Christopher recently sat down to read an excerpt from his upcoming science fiction novel To Sleep in a Sea of Stars! This is one of the first times the author has had the opportunity to read some of his new work for an audience, and he was delighted to do so. TSiaSoS reading
We’ve excerpted the section below for your reading pleasure. Don’t forget you can preorder your very own copy of To Sleep in a Sea of Stars from your favorite bookseller, available September 15th within the United States and alternate dates outside of the US. As always, check back often for the latest updates about this exciting new novel!
Enough. She’d tempted fate far more than was wise. Time to make a strategic retreat.
She turned to leave the pedestal.
A jolt ran up her leg as her right foot remained stuck to the floor. She yelped, surprised, and fell to one knee. As she did, the Achilles tendon in her frozen ankle wrenched and tore, and she uttered a howl.
Blinking back tears, Kira looked down at her foot.
A pile of black dust covered her foot. Moving, seething dust. It was pouring out of the basin, down the pedestal, and onto her foot. Even as she watched, it started to creep up her leg, following the contours of her muscles.
Kira yelled and tried to yank her leg free, but the dust held her in place as securely as a maglock. She tore off her belt, doubled it over, and used it to slap at the featureless mass. The blows failed to knock any of the dust loose.
“Neghar!” she shouted. “Help!”
Her heart pounding so loudly she couldn’t hear anything, Kira stretched the belt flat between her hands and tried to use it like a scraper on her thigh. The edge of the belt left a shallow impression in the dust but otherwise had no effect.
The swarm of particles had already reached the crease of her hip. She could feel them pressing in around her leg, like a series of tight, ever-shifting bands.
Kira didn’t want to, but she had no other choice; with her right hand, she tried to grab the dust and pull it away.
Her fingers sank into the swarm of particles as easily as foam. There was nothing to grab hold of, and when she drew her hand back, the dust came with it, wrapping around her fingers with ropy tendrils.
“Agh!” She scrubbed her hand against the floor, but to no avail.
Fear spiked through her as she felt something tickle her wrist, and she knew that the dust had found its way through the seams of her gloves.
“Emergency override! Seal all cuffs.” Kira had difficulty saying the words. Her mouth was dry, and her tongue seemed twice its normal size.
Her suit responded instantly, tightening around each of her joints, including her neck, and forming airtight seals with her skin. They couldn’t stop the dust, though. Kira felt the cold tickle progress up her arm to her elbow, and then past.
“Mayday! Mayday!” she shouted. “Mayday! Neghar! Geiger! Mayday! Can anyone hear me?! Help!”
Outside the suit, the dust flowed over her visor, plunging her into darkness. Inside the suit, the tendrils wormed their way over her shoulder and across her neck and chest.
Unreasoning terror gripped Kira. Terror and abhorrence. She jerked on her leg with all her strength. Something snapped in her ankle, but her foot remained anchored to the floor.
She screamed and clawed at her visor, trying to clear it off.
The dust oozed across her cheek and toward the front of her face. She screamed again and then clamped her mouth shut, closed off her throat, and held her breath.
Her heart felt as if it were going to explode.
The dust crept over her eyes, like the feet of a thousand tiny insects. A moment later, it covered her mouth. And when it came, the dry, squirming touch within her nostrils was no less horrible than she had imagined.
…stupid …shouldn’t have …Alan!
Kira saw his face in front of her, and along with her fear, she felt an overwhelming sense of unfairness. This wasn’t supposed to be how things ended! Then the weight in her throat became too great and she opened her mouth to scream as the torrent of dust rushed inside of her.
And all went blank.
To start with, there was the awareness of awareness.
Then an awareness of pressure, soft and comforting.
Later still, an awareness of sounds: a faint chirp that repeated, a distant rumble, the whir of recycled air.
Last of all came an awareness of self, rising from within the depths of blackness. It was a slow process; the murk was thick and heavy, like a blanket of silt, and it stifled her thoughts, weighing them down and burying them in the deepness. The natural buoyancy of her consciousness prevailed, though, and in time, she woke.
Kira opened her eyes.
She was lying on an exam table in sickbay, at HQ. Above her, a pair of lightstrips striped the bracketed ceiling, blue-white and harsh. The air was cool and dry and smelled of familiar solvents.
Why was that surprising? And how had she ended up in sickbay? Weren’t they supposed to be leaving for the Fidanza?
She swallowed, and the foul taste of hibernation fluids caused her to gag. Her stomach turned as she recognized the taste. Cryo? She’d been in fucking cryo? Why? For how long?
What the hell had happened?!
Panic spiked her pulse, and Kira bolted upright, clawing at the blanket that covered her. “Gaaah!” She was wearing a thin medical gown, tied at the sides.
The walls swam around her with cryo-induced vertigo. She pitched forward and fell off the table onto the white decking, heaving as her body tried to expel the poison inside of her. Nothing came up except drool and bile.
She felt hands turning her over, and then Alan appeared above her, cradling her with gentle arms. “Kira,” he said again, his face pinched with concern. “Shhh. It’s okay. I’ve got you now. Everything’s okay.”
He looked nearly as bad as Kira felt. His cheeks were hollow, and there were lines around his eyes she didn’t remember from that morning. Morning? “How long?” she croaked.
Alan winced. “Almost four weeks.”
Excerpted from To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, copyright © 2020 by Christopher Paolini.