Pitched as Heroes meets Firefly, this delightful science fiction novel by Jennifer Lee Rossman is about the genetically engineered "freaks" of a traveling space carnival who find themselves at the front lines of a universe at war. It will be available to purchase in trade paperback and ebook Tuesday, December 4, 2018. See below to read an excerpt, and enter to win your early copy!
Read an Excerpt
Across the tapestry of the universe and all its vast and varied cultures, there ran a single, unifying thread: no one could resist the allure of the words “not for the faint of heart” written in a scandalous, jagged font and followed by four exclamation points. Good marketing knew no bounds.
From my post in the shadows, I looked out over the audience with satisfaction. Used to be I couldn’t see the floor between the people, the way they crowded in. Now it seemed I saw more of it every show, but I couldn’t complain about the turnout on this night, nor about the revenue they brought in.
There was something to be said for docking on the less affluent moons and planets. Sure, the rich people floating around on their space stations and on the hoity toity worlds that governed their solar systems had coin enough to melt down into disposable flatware, but they spent it on electronic gadgets that numbed their brains, not on the kind of quality entertainment we offered.
On the farming and mining colonies, where the only forms of entertainment were swatting mosquitoes and throwing rocks at neighbors, the arrival of a carnival ship made for a major event. They saved up all year for a night’s diversion from their hard lives.
And I was all too glad to provide it for them.
“We made a killing tonight,” my pilot Lily whispered in my ear, her bright smile evident in her voice. “Might even be able to afford the fuel to get us to the next gig.”
“We’ll be fine,” I said, not really listening as a person in the crowd drew my attention. “I think we found another one.”
I pointed to the girl, dressed in her best flannel shirt and black slacks, with most of the hay brushed out of her coppery hair. She was a teenager, but the electric fascination in her eyes as she waited for the show to begin wasn’t the excitement of a mere child. Something about our world spoke to her. Maybe the opportunity to travel the galaxies, maybe the camaraderie of a carnival family, or maybe just the chance for something more than the lot life had given her.
Whatever the case, she’d be part of the crew before we departed the next day. I was sure of it.
“She could just be excited for the show,” Lily argued, crossing her arms. “It doesn’t mean she’s one of us.”
I nudged her with my elbow, grinning. “Why do you doubt me?”
“Because you refuse to.” She pointed a long, manicured nail at the crowd. “They’re waiting,” she said, disappearing into the darkness as she went back to her mark.
“Can’t rush the music,” I said, yet even as the words left my mouth, the old receiver crackled to life beside me, singing the first notes of my intro.
Adrenaline surged to my heart at the sound of the slowly rising tones of the eerie, wordless song, and I hurried to my post on the catwalk. Her voice sounded more like a warbling violin than it did a singing woman, which only added to the ethereal ambiance. A murmur went through the crowd as I emerged from the shadows high above the stage. I felt alive, fire burning through my veins.
“Ladies and gentlemen and nonbinary gentlefolk,” I boomed, the music growing high and tense, “consider this your last warning. You are about to bear witness to creatures and abominations from the farthest reaches of the known universe, horrors the human eye was never meant to see. I cannot be held responsible for the effects these sights have on your psyche. Some people never recover from the shock, so I encourage those with sensitive dispositions or weak hearts to leave now.”
No one left; no one ever left.