Brandon Sanderson is one of the most popular speculative fiction authors writing today. From his Stormlight Archive series to Reckoners to his work finishing the Wheel of Time series following Robert Jordan’s death, Sanderson is as prolific as he is imaginative. His latest? Starsight, the sequel to his bestselling space drama Skyward, which takes the “boy and his dragon” fantasy trope and turns it into a “girl and her spaceship” story.
Starsight is out tomorrow, and we have an exclusive chapter excerpt to get you hyped. Before you dive in, here’s the book’s full synopsis:
All her life, Spensa has dreamed of becoming a pilot. Of proving she’s a hero like her father. She made it to the sky, but the truths she learned about her father were crushing. The rumors of his cowardice are true–he deserted his flight during battle against the Krell. Worse, though, he turned against his team and attacked them.
Spensa is sure there’s more to the story. And she’s sure that whatever happened to her father in his starship could happen to her. When she made it outside the protective shell of her planet, she heard the stars–and it was terrifying. Everything Spensa has been taught about her world is a lie.
But Spensa also discovered a few other things about herself–and she’ll travel to the end of the galaxy to save humankind if she needs to.
Jorgen and I followed Kimmalyn to the room everyone was calling the library, despite the lack of books. Here, the Engineering Corps had been working full-time on the old data banks. They’d ripped out several of the wall panels, exposing the networks of wires running inside like tendons. Though much of this platform had come online with minimal fuss, we had been locked out of several computer systems.
Kimmalyn led us to a group of engineers in ground crew jumpsuits whispering and chatting excitedly, gathered around a large monitor they’d set up. I looked around for the rest of my flight, but they weren’t here—it was just me, Jorgen, Kimmalyn, and some officers from the admiral’s staff. I tugged at my bulky flight suit, which was sweaty from my time fighting. “Wish I’d decided to change,” I muttered to Jorgen.
“I could create a hologram of a new outfit for you!” M-Bot offered. “It—”
“How would that change the fact that I feel sweaty?” I asked him. Seriously, now that we had the remote bracelet and hologram working, he was just looking for any excuse he could get to show off.
At my voice though, someone perked up from the crowd of engineers. He turned, then grinned when he saw us.
Rodge was lanky and pale, with a mop of red hair. He smiled more now than he had when we were growing up. In fact, I kept feeling like I’d missed something—somehow, during our time repairing M-Bot together, someone had snatched away my nervous friend and replaced him with this confident person.
I was proud of him, particularly when I noticed he’d gone back to wearing his cadet’s pin—one that Cobb had specifically ordered to be enameled red for him, a new symbol of achievement reserved for outstanding members of the engineering or ground crews.
Rodge bounced over to us, speaking in a soft voice. “I’m so happy she found you. You’re going to want to see this.”
“What is it?” Jorgen asked, craning his neck to see the monitor.
“Last station records,” Rodge whispered. “The final video logs before this place was shut down. They were interrupted mid- recording, and the encryption process didn’t finish as they were archived. It’s the first good chunk of data we’ve been able to recover.” He glanced over his shoulder. “Commander Ulan insisted we wait for Cobb before showing it, and I figured nobody would complain if the Hero of Alta Second wanted to watch.”
Indeed, my arrival had drawn some attention. A couple of the engineers nudged one another, nodding toward me.
“You know, Spin,” Kimmalyn noted from my side, “it can be rather convenient to be around you. Everyone pays so much attention to you, the rest of us can get away with whatever we want.”
“What would you want to get away with?” Jorgen asked. “Taking an extra sip of tea?”
Since he was still trying to get a glimpse of the monitor, he didn’t notice Kimmalyn giving him a shockingly rude gesture. I gaped at her, my jaw dropping. Had she really just done that?
Kimmalyn shot me a mischievous smile, which she then covered with her hand. This girl . . . I thought I had her figured out, then she did something like that, deliberately intended—I was sure—to shock me.
Further conversation was interrupted as the door opened and Cobb entered. He wore a short white beard and still walked with a limp from his old wound—but refused to use a cane except in the most formal of situations. He carried a steaming mug of coffee in one hand, and was wearing the crisp white uniform of the Defiant Defense Force Admiral of the Fleet—the right breast bedecked with ribbons of merit and rank.
He’d reluctantly stepped up to the position after Ironsides— with equal reluctance—had taken her retirement. By some metrics, Cobb was the most important living human being. And yet, he was still just . . . well, Cobb.
“What’s this about a log file?” he demanded. “What’s on the blasted thing?”
“Sir!” said Commander Ulan, a tall woman of Yeongian heritage. “We don’t know yet. We wanted to wait for you.”
“What?” Cobb said. “Don’t you know how slowly I walk? Damn station could rotate through three shifts in the time it takes for me to limp across the stupid thing.”
“Er. Sir. We thought . . . I mean, nobody believes your leg makes you slow . . . er . . . not too slow, I mean . . .”
“Don’t pander to me, Commander,” he snapped. “We just wanted to be respectful.”
“Don’t respect me either,” he grumbled, then took a sip of his coffee. “Makes me feel old.”
Ulan forced a laugh, at which Cobb scowled, making Ulan look even more uncomfortable. I empathized with her. Learning how to deal with Cobb was as specialized a skill as performing a triple Ahlstrom loop with a reverse jumpback.
The techs made way for Cobb, so Kimmalyn and I took the opportunity to slip closer to the screen. Jorgen hung back, standing with his hands clasped behind him and letting higher-ranking officers take the closer positions. Sometimes that boy could be too dutiful. Almost made a girl feel bad for using her notoriety to get a good spot.
Cobb eyed me. “I hear you’re pulling stunts again, Lieutenant,” he said softly as one of the senior technicians fiddled with the files.
“Um . . . ,” I said.
“She sure is!” M-Bot’s voice at my wrist said. “She told Jorgen she was intentionally trying to—” I hit the mute. Then, just to be careful, I turned off his holographic projector too. I blushed, looking at Cobb.
The admiral sipped his coffee. “We’ll talk later. I don’t want to anger your grandmother by getting you killed. She made me a pie last week.”
“Um, yes, sir.”
The screen fuzzed and then the video opened, showing an image of this very room—only without the walls torn apart. A group of people sat busy before monitors, wearing unfamiliar uniforms. My breath caught. They were human.
We’d always known that would be the case. Though we’d found Detritus uninhabited, Old Earth languages decorated much of the machinery. Still, it was eerie to be looking back in time at these mysterious people. Millions upon millions—if not billions—of them must have inhabited the planet and these platforms. How had they all vanished?
They seemed to be talking—indeed, they seemed agitated, bustling around the room. On closer inspection, it looked like several were screaming, but the picture didn’t have sound. A man with blond hair scrambled into the seat in front of this monitor, his face filling our screen. He started talking.
“Sorry, sir!” said one of the techs near me. “We’re working on audio. Just a sec . . .”
Sound suddenly erupted from the screen. People shouting, a dozen voices overlapping. “—make this report,” the man at the screen said, speaking in heavily accented English. “We have initial evidence that the planet’s cytoshields are, despite long-standing assumptions, insufficient. The delver has heard our communications, and followed them to us. Repeat, the delver has returned to our station and . . .”
He trailed off, looking over his shoulder. The room was mass chaos, some people breaking down and collapsing to the floor in hysterics, others screaming at one another.
The man on our screen typed on his keyboard. “We have video from one of the perimeter platforms,” he said. “Number 1132. Turning to that view now.”
I leaned forward as the recording switched to show a starfield— the view from a camera on the outer shell, looking out into space. I could see the curvature of the platform on the bottom of the screen.
The people in the recording quieted. Were they seeing something in that star-speckled blackness that I wasn’t? Was it—
More stars were appearing.
They winked into existence, like pinpricks in reality. Hundreds . . . thousands of them, too bright to actually be stars. In fact, they moved in the sky, gathering and collecting. Even through the monitor—even from a vast distance away, in both time and space—I could feel their malevolence.
These weren’t stars. These were the eyes.
My lungs seized up. My heart started to pound in my chest.
More and more of the lights appeared, watching me through the screen. They knew me. They could see me.
I started to panic. But beside me, Cobb continued to quietly sip his coffee. Somehow, the calm way he stood there helped fend off my anxiety.
This happened a long time ago, I reminded myself. There’s no danger to me now. The lights on the screen started to grow blurry . . . Dust, I realized. A cloud of it appeared, as if leaking through punctures in reality. The dust glowed with white light and expanded at an incredible speed. Then something followed, a large circular shape that emerged as if from nothing in the center of the dust cloud.
It was hard to make out more than the shadow of the thing. At first, my mind refused to accept the awesome scale it presented. The thing that had appeared—that blackness inside the glowing dust—dwarfed the enormous platform. Scuuud. Whatever it was, it was the size of a planet.
“I have . . . I have visual confirmation of a delver,” said the man recording the video. “Mother of Saints . . . It’s here. The cytoshielding project is a failure. The delver turned back and . . . and it’s come for us.”
The black mass shifted toward the planet. Were those arms I picked out in the shadows? No, could they be spines? The shape seemed intentionally designed to frustrate the mind, as I tried— against reason—to make sense of what I was seeing. Soon, the blackness simply became absolute. The camera died.
I thought the video was over, but the view switched back to the library room, where the man sat at his desk. Most of the other monitors had been abandoned, leaving only the man and one woman. I heard screams from elsewhere in the platform as this one man, trembling, stood up—knocking into the monitor he’d been using, twisting the camera angle.
“Life signs vanishing from the outer defensive rings!” shouted the woman. She stood up at her desk.
“Platforms falling dormant. The High Command has ordered us to engage autonomous mode!”
Shaking visibly, the man sat back down. We watched through an off-kilter monitor as he typed furiously. The woman in the room pushed back from her desk, then looked up at the ceiling as a low sound rumbled through the platform.
“Autonomous defenses engaged . . . ,” the man muttered, still typing. “Escape ships are falling dead. Saints . . .”
The room shook again, and the lights flickered.
“The planet is firing on us!” the woman screamed. “Our own people are firing on us!”
“They’re not firing at us,” the man continued, typing as if in a daze. “They’re firing on the delver as it envelops the planet. We’re just in the way. We need to make sure the nowalk is closed . . . Can’t access it from here, but maybe . . .”
He continued to mutter, but my attention was drawn by something else. Lights gathering at the back of the room on the screen. They were breaking reality, making the far wall seem to stretch, become an infinite starfield penetrated by intense, hateful pinpricks.
The eyes had arrived. The woman in the room screamed, then . . . vanished. She seemed to twist in on herself, then shrink, crushed by some invisible force. The remaining man, the one who had been speaking, continued furiously typing at his station, his eyes wide. A madman working as if on his last will and testament. Though his face dominated the screen, I could see the blackness gathering behind him.
Lit by stars that were not stars. Infinity coalescing.
A shape stepped from the darkness. And it looked just like me.
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