14, having sex with Alex, initially creeped me out, but I remembered the author's preface which stated that many will deem this novel cynical and immoral. Later, the social context and norms were somewhat elaborated on and it didn't seem quite as off color, but still.... Yes, sex with girls just at puberty considered acceptable in many societies, but I was rather disappointed that the women in this story (especially it being in the future) were all subservient female type roles - all of which had sex with Alex. ***eyes rolling***. Even Dr. Watson was some kind of weird groupie to Sherlock Holmes. Well, I never thought Lukyanenko's females were his forte anyway. I thought the story was going to shift toward the better after the ship 'Mirror' nearly collided with the Tanker MT-28 at the hyper-channel. My mind conjured up sabotage, political intrigue, galactic wars. But alas, no. The story then veers off to focus a 'clone who thinks he is Sherlock Holmes' mystery. So frustrating. I did especially like the last conversation between Edward Garlistsky (whose essence/mind was held in a crystal and had his own virtual world that Alex could enter through a neuro-shunt) and Alex. There are some other entertaining fragments to this book, but the author just failed to grasp them and they flew right through his fingers. The book had an amateurish (and adolescent in regards to the females) feel to me - and then the last page stated the story had been written in 1999, which is pre-Night Watch. To Lukyanenko's credit, his story telling has improved since this was written.
This book combines an amazing view of the future with an old-fashioned whodunit, and a love story. The words do a great job of describing the worlds of the future and the various inhabitants. At base, the many different organisms and altered humans have the same positives and negatives as people today. The gory parts are not too gory, and the narrative flows smoothly through the action, communicating well and not getting in the way. The first section of the book is primarily setting the stage. The next section provides the unexpected crime, and the final section could be something right out of Agatha Christie, but with new variables. The mystery quickly becomes so intense that you cannot stop reading. Whether your interest is science fiction, mystery thriller, or off-beat romance, this book should be in your library.