See the full cover below! Image: Del Rey Books
Author Chuck Wendig is a favorite here at io9; we highlighted excerpts from his books rather, be inclusive Sci-fi hit Wanderers 2019. Today we are excited to debut the cover and first clip of the follow-up, Wayward, which is due out next summer.
Here is a summary of the book for beginners:
Five years ago, ordinary Americans fell under the grip of a strange new disease that led them to sleepwalk across the country to a destination only they knew. They were followed on their quest by the shepherds: friends and family who sacrificed everything to protect them.
Their secret destination: Ouray, a small Colorado town that would become one of civilization’s last outposts. Because the sleepwalking epidemic was just the first in a series of events that led to the end of the world — and the birth of a new one.
The survivors, both sleepwalkers and herders, dream of rebuilding human society. Among them are Benji, the scientist struggling through grief to lead the city; Marcy, the former police officer who only cares about the people she loves; and Shana, the teenage girl who became the first shepherd – and an unlikely hero whose courage will be needed again.
Because the people of Ouray are not the only survivors, and the world they build is fragile. The forces of ferocity and brutality are gathering under the leadership of self-proclaimed President Ed Creel. And at the heart of Ouray, the most powerful survivor of them all plots his own vision of the new world: Black Swan, the AI who imagined the apocalypse.
Against these threats, Benji, Marcy, Shana and the rest have only one hope: each other. Because the only way to survive the end of the world is together.
Here’s the full cover; the cover design is by Carlos Beltrán and David Stevenson, and the cover design is by Michael Bryan. Then read on for Wayward’s prologue!
Image: Del Rey Books
Prologue: The Resolute Desk
America City, Kansas
The President of the United States of America sat at his desk in a dim, octagonal room lit by lamps in the floor. His desk was free. It contained no books, for he was not a curious man. There were no papers in it, because what was he supposed to sign? There was a pen holder, a flat piece of wood with a soft groove into which a single pen could rest neatly. A plaque details its history: the holder was a gift from British Prime Minister Declan Halvey and was taken from the hull of HMS Gannet, an anti-slavery ship of the British Navy.
In this way the object corresponded to the desk itself – known as the Resolute Desk, its own plaque stated part, if not all, of its history:
“HMS ‘Resolute’, part of the expedition in search of Sir John Franklin in 1852, was abandoned at 74º 41′ N. Length 101º 22′ W. on 15 May 1854. She was discovered and liberated in September 1855 , in Latitude 67º N. by Captain Buddington of the American whaler ‘George Henry’. The ship was purchased, furnished and sent to England as a gift to Her Majesty Queen Victoria by the President and people of the United States, as a token of goodwill and friendship. Made from her wood when she was demolished, this table is presented to the President of the United States by the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland as a reminder of the courtesy and loving-kindness offered by the gift of the ‘Resolute ‘.”
Parts of that history were, of course, missing. Like how the ship had originally set out to discover the whereabouts of an entire missing Arctic expedition under the aforementioned Sir John Franklin, whose two ships were aptly named Erebus and the Terror. Or how the Resolute, along with three other ships, themselves got stuck during that search, and that Sir Edward Belcher (a hated person with no experience in Arctic expeditions) ordered the captains of those ships to abandon their ships, even if a impending thaw would have allowed those ships to move again in the not too distant future. The shame was compounded by the fact that, in addition to losing their own ships, they could not find the lost expedition. The plaque also failed to mention how Captain Buddington had taken the ship under salvage rights, but the US government intervened, using it as a gesture of goodwill to appease its troubled relations with England.
And finally, it didn’t mention that the Franklin Expedition was found in 2014, but not by England or the United States. It was, in fact, a Canadian effort to uncover the missing sailors. They further found that the men under Franklin’s command died from a variety of infirmities and illnesses — not to mention mental breakdowns, hypothermia, and eventually eating each other. (Some of the cold, mummified remains of the men showed knife wounds and bite marks consistent with cannibalism.)
History was a chain and many links were wet with blood.
As for the desk itself, well…
It had moved in and out of parts of the White House. Some presidents have favored his presence in the Oval; others relegated it to secluded rooms, either as a tourist attraction or a hidden curiosity. Some presidents have adapted it (Roosevelt added a panel to hide his braced legs from the world). Some presidents forgot and others rediscovered it—although it was Jackie Kennedy, not John, who found the desk hidden in storage. Eisenhower used it for his radio broadcasts to the nation. Johnson didn’t care. Reagan reportedly loved it, and a replica is in his presidential library. The first Bush kept it in the Oval for a handful of months and then retired it. But after that, it has been used by every president since Nora Hunt was also there before she was assassinated during the White Mask pandemic of 2020.
The desk had become a vital emblem of the office’s history and dignity.
The man sitting at the desk now doesn’t give a damn about dignity. Dignity was all well and good, but what did it get you? Dignity was someone else’s idea of what you should do, how you should act. And history, in his eyes, was just the road behind it. Why look back? America was a series of mistakes coursing through its political machine, and studying those mistakes was both silly and boring. Those mistakes weren’t Creel’s fault. Why investigate or excuse them? Then you took ownership of those mistakes. And it wasn’t up to Creel to take responsibility for other people’s balls.
When you walked up a flight of stairs, you didn’t turn around to look at the steps behind you. You were heading up, not down. Those who came after you didn’t deserve the help. If they wanted to be at the top of the stairs, it was up to them to run, climb, ascend.
That’s what Creel did, every moment of every day.
He knew the way was to get on, on, on. On every step. On every head, on every back and on everyone who offered to make himself a plank for his ascent. Up and further. All in the name of power.
What mattered when he demanded that this White House office be brought here to Atlas Haven (what he jokingly called the Nuclear Winter White House after his inner circle) was not the bureau’s history, but its present. The present was a symbol of his victory. Ed Creel had won. He had dominated the world. He had knocked out his rival, Hunt. He deserved this, and now, at the end of the world, if he couldn’t occupy the real White House, he’d take some of it as a trophy.
The Resolute Desk was that trophy.
(Not that it mattered now.)
Above the president, the air washers made their air washer noise—a chatter, then a hiss, a chat, then a hiss. Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-tsssss. Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-tsssss. His right hand lay flat against the desk, drawing up a curious stain—a bloodstain that the crimson wash made this part of the desk look like cherrywood, not the oak of an old British ship.
At that moment the door of his “office” swung open – the door was metal and thick, and a large wheel had to be operated to open it. When the door opened, the man who entered turned to the wall and laid his wide bratwurst fingered hand flat against a panel. The room instantly brightened as the octagonal walls burst into light—each was an LED screen connected together, showing a single enveloping view of the Aquinnah Cliffs Overlook on Martha’s Vineyard—the sun-warmed blushing cliffs in one direction, the wind-churned Atlantic in the other.
But the illusion was corrupt: some pixels blinked, others were black and dead. An entire wall behind the desk was blue-screened and displayed an error code as long as the Declaration of Independence. Even when the screens came on, they buzzed and clicked, as if electronic termites were chewing through digital walls.
“What do you want?” President Creel croaked.
The older man stepped forward—he was in a plush terry cloth robe, filthy around the edges. His cheeks were like boars’ jaws, his eyes deep in the skull. This was Honus Clines. Vice-Chairman Honus Clines. Clines grinned—a big, small-toothed smile in swollen pencil eraser. From behind his back, he pulled out a Reebok shoebox, wrapped in a simple red bow. “Go on,” he said, his soft Virginia accent evident in those two small words. “Open it.”
Creel wanted to go against the command because even inside he roared, I don’t take commands, not from my subordinates. And everyone was subordinate to him, so he didn’t take orders from anyone. Or so he told himself. It was a lie that echoed around his head so often and so loudly that he almost believed it.
With a trembling hand he untied the bow.
The ribbon fell off like a dead thing.
He stared at the lid of the box. And then in the margins. The bottom corner of the box was black with dried blood.
“Here, leave me,” Clines said, tossing open the top of the box.
President Creel looked inside to see the block of clear epoxy with a lurking, sneering eyeball in the center. Frozen in his unshakable gaze.
And then President Creel laughed—a little laugh that Clines had to sing along with his own chuckle at first, but that laugh soon turned into a big belly laugh, a damned laugh, and that heaving laughter gave way to a series of hard coughs, and those loud coughing made Creel’s eyes wet with tears.
Or at least one of his eyes. The other would stay dry forever, it seemed, right there in that box.
From Chuck Wendig’s book Wayward. Copyright © 2022 by Chuck Wendig.
Reprinted by appointment with Del Rey Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.
Chuck Wendig’s Wayward will be released on August 2, 2022; you can pre-order a copy here.
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