Gareth L. Powell Sci-Fi Tale Stars and Bones Exclusive Preview

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A spaceship crosses a fiery sun on a crop of Gareth L. Powell's Stars and Bones cover.

Picture: Titan Books

Gareth L. Powell, author of Embers of war series, has a new space opera will be released next year which will launch a new series. It’s called Stars and bones, and io9 a the exclusive cover reveals and an exciting extract to share today.

First up, here’s the official description for some background.

Seventy-five years from today, the human race has been driven from a dying Earth to roam the stars in a vast fleet of arches, each shaped by its inhabitants in a diverse and fascinating new environment, with its own rules and eccentricities.

When his sister goes missing responding to a mysterious alien distress call, Eryn insists on being part of the crew sent to find her. What she finds on Candidate-623 is both terrifying and deadly. When the threat follows her to the fleet and people start to die, she is tasked with searching for a legendary recluse who may well hold the key to humanity’s survival.

And here’s the full cover, designed by Julia Lloyd, followed by the clip. Incoming talking space cat, with a rather terrifying black hole!

Image of the article titled Talking cat propels action into deep space in this clip from Stars and Bones

Picture: Titan Books


“Are we going to die?” he asked, eyeing the looming destruction.

“Probably.”

“Oh.” He licked one paw and wiped himself behind the ear. “Well, I’m not going to lie, I’m a little disappointed.”

I heard a squeal at the rear and a red light told me we had just lost one of our stabilizers.

“I guess you could do better?” “

The cat looked up. “Of course I could.”

“But…?”

“I can see a way out.

“Really?”

The animal stretched. “Believe me, I am a cat. I climb things. I catch birds and fish. I’m all about spatial awareness.

“So what do you suggest? “

“Get the Ocelot to dream-bind to me.

“You would need an implant.

“I have an implant. How do you think this necklace works? “

We were approaching the maelstrom now. X-rays bombarded the hull, and the very fabric of space and time was distorted by the singularity at the heart of the black hole.

the Ocelot said: “It may be possible.”

The deck lights dimmed as the ship diverted all available energy to strengthen molecular bonds in the hull.

I said, “But, can’t you find a way through?”

the Ocelot remained silent for a moment. Then he said, “I can calculate a path that might take us out to the other side. But it is a matter of making a close passage around a mathematical singularity dense enough for its gravity to interact with the substrate. I would prefer to have a browser connected if we encountered unpredictable quantum fluctuations. “

“And you think the cat can do it?” “

“As much as it pains me to admit it, I believe he can.”

The cat was looking at me with his yellow eyes. “Good?”

I sat down on my couch. “I must be going crazy.”

“Is that a yes?”

“Yes do it. What do we have to lose?”

We were about to hit the outer layer of the falling disc. Something was pulling me inside. I could feel the entity’s incorporeal fingers pulling on my ribs, threatening to tear me apart as it tore my sister apart.

Then, deep in my mind, I felt a new presence, as lean and hungry as a coiled spring. Sam’s mind had joined our consensus.

The side thrusters fired, launching the Ocelot in a turn. At the same time, our noses have plunged towards the event horizon itself. We were going to strike the black hole with a lightning strike, right where the star’s burning matter reached the point of no return.

That’s it, I was thinking. Were dead. Nothing could cross an event horizon and emerge on the other side. The gravity within this limit was so fierce that not even light could escape.

This is the last time I trust a fucking cat.

Sam stretched again, seemingly indifferent to the doubt escaping the connection between my mind and his. “Have the jump engines ready to go. The little con was actually purring.

the Ocelot says, “Ready for your brand.”

“Alright, on hold.”

Flapping his tail, Sam crouched down, as if he was about to pounce. His eyes were like saucers. Its ears were tilted forward and its paws kneaded the bridge. I had never seen a cat focus on something so vivid. A blinding curtain of death rushed towards us. The front screen had darkened so much to protect our eyes that it was practically black.

“Dive deep,” said the cat, and the coin wobbled so hard I was knocked onto my back. The alien’s claws sank into my lungs. I could feel my ribs start to sag. I was going to be burnt and gutted at the same time. We have reached the point where the molten waterfall has impacted the event horizon. All vessel alarms were triggered. the Ocelotthe prow stretched out like a drawn draw. My fingers were running like spaghetti. We were stretched out until I thought we were going to go our separate ways.

So what…

And then we were whole again, but everything was moving in slow motion, as if we were underwater. The light outside seemed strange. I don’t think it’s even light, not the way we understand it, and yet somehow I could still see. The sound of my breathing roars in my ears. My skin was itching and tingling in ways unknown as my nerves fired in random sequences. Time and space pressed against me like air, and I realized we were inside the event horizon.

Oh shit.

I… I could feel the dead around me. Shay and Snyder, my parents, my grandparents. Everyone I had lost. The past, the future. They were all there at that moment, inseparable in the liminality between the real and the unreal. I felt the warmth of their love. My ears were ringing with their half-heard pleas and warnings. My arms ached from my inability to hold them. Somewhere a child cried. A dog barked. Footsteps echoed along an aluminum air vent. I thought I heard a choir singing and I smelled a whiff of vinegar and burnt toast. The Angels of Benevolence swirled before me, mirroring the largest spiral in the galaxy, which in turn was part of the Local Group’s greatest revolution. My perspective widened to eternity. The universe shrank to a nutshell containing endless space and bad dreams, and I realized my lungs were not working. I hadn’t caught my breath since we crossed the threshold. I hadn’t moved so much as an eyelid.

I knew little about the physics of black holes, but I had read once how fierce gravity would slow down time as you approached the singularity at its center – until you were finally trapped like ghosts in a eternal and endless moment, trapped like flies in amber.

But then the jump engines fired.

the Ocelot fell into the substrate and jumped out of the black hole like a fork bouncing off a spinning garbage disposal.

The claw sensation evaporated from my chest. The damage to the ship has ceased.

We were free.

For the moment.


Extract from Gareth L. Powell’s Stars and bones reprinted with permission. Copyright Titan Books.

Gareth L. Powell’s Stars and bones will be published on February 15, 2022; you can pre-order a copy here.


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