Among the few survivors is Lucas, an ordinary man hardened by the last few years after the world’s end. He’s fought off bandits, murderers, and stranded creatures on his long trek across the country in search of his family, the one thing that drives him to outlive his dying planet. What he finds instead is hope, something thought to be lost in the world. There’s a ship buried in a crater wall. One of theirs. One that works. To fly it, Lucas must join forces with a traitorous alien scientist and a captured, merciless raider named Asha. But unless they find common ground, all will die, stranded on a ruined Earth.
Combining gritty post-apocalyptic survival and epic space opera, The Last Exodus is the beginning of a new action-packed science fiction adventure where the future of the human race depends on its survivors leaving the past behind.
Skyhorse Publishing, under our Night Shade and Talos imprints, is proud to publish a broad range of titles for readers interested in science fiction (space opera, time travel, hard SF, alien invasion, near-future dystopia), fantasy (grimdark, sword and sorcery, contemporary urban fantasy, steampunk, alternative history), and horror (zombies, vampires, and the occult and supernatural), and much more. While not every title we publish becomes a New York Times bestseller, a national bestseller, or a Hugo or Nebula award-winner, we are committed to publishing quality books from a diverse group of authors.
About the Author
Paul Tassi decided after years of consuming science fiction through a steady diet of books, movies, TV shows, and video games to write his own stories in the genre. He didn't imagine he'd ever actually finish a single book, but now that he's started writing, he doesn't want to stop. He is also the author of the Earthborn Trilogy. Paul writes for Forbes, and his work has also appeared on IGN, the Daily Dot, Unreality, TVOvermind, and more. He lives with his beautiful and supportive wife in Chicago.
Read an Excerpt
The Last Exodus
The Earthborn Trilogy Book 1
By Paul Tassi
Talos PressCopyright © 2015 Paul Tassi
All rights reserved.
The war was over. And everyone lost.
Lucas walked down what used to be an interstate in northern California. It was January, he thought, and a sweltering eighty-eight degrees. The landscape was barely recognizable, and when he finally made his way to the ocean, he found himself overlooking three miles of beach where a few feet used to be. Every time he returned to the shoreline he found the murky water harder and harder to see in the distance. It was probably only a matter of weeks before it was gone from view altogether.
The ice caps had melted, but no floods came with the oceans mostly evaporated. Judging by his surroundings, he guessed Antarctica might be the most comfortable place on Earth right now. A while ago he heard that if anyone ventured south of San Francisco, their skin would start to fricassee like steak on a grill. Bet the cannibals would love that.
He wouldn't survive the summer, he knew that. But all that was left was walking. Only a few more miles to Portland, he kept telling himself. Only a few more miles to home.
It hadn't rained in weeks, and the last time it did, if he had been caught outdoors he would have been permanently scarred. The downpour was so acidic it killed off all the remaining plant life that hadn't already been burned to a crisp in battle or the ensuing endless wildfires. It was unclear whether it had been them or mankind itself, but something had killed the sky, and the sun was now masked by a haze of red clouds that stretched all the way down to the horizon. Every crash of thunder hinted at another deadly storm, but true rain never came as the clouds seemed to know their work was done. The planet was dying, and would be a husk soon enough.
If he could ignore the weather, the worst part was the hunger. The constant, pervading, consuming hunger. Wildlife was nonexistent. The animals had been killed in the war or the storms or had been hunted to scarcity by survivors. The only reason they stayed alive for so long was that there were barely any survivors to hunt them. Lucas found sustenance by eating cockroaches, the one creature everyone predicted would survive the end of days. But now even they were scarce, as they realized they were a rare commodity in the current conditions and had burrowed underground, to return once the Earth and the rest of its former inhabitants had turned to dust.
Why hadn't he eaten man? He certainly had the opportunity. His high-end rifle gave him more than a fighting chance in most encounters, and he'd created plenty of dead bodies he could sample from. But he knew the end result. When a desperate soul started eating human flesh, it ceased to be human itself, and at that point why bother living at all?
Outside of cannibals, he occasionally came across one of them. Staggering around, wondering where all his brethren had gone and how they had the audacity to leave him behind. Power armor cracked and disintegrating, guns dangling, useless, having lost their charge long ago. They might have tried to fashion some sort of makeshift weapon out of scrap metal, or attempted to fire a human gun with their misshapen hands, but out of their element they were rather easy prey, as most of their spirits were broken as well. He saw them eating the dead in their desperate hunger, so he didn't see a problem eating them. The last one he took down fueled his journey for an entire month. He didn't feel a bit of remorse.
Their arrival often crossed his mind during the endless hours he trudged north. It had happened the way few predicted. The first ship showed up and the world went crazy. It just hung there like a painting in the sky, silent and motionless, observing the world's reaction. People flooded to New York to see it, and Manhattan came to a standstill, overstuffed with everyone clamoring to get a view. They eventually had to shut the bridges and tunnels down, and people had to be content with watching it from the shore or on television.
Many worshipped it, naturally. Why wouldn't they? Many had suspected this day would come — but not for millennia or eons, certainly not in their lifetime. It was like a dream.
The military was more cautious. They began pushing people out of the city and set up shop in Central Park. They launched jets and helicopters to try and communicate. In retrospect, it was something that shouldn't have been provoked. It would have been wiser to let it sit there in its mystery and simply hope it would choose to share its intentions.
But after a week of no response, the metal behemoth just sitting there without making a sound, the government sent a crew to investigate. It landed on top of the colossus and began sending live reports back down to the ground. Not much to see; it was metal, seemingly impenetrable. It wasn't until they broke out the plasma torches and started cutting that anything happened. The feed went black. All communications went dark. There was a video on the Internet purported to be the last three seconds of the feed. Amidst bursts of static a door could be seen opening, and in an instant a swooping figure grabbed whichever head the camera was attached to.
The military scrambled. Not just America's fighting forces, but the world's. Already on high alert, they now deemed the thing hostile and were preparing to react accordingly.
But that's what it wanted. It was testing the planet, seeing what kind of firepower it had, judging its behavior. By now the rest of its kind had gotten the message that life had been found. And then they showed up, guns blazing.
The war was less one-sided than many would figure. They had no impenetrable shields, no molecule-evaporating ray guns. They were tough to kill, but killable. The problem was there were just too many. The firefight raged for months, with no clear sign of what the end goal was other than destruction. Someone said they saw them scooping up civilians. Another saw one with a massive hose dropped into the ocean. Still more said they had ships with giant laser drills touching down and blasting their way into the ground.
At first it seemed like Earth was winning. Though humanity's forces suffered heavy losses, the alien ships seemed to be going down with enough firepower. But for every one that was killed, two would show up from the stars in its place, and the ships grew bigger as the invaders realized they needed more reinforcements than anticipated.
As the ships became more massive, Earth started throwing nukes. It worked, most of the time, but they started playing hardball as well, launching detonating devices that would wipe entire cities off the map.
That's when the lights went off and the sky caught on fire. Most electronics were fried from the blasts, and any reports of action in the field were all hearsay with no Internet or television or even radio transmissions in most places. The sky had always been full of smoke and fire since the war began, but something had changed, and whether it was from mankind's nukes or their own doomsday tech, no one knew.
And then as quickly as it started, it was over. There were no more bombs to be launched, and no more ships to launch them at. As the survivors picked themselves up from the ashes of their cities and towns, some saw a few lingering ships flying into the clouds, presumably to report back that whatever mission they'd come for, they'd failed. Or succeeded. It really was anyone's guess.
But there was no celebration when they left. The Earth itself was mortally wounded from the conflict, and everyone knew it. What few of its inhabitants were still alive began scrambling for the scraps. How many years ago was that now? It was hard to keep track when each day was a constant, bleary nightmare. A journey across the continent shouldn't take this long, even on foot. But with no maps, no landmarks, no sun and no stars, it was easy to go in circles. As the years passed, there were far fewer survivors left, and far fewer scraps to fight over.
Originally there had been a group, a wretched collection of the lost that had been attracted to him by the rare sense of purpose he seemed to possess. But with not enough food to feed one most of the time, how was he supposed to provide for five, or six, or ten, or even two? Those kinds of things never ended well.
He had watched two sisters claw each other's eyes out over a bottle of spring water. He witnessed a college student swan dive off a freeway overpass rather than drag himself one more step in the heat. He still had the scar on his elbow from when Carl, the mechanic from Coral Springs, tried to bludgeon him while he slept and make off with his weapons and the remaining food. Fortunately he raised his arm in time to stop the crowbar, and his knife quickly countered, almost on instinct. Carl looked apologetic in his last breaths. The group soldiered on, but eventually disintegrated along with everything else.
The truth was, if you were still alive now, you'd killed plenty of people to stay that way. At first, human instinct had been to band together to try and overcome the devastation. But once hope died, the descent into madness was swift, and only a fool would trust anyone they met.
Some made it perfectly clear to stay away. Lucas once came across a man wearing what had to have been a child's skull around his neck. He was almost naked, wearing only scraps, and he screamed and flailed about when he saw Lucas, like some sort of primal defense mechanism when a creature encounters something he knows outmatches him. A makeshift spear made out of a broken pipe and a military bayonet was no threat to him, but the man himself was a vision of terror, a personification of what the world had become. Who did this cursed soul used to be? A dentist? A teacher? A janitor?
Lucas let him scramble away into the remains of a nearby forest, too transfixed by what he had witnessed to even fire a shot and rid the world of the monster. But the Earth was full of only monsters now, a lesson he had to learn quickly.
He had run into his first honeypot about four months after the sky's death, back when emotions like empathy and compassion still existed. His pack was full of water and preserved food he'd collected, and he only felt the need to carry one weapon. A novice mistake.
Roaming through a city street in a suburb outside of Atlanta, he heard a cry for help: a woman's voice, faint, but clear. It echoed down through the abandoned subdivision, occupied by shells of homes, upper middle class mini-mansions ravaged by early looters, which was an improvement over other population centers that had been leveled completely by bombs and fire.
As he turned the corner he saw her. She was trapped under a collapsed section of a house. He presumed she was scavenging for food like he so often did, and the damaged home had made her pay for it.
"Oh thank god," she gasped. "I've been here for almost a day now. I didn't think anyone would come through."
Her legs were trapped under a thick piece of wood, and when Lucas looked into her eyes, he was taken aback. The woman was strikingly gorgeous, a true rarity in the midst of a scarred world. In a previous life, she would have stopped men in their tracks on the street, and judging from their current circumstance, it appeared she still had that power. Her wide, light green eyes overflowed with tears and pleaded with him for aid.
He immediately did the human thing and went to go find something to lift the debris off of her.
"Thank you so much," she moaned.
He found a metal pole that was once attached to a street sign.
He dragged it over and thrust it under the wood plank across her thighs. The wood appeared heavy, but when he applied force to the pole, it shot upward so fast that Lucas fell backward onto his heavy pack. Canned tomatoes and peaches spilled out everywhere.
Before he could even comprehend what was happening, he saw the woman rise above him, a military-issue Glock in her hand.
"You still don't get it do you?" she snarled. "There are no more heroes."
She pulled the trigger.
Lucas rubbed his shoulder, which still ached after all this time. Fishing the bullet out by hand had been excruciating enough, but it was the subsequent infection that almost killed him.
She left him with nothing, and he had had to claw his way back to where he was today. But the lesson she had taught him was more valuable than anything she'd stolen.
He'd encountered a few other honeypots since then, beautiful young women feigning distress in auto accidents or cannibal assaults. They always looked well nourished, which was an obvious red flag in the current era. Their strength came from the supplies of a dozen survivors they'd tricked with their sorrowful eyes and purposefully torn clothing. Lucas now left them lamenting in the dirt, no matter how pitiful their cries as he approached or vulgar their obscenities as he passed. Trust was something that no longer existed in the world, and he had more than a few scars to prove it.
He trudged down the road, the sun's invisible presence above the clouds causing his vision to blur from the eternal heat. Rows and rows of abandoned cars on the freeway were all painted a singular color by dust. The heat was unbearable, and he had to rest. His weapon was a necessary burden, but he suffered carrying it through sweltering temperatures. Setting the barrel down on the pavement, he ran his thumb over the inscription crudely etched into the stock, NATALIE. A long-dead lover, but not his own. It started as a simple nickname for the appropriated weapon, but over time, it had become more than that. Natalie was his protector, savior, and friend, however mad that made him seem. But sanity barely seemed worth holding onto in those days.
He caught a reflection of himself in one of the car's side view mirrors. Wiping the dirt away completely, he was stunned to realize he barely recognized the man before him. Gaunt from hunger, his cheeks were hollow and his gray eyes had sunk into their sockets. His sandy brown hair was crudely cut short and his face roughly shaven. He had to make do with his knife, as too much hair meant even more unbearable heat. His cotton T-shirt had lost its sleeves months ago and was torn and stained from a litany of past events. Digitally camouflaged cargo pants held much of his remaining ammo, and his combat boots were forever caked in dried blood. He broke the car mirror with his knife in disgust and trudged further down the corridor of cars.
Automobiles had a very short lifespan in the aftermath of the war. What gas hadn't been used to fuel military operations had been vaporized by airstrikes. Even if the cars could run, most roads were too damaged for them to travel more than a few miles unimpeded. Lucas had tried out an all-terrain dirt bike for a few days, but quickly found the whine of the engine radiated for miles in this silent world and attracted too much attention from humans and creatures alike. Every so often he might stumble upon a bicycle, which would cut time off his journey until his tires were shredded by a rogue nail, a piece of glass, or the roots of a human tooth.
It had to be only a few more miles. That's what he'd been telling himself each day he trudged further north. Though there were rumors of havens in this part of the country, in his heart he knew they were dead. They had to be. After he made sure, he would be at peace with leaving this wretched world like so many others. What was the point of remaining behind? To witness the exact moment when the planet breathed its last?
He had been a religious man before they arrived. Their appearance broke his faith like it did so many others, but not to the point where it drove him to participate in the mass suicides that happened around the world. Priests, rabbis, clerics, and their congregations had all been driven mad by physical proof that everything they had devoted their lives to was a lie. Some had ended it all when the first ship came; others waited until the rest arrived. But regardless of their apostasy, their purposeful deaths avoided at least one hell, the one currently in existence everywhere around him.
Lucas didn't think about God much anymore. If He did exist, what could He be doing right now? Washing His hands of the world He created, now a broken toy needing to be replaced by another? It was better to imagine He wasn't there at all, as Lucas didn't need to waste his energy with hate. Survival was the more pressing concern.
Excerpted from The Last Exodus by Paul Tassi. Copyright © 2015 Paul Tassi. Excerpted by permission of Talos Press.
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
This book was perfect. The writing style is descriptive and rich in world building detail. Tassi brillantly combines a blend of Earth ending appocalypse and syfy with a definite twist. I was drawn in from the first chapter and was glad I began reading Friday night because I wanted, no, had to find out what happened next. Never is there a pause or long drawn out scenes where things are boringly explained. You experience each moment fighting to survive with the characters. As a lover of all things end of the world and science fiction I couldn't have picked a better book. It's the first of a trilogy, but believe me not only was I happy I bought this book, I can't wait to read the others. This was approx. 400 pgs. of pure action driven pleasure. Glad to have found another writer to enjoy. Jp
Interesting premise and pretty fun, but each new problem gets resolved within another page or two.
Like able characters, good plot with a few twists.
Nice read really enjoyed it
I’m not sure what I was expecting, but this was way better!
This was the 2nd time I have read this book, and it was even better than the first time. This guy knows how to tell a story.
It was a great read. Hope there's more
Excellent sci-fi adventure.
Could not put it down.