Ice Song

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  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2009-05-19
  • Publisher: Del Rey
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There are secrets beneath her skin. Sorykah Minuit is a scholar, an engineer, and the sole woman aboard an ice-drilling submarine in the frozen land of the Sigue. What no one knows is that she is also a Trader: one who can switch genders suddenly, a rare corporeal deviance universally met with fascination and superstition and all too often punished by harassment or death. Sorykah's infant twins, Leander and Ayeda, have inherited their mother's Trader genes. When a wealthy, reclusive madman known as the Collector abducts the babies to use in his dreadful experiments, Sorykah and her male alter-ego, Soryk, must cross icy wastes and a primeval forest to get them back. Complicating the dangerous journey is the fact that Sorykah and Soryk do not share memories: Each disorienting transformation is like awakening with a jolt from a deep and dreamless sleep. The world through which the alternating lives of Sorykah and Soryk travel is both familiar and surreal. Environmental degradation and genetic mutation run amok; humans have been distorted into animals and animal bodies cloak a wild humanity. But it is also a world of unexpected beauty and wonder, where kindness and love endure amid the ruins. Alluring, intense, and gorgeously rendered, Ice Song is a remarkable debut by a fiercely original new writer. From the Trade Paperback edition.

Author Biography

KIRSTEN IMANI KASAI, a native Coloradoan, has lived in places as diverse as Newark, New Jersey; East Hampton, New York; Bradford and Penzance, England (sadly devoid of singing pirates); and a windowless cubby beneath the stairs in a San Francisco flat crowded with ten roommates, four iguanas, three cats, two German exchange students, and a bald illegal Irishwoman, none of whom possessed a front door key. Before having children, she moved to a new city every six months, indulging her taste for novelty. She currently resides in southern California with her husband and two children.


Chapter One  

Song of the Sigue  

They touched the sigue coast at dusk, just as the ice was cracking. Standing on the slippery top deck as the massive ice- drilling submarine churned toward shore, Sorykah Minuit inhaled, taking the cold ocean air deep into her lungs. It felt so good to be outside after weeks below sea, working cheek by jowl with sixty filthy, sweat- stained miners and their collective, tactile reek. The air sang down her throat and pierced her lungs, but she welcomed the discomfort. It helped to clear her head of melancholy and milk- fog. For a moment it seemed that the cold would solidify around her and crack apart her carefully wrought shell, releasing her from the prison of her secrecy–but it did not.

 The helmsman sounded the docking horn. A long, low peal vibrated the metal deck beneath her feet. Frigid brine sluiced over theNimbus’s hull as it rose, its imposing bulk breasting the waves like the body of a sleek black orca. Afternoon light the color of apricots glistened atop the water; heat splayed against an icy sky. Soon, the color would fade and night emerge, liquid indigo turning the snow to charcoal. Southern sunsets lingered for hours. Siguelanders said the sun bled to death each night; this dazzling show repeated the story of Sun’s grisly murder by his lover Moon, who stabbed him while he slept, jealous of his affection for a mortal woman. 

The noise of the ocean penned in by the icy harbor was terrific. Ice groaned, squeaked, and bellowed. Water droplets froze in midair and fell toward the wooden pier, bouncing upon its snowy crust like scattered, shining stones. Nearer the surface, one long sheet of ice groaned deep within its white skin, a sound like a woman birthing, or so it seemed to Sorykah, still sentimental from the memory of her own children’s birth but a lunar skein behind. The Sigue was the Land of Ice Song, a surreal pole formed from ice that sang, juddered, and moaned. Ice plates ground against one another with subarctic cricket legs, keening shards and frosts that played the most primitive and abstract melodies yet had shaped the culture of this tiny nation. Musicians and singers attempted to capture the eerie, haunting songs but could not repeat the melancholic strains. Sound technicians embedded microphones deep within the ice plates in an effort to record the music, chart the notes, pitch, and timing of the songs, but the recordings replayed a mishmash of disconnected sounds, discordant and chaotic. The melody was lost in translation and the mocking ice refused capture by human whim. Hearing it now– angry, plaintive, sorrowful–Sorykah remembered why she had volunteered for this frigid, outlandish post, for the Sigue song replicated her own bitter tune. Perhaps the ice could sing to drive out the ghosts within her, banish the image of that deceitful Trader as he climbed from her bed, the smug, careless grin he’d offered as he wiped himself clean and slid into his trousers. 

Sorykah licked the salt from her lips as she watched the harbormaster signal from the dock, his bright orange flags lost among the colorful clouds. She would live on the Sigue for the next two years, drilling the ice to extract iridescent tubes of microbe- rich frozen seawater. Northern processing stations would melt, distill, and bottle the fossil water for sale in nightclubs and restaurants, to be guzzled by sensation- seeking holidaymakers. The Company claimed that fossil water was the first nonaddictive substance to create recreational altered states. Touted as a panacea, the burgeoning fossil water trade rapidly had be

Excerpted from Ice Song by Kirsten Imani Kasai
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