- Science Fiction Book Club Editor’s Choice
- Locus Recommended First Novel
- Finalist, Campbell Award for Best New Writer
The tenth anniversary edition contains the bonus short story “Brothers Bound.”
Sira is on the run. The mysterious Captain Morgan has a starship. But if she goes with him, who will be at risk? Meet the Clan, shadowy figures of unfathomable power. Meet Huido, the lobster-like restauranteur. Meet the Trade Pact Enforcers, who have their own intentions. For events are beginning to unfold that will affect them all.
“Canadian Julie Czerneda’s debut is a most promising piece of work, a richly detailed and textured novel set against a gritty and unromantic interstellar backdrop governed by the Trade Pact, a union of worlds that are home to the usual menagerie of humans and exotic aliens”.SFReview
Author’s Note: You can start reading the Clan Chronicles here if you like, since I wrote it first. (Literally–this was my debut novel.)
Excerpt from A Thousand Words for Stranger (No spoilers)
I stared at the hand pressed near my cheek. It had five fingers, tipped with small, blunt nails, one broken. There were smudges of dirt on the palm and back; the clean skin was paler, except where a spider’s web of red marked the edges of a cut. It was mine, I decided, confused by the delay in recognition.
I shuddered, stumbling away from the damp wall. A flicker of movement caught my eye. A nearby window had lost part of its covering shutter, exposing a dirty slice of glass and curtain to the street. Something looked out at me. Cautious, I tilted my head to see, then lurched back as the pale something did the same.
My feet landed in the small river that currently passed for a gutter the same instant I realized I’d been startled by my own reflection. Sheepishly, I stepped closer to the window again. Was I that wet or was it the water running down the glass itself that made me look like a swimmer underwater, blurring my hair and clothes into the same dark mass? My face appeared as little more than two eyes stuck on a disc of white. Old and puzzled eyes. Maybe it was another trick of the rain-smeared glass. I wasn’t old.
Then was I a child? I didn’t think so. But what? Lost and wet. Humanoid. Those were easy. Male or female? The reflection kept mute on that interesting detail. I was definitely unwilling to strip in the rain to satisfy my curiosity. I patted my hands over my body, discovering water, but little else in the pockets and creases of my clothing. I continued my self-exploration. Nothing of me felt male, but nothing felt particularly female either.
A shout. Only an echo of a voice, probably the next street away, but enough to startle me back into myself, to force my feet to move. The rain struck harder as I left the partial shelter of the overhanging eaves; I hesitated, distracted by the taste of it in my mouth.
My mind suddenly turned inside out, filling with thoughts I knew weren’t mine, compulsions rippling like muscle, gripping me with needs and purposes I didn’t understand.
Find the starships. One ship, a trailing wisp of thought corrected, his ship.
Numb under the impact of imposed ideas, all I could do was look along the narrow street, empty of all but two parked groundcars on the other side. What ship?
More thoughts pushed their way to the surface, each dragging fear like something hooked to a line. Danger. Leave this world. Stay hidden, stay safe. I whimpered to myself, then glanced about to be sure no one heard.
The compulsions gradually faded, leaving echoes that burned into my mind: find the ship, leave this world, stay hidden. As I came back to myself, I realized my feet were walking, already carrying me somewhere. I stopped them, my mouth dry despite the rain.
For the first time, I really looked at my surroundings. Both sides of the street were lined with a chaotic assortment of buildings, most at least three stories high, their upper floors leaning together as if in conversation. Away from the street lamps, the strident colors of the walls sank into a dull assortment of greys. Rain collecting on the roofs channeled down in noisy waterfalls to feed the gutters. As if this weren’t enough, metal chimes hung everywhere, transmuting the tinkling of raindrops into a full orchestra.
Great, I said to myself, glaring at the buildings, all peacefully asleep and probably dry inside. If I was supposed to find a ship, I was certainly in the wrong place. This had to be somewhere in the All Sapient’s District, the maze of haphazard streets and alleyways between the native portion of Auord’s Port City and the shipcity itself. At least keeping hidden wasn’t a problem. Finding my way out would be.
More vital information spun away from my thoughts, quicksilver and slippery as I tried to hold it. My wet clothes slapped heavily against my legs as I began to walk again. Walking was progress, even if I didn’t know which way to go.