Jo Fletcher Books publishes Karen Lord‘s critically-acclaimed novel The Galaxy Game in paperback on January 7th, 2016. It is the sequel to the equally-acclaimed The Best of All Possible Worlds. In advance of it hitting shelves, JFB have sent me this short extract to share here, to whet readers’ appetites for the novel. First up, the synopsis:
For years, Rafi Delarua saw his family suffer under his father’s unethical use of psionic power. Now the government has Rafi under close watch but, hating their crude attempts to analyse his brain, he escapes to the planet Punartam, where his abilities are the norm, not the exception. Punartam is also the centre for his favourite sport, wallrunning – and thanks to his best friend, he has found a way to train with the elite.
But Rafi soon realises he’s playing quite a different game, for the galaxy is changing; unrest is spreading and the Zhinuvian cartels are plotting, making the stars a far more dangerous place to aim. There may yet be one solution — involving interstellar travel, galactic power and the love of a beautiful game.
And now, read on for the prologue…
THE GALAXY GAME
The only cure for a sleepless night was to lie in bed and watch the constellations projected on his ceiling. He knew them by heart, had known them since his boy-days on Cygnus Beta when he would climb the homestead water tower to stargaze (and escape his father). Then, they were a distant dream, an ancient tale that he could only trust was true. Now they were the dirt on his boots, the dust in his lungs and a constant pang of care and concern that he carried in his heart. He was homesick for everywhere, for scattered friends and family and colleagues, each with a claim on his attention.
He whispered names in soothing ritual. The First Four, crafted worlds found already seeded with life – Ntshune, Sadira, Zhinu and Terra. Then there were the colonies, bioformed planets shaped and settled by emigrants – Punartam, Ain, Tolimán and more. The Terran system was nearest to his Cygnian heritage, but the Punartam system was closest in travel time and galactic rank.
Its sole habitable planet, a first-wave colony almost as prominent as the First Four, was reputed to be the first fully bioformed world, a point still debated by the Academes. Was Cygnus Beta a crafted world that had failed and been restored by human or non-human effort, or a bioforming experiment unrecorded in human history? Punartam could prove its origins; Cygnus Beta could not. Punartam was, of course, the Cygnian name (from a Terran language, like so many other Cygnian names). In Terran stellar nomenclature it was b Geminorum, and Galactic Standard offered a collection of syllables that told the full story of the star’s location, age, luminosity and life-bearing potential. The name they used for themselves was in Simplified Ntshune and it meant the same thing as in Galactic Standard – behold! we are here, we have been here long, see how brightly we shine, we are we.
The founders of Punartam traced their origin to the system called the Mother of humanity. Cygnian name: Ntshune (also from a Terran language). Terran name: a Piscis Austrini. True name: a delicate and yearning melodic phrase in Traditional Ntshune. But there was another claim to Eldest – Sadira. Terran name: e Eridani. Sadiri name: something unpronounceable (the Sadiri language, even in the simplified standard form, was still a challenge for him to speak). Former leader of the galaxy . . . or at least policeman and judge and occasional executioner. Not much liked though rarely hated, and now occasionally pitied. Sadira was dead, or almost dead, its biosphere locked in toxic regeneration for centuries to come. The seat of government had moved to New Sadira, formerly known to Cygnians as Tolimán. Survivors had settled throughout the colonies, mainly Punartam and Cygnus Beta, but not Ain. Certainly not Ain. Next in rank. Cygnian name: Zhinu. Terran name: a Lyrae. Most Zhinuvians used the Galactic Standard name, but there were variations of that. In spite of several layers of modern tech and some extreme bioforming, the origin planet of the system had begun as a crafted world. Then there was Terra, Earth. Source of most of the settlers on Cygnus Beta (Terran stellar nomenclature: the unmelodious 16 Cygni B). Youngest of the First Four and most in need of protection. Zhinu, an example of long-term, well-intentioned meddling from both Ntshune and Sadira, was now playing the role of delinquent middle child while the two elder siblings tried to shield Terra from outside influences.