From Stephen Baxter, one of today's most acclaimed writers of science fiction and fantasy, comes this unforgettable saga of life and loss in the grand tradition of Watership Down.
For fifty thousand springs, Silverhair and her kind, the last of the woolly mammoths, have lived in a remote tundra, rimmed by ice and sea and mountain. Soon to be a mother, Silverhair looks to the future with hope. But even as her life begins, the world she loves is ending. A new menace, more vicious than any enemy, is descending upon the snowlands -- a two-legged creature that kills for joy. Desperate to save their kind, Silverhair and the matriarch, Owlheart, must travel across the glacial torrents, beyond the saw-toothed mountains. There they will seek help from the distant cousins who found their destiny in the sea, and from an enemy -- an ice-faced menace known as...the Lost.
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A two-time winner of the Philip K. Dick Award and recipient of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, Stephen Baxter has also been a Hugo nominee as well as the winner of numerous other literary prizes for his novels and short fiction. A trained engineer who took a first-class honors degree in mathematics at Cambridge University, he also has a doctorate in aeroengineering research from Southhampton University. He is the author of eleven science fiction novels and four novels for young adults. Mr. Baxter lives in Prestwood, England.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
The Story of the HotbloodsThe first Cycle story of all (Silverhair told Icebones, her calf)--the very first of all--is of long, long ago, when there were no mammoths.
In fact, there were no wolves or birds or seals or bears.
For the world belonged to the Reptiles.
Now, the Reptiles were the greatest beasts ever seen--so huge they made the Earth itself shake with their footfalls--and they were cunning and savage hunters.
But they didn't have things all their own way.
Our ancestors called themselves the Hotbloods.
The Hotbloods were small, timid creatures who lived underground, in burrows, the way lemmings do. The ancestors of every warm-blood creature you see today lived in those cramped dens: bear with seal, wolf with mammoth. They had huge, frightened eyes, for they would emerge from their burrows only at night, when the Reptiles were less active and less able to hunt them. They all looked alike, and rarely even argued, for their world was dominated by the constant threat of the Reptiles.
That was the way the world had been for ten thousand Great-Years.
It was into this world that Kilukpuk, the first of all Matriarchs, was born. If you could have seen her, small and cautious like the rest, you would never have imagined the mighty races that would one day spring from her loins. But despite her smallness, Kilukpuk was destined to become the mother of us all.
Now, Kilukpuk had a brother, called Aglu. He was hard-eyed and selfish, and was often accused of hiding when foraging parties were being readied, and of stealing others' food--even stealing from infants. But Aglu was sly, and nothing was ever proven.
Despite his faults, Kilukpuk loved her brother. She defended him from attack, and did not complain when he took the warmest place in the burrow, or stole her food, for she always dreamed he would learn the error of his ways.
Now, there came a time when a great light appeared in the night sky.
It was a ball of gray-white, and it had a huge, hairy tail that streamed away from the sun. The light was beautiful, but it was deadly, for it turned night to day, and made it easy for the Reptiles to pick off the foraging Hotbloods. Great was the mourning in the burrows.
One night Kilukpuk was out alone, digging in a mound of Reptile dung for undigested nuts--when suddenly . . .
Well, Kilukpuk never knew what happened, and I don't suppose any of us will.
The Earth trembled. There was a great glow, as if dawn were approaching--but the glow was in the west, not the east. Clouds boiled across the sky.
Then the sky itself started to burn, and a great hail of shooting stars poured down toward the land, coming from the west.
Kilukpuk felt a new shaking of the ground. Silhouetted against the red fire-glow of the west, she saw Reptiles: thousands, millions of them--and they were running.
The Reptiles had ruled the world as gods. But now they were fleeing in panic.
Kilukpuk ran back to her burrow, convinced that if even the gods were so afraid, she, and her Family, were sure to die.
The days that followed were filled with strangeness and terror.
A great heat swept over the land.
Then a rain began, salty and heavy, so powerful it was as if an ocean was emptying itself over their heads.
And then the clouds came, and snow fell even at the height of summer.
Kilukpuk and her Family, starved and thirsty, thought this was the end of all things. But their burrows protected the Hotbloods, while the creatures of the surface perished.
At last the cold abated, and day and night returned to the world.
No Reptiles came. There were no footfalls, no digging claws, no bellows of frustrated hunters.
At last, one night, Kilukpuk and Aglu led a party to the surface.
They found a world that was all but destroyed. The trees and bushes had been smashed down by winds and burned by fire.
There were no Reptiles, anywhere.
But the Hotbloods found food to eat in the ruined world, for they were used to living off scraps anyhow. There were roots, and bark that wasn't too badly burned, and the first green shoots of recovering plants.
Soon the Hotbloods grew fat, and, without the ground-rattling footfalls of the Reptiles to disturb them, began to sleep well during the long, hot days of that strange time.
But there came a time when some Hotbloods did not return from the nightly foraging expeditions, just as it had been before. And then, one day, Kilukpuk was wakened from a dreamless sleep by a slam-slam-slam that shook dirt from the roofs of the burrows.
Aglu, her brother, came running through the burrows. "It is the Reptiles! They have returned!"
Kilukpuk gathered her calves to her. They were terrified and bewildered.
After that, things rapidly got worse. More foragers were lost on the surface. The Hotbloods became as fearful and hollow-eyed as they had ever been, and food soon began to run short in the burrows.
But Kilukpuk could not help but notice that not all the Hotbloods were suffering so. While the others were skinny and raddled by disease, Aglu and his band of companions seemed sleek and healthy. Kilukpuk grew suspicious, though her suspicion saddened her, for she still loved her brother deeply.
At last, one night, she followed Aglu and his companions to the surface. She saw that Aglu and the others made little effort to conceal themselves--in fact, they laughed and cavorted in the Moonlight.
Then they did a very strange thing.
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Book Description Harper Voyager, 2000. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0061020206
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Book Description Harper Voyager, 2000. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110061020206
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