Sci-Fi November

This month’s first official Sci-Fi Month post here is by Karina Sumner-Smith, author of the Towers Trilogy. I recently finished reading Radiant, the first book in the trilogy, and am now glad the other two books in the series will be released next year! Radiant is unique with some beautiful writing, and I also loved the friendship that developed between Xhea and Shai (like Karina Sumner-Smith I would love to read more SF/F books with great friendships between women). She’s here today sharing her perspective on the oft-asked question of what happened to hope and wonder in science fiction!

Radiant by Karina Sumner-Smith Defiant by Karina Sumner-Smith
What Happened to Hope and Wonder in Science Fiction?
by Karina Sumner-Smith

If you attend SF conventions, you’ve probably heard this conversation before – or one of its many tired variations. What happened to the great, bold futures that science fiction once imagined? Where has the genre gone wrong?

I’d participated in such conversations online and off – sometimes having interesting discussions, sometimes mentally filing the complaints somewhere between “nostalgic” and “old man ranting at clouds”. But it was only as I sat on a panel with three older male writers, listening to them decry the loss of hope and wonder in modern science fiction, that I started to react.

They spoke of their early memories of space travel – of the first humans launched into space, of the moon landings, of that feeling that anything was possible. And now they looked at science fiction and what did they see? Dystopian landscapes and tyrannical governments. Dark stories about bleak futures.

What happened to the wonder, they asked. What happened to the hope and promise for the human race?

It felt, to me, like mourning for a genre that had lost its way – and it was that, more than anything, that made me angry.

A moment of silence came. “Do you know my first memory of space travel?” I asked into that quiet. “Challenger.”

In contrast to their earlier stories, I talked of being four years old and watching on television as something went terribly wrong after liftoff. I hadn’t truly understood what I was seeing in that moment, only knew that my mother sat down very suddenly, very abruptly, on the coffee table.  My mother never let anyone sit on the coffee table.

I talked of spending days in my dorm room watching as crews searched fields for the wreckage and remains from the space shuttle Columbia.

Of NASA budget cuts. Of projects cancelled or failed.

“No one has walked on the moon in my lifetime,” I told them. “Yet you try to tell me that it’s my generation who has lost their wonder?  That it’s the young people of today who have let everything slip and fall into ruin? You don’t understand. You had the dream and the potential and the opportunities, and you messed it all up. You got hope and moon landings and that bright, glorious future. I got only the disasters.”

I still remember the other panelists’ expressions. “I … never thought about it that way,” one finally offered.

#

I’ve heard it asked, “What was the first book that got you hooked on science fiction?” For me, there was no first. SFF was always part of my life.

The child of two science fiction and fantasy readers, I was raised on stories of dragons and space adventures. As I grew, I read all the genre work I could find: Asimov and McCaffrey, Heinlein and LeGuin and Clarke. I swung wildly between extremes, consuming fantasies by David Eddings and Mercedes Lackey for months, only to switch suddenly to Larry Niven and hard SF classics. For years, my to-read pile was stacked high with books that smelled perpetually of the used bookstores in which I’d found them.

It was all amazing to me: so many new horizons, new worlds, new futures, new possibilities. Even the darker stories, the bleakest landscapes, were made bright by my sense of discovery.

Yet I never once mistook science fiction for truth. Wondrous and clever as the stories were, it was blazingly obvious that the future imagined in the “golden age” and beyond, for good or ill, bore little resemblance to the world of my adolescence and early adulthood. After a while, I began to yearn for stories that better reflected the world, the people, and the future that I knew.

The future is glorious, those older stories told me.

You’re wrong, the newspaper replied.

Somewhere along the way, I think we started to believe that science fiction had a responsibility. We weren’t just writing about an imaginary future, but about our possible futures, telling stories as if they were stepping stones on the path leading humanity forward. And if that’s what we believe, however far back the notion may linger in the subconscious, is it any wonder that so many cringe to see that the beacon toward which we’re travelling has become darker, that its light has flickered and been cast in shadow?

Yet for all the triumphant pointing when a technology first imagined in a science fiction story is made real, great SF isn’t necessarily about prediction. If stories are a crystal ball, I contend that they show us not visions of the future, but our own images, warped and reflected back to us.

That’s why we can’t simply tell the same stories over and over; why our future is imagined and re-imagined and rewritten year after year. We’re telling stories that speak not to the people we were, not the futures we imagined in years gone past, but the people we are and are trying to become.

What happened to hope and wonder in science fiction? They’re still there, shining threads woven into the tapestries of the stories we tell. They, like the rest of us grew and learned and changed.

And, like us and the genre we love, they’re changing still.

Karina Sumner-Smith is a fantasy author and freelance writer. Her debut novel, Radiant, was published by Talos/Skyhorse in September 2014, with the second and third books in the trilogy to follow in 2015. Prior to focusing on novel-length work, Karina published a range of fantasy, science fiction and horror short stories, including Nebula Award nominated story “An End to All Things,” and ultra-short story “When the Zombies Win,” which appeared in two Best of the Year anthologies. Visit her online at karinasumnersmith.com.

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The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I talk about books I got over the last week – old or new, bought or received for review consideration (often unsolicited). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

This week brought one book, but first up is an update on plans for Sci-Fi Month hosted by Oh, the Books! and Rinn Reads.

On Monday, I’ll have a guest post by Karina Sumner-Smith on hope and wonder in science fiction. I finished reading Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress last weekend and loved it but didn’t manage to finish a review of it last week like I’d hoped. There should be a review of it this week, though, most likely on Wednesday. For more science fiction fun, check out the Sci-Fi Month schedule or you can follow on Twitter.

On to this week’s book!

Old Venus edited by George R. R. Martin and GardnerDozois

Old Venus edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois

This anthology containing sixteen new science fiction stories will be released on March 3, 2015 (hardcover, ebook, and audiobook). It sounds like fun, and it includes stories by Elizabeth Bear, Garth Nix, Gwyneth Jones, Ian McDonald, Lavie Tidhar, and more!

 

Sixteen all-new stories by science fiction’s top talents, collected by bestselling author George R. R. Martin and multiple-award-winning editor Gardner Dozois

From pulp adventures such as Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Carson of Venus to classic short stories such as Ray Bradbury’s “The Long Rain” to visionary novels such as C. S. Lewis’s Perelandra, the planet Venus has loomed almost as large in the imaginations of science fiction writers as Earth’s next-nearest neighbor, Mars. But while the Red Planet conjured up in Golden Age science fiction stories was a place of vast deserts and ruined cities, bright blue Venus was its polar opposite: a steamy, swampy jungle world with strange creatures lurking amidst the dripping vegetation. Alas, just as the last century’s space probes exploded our dreams of Mars, so, too, did they shatter our romantic visions of Venus, revealing, instead of a lush paradise, a hellish world inimical to all life.

But don’t despair! This new anthology of sixteen original stories by some of science fiction’s best writers—edited by #1 New York Times bestselling author George R. R. Martin and award-winning editor Gardner Dozois—turns back the clock to that more innocent time, before the hard-won knowledge of science vanquished the infinite possibilities of the imagination.

Join our cast of award-winning contributors—including Elizabeth Bear, David Brin, Joe Haldeman, Gwyneth Jones, Mike Resnick, Eleanor Arnason, Allen M. Steele, and more—as we travel back in time to a planet that never was but should have been: a young, rain-drenched world of fabulous monsters and seductive mysteries.

FEATURING ALL-NEW STORIES BY

Eleanor Arnason • Elizabeth Bear • David Brin • Tobias S. Buckell • Michael Cassutt • Joe Haldeman • Matthew Hughes • Gwyneth Jones • Joe R. Lansdale • Stephen Leigh • Paul McAuley • Ian McDonald • Garth Nix • Mike Resnick • Allen M. Steele • Lavie Tidhar

And an Introduction by Gardner Dozois

Sci-Fi November

Sci-Fi Month, an event celebrating science fiction hosted by Oh the Books! and Rinn Reads, officially begins today! I participated in the first Sci-Fi Month last year and had a lot of fun so I’m going to once again. Although I love science fiction, I tend to read more fantasy so I found it was a great way to get myself to read some SF books I’d been planning to read for awhile. Last year I finally picked up Warchild by Karin Lowachee and discovered a new favorite book, and this frequently happens when I try reading more science fiction. It’s how I came to love books like Primary Inversion and The Last Hawk by Catherine Asaro, The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks, and the Miles Vorkosigan books by Lois McMaster Bujold. I’m hoping to discover more great science fiction through Sci-Fi November once again.

This year there are almost 90 participants so there will be all kinds of discussions and reviews to read, and I’m sure that will also help with discovering more great science fiction! There is a schedule available if you want to see what you can look forward to.

I added a few reviews to the schedule, but I haven’t started reading any of these books yet and this is subject to change. I moved recently and am still not done unpacking, and I’ve had trouble concentrating on reading lately since I feel like I should be unpacking instead of reading so I might just have to see how it goes! Like last year, I would like to discuss books that I don’t see reviewed very often including at least one book by a new-to-me author and at least one book that isn’t a new release. I have myself tentatively scheduled to review Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress, Burndive by Karin Lowachee, and Kesrith by C. J. Cherryh, but this may change since I also have been considering other books such as Biting the Sun by Tanith Lee and City of Pearl by Karen Traviss. However, there will definitely be guest posts by Karina Sumner-Smith, whose debut novel Radiant I found very unique and well-written, and Martha Wells, whose Raksura books are wonderful!

Steles of the Sky is the conclusion to Elizabeth Bear’s Eternal Sky trilogy, following Range of Ghosts and Shattered Pillars. Though this story has been completed, there will be a second trilogy of books set in this world with the first book scheduled for release in 2017, The Lotus Kingdoms.

For this mini-review, I am not going to write about the plot. Instead, here is the book description with my thoughts on the book below.

Elizabeth Bear concludes her award-winning epic fantasy Eternal Sky trilogy in Steles of the Sky.

Re Temur, legitimate heir to his grandfather’s Khaganate, has finally raised his banner and declared himself at war with his usurping uncle. With his companions—the Wizard Samarkar, the Cho-tse Hrahima, and the silent monk Brother Hsiung—he must make his way to Dragon Lake to gather in his army of followers. But Temur’s enemies are not idle; the leader of the Nameless Assassins, who has shattered the peace of the Steppe, has struck at Temur’s uncle already. To the south, in the Rasan empire, plague rages. To the east, the great city of Asmaracanda has burned, and the Uthman Caliph is deposed. All the world seems to be on fire, and who knows if even the beloved son of the Eternal Sky can save it?

Steles of the Sky was one of my most anticipated books of 2014 since the first two books in the Eternal Sky trilogy, Range of Ghosts and Shattered Pillars, are phenomenal. Both are beautifully written with a variety of well-developed characters, and the series is set in a vividly drawn world inspired by Central Asia. Range of Ghosts set the stage by introducing the world and characters, largely through the stories of Temur and Samarkar. In Shattered Pillars, the story expanded to focus on more individual characters, but I felt that having this view of different events and character motivations made it a better book despite some slower pacing. I thought this middle volume maintained the right balance between too much detail and too little—scenes were vivid and easy to visualize without bogging down the story.

Unfortunately, I felt that Steles of the Sky failed in this respect and was bogged down by too many scenes that added nothing to the story other than additional pages. It does contain a decent, satisfying end to the trilogy; however, I had to read nearly as many pages as those within the first book alone to get to the compelling parts. Steles of the Sky is about 100 pages longer than each of the first two books in the trilogy, and it really did not need the extra length. The beginning and middle mostly focused on traveling and getting the different characters in place for the end without many engaging scenes, making a significant portion of the book quite dull. Though there is still some lovely writing, it’s missing the strong character development or sparkling dialogue that could have kept me invested in the story despite its slow forward momentum as it made its way toward a conclusion. Instead, I ended up setting this book aside a couple of times to read other books because I had such difficulty forcing myself to slog through all those pages. Even though it does greatly improve as it nears the end, the pacing is still awkward since the finale picks up the pace too much and is hastily wrapped up.

I have very conflicted feelings about Steles of the Sky, and it was difficult for me to write this review since I do not want to discourage anyone from reading the series, particularly considering that my opinion on the final book does not seem to be a common one. The first two books in the Eternal Sky trilogy were both on my Hugo ballot since I thought they were excellent for myriad reasons—the gorgeous writing, the well-written characters, the world, the magic, and the way it subverted some common fantasy tropes including the damsel in distress and magic vs. science. The final book does contain much of what I loved about the first two, but it was poorly paced and I found it quite frustrating that there were not as many pages dedicated to the good parts of the story as the dull ones.

My Rating: 5/10

Where I got my reading copy: Finished copy from the publisher.

Read an Excerpt from Steles of the Sky

Other Reviews of Steles of the Sky:

Reviews of the Previous Eternal Sky Books:

  1. Range of Ghosts
  2. Shattered Pillars

 

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I talk about books I got over the last week – old or new, bought or received for review consideration (often unsolicited). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

This week brought four books, one of which I’m particularly excited to read! I’ve already talked about one of these before, but in case you missed it, here’s where you can find more information on it:

Dreamer's Pool by Juliet Marillier

Dreamer’s Pool (Blackthorn & Grim #1) by Juliet Marillier

This first book in a new adult fantasy series is currently available in Australia and will be released in the US on November 4 (hardcover, ebook). The author’s website has an excerpt from Dreamer’s Pool.

I love the sound of this one and have been hearing it’s excellent. There is a giveaway for a copy of this book currently running on Goodreads, but it’s closing on October 28 so there’s not much time left to enter! This one is open in several countries.

 

Award-winning author Juliet Marillier “weaves magic, mythology, and folklore into every sentence on the page” (The Book Smugglers). Now she begins an all-new and enchanting series that will transport readers to a magical vision of ancient Ireland…

In exchange for help escaping her long and wrongful imprisonment, embittered magical healer Blackthorn has vowed to set aside her bid for vengeance against the man who destroyed all that she once held dear. Followed by a former prison mate, a silent hulk of a man named Grim, she travels north to Dalriada. There she’ll live on the fringe of a mysterious forest, duty bound for seven years to assist anyone who asks for her help.

Oran, crown prince of Dalriada, has waited anxiously for the arrival of his future bride, Lady Flidais. He knows her only from a portrait and sweetly poetic correspondence that have convinced him Flidais is his destined true love. But Oran discovers letters can lie. For although his intended exactly resembles her portrait, her brutality upon arrival proves she is nothing like the sensitive woman of the letters.

With the strategic marriage imminent, Oran sees no way out of his dilemma. Word has spread that Blackthorn possesses a remarkable gift for solving knotty problems, so the prince asks her for help. To save Oran from his treacherous nuptials, Blackthorn and Grim will need all their resources: courage, ingenuity, leaps of deduction, and more than a little magic.

The City Stained Red by Sam Sykes

The City Stained Red (Bring Down Heaven #1) by Sam Sykes

This thick fantasy novel will be available in the US on January 27, 2015 (trade paperback, ebook*, audiobook) and in the UK on October 30, 2014 (paperback, ebook). An excerpt from The City Stained Red is available on the author’s website.

* Edited on 11/13/14 to add: The ebook was released earlier than the print version and is now available!

 

The first book in a new trilogy from the acclaimed author of the Aeon’s Gate series.

A long-exiled living god arises.
A city begins to break apart at the seams.

Lenk and his battle-scarred companions have come to Cier’Djaal in search of Miron Evanhands, a wealthy priest who contracted them to eradicate demons — and then vanished before paying for the job.

But hunting Miron down might be tougher than even these weary adventurers can handle as two unstoppable religious armies move towards all-out war, tensions rise within the capital’s cultural melting pot, and demons begin to pour from the shadows…

And Khoth Kapira, the long-banished living god, has seen his chance to return and regain dominion over the world.

Now all that prevents the city from tearing itself apart in carnage are Lenk, Kataria, a savage human-hating warrior, Denaos, a dangerous rogue, Asper, a healer priestess, Dreadaeleon, a young wizard, and Gariath, one of the last of the dragonmen.

The Tree of Water by Elizabeth Haydon

The Tree of Water (The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme #4) by Elizabeth Haydon

This fantasy novel for young readers will be released on October 28 (hardcover, ebook). An excerpt from The Tree of Water is available on Tor.com.

The previous books in the series are as follows:

  1. The Floating Island
  2. The Thief Queen’s Daughter
  3. The Dragon’s Lair
 

The epic voyages continue in The Tree of Water, the fourth adventure in bestselling author Elizabeth Haydon’s acclaimed fantasy series for young readers, The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme.

As Royal Reporter of the land of Serendair, it is the duty of young Charles Magnus “Ven” Polypheme to travel the world and seek out magic hiding in plain sight. But Ven needs to escape the clutches of the nefarious Thief Queen, ruler of the Gated City, whose minions are hunting for him. His friend, the merrow Amariel, has the perfect solution to his dilemma: Ven and Char will join her to explore the world beneath the sea.

As they journey through the sea, Ven finds himself surrounded by wonders greater than he could have ever imagined. But the beauty of the ocean is more than matched by the dangers lurking within its depths, and Ven and his friends soon realize that in order to save thousands of innocent lives, they may have to sacrifice their own. For everything in the ocean needs to eat…

“A delightful epic fantasy that will attract a readership both older and younger than the target audience.” —Booklist (starred review) on The Floating Island

Eight books by award-winning fantasy author Robin McKinley will be published as ebooks on November 18. These books include her Newbery Award-winning book The Hero and the Crown, as well as her other beloved young adult fantasies Beauty and Rose Daughter. Also included is Sunshine, recipient of the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature—and I’m delighted to have an excerpt from this novel to share with you today to celebrate its upcoming ebook release!

About Sunshine

Sunshine by Robin McKinley

Winner of the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature: In a world where darkness threatens, there is Sunshine . . .

Although it had been mostly deserted since the Voodoo Wars, there hadn’t been any trouble out at the lake for years. Rae Seddon, nicknamed Sunshine, head baker at her family’s busy and popular café in downtown New Arcadia, needed a place to get away from all the noise and confusion-of the clientele and her family. Just for a few hours. Just to be able to hear herself think.

She knew about the Others, of course. Everyone did. And several of her family’s best regular customers were from SOF-Special Other Forces-which had been created to deal with the threat and the danger of the Others.

She drove out to her family’s old lakeside cabin and sat on the porch, swinging her feet and enjoying the silence and the silver moonlight on the water.

She never heard them coming. Of course, you don’t when they’re vampires.

When I was ten the Voodoo Wars started. They were of course nothing about voodoo, but they were about a lot of bad stuff, and some of the worst of them in our area happened around the lake. A lot of the cabins got burned down or leveled one way or another, and there were a few places around the lake where you still didn’t go if you didn’t want to have bad dreams or worse for months afterward. Mostly because of those bad spots (although also because there simply weren’t as many people to have vacation homes anywhere any more) after the Wars were over and most of the mess cleared up, the lake never really caught on again. The wilderness was taking over—which was a good thing because it meant that it could. There were a lot of places now where nothing was ever going to grow again.

It was pretty funny really, the only people who ever went out there regularly were the Supergreens, to see how the wilderness was getting on, and if as the urban populations of things like raccoons and foxes and rabbits and deer moved back out of town again, they started to look and behave like raccoons and foxes and rabbits and deer had used to look and behave. Supergreens also counted things like osprey and pine marten and some weird marsh grass that was another endangered species although not so interesting to look at, none of which seemed to care about bad human magic, or maybe the bad spots didn’t give ospreys and pine martens and marsh grass bad dreams. I went out there occasionally with Mel—we saw ospreys pretty often and pine martens once or twice, but all marsh grass looks like all other marsh grass to me—but I hadn’t been there after dark since I was a kid.

The road that went to what had been my parents’ cabin was passable, if only just. I got out there and went and sat on the porch and looked at the lake. My parents’ cabin was the only one still standing in this area, possibly because it had belonged to my father, whose name meant something even during the Voodoo Wars. There was a bad spot off to the east, but it was far enough away not to trouble me, though I could feel it was far enough away not to trouble me, though I could feel it was there.

I sat on the sagging porch, swinging my legs and feeling the troubles of the day draining out of me like water. The lake was beautiful: almost flat calm, the gentlest lapping against the shore, and silver with moonlight. I’d had many good times here: first with my parents, when they were still happy together, and later on with my gran. As I sat there I began to feel that if I sat there long enough I could get to the bottom of what was making me so cranky lately, find out if it was anything worse than poor-quality flour and a somewhat errant little brother.

I never heard them coming. Of course you don’t, when they’re vampires.

###

I lay there, breathing, listening to my heart race, but feeling this weird numb composure. We were still by the lake. From where I half-lay I could see it through the trees. It was still a beautiful serene moonlit evening.

“Do we take her over immediately?” This was the one who had noticed I was awake. It was a little apart from the others, and was sitting up straight on a tree stump or a rock—I couldn’t see which—as if keeping watch.

“Yeah. Bo says so. But he says we have to dress her up first.” This one sounded as if it was in charge. Maybe it was the Breather.

“Dress her up? What is this, a party?”

“I thought we had the party while …” said a third one. Several of them laughed. Their laughter made the hair on my arms stand on end. I couldn’t distinguish any individual shapes but that of the watcher. I couldn’t see how many of them there were. I thought I was listening to male voices but I wasn’t sure. That’s how weird sucker voices are.

“Bo says our … guest is old-fashioned. Ladies should wear dresses.”

I could feel them looking at me, feel the glint of their eyes in the firelight. I didn’t look back. Even when you already know you’re toast you don’t look in vampires’ eyes.

“She’s a lady, huh.”

“Don’t matter. She’ll look enough like one in a dress.” They all laughed again at this. I may have whimpered. One of the vampires separated itself from the boneless dark slithery blur of vampires and came toward me. My heart was going to lunge out of my mouth but I lay still. I was, strangely, beginning to feel my way into the numbness—as if, if I could, I would find the center of me again. As if being able to think clearly and calmly held any possibility of doing me any good. I wondered if this was how it felt when you woke up in the morning on the day you knew you were going to be executed.

One of the things you need to understand is that I’m not a brave person. I don’t put up with being messed around, and I don’t suffer fools gladly. The short version of that is that I’m a bitch. Trust me, I can produce character references. But that’s something else. I’m not brave. Mel is brave. His oldest friend told me some stories about him once I could barely stand to listen to, about dispatch riding during the Wars, and Mel’d been pissed off when he found out, although he hadn’t denied they happened. Mom is brave: she left my dad with no money, no job, no prospects—her own parents had dumped her when she married my dad, and her younger sisters didn’t find her again till she resurfaced years later at Charlie’s—and a six-year-old daughter. Charlie is brave: he started a coffeehouse by talking his bank into giving him a loan on his house back in the days when you only saw rats, cockroaches, derelicts, and Charlie himself on the streets of Old Town.

I’m not brave. I make cinnamon rolls. I read a lot. My idea of excitement is Mel popping a wheelie driving away from a stoplight with me on pillion.

The vampire was standing right next to me. I didn’t think I’d seen it walk that far. I’d seen it stand up and become one vampire out of a group of vampires. Then it was standing next to me. It. He. I looked at his hand as he held something out to me. “Put it on.” I reluctantly extended my own hand and accepted what it was. He didn’t seem any more eager to touch me than I was to touch him; the thing he was offering glided from his hand to mine. He moved away. I tried to watch, but I couldn’t differentiate him from the shadows. He was just not there.

I stood up slowly and turned my back on all of them. You might not think you could turn your back on a lot of vampires, but do you want to watch while they check the rope for kinks and the security of the noose and the lever on the trap door or do you maybe want to close your eyes? I turned my back. I pulled my T-shirt off over my head and dropped the dress down over me. The shoulder straps barely covered my bra straps and my neck and shoulders and most of my back and breast were left bare. Buffet dining. Very funny. I took my jeans off underneath the long loose skirt. I still had my back to them. I was hoping that vampires weren’t very interested in a meal that was apparently going to someone else. I didn’t like having my back to them but I kept telling myself it didn’t matter (there are guards to grab you if the lever still jams on the first attempt and you try to dive off the scaffold). I was very carefully clumsy and awkward about taking my jeans off, and in the process tucked my little jackknife up under my bra. It was only something to do to make me feel I hadn’t just given up. What are you going to do with a two-and-a-half-inch folding blade against a lot of vampires?

I’d had to take my sneakers off to get out of my jeans, and I looked at them dubiously. The dress was silky and slinky and it didn’t go with sneakers, but I didn’t like going barefoot either.

“That’ll do,” said the one who had given me the dress. He reappeared from the shadows. “Let’s go.”

And he reached out and took my arm.