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Exclusive Excerpt: Radiate, a Sci-Fi Thriller from C.A. Higgins

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Exclusive Excerpt: <i>Radiate</i>, a Sci-Fi Thriller from C.A. Higgins

In her debut novel, Lightless, C.A. Higgins introduced a galaxy ruled by the System. Promising peace, the System ensures there is security everywhere from Earth to the distant outer moons beyond the asteroid belt—or so it would have you believe. The reality is that its constant surveillance wears on the people, and terrorists, led by the enigmatic Mallt-y-Nos, violently fight for freedom. Caught in the middle of the galaxy’s turmoil are computer scientist Althea, artificial intelligence Ananke, and terrorists Matthew and Ivan.

Lightless, published in 2015, kicked off a thrilling science fiction trilogy that continued in Supernova last year. This month marks the release of the final installment, Radiate, which hits shelves on May 23rd. And it sounds like Higgins has crafted a gripping conclusion:

Ananke, once a military spacecraft and now a sentient artificial intelligence, may have the powers of a god, but she is consumed by a very human longing: to know her creators. Now Ananke is on a quest to find companionship, understanding and even love. She is accompanied by Althea, the engineer who created her, and whom she sees as her mother. And she is in search of her “father,” Matthew, the programmer whose code gave her the spark of life.

But Matthew is on a strange quest of his own, traveling the galaxy alongside Ivan, with whom he shares a deeply painful history. Ananke and her parents are racing toward an inevitable collision, with consequences as violent as the birth of the solar system itself—and as devastating as the discovery of love.

You can read an exclusive excerpt from Radiate below, courtesy of Higgins’ publisher Del Rey Books.

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1radiatecover.jpgTwo days before Mattie dragged Ivan off the Ananke, Mattie Gale walked into his foster sister’s bar and found her standing on a chair, digging a camera out of the wall with her nails.

He did not know what he expected to see when he entered the room—maps and weapons strewn over the bar’s faux-wood tables, maybe, or an army of people gathered to listen raptly to the gospel of the Mallt-y-Nos. But the bar was clean and bare and completely empty except for Constance, who had dragged one chair out of the tidy ar¬rangement of chairs and tables on the main floor so that she could use it as a step stool. Mattie pushed his hands down into his pockets and let the door to the kitchen swing shut behind him.

Her fingers tore at the crumbling plaster of the wall, digging around for wires. She had pulled nearly all of the camera’s hidden structure from the wall, and the camera as exposed was larger than it had ap-peared when it had been embedded in the house. The metallic struc¬tures that had anchored it and the wires that had powered it had a dark and twisted look to them. Surely by now most, if not all, of the camera had been exorcised from the wall, yet Constance kept digging with single-minded intensity, plaster flaking beneath her nails.

Constance said, “What is it?”

The lighting in the bar was so dim in comparison to the sunlight out the windows that Constance was nearly a silhouette, but Mattie felt that he had never seen her so clearly.

He said, “I guess I was stupid not to realize it before.”

The relentless digging of her fingers stilled.

“It’s not like you didn’t tell me outright,” Mattie said. “It’s not like Milla didn’t tell me. I guess I’ve been pretty stupid, haven’t I?”

For a moment she was sepulchral, the light gleaming off the ex¬tended edge of her arm like sunlight in eclipse. Then with a swift yank Constance pulled the camera from the wall. Metal and plaster snapped, and it came out in her hand trailing wires like optical nerves. She stepped down from the chair and placed the camera on the near¬est table, then dusted plaster from her palms in silhouette against the sun outside. Every continuing second of silence from her confirmed Mattie’s fears, and something unbelieving and dark swelled inside him.

When she had clapped the last of the dust from her fingers, Con¬stance straightened her neck. “Mattie,” she said, and Mattie heard that old “be reasonable, Mattie” voice she’d used on him ever since they’d been children, “we can’t go back for the dead.”

A terrible and unfamiliar pressure had been building in Mattie’s limbs for the past week. It thrummed in him like an engine starting up.

“If we go back to find him—his body—then everything that he did for us will be undone.” He could not see her expression against the glare of the sun behind her. “I loved him, too. But he—”

“We can’t go back? Because he’s dead, we shouldn’t bother?”

“Dead men can’t suffer, Mattie.”

“You don’t know he’s dead!” Days of frustration, of fear, drew him to advance on her. “None of that should matter, Constance! We’re your family!”

She flared up then as he’d known she would, a sudden and flashing rage. “Don’t you think I know that? Do you think this was easy for me?”

“Yeah, Connie,” he said. “That’s what scares me.” He could see her face more clearly now that they were closer together, and he looked for any sign that she was flinching from his words. Unbelievably, she looked at him as unyieldingly and hard as she might look at a System soldier who hated her.

“There are better things to be scared of,” said Constance.

“Like what’s happening to Ivan right now?”

“Nothing is happening to Ivan. Nothing can happen to Ivan; he’s dead.”

“So there’s no one around to tell you not to do whatever you want.”

“Be quiet,” Constance said.

“And how the fuck do you even know he’s dead for sure? Did you see him die?”

“The System had him. When the news about Earth—”

“When the news about Earth reached them, they’d just kill him,” said Mattie. “So if we’d gone earlier, he’d still be alive. That’s what you’re telling me?”

“Enough!”

“Family doesn’t leave family behind,” Mattie said. “Fine, so you never really loved him. But what if I asked you to go back for him?”

Constance’s jaw set. He knew that face; she had been the core of his life since he had been seven, and he had never hated the sight of any¬thing as much as he hated her in that moment.

He said, “Do you even care about anyone else at all?”

Her lips curled up, teeth baring for a terrible second before she said, “You want to pretend now that you haven’t been with me every step of the way, that you haven’t been a part of this since we were children? Focus, Mattie. You’re as deep in this as I am.”

“I’m not talking about your goddamn revolution. I’m talking about Ivan.”

“You want to choose Ivan over the revolution,” Constance said with that ring of the absolute, the divinely and completely true, that only Constance could speak. “No. The revolution has to be first, and the bil¬lions of people who suffer. I have to do anything that I need to make sure this succeeds even if it hurts me, and Ivan knew that from the minute he got involved with me.”

“I didn’t,” Mattie said.

Constance fell silent.

There was a terrible recoil in Mattie’s chest, as if a string had been snapped. A part of him wanted to take back his words, to rewind to what they had been before, Mattie and Connie, brother and sister and full of hope and wild dreams. But then he remembered Ivan in his tiny cell on the Ananke, and he did not take his words back.

“Then go,” Constance said. “Take a ship, some supplies, whatever you think you need.”

Mattie could not force any words past his jaw. He found he could nod, and once he had, he turned to go.

“Mattie.”

He turned. There stood his sister, a silhouette against the sun, tall, with her proud shoulders straight and her proud chin lifted. He could not see her face.

She said, “Whether or not you find him, Anji will be at Callisto. She can send you back to me. Rendezvous with her in a week’s time—she’ll be there.”

He left his sister standing alone in her bar with the sunlight bright behind her and a hole in the wall above her head.


Excerpted from Radiate by C.A. Higgins. Copyright © 2017 by C.A. Higgins. Excerpted by permission of Del Rey Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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