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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2004-04-21
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publications

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Once or twice in a score of years, the realm of science fiction reveals a vision of tomorrow of epic and transforming scope. These are the dreams of the Asimovs, the Heinleins, the Bears, and the Brins. Tony Daniel brilliantly dreamed this future in his groundbreaking Metaplanetary, and now continues with Superluminal.


A Novel of Interplanetary Civil War

Chapter One

It was late autumn in the northern hemisphere of Planet Earth. The Jeep pulled away from the remains of an ancient service area, and rumbled north on the shattered pavement of the old Taconic Parkway of New York State. The trees leaves were just past their peak and had changed to the russet of old blood.

Still, thought the Jeep, enough foliage to hide in, if it came to that.

Once again, the truck hunters were on his trail. The Jeep sensed it through the ground itself. Piezoelectric shock waves fluttered the foil of the detectors in his cargo bay. He didn't even need to listen to the grist to hear the hunters coming.

The sun was high and glinted hard off the Jeep's windshield. The sky was without clouds. These were late-morning hunters, then. Not especially dangerous. They were probably all piled into a soft-bellied roller -- transportation that would flow into the bumps and potholes of the road and allow them to become pleasantly drunk without getting jostled about. No, these particular truck hunters were not a serious threat to the Jeep -- although they might get lucky and take down a thoughtless pickup if one came out of cover to graze on hydrocarb grasses. Still, it paid to be alert, and to put as much distance between yourself and the truck hunters' guns and takedown devices as wheels could take you.

Abruptly, the Jeep spotted a narrow opening -- less than a road, more than a path -- in the forest to the west, and he turned into the trees without slowing down. The trail was just wide enough to accommodate him, as he knew it would be.

The Jeep always knew where he was going and never needed any directions. He was nine hundred years old. The ancient jeep trails of the lower Hudson River were his creation. Some he had completely forgotten, or seemed to forget, but when he came upon them, their destination, their crossroads, and their landmarks would spread out in his mind like a bud unfurling into a flower, and he would turn right or left, and always be on the right track.

He was multiply recursed, imprinted time and again on the substrate of the metal, plastic, and fabric of his chassis. You could take him apart piece by piece, you could smash him to a cube, you could blow him to smithereens, and he'd always come back. He would grow a new Jeep.

It had happened before over the years. Accidents, exploding tires and rollovers, tank explosions. Always, parts had survived, and from those parts the Jeep would become himself again. For the last one hundred years or so, there had been the truck hunters. Many of his compatriots in the forest had been taken. The best way it could happen was to be destroyed outright. The worst way ... that was when they immobilized the truck with disruptive quantum effect charges, then sliced off a portion -- a hood ornament, a grill, a tailgate with the logo written across it -- and eliminated the remainder. Then they took the trophyaway. Back to where they came from. The Met.

The Jeep didn't really understand the Met, nor did he want to. All he knew was that the truck hunters usually arrived in helicopters flown from New York City. Nobody much lived in New York City anymore, so they must descend from space, where everyone lived. And that is where they must return with their trophy pieces. He could only imagine that the truck parts were displayed on walls (he pictured the Met, when he pictured it at all, as a series of tight, impassable enclosures), and perhaps, for the amusement of the truck hunter or the hunter's guests, made to speak now and again in the limited way that such primitiverobots could synthesize speech. One thing the Jeep did understand about the Met -- it was no place for light trucks or utility vehicles.

The Jeep had so far escaped from the truck hunters. This was an easy task most of the time. The hunters had many pieces of tracking equipment, but the equipment all came down to electromagnetic wave detectors or grist. The e-m was easy to baffle. The Jeep incorporated the best in stealth technology -- vintage defenses from before the nanotech era. It was precisely these interior baffles and shields that made him such a prize for the truck hunters. Such things were no longer manufactured, and the Jeep could only assume that the knowledge of how to make them had been misplaced.

Overcoming the grist was another matter, however. The Jeep had developed an amalgamation of makeshift solutions to this problem. Some of these were conscious -- methods of backtracking on a molecular level and putting out multiple ghost shells that "tasted" like Jeep on the outside but were empty on the inside. But some of the Jeep's defenses were instinctive. They had evolved, and even the Jeep wasn't aware of how they worked. Like the construction principles of the Met, this, too, was something he did not wish to understand. Too much self-understanding led to self-destruction. The Jeep had seenthis happen time and again with the trucks of the forest. When one of them developed logical sentience -- full consciousness -- it wasn't long before the truck hunters had bagged it.

You could never be smarter than a Met dweller. They were made of living material shot through with grist, and there was no end to the information they could process. You didn't survive by being smarter. You survived by something else. And if you knew exactly what the "something else" was, why then you'd be too smart for your own good.

So what did the Jeep know? He knew what was wide and what was narrow. He knew how to make a complete turn in a tight space. He knew what was steep and what was boggy. He pictured his whole world -- physical and mental -- as landscape. As terrain.

A Novel of Interplanetary Civil War
. Copyright © by Tony Daniel. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from Superluminal: A Novel of Interplanetary Civil War by Tony Daniel
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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