Four children embark on a quest for a new land at the dawn of human history Africa, two hundred thousand years ago: Suth and Noli were orphaned the night the murderous strangers came, speaking an unfamiliar language and bringing violence to the peaceful Moonhawk tribe. Determined not to die in the desert, Suth and Noli slip away with Ko and Mana. Suth, the eldest, leads them; Noli’s dreams of the future guide them. Ko gives them courage; Mana gives them peace. Their search for a new Good Place, one of food and safety, will take them across the valleys and plains of prehistoric Africa and bring them together as a tribe and as a family.
About the Author
Peter Dickinson was born in Africa but raised and educated in England. From 1952 to 1969 he was on the editorial staff of Punch , and since then earned his living writing fiction of various kinds for children and adults. His books have been published in several languages throughout the world. The author of twenty-one crime and mystery novels for adults, Dickinson was the first to win the Gold Dagger Award of the Crime Writers’ Association for two books running: The Glass-Sided Ants Nest (1968) and The Old English Peepshow (1969). Dickinson was shortlisted nine times for the prestigious Carnegie Medal for children’s literature and was the first author to win it twice. Dickinson served as chairman of the Society of Authors and was a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2009 for services to literature. Peter Dickinson died on December 16, 2015, at the age of eighty-eight.
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By Peter Dickinson
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1998 Peter Dickinson
All rights reserved.
Fingers pressed Suth's cheek, in the corner by the jawbone. He woke. A mouth breathed in his ear.
Carefully, as if merely turning in his sleep, he rolled himself away from the rest of the Kin, who slept in a huddle for warmth from the desert night. Suth was a child, and now had no father or mother, so his place was on the outside of the huddle. So was Noli's, for the same reasons.
He lay still, waited, rolled again and on hands and knees crawled silently clear. There was a half moon rising, casting long shadows.
Noli's faint whisper came from the blackness beside a boulder. Suth crawled towards her.
She took his hand, put her other hand to his mouth for silence, and led him away.
In the shadow of another boulder she stopped and put her mouth to his ear.
"I dreamed. Moonhawk came. She showed me water."
She pointed back, almost along the line they had travelled all day.
"In the morning you tell Bal," whispered Suth.
"He says I lie."
She was right. Bal was their leader. He dreamed the dreams that Moonhawk sent, showing him things he needed to know for the safety of the Kin. But then it had been Noli that had dreamed about the coming of the murderous strangers, who did not belong to any of the Kins, and spoke with words that none of them knew. It had been Noli that had dreamed of the killing of fathers and brothers, the taking of mothers and sisters.
Moonhawk had not shown these things to Bal, and when Noli had told of them he had struck her and said that she lied. Moonhawk came only to him in his dreams.
And yet Noli's dream had come true, and what was left of the Kin had fled from the Good Places they knew, and Bal had led them into Dry Hills, looking for somewhere new to live.
Then again Noli had dreamed. In this dream Moonhawk had come to her and shown her the endless desert, waterless and foodless, that they would come to after they passed Dry Hills. And again, when she had told her dream, Bal had struck her and said that she lied.
And yet it had come true.
"In the morning we tell the others," said Suth.
"No, we go alone. We go now, along the way we came. We find the little ones that were left behind. We take them to the water. All this Moonhawk showed me."
She took him by the hand and led him on. He didn't resist, though for the first time in his life he was leaving the Kin. He was walking away into the night without any adult to lead him, with only a girl for company, even younger than himself. Ever since the fight with the strangers, when he had seen his father killed and his mother taken, he had been in a kind of dull dream. Nothing made sense any more. Moonhawk told Noli what to do, and Noli told Suth. That was enough.
They found their way without trouble. They were used to wide empty spaces, and their sense of direction was strong. Here and there they remembered the shape of a boulder, or a dry ravine, that they had passed on the outward journey. And the night dews freshened the faint scents that the Kin had left as they had come this way. There were no other smells to confuse them. Nothing lived here. In all the long day they had seen no tracks, nothing that moved, not a lizard, not even a scorpion. At least where there was nothing to eat there would be no big hunters stalking the night.
They walked at the steady pace that the Kin had used, journeying between one Good Place and the next. It grew colder. Slowly the moon rose. When it was almost halfway up the sky they stopped, without a word from either of them. They raised their heads and sniffed. Water.
"Moonhawk showed you this?" said Suth.
"No, not this. She showed me water in the hills."
"We came by in the daytime. Why did we not smell this? Why did Bal not smell it? He finds water where no one else can find it."
"I do not know. Is it a dew trap, Suth? Like the dew trap at Tarutu Rock?"
They turned and in a short while came to a wide pit in the ground. As they walked down into it they felt new layers of chill gathering around them. Soon the rocks they trod on were slippery with dew. But this was not like the dew trap they knew, where the moisture gathered at the bottom into a rocky pool, which didn't dry up until the sun was high. Here there was only a gravel floor and the water seeped away. They kneeled and licked the wetness from a large sloping boulder. It was not enough to swallow, but soothed their sore lips and parched mouths. For a little while they rested and licked and rested, then found their way back to their trail and walked on.
By the time that the moon was overhead they could see, out across the desert plain, the barrier of jagged hills through which Bal had led them two days earlier. Suth remembered how they had stopped on the last ridge and stared at what lay before them under the evening sun, a vast flatness, mottled yellow and grey, boulders and pebbles and ash and sand, and not a leaf or stem anywhere, all still pulsing with heat after the burning day.
Some of the Kin had begun to mutter unhappily. Bal had swung and glared at them, hunching his shoulders and shaking his mane out to show them who was leader.
"There are new Good Places there," he had growled. "Water and game. Moonhawk showed me. Moonhawk showed me this too. We must go fast through the desert, or we die. We must carry our small ones. But they are too many. Some have no fathers, no mothers, to carry them. Those we leave here. We build a lair for them. In the lair they have shade. They are safe from animals. We find our new Good Places. Then some of us come back. They fetch these small ones. Perhaps they still live."
He had chosen four children who had lost their parents in the fighting—Ko and Mana, who were too little to walk all day, Tinu, who was older but weak from a fever, and Noli's little brother, Otan, who could stand but not yet walk. The others had helped Noli carry him this far.
Nobody had argued, though they knew that the children would live for only a day, and perhaps a night, but not another day. They could see that what Bal said was true. The Good Places he promised them might or might not exist, but if they tried to carry these extra children through the dreadful desert below they would never get there.
So the next morning they had found a place where one rock leaned against another to make a kind of cave and had put the children into it. They walled them in with smaller rocks to keep them safe from animals, and told them to wait there, and left them looking scared and dazed. Noli had let them take Otan from her, and then turned away, weeping. But she'd said nothing.
"The small ones are dead," Suth said.
"No," said Noli.
They walked on. Now the moon moved down the sky. Day would come before it set. Slowly the hills loomed nearer and higher and they began to climb. As they did the moonlight paled and the shadows lost their sharpness. Day came almost at once, a clear grey light still fresh with the night chill and the dew. To their right the sky turned pale gold. Every detail of the dry and rocky slope stood sharp and clear.
Noli looked ahead and pointed. There were the two leaning rocks. This was the place.
She quickened her pace, but Suth caught her wrist. Something had moved, a blue grey shape like a shadow prowling in front of the two rocks. It returned, nosing at the piled stones, sniffing for the flesh behind them. It scratched at the pile with a paw. Some kind of fox-thing, though different from the yellow and brown foxes that had scavenged around the Good Places that the Kin had been driven from.
Suth picked up a stone, weighed it in his hand, put it soundlessly down and chose a heavier one. Noli took another. Side by side but a little apart the two crept forward, moving and pausing and moving as they had watched their elders do, hunting unsuspecting prey. The foxes that Suth knew had learned to be afraid of people, and were shy and quick and hard to catch, but this one was too excited by the smells from behind the rock pile to notice as the hunters crept nearer.
Not until Suth was only two paces away did it sense something, turn and see him. It was not just in colour that it was different. It did not fear people.
Snarling, it leaped for Suth's belly, but his arm was already poised for a blow. He swung as it came, and the rock caught the fox full force on the head, knocking it sideways. Then Noli was on it, pounding down with her rock. It thrashed aside and tried to rise, but before it was on its feet Suth struck it again with all his strength at the point where the neck joined the skull. It collapsed, twitched once, and lay still.
They struck it several more blows to make sure, then left it lying and went to the rock pile. There was no sound from inside.
They are dead, Suth thought.
"Are you there, Tinu?" he said softly. "Mana? Ko? It is me, Suth. And Noli."
A faint mumbling sound answered. That was Tinu, who had a twisted mouth and did not speak clearly. There was a wail from a smaller child. With a gush of hope Suth started to pull the pile of rocks down. As soon as she could reach, Noli joined in. The sun rose on their backs. When the wall was low enough they craned over.
Tinu was crouching in the little cave with Otan in her arms. Ko sat huddled beside her, blinking at the light. Mana lay on her side, unmoving, but she stirred and moaned as Suth reached in, took Otan, and passed him to Noli. He pulled more rocks down until Tinu could help Ko and Mana, still half asleep, to scramble out. Tinu came last.
Noli was cradling little Otan to her chest, feeling for his heartbeat and listening for his breath. "My brother lives," she whispered, shuddering with relief.
The others waited. Three pairs of dark, anxious eyes gazed at Suth. He could see what they were thinking. Where was the rest of the Kin? Where were the grown men and women? Where was Bal, the leader? Ko and Mana were little more than babies, though Ko was sturdy and big for his age. Suth had never taken much notice of Mana, a quiet, watchful little girl, with the same dark skin and black, coarse hair as everyone else in the eight Kins.
Tinu was different. Something had gone wrong when she was born, so that her jaw opened more sideways than down and she never learned to speak properly. She was small too, for her age, and extremely skinny, with insect-thin limbs. She hated to be noticed and looked at. As soon as Suth's glance fell on her, she turned her head away.
"Thirsty," she mumbled.
"Noli knows where water is," said Suth.
"It is not far," said Noli. "Suth killed food. You come."
Suth heaved the dead fox onto his shoulder. Noli settled Otan onto her hip and led the way, with Tinu next and the two small ones scrambling behind her across the stony slope. Suth came last, helping them when they needed him. He felt different now. The fox was heavy, but its weight gave him strength. He had done something. He had killed food. These others, they needed him. Without him, they would die.
THE FIRST GOOD PLACE
Black Antelope was chief among the First Ones. He said, "Now we make a place where we can live."
He breathed upon the bare ground, and where he had breathed the young grass grew, tender for him to eat.
Then Snake crawled through the grasslands, making tracks, which he could follow. And Crocodile dug holes and filled them with clean water, where she could lie and wait. And Weaver planted trees, so that his wives had somewhere to hang their nests, and Parrot added sweet nuts and fruits to the trees, because he was greedy, and the Ant Mother chewed the fallen branches from the trees and mixed the chewings into the ground to make good soft earth for her nests, and Fat Pig planted the earth with juicy roots to fill his stomach, and Moonhawk built crags from which she could watch while the others slept, and Little Bat made caves in the crags, where she could hide from Moonhawk.
So they all worked together to make the First Good Place, according to their needs.
Only Monkey did nothing.
He watched the others at work, and then he climbed Weaver's trees and ate Parrot's fruits and nuts, and he dug in the Ant Mother's earth and ate Fat Pig's roots, and he slept in Little Bat's caves and drank from Crocodile's water holes, and he set traps in Snake's tracks, and scrambled over Moonhawk's crags. But he did not often go into Black Antelope's grasslands because he was the strongest and Monkey was afraid of him.CHAPTER 2
The water was a thin trickle, oozing down a narrow crack in the cliff. They couldn't get their faces in to lap, so all they could do was slide a hand and wet their fingertips and suck. The water had a strong taste and a faint smell of foul eggs, like the water at Yellowhole, where the Kin used to drink. Before she had any herself, Noli gave her fingers to Otan to suck. At first nothing happened, but then the small dry lips moved faintly, and a hand clenched and unclenched. It was the first sign of life that anyone but Noli had seen in him.
After a while, Tinu found that if she put her fingers into the crack at a certain angle the water ran along the lower edge of her palm and gathered into drops on her wrist bone, where she could suck them off before they fell. The others copied her.
As soon as he'd drunk enough, Suth looked for the right sort of rock, so that he could try to make a cutter and butcher little pieces of meat off the fox carcass for the small ones to chew. He had often watched his father stoneworking, and had tried to copy what he did, but it was men's work. Boys didn't get taught it. His father had known which were the right stones, and where to strike them, but he couldn't say how he knew. His eye and his hand had told him this one and here. So all Suth had been able to do was watch, and then try for himself. He'd learned that it wasn't as easy as it looked.
Besides, good stones were only found in some places. There might be none on this hillside at all. Suth chose several and squatted down by a flat boulder. Steadying one stone on it, he hammered down with another, using a slanting blow, trying to chip off a large flake.
Nothing happened. He tried again and again, but the target stone kept twisting in his grasp. Between their turns at the water the others watched him, as he tried different stones and different angles of strike. Sometimes he broke off a few chips, but nothing large enough to grasp and nothing with a cutting edge to it.
Without warning the stone he had been using as a hammer shattered as it struck the target. The pieces flew apart. The shock numbed his arm to the elbow. He was rubbing the feeling back into it when Tinu, always shy and uncertain, anxiously showed him a flake that had fallen at her feet, a round sliver so thin in places that when he held it up he could see light through it. Testing it with his thumb he found that along one edge it was as sharp as anything he had seen his father make, though he knew his father would have thrown it away because it was so fragile. A good cutter was thicker than this, but he thought it might do if he was careful. He laughed at the luck of it, and the small ones laughed too, not understanding why.
Thirsty again after the work, he went back to the crack. While he was slowly drinking, Tinu came up holding a stick she had broken from one of the scrawny bushes that grew in the gully below. These were the first plants Suth had seen in three days.
Tinu waited till he had finished, and then edged up, as if she was expecting him to bark at her to go away, and eased the end of the stick into the crack. Suth watched her, puzzled, as she tried it at different angles. Then, wonderfully, a drop of water appeared on a side twig beneath it, and another and another. She cupped her free hand under them and caught them as they fell, until her palm was full. She lapped the water up and looked at him, still as if she expected him to yell at her or strike her.
"Good, good," he said, smiling. "Now you show Noli."
While the others were learning how to use the stick, he picked up the fox and laid it on its back. Holding the flake of stone between thumb and forefinger he drew the cutting edge slowly along the seam of the belly, again and again, never pressing hard for fear of breaking his cutter but gradually slicing through the tough skin.
Excerpted from The Kin by Peter Dickinson. Copyright © 1998 Peter Dickinson. 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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsBEFORE YOU START,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
After reading a few just so-so books, I really wanted to get lost in a great tome of a story. The Kin was just the ticket. The book is actually four novels published in one volume, weighing in at just over 600 pages. The story is paced really well, so I would look up from reading and realize I had just knocked out 50 or 75 pages in no time. I'm a huge history fan and have always been interested in the history of early mankind. Set in prehistoric Africa, this novel imagines what life was like for the clans of people surviving in the African deserts. The stories of Suth, Noli, Po, and Mana are interspersed with Oldtales, or creation stories about the Kin's First Ones, which I found to be really interesting and illuminating as to how the characters behaved and reacted to life in the wild. Each First One is an animal, such as a monkey or a pocupine, and each Kin is named after a First One. The mixture of myth and history was just perfect and very entertaining. A most interesting aspect of this book is how Dickinson imagined communication between speaking and non-speaking humans. The four children the stories follow belong to the Moonhawk Kin, which consists of highly verbal humans. Along the way, they encounter the Porcupine Kin, who are nonverbal but are still very communicative through sounds and gestures. Some of the Moonhawks say that the Porcupine Kin are not really 'people' because they can't speak words, but others, particularly Noli, are convinced that the Porcupine are just as human as anyone else even though they are different. All in all, this novel is a very interesting and thought-provoking work of 'prehistorical' fiction.
The story the kin takes place two hundred thousand years ago, when Suth and five other orphans are cut off from their Kin, the Moonhawks. Suth and the other five orphans are lost in the desert, when they are captured by the people of the Monkey Kin. Everything is left up to Suth; he has to find the courage to lead him and his friends to freedom. On the way they have to learn to survive and find their way to safety.
Suth¿s friend Noli awakes him and pulls him away from the camp site, Noli tells suth about her strange dreams. She says that Moonhawk has showed her the way to the ¿good place¿ she says that he showed her the way to find water. As she tells suth the story he interrupts to tell her¿ ¿In the morning u tell Bal¿ but to her it seams like a waist of time, ¿he says I lie¿ she replied. As she keeps going on with her story he asks questions like where did he tell you to go, but as she continues telling him about her dream he realizes, that it¿s true. Lately Noli had been having dreams where moonhawk has come to show her the way, she had dreamed about the murderous strangers, who did not belong to any of the kins, and spoke words no one else understood.
Noli told suth that she would go with or without him, so suth decided to go along, and on their way they found some of the younger kids that were left behind on their own. At the of beginning of their journey they found nothing, but they soon came to find rocks fully moist. The wet moisture wasn¿t enough to drink, but it was enough to moisturize their lips. As their journey seems to get harder, and more difficult, they fight through it all.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading In particular. But most of all someone who enjoys story with twists, puzzles, or journeys, this would be the book for you. This is a great historical fiction book.
I as an individual really liked this book; I believe that the book has a great story to tell. I also believe that this book is very much interesting and as the story goes on I came to realize I got more and more interested in the book, which made it harder for me to put down. Over all I realy enjoyed reading this book and I believe it¿s a great story.
From the author of 'The Ropemaker,' I expected more of Peter Dickinson. The book, while relatively interesting, lacked substance. A lot of the plot (if you could call some parts 'plot' at all) were meaningless or irrelevant to the storyline. It was also very long and drawn out to read I think I would have liked it better as four separate novels (like it was published originally) because it is much to long to have all four stories grouped together. However, I did appreciate the Oldtales between the chapters because it gives a break from the other story. If you have a lot of will power to finish a book no matter how disappointing it is for you I couldnt even finish it after three months, so I wouldn't really recommend it.
This book was soso it was so scary how the lizard boy shots webs and eats vampiers and uniocorns
I loved that book! Ko was really funny. It was cool when Suth killed the leopard.
While this book presents a fresh POV standing, as well as a very interesting voaculary (as you'll see if you read the book) I never really found the purpose of it. It was long, and tedious, and things just kept happening. I don't think, in the end, I grasped what the author meant by the book. These characters were not people I could relate to, and, after some time, I found that having them scurry across the land from threat after threat and then find joy in success after success only to have it be stripped away by another threat become very, very boring. The book was just not for me, and I don't recommend it. Not to mention, 628 pages in caveman-speak? While I find the inventiveness of this book to be different, it isn't that neat. I mean, really.
A real epic. This is the most interesting story read by me in a long time.
I read The Kin and now I want to see if their is a sequal!!! If Their isnt then I so think their should be! I want 2 find out what happens 2 Okern!!!!!
wow! this book, The Kin, was s0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0 good. i literally couldnt put the darn thing down. i kept on reading, and reading, and reading, etc..... this was definately one of the greatest books i've ever read. the story, i mean how it was told and everything, was very well done. i applaud the author, and everyone who helped out in this AMAZING book. keep up the very good work!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This book, though it sounds a little outragious, is extremely interesting and has a fast-moving plot. It gives readers an extra insight into what it might be like to meet someone who can't speak at all. I thought it was a very good book that anyone who enjoys science fiction should read.
This book kept me facinated from start to finish.If you like prehistoric adventures this book is perfect for you.