Since its release, M.K. Wren's acclaimed trilogy about life in the 33rd century has drawn much-deserved favorable comparisons to Isaac Asimov's Foundation series. Boing Boing and Diversion Books are pleased to offer Sword of the Lamb, the first book in the series, for $1.99. That's 60% off the regular price. And don't worry, we'll be offering deals on the rest of the fantastic series in case you get hooked. But get the first one here.
Click through below for an excerpt from the opening of Sword of the Lamb:
PHOENIX MEMFILES: DEPT HUMAN SCIENCES:
SUBFILE: LAMB, RICHARD: PERSONAL NOTES
12 SEPTEM 3250
DOC LOC #819/19208–1812–1614–1293250
I'm an old man in some senses; an old man because I'm so close to the end of my life, not because of the number of years that have elapsed since the beginning of it. Those total nineteen, although they seem more.
I thought I had come to terms with the myriad aspects of fear of death. I had learned to live with and in spite of the shadow of death. Under the shadow, the Shepherds say. Before the Selasid uprising in Concordia (in my mind it's always the uprising), I had feared most the not being of death, a state that defies the being imagination. But the uprising was the watershed of my life, and that was due in part to the fact that it expanded — explosively — my cognizance of death.
It introduced me to violent death.
On an overcast autumn day — it was last Avril — the Elder Shepherd Satva and I sat in his visitation room in the chapel in Compound B discussing the concept of free will over tamas tea. I remember that conversation with extraordinary clarity; in fact, I can repeat most of it verbatim, and I'm not usually a mnemonic adept. Two old men, one in a young but failing body, measuring the dimensions of a concept meaningful to the other only in theological terms.
When Satva's acolyte, Lukis, came tumbling into the room with the news of the "trouble" in the third quad dining hall, only his fear registered with me, but Satva reacted with the ready reflexes of a man trained by intensive drill, although I'm sure he had never previously given any thought to how he would respond in such a crisis.
The All-God and the Holy Mezion will guide your hand.
He threw his brown and green Selasid Bond cloak over my shoulders, thrust my crutches into my hands, lifted me by one arm, ordering Lukis to take the other, and together they carried me out the rear door of the chapel. I translated "trouble" into "uprising" then as they swept me along, my feet dragging and bouncing helplessly in counterpoint to their hurrying, shuffling footfalls. Satva said something to indicate that our destination was the "door," but I didn't know what he meant.
They happen so abruptly, these uprisings, with the instantaneity of a chain reaction, and although this one was only minutes old when Lukis burst into Satva's visitation room, it had already engulfed most of the compound and would soon spread to the adjoining compounds, transmitted by the shriek of sirens, the disaster lights of fire, the massing of House guards, and, I'm convinced, by some subtle frequency emanated by the human brain in a state of terror.
This one began in the service alley behind the third quad dining hall where three Selasid guards entertained themselves with the sequential rape of a Bondmaid, one of the kitchen workers. Her fellow workers couldn't have been unaware of what was happening with only an open door separating them from her abject agony, yet none of them responded to it overtly. There would have been no uprising if the woman's husband hadn't entered the alley at that point.
He killed one of the guards with his bare hands — a superhuman feat that, if he hadn't been Bond, would have guaranteed him hero status in vidicommed legend — before he was cut down by the other guards' lasers.
But before he died, he tried to escape into the kitchen; the Bonds there panicked and ran into the dining hall, and in the melee a cooker exploded, adding impetus to the panic, which spread into the hall, filled to capacity — at least two thousand Bonds. They poured out of the hall (where the casualties were due primarily to trampling, not lasers), and out into the compound; the chain reaction was out of control. The guards 'commed for reinforcements, and no doubt the word "uprising" was first spoken then.
The Lord Orin Badir Selasis later had submitted to him detailed reports on the "disturbances," which assured him unanimously that it all began with an unprovoked attack by a Bondman on a House guard, and when his fellow guards came to his defense, the Bonds in the dining hall "revolted."
I learned the genesis of the uprising from the Bonds who were present in the kitchen and hall at the time. Those who survived. Neither Lord Selasis nor his Fesh overseers questioned a single Bond.
But all that is in retrospect. I neither knew nor cared, any more than the Bonds, about the origins of the holocaust while Satva and Lukis carried me through the fetid baselevel passages. Above us the pedways swarmed with aimlessly fleeing Bonds oblivious to the ampspeaker orders demanding their immediate halt, pursued and overtaken by troops of guards firing — and using charged lashes or any other handy weapon — at malicious will.
In my memory color, sound, and smell are interfused. Blue. The laser beams. And charred black, and pinkish red, and osseous white. Hammering, pounding, booted footsteps; shouts, cries, pleas, and, constantly, screams of pain. And saturating it all, the ghastly — what other word suffices? — odors of burned flesh and fear.
My brother in his nightmares spoke of those odors. That was later after his personal Armageddon. He never spoke of that consciously; only in sleep when he couldn't know I heard.
The "door" toward which Satva and Lukis carried me was a hidden opening enlarged through a storm drain under the compound wall. That secret access surprised me; it suggested revolutionary intent and planning among the Bonds.
But it represented only a relative revolution. The purpose of the opening wasn't to offer Bonds a means of escape from the compound — and where would they escape to? The Outside, when the headprice on runaway Bonds is high enough to tempt any Outsider noddy or hound? — but a means of access into the compound for Bonds unfortunate enough to miss the curfew closure. The penalties for defying the curfew in Selasid compounds are inevitably painful and often maiming.
We weren't far from the "door," and I was panting as hard as Satva and Lukis, yet I hadn't run a step; I couldn't. I could only clutch my crutches to my breast, aware that I'd be helpless without them when I lost my human crutches. On the pedway above us, Bonds and guards clashed in the limited passage ten meters in the air, and three Bonds were forced, or thrown, off the 'way. I heard their descending shrieks, heard sounds I can't even approach in words as they hit the plasment, one no more than a meter in front of us.
The light was dim and erratic, and neither Satva nor Lukis paused before turning into an even darker side passage, yet every detail of that image is as clear in my memory as my theological discourse with Satva on free will.
It was a man, and his body seemed both to burst and to collapse on impact. Horrible, yes. I'd never considered the color of human entrails before.
But what was clearest in my mind was a sense of outrage, not for the man so much as for his body. I mean, his physical, living body. It had been in some way violated, and I was horrified that such a sacrilege — that seemed the only applicable term — was possible.
I saw death then as more than not-being, as a wanton violation of the infinitely complex, finely ordered mechanism that houses and sustains life.
And I felt that violation as I hope the man himself did not; felt the sudden disintegration of the physical system, its bursting implosion; felt the whole agony and terror of it as if it were my own.
Sometimes I wonder if we don't think with our cells, and if the brain is only a sophisticated data processing and storage center. If so, wouldn't every cell recoil from the dissolution of the order, the system, that gives it life?
And if — as Lemric and Kow Daws theorize — social units can be treated as living organisms, what of the agony of the individual cells, the individual people, within the sustaining mechanism of the dying social organism?
Whose pain did I feel?
Satva helped me through the storm drain and outside the compound wall, where I found myself in a 'way channel that led to a transit plaza. He took the Bond cloak from my shoulders, propped me against the wall on my crutches, and with a plea for my blessing — my blessing! — returned to the compound. The 'ways above me teemed with Selasid guards and Conpol reinforcements, but I was alone and unnoticed.
And I was Fesh, not Bond, and thus safe.
Satva returned to his flock. And died with ten thousand Bonds who died — violently — in those compounds that day. Izak succeeded Satva as Elder Shepherd of Compound B, but Lukis won't be Izak's acolyte. He died with his Shepherd.
Whose pain? Whose pain did I feel?