Welcome to Friday Firsts – a new weekly meme created by Tenacious Reader. New Book: First paragraphs. First impressions. New favourite?
| Friday Firsts: July 07 |
Book One of The Vagrant Trilogy
by Peter Newman
Fantasy | 400 Pages | Published by Harper Voyager in 2015
| First Paragraphs |
Starlight gives way to bolder neon. Signs muscle in on all sides, brightly welcoming each arrival to New Horizon.
The Vagrant does not notice; his gaze fixes on the ground ahead.
People litter the streets like living waste, their eyes as hollow as their laughter. Voices beg and hands grasp, needy, aggressive.
The Vagrant does not notice and walks on, clasping his coat tightly at the neck.
Excited shouts draw a crowd ahead. A mixture of half-bloods and pimps, dealers and spectators gather in force. Platforms rise up in the street, unsteady on legs of salvaged metal. Wire cages sit on top. Within, shivering forms squat, waiting to be sold. For some of the assembled, the flesh auction provides new slaves, for others, fresh meat.
Unnoticed in the commotion, the Vagrant travels on.
The centre of New Horizon is dominated by a vast scrap yard dubbed ‘The Iron Mountain’, a legacy from the war. At its heart is the gutted corpse of a fallen sky-ship; its cargo of tanks and fighters has spilled out in the crash, forming a skirt of scattered metal at the mountain’s base.
Always opportunistic, the inhabitants of New Horizon have tunnelled out its insides to create living spaces and shops, selling on the sky-ship’s treasures. Scavenged lamps hang, colouring the shadows.
One tunnel is illuminated by a glowing hoop, off-white and erratic. In the pale light, the low ceiling is the colour of curdled milk.
Awkwardly, the Vagrant enters, bending his legs and bowing his head, his back held straight.
Corrugated shelves line the walls, packed with bottles, tins and tubes. The owner of the rusting cave hunches on the floor, cleaning a syringe with a ragged cloth. He appraises the Vagrant with a bloodshot eye.
‘A new customer?’ The Vagrant nods. Syringe and cloth are swiftly tucked away and yellowing fingers rub together. ‘Ah, welcome, welcome. I am Doctor Zero. I take it you’ve heard of me?’
The Vagrant nods.
‘Of course you have, that’s why you’re here. Well, what can I get you? You look tired. I have the finest selection of uppers this side of the Breach, or perhaps something to escape with?’ His eyes twinkle, sleazy, seductive.
One hand still on his collar, the Vagrant’s amber eyes roam the shelves. They alight on a small jar, its label faded to a uniform grey.
‘Ah, a discerning customer,’ says Doctor Zero, impressed. ‘Rare to have somebody who knows what they’re looking for. Most of the rabble I get through here can’t tell the difference between stardust and sawdust.’ He picks up the jar, flicking something sticky from the lid. ‘I assume whoever sent you appreciates the scarcity of good medicine … and the cost.’
In answer, the Vagrant kneels and places two platinum coins on the ground, sliding them across the floor towards the Doctor.
‘I hope you aren’t trying to trick me,’ the Doctor replies, picking them up and tapping each one in turn with his finger. The coins vibrate and a brief two-note duet fills the cramped space. For a moment neither speak, both moved to other memories by the sound.
Doctor Zero holds them to the light, the clean discs incongruous with his sallow skin. ‘My apologies,’ he says, handing the jar over quickly, hoping no change will be asked for. ‘And if you have any other needs, don’t hesitate to come back.’
| First Impressions |
It’s impossible not to fall in love with Newman’s writing style. Even from the opening paragraphs the flow of his words and the lyrical construction of his sentences drew me deep into its pages and refused to let me go. The mystery and tension is palpable, the world a dark unknown, and the characters ever more so. This is one novel which already has me hooked.
First impressions? Breathtaking. If The Vagrant continues in the vein in which it started I have high expectations of it being an outstanding and incredibly memorable read.
What are you currently reading? What were your first impressions?