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The City of Last Chances by Adrian Tchaikovsky: exclusive excerpt

The City of Last Chances by Adrian Tchaikovsky: exclusive excerpt

Versatile and prolific author Adrian Tchaikovsky won the Arthur C. Clarke Awarded in 2016 for his science fiction tale children of time, but he is also known for his fantasy series Shadows of the Apt. He returns to the fantasy genre with his next novel, city ​​of last chancesand io9 has a first preview today!

Here is a description of the story:

There has always been darkness for Ilmar, but never more so than now. The city chafes under the heavy hand of the Palleseen occupation, the strangulation of its criminal underworld, the boot of its factory owners, the weight of its wretched poor, and the burden of its ancient curse.

What will be the spark that will ignite the fire?

Despite the city’s refugees, vagabonds, murderers, lunatics, zealots and thieves, the catalyst, as always, will be the Anchorwood – that dark grove of trees, that primeval remnant, that portal, when the moon is full, to strange and distant shores.

Ilmar, some say, is the worst place in the world and the gateway to a thousand worse places.

Ilmar, the city of long shadows.

City of bad decisions.

City of last chances.

Here’s the full cover, followed by the excerpt.

Image for article titled The City of Last Chances by Adrian Tchaikovsky explores a volatile new realm

Picture: Head of Zeus

Yasnic’s relationship with God

Yasnic the priest. Thin and not young, but not quite old. Half lost in clothes cut for a taller man in bulky Ilmari style. Hollow face, hair graying before it failed, sparse, recoiling from its temples like an army which, seeing that its opposition is time, no longer has the will to fight…

That morning, God was still complaining. Yasnic was lying in bed, his knees almost up to his chin and his feet entwined. Trying to tell, by the way the light filtered through the dirty window, if the frost was just outside or back inside. He could have reached out to touch the windows and check. He could have stepped out and kicked God. Or the back wall. It was, he decided, a blessing. A small room kept his body heat longer. If he could afford something bigger, then he would have needed a hearth and bought wood or coal, or even magic tables, to heat the place.

“It’s cold,” says God. “It’s so cold.” The divine presence was curled up on its shelf like an emaciated cat, and about the same size. He had shrunk since the night before, and maybe that was a blessing too. Sometimes Yasnic would need a little less God in his life, and here he is this morning, and God was at least a quarter smaller. He thanked, his knee-jerk reaction rooted in long years of good upbringing from Kosha, the former priest of God. Back when Ilmar was a more tolerant place, where old Kosha, Yasnic and God lived in three rooms above a tanner and ate meat at least once every twelve days.

Not twelve days, he reminded himself. The correct exchange school levied fines and made arrests for people using the old schedule, he had heard. He had to start thinking in terms of a seven-day week, except he couldn’t go back to how things had been and properly quantify time. How many times had they eaten meat, back when he was a boy learning on Kosha’s lap? What is seven in twelve or twelve in seven or how could it work? His math wasn’t good enough to figure it out. And so, obscurely, it was as if some of his memories were locked away by the new ammunition. Moreover, he had just thanked God for having less God in his life, and God, the recipient of those thanks, was right there looking at him accusingly.

“I need a blanket,” says God. “It’s only the beginning of winter and it’s so cold.”

God looked at all the skin and bones. He wore rags. It had only been a season since Yasnic had sacrificed a fine shirt to God, but the diminished state of faith – that is, Yasnic – tended to mean that whatever God put in his hands never lasted. not. A blanket would go the same way.

“I only have one blanket,” Yasnic told God.

“Take another one.” God looked at His only priest from His place on the shelf to the low ceiling. His spidery hands gripped the edge, his nose and wisps of beard sticking out over it. His skin was wrinkled and grayish, sunken until the shape of his bones could be seen very clearly. “Before, I had dresses of fur and velvet, and my acolytes burned sandalwood…”

“Yeah, yeah, i know.” Yasnic cut off God. “I only have this blanket.” He lifted the threadbare blanket and instantly regretted it, the morning chill settling into a bed with room for only one. “I guess I get up now,” he added meanly.

“Please,” said God. Yasnic stopped midway, digging his numb feet into his overtrousers. God looked bad, he had to admit. It was easy to think that God was selfish. God had, after all, been very used to people doing what he said and giving him all the good things back then. It was a long time before Yasnic, the last priest of God, arrived. Their religion had been dying for over a century, since the great Mahanic Temple had been raised. And yes, Mahanism had actively spoken out against other religions, but on top of that, they had just…expanded to fill all available faith. People went where the social capital was. And now, under the Occupation, there were really people who purged religions. Make arrests for incorrect speech. So much the better, it’s just me and God, thought Yasnic. Easier to go unnoticed.

“Ask the woman,” says God. “Ask him for another blanket. I’m cold.”

“Mother Ellaime won’t give us another blanket,” Yasnic said. In fact, their landlady would rather ask about last week’s rent. And that was something else, of course. Since the Occupation, everything had to be paid earlier, because of the weeks. And he couldn’t get the math to work, but it seemed like he was paying more every seventh day than every twelve day. And it wasn’t like being the only surviving holy man of God paid off much. There were few benefits and no regular take-home pay. And, under the Occupation, begging meant risking arrest for improper exchange.

“I’ll see what I can do.” Dressed, he stormed out of the room and went down to have tea. One thing that Mother Ellaime provided her boarders with was a samovar that was constantly swirling by the fire, and the fire and tea were just about enough to get Yasnic ready for a day’s snacking.

God hadn’t been with him on the stairs but was sitting next to the samovar in the common room. Yasnic unhooked a cup from its hook and filled it with a steaming dark green liquid. He wanted to avoid Mother Ellaime’s notice as he jostled elbows with his fellow boarders for space at the only table. God was there though. God was curled up cross-legged on the tin plate that Yasnic’s neighbor had eaten porridge.

“Ask him,” God insisted.

“I won’t,” whispered Yasnic. His neighbor, the tall man named Ruslav who never seemed to have a job but always seemed to have money, stared at him. He couldn’t see God sitting in the remains of his porridge. He probably thought Yasnic wanted to lick his plate. Jealously, he brought her closer to him, making God seek balance. Yasnic winced, aware that everyone was watching him now, even the student who had arrived two weeks earlier and whom he dreaded talking to. She was very intelligent and the people of Gownhall loved to debate metaphysics. He was afraid of listening too much to his twisted logic and looking for God around him, only to find that God was no longer there. And he was afraid of what he might feel, if he ever did.

“Ask,” God insisted sullenly. “I order it.”

“Mother,” Yasnic said. “I suppose I couldn’t ask you for another blanket?” Strong enough to carry to the old woman. Aware that his silent words stretched out to fill the room. To feel the student’s judging gaze upon him. To feel ashamed. And it wasn’t even a useful shame, the one that earned you God’s credit or, in this case, a blanket, because Mother Ellaime was already shaking her head. And if there was a little more money, there might be another cover. And that would probably mean that someone at the table, who had a little less money, would miss a cover, because it was a closed-cover economy here at Mother Ellaime’s pension. And if it had only been Yasnic, he would have accepted the lack of coverage and known he was making someone else’s life better, and tried to warm up to it. But it was God, and God was old, petty and selfish, but God was also cold, and Yasnic had given himself to God’s service. And so he begged Mother Ellaime, with the whole table mischievously listening to every word. With Ruslav, who probably had two or even three blankets, snickering in his ear. God was cold, and God had no one else. And it was for nothing because there was no other cover to be had, not without money he didn’t have.

Excerpt from Adrian Tchaikovsky city ​​of last chances reprinted with permission from Head of Zeus.

by Adrian Tchaikovsky city ​​of last chances releases May 2; you can pre-order a copy here.

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