Sneak look at the fifth volume of Karl Schroeder's triumphant Ashes of Candesce has a sneak peek at Ashes of Candesce, the fifth volume in Karl Schroeder's astounding, heroic Virga series, about a post-Singularity civilization mining a pocket solar-system where the last pocket of human-comprehensible engineering knowledge has been preserved. This is hard-sf-meets-space-opera, full of big ideas and exciting low-gee, kerosene-fuelled pirate ships made of stunted lumber grown under an artificial sun. It's just the perfect mix of philosophy and action.

The rope that their ship had been following through the weightless air of Virga ended at a beacon about a mile ahead. This was a heavy cement cylinder with flashing lamps on its ends. Right now their flickering light was highlighting the rounded shapes of clouds that would otherwise have been invisible in the permanent darkness. Without the rope and the beacon, it would have been impossible for any ship to find this particular spot in the thousands of cubic kilometers of darkness that made up Virga’s sunless reaches.

“We thank you all for coming with us today,” the young thing was saying breathily. “We know the rumors have been intense and widespread. There’ve been stories of monsters, of ancient powers awakened in the dark old corners of Virga. We’re here today to help put any anxieties you might have to rest.”

“There.” The man beside her raised one hand and pressed his index finger against the glass. For a second she was distracted by the halo of condensation that instantly fogged into existence around his fingertip. Then she looked past and into the blackness.

Ashes of Candesce (Excerpt)