Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Steven Erikson’s newest book, Rejoice, a Knife to the Heart. This thrilling sci-fi novel is out in UK stores today! I’m so pleased to be able to share an extract from the book on publication day — take a peek below.
About the book
Rejoice, A Knife to the Heart tells the story of the Intervention, which begins when Samantha August, science fiction writer, disappears into a beam of light, apparently from a UFO, while walking along a busy street in Victoria, Canada. While footage of the incident – captured on smartphones – goes viral, Samantha wakes up in a small room, where she is greeted by the voice of Adam, who explains that they are in orbit and he is AI communicant of the Intervention Delegation, a triumvirate of alien civilisations seeking to ensure the continuing evolution of Earth as a viable biome. Thus begins an astonishing, provocative, beautifully written and startlingly visionary novel of First Contact.
City of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
May 19th, 2:19 PM
Three smokers were hanging out outside the bar on Cook Street. A woman was carrying a cardboard box filled with old clothes, heading for the consignment shop. Across the street, three house-painters had just climbed the stairs up from the hardware store, burdened with supplies for repairing drywall. A man was walking towards Pandora Avenue and the grocery store on its corner.
The street itself was crowded with traffic, congested despite the suicide turn-lane running down the centre. The pace was a crawl in the lane heading south as the last few vehicles caught up to the line awaiting a change of lights down at Pandora. A UPS delivery van had just turned from Pandora, heading north.
In total, eleven cameras caught the event, as stills and video. There was an exceptional amount of concurrence among the witnesses when later questioned by journalists and police officers. The event had already gone viral when the official inquiry began.
A middle-aged woman had been walking down Cook, on the same side as the consignment store and the bar. She had been well dressed, her stride assured, her hands in the pockets of her charcoal-grey mid-length coat and her fiery red hair long enough to lift in the wind coming up from the south, but not so long as to fantail out behind her. Her face – as the nearest witnesses recalled – was curiously memorable. High cheekbones, flat cheeks, a wide jaw, a face that hadn’t seen much sun.
There’d been some clouds overhead, scudding in from the Sooke Hills to the west, so at first no one had paid much attention to the shadow settling across the street.
One of the smokers, a Mister John Allaire, was wheelchair bound. His angle of repose afforded him the privilege of being the first person to sight the dispersal of the cloud overhead, revealing the slightly curved shape of something solid and huge.
‘Like the underside of a plate, a china plate,’ John said. In the course of his life up until now, this was his defining event. Things had been pretty shitty for some time. His smoking was killing his legs below the knees. His drinking was pickling his liver. He was sixty-three years old and living on assistance. He’d never won the lottery.
‘Like the underside of a plate, a china plate. That then started glowing in the middle. Dead centre. Glowing like you wouldn’t believe. I had to shade my eyes, but that didn’t stop me seeing the beam of light come down. Right on that woman – who wasn’t twenty feet from me. She never knew what hit her.’
Margot Revette agreed. ‘She was just walking. And then the light swallowed her up, and then the light was gone and so was she. I was bringing old clothes in, you know? And an old pair of high heels – can’t believe I bought those. Not meant for human feet. I must’ve lost my mind. But consignment, right? There’s always the chance, I mean, people will buy anything.’
‘The light hit,’ said Rick Shultz. ‘We were just out from the store, me and Jack and Naadi. Carrying shit to the back of the truck. The fucking light stabbed down from that fucking UFO, and bam! The woman was gone. Then the ship just folded up and vanished.’
‘Holy fuck yeah,’ added Jack. ‘She was, like, incinerated.’
‘Folded up and vanished,’ Rick repeated. ‘Damned thing didn’t even fly away.’
Who was she?
No one knew. They would have to await reports of someone gone unexpectedly missing. It might take a day or two, and if the woman lived alone, maybe a lot longer.
None of the video or still shots caught much of her face. Too bad about that, but then, not surprising. Everyone was filming the UFO.
Dr Hamish Drake worked too hard. People who knew him agreed on that, especially his wife. For the past five years, Hamish had been one of only three general practitioners in Greater Victoria who was accepting new patients. It was something of a crisis.
He was between patients that afternoon, stealing a few minutes trying to work his way into a stack of test results appended to patient files, when his receptionist, Nurjehan Aziz, entered his office. Startled by the absence of a knock, Hamish looked up over his reading glasses. There was an ashen hue to her face, the kind of look he had seen before, usually when red-flagged results came back on a long-standing patient.
Death had a way of stalking the living, a detail both Nurjehan and Hamish understood all too well. It arrived in a pallor, the blood draining from a living face. In Nurjehan’s visage, the shadow was there for him to see, and a cool, dispassionate dread rose in answer from the depths of his gut, even as in his mind he searched his memory for who might be in trouble – someone he’d seen the past week, someone he’d ordered tests on, someone –
‘Something’s happened,’ Nurjehan said.
Hamish frowned. This was different. She was trembling. He’d never seen his receptionist so rattled. Removing his glasses and setting them down on the desktop, he said, ‘Close the door. Explain.’
His calm, dulcet tones failed to settle her. Instead, she winced.
‘I was online – forgive me—’
‘Not again. Nurjehan, if you’re not here to tell me that a nuclear war has just erupted, I will be—’
‘There was a UFO. Here in Victoria. There are recordings all over Facebook and YouTube. I looked at the CHEK news site. The police have posted a photo of someone … disappearing. Inside a beam of light.’
Nurjehan held out her cellphone to show him the image she had called up.
Too close. He could make out little more than a blurry figure on what looked like a street. amish retrieved his glasses, put them on and then leaned forward.
As if from some distance, he heard Nurjehan say, ‘The beam of light. From the UFO. The whole thing was recorded.’
‘This is ridiculous,’ Hamish said, reaching for his own phone. He fast-dialled his wife’s number. The response was immediate. Connection failed. ‘Doesn’t mean anything,’ he muttered, dialling again. ‘Even with her online presence, she hardly ever picks up. Sometimes she forgets to even turn the damned thing on.’ Same result. He pocketed the phone and rose. ‘Let me see that video. I cannot believe this.’
I hope you enjoyed this extract of Rejoice! Don’t forget to drop in on the other stops on this blog tour for more content and reviews.