Gareth L. Powell‘s latest novel, Embers of War has been receiving some very good pre-publication buzz. Today, we have an excerpt from the novel. Published by Titan Books today in the US and UK, here’s the synopsis:
The sentient warship Trouble Dog was built for violence, yet following a brutal war, she is disgusted by her role in a genocide. Stripped of her weaponry and seeking to atone, she joins the House of Reclamation, an organisation dedicated to rescuing ships in distress. When a civilian ship goes missing in a disputed system, Trouble Dog and her new crew of loners, captained by Sal Konstanz, are sent on a rescue mission.
Meanwhile, light years away, intelligence officer Ashton Childe is tasked with locating the poet, Ona Sudak, who was aboard the missing spaceship. What Childe doesn’t know is that Sudak is not the person she appears to be. A straightforward rescue turns into something far more dangerous, as Trouble Dog, Konstanz and Childe find themselves at the centre of a conflict that could engulf the entire galaxy. If she is to save her crew, Trouble Dog is going to have to remember how to fight…
Now, on to the excerpt.
They wanted her to give the order.
“Get me the Adalwolf,” she said to her communications officer.
The main display dimmed, and a hologram of the Adalwolf’s commander appeared. Captain Valeriy Yasha Barcov had a smooth scalp and a thick, bushy beard. He was in his command couch, with a profusion of thin fibre-optic data cables plugged into the sockets at the back of his head.
“Dobryj dyen, Captain.” He smiled wolfishly, obviously relishing the anticipated conflict. “We will be with you momentarily.”
Captain Deal shook her head. “No, Captain, I have a different mission for you.”
The man raised an eyebrow. “Speak, and it shall be done.”
Resting her weight on her hands, Deal leant across the table. “You are ordered to jump past the Outward fleet. Do not engage them. Your target is the planet.”
Barcov’s quizzical expression fell into a frown. “But we do not know where the conference is located. By the time we survey the jungle, the Outward ships will be upon us.”
“That’s why I want you to skip the survey.”
His confusion deepened. “But what shall we bomb?”
Deal swallowed. She could feel her heart beating in her chest. “Everything.”
Barcov opened and shut his mouth a few times. Finally, he said, “You wish me to destroy the sentient jungle of Pelapatarn?”
Deal felt the sweat break out on her forehead. “We have been ordered to raze it to the fucking ground,” she said.
For a moment, the old warhorse looked taken aback. Then he drew a deep breath through his cavernous nostrils and drew himself straight.
“It shall be done.”
Captain Deal watched the holocaust from the bridge of her Scimitar. She wanted to see the results of the order with her own eyes, not via a computer graphic. She knew soldiers from both sides were down there in the jungle, as well as several thousand civilians. But she told herself their sacrifice would be worth it. She was sure those in charge were right, and a swift and decisive end to the hostilities would, in the long term, save more lives than would be lost in the firestorm.
As the first mushroom clouds burst over the planet’s single supercontinent, she felt her stomach go light, as if the gravity had momentarily failed. All activity on the bridge ceased. Even the Outward fleet stopped firing.
Screaming low through the planet’s atmosphere, the four bullet-shaped Carnivores unleashed their entire arsenal of destruction, raining fire and death in swathes five hundred kilometres abreast. Nuclear explosions cratered the land and set millions of square kilometres of vegetation aflame; antimatter explosions tore at the very fabric of the planet, throwing up great plumes of dirt and rock, while smaller munitions rained down on likely targets, picking off anything that walked, crawled or flew.
One pass was enough.
They came out of nowhere, and then jumped away again before anyone in the enemy fleet could turn and engage them. And in their wake they left a billion-year-old biosphere ablaze, and an atmosphere choked with ash and radioactive dust.
The fires burned for six weeks.
The war was over in one.
Embers of War is out now.