Book - Descendant Machine

We're very happy to be the Publication Day stop on Titan Books' blog tour for Gareth L Powell's latest novel! Read an exclusive excerpt from Descendant Machine...

The planet Jzat lay in what had once been a binary star system. I say “once”, because two thousand years ago, around the time local civilisation was just getting started, someone or something had replaced one of their stars with an impenetrable black sphere a hundred thousand kilometres in diameter. Around this obsidian pearl, a ring-shaped artefact formed a rotating halo. The locals called the halo the Grand Mechanism, although they had no idea what its purpose was or how it worked.

“I still say it looks like Saturn,” the Chic commented.

I glanced up from my book. “Saturn’s yellowy-brown.” 

“Apart from that.”
“And its rings aren’t as dense.”
“Now you’re just being picky for the sake of it.”

I shrugged. “You’ve seen one big dumb object, you’ve seen them all.”

Through our link, I caught a fleeting hint of the Chic’s amusement. “You’re not easily impressed, are you?”

“I saw it last time we were here.” I flicked some lint from my brocade coat. “It’s just a big hoop around a planet-sized ball. Have you ever seen a Dyson sphere? Those fuckers are big.”

We had emerged from the substrate and were approaching the planet. “Keep your eye out for gunboats,” I said, even though I knew the Chic was already running on high alert, with its scanners raking every square centimetre of local space for potential threats.

Jzat was a small, greenish world in orbit around a modest yellow-white sun, currently a dozen light years from the Thousand Arks of the Continuance. In most respects, it was an unremarkable world. Life thrived in its deep, fertile oceans and in the expansive forests that thronged its temperate regions—but the Vanguard had already surveyed a hundred such worlds during the one hundred and twenty-five years since humanity’s expulsion from Earth. Plants and sea creatures were common and grew wherever the conditions for life existed. Jzat stood out because it also played host to an intelligent species, and intelligent species were rare.

Rare, and biologically diverse.

Despite the guest-actor-in-a-rubber-mask clichés of popular drama, nobody had ever seriously expected to find another race that looked even vaguely human. There was nothing inevitable about our shape; we were just a race of lucky monkeys who’d happened to harness fire. If you re-ran evolution from the beginning, you might end up with a quite different dominant body plan—an intelligent dinosaur or self-aware squid, perhaps. And that was just on Earth; other worlds would have had their own unique set of challenges and circumstances, producing their own unique evolutionary responses. During the years of its exile, humanity had encountered nearly two dozen intelligent races, and none had exhibited any mammalian characteristics. We had found a scholarly slime mould covering an entire continent; a hive mind of kilometre-long centipede- like creatures stalking a volcanic moon; and even an ocean whose saltwater tides had become complex enough to spark awareness—but we had never found anything even vaguely resembling ourselves. Wishing to find human-like aliens was like hoping to meet Santa Claus.

Or so we’d thought.

Thank you very much to Titan Books and Gareth L Powell for allowing us to share this excerpt. Please visit all the other websites and blogs involved in this week's tour: Civilian Reader, The Fantasy Hive, Books Bones & Buffy, Reading With My Eyes, Rising Shadow, Runalong the Shelves, Book Referees, The Nerdy Nook, Girl Who Reads and FanFiAddict.   

Here's the synopsis of the book:

The Grand Mechanism is a machine the size of Saturn’s rings that has lain dormant for all recorded history, watched over by the alien Jzat. Now, rogue elements in Jzat and human society conspire to activate it, hoping it will bring them power and opportunity. But the only person who knows the Mechanism’s secrets is the Rav’nah Abelisk, a Jzat holy man on sabbatical aboard a vast alien megaship. Believing the Mechanism’s activation will bring galactic devastation, Nic Mafalda has to seek out the Abelisk before his sacred knowledge falls into the wrong hands—but only if she can first escape the lethally radioactive remains of her wrecked scout ship.

Descendant Machine by Gareth L Powell is published today by Titan Books.

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