Can't wait to read China Miéville's first foray into hard space opera? Neither can we. So we're thrilled that the first chapter is already available for free online, at Pan MacMillan UK's site.
It's pretty thrilling stuff, and Miéville pulls off his usual amount of clever worldbuilding and calculated strangeness — only this time in creating an alien planet and a weird extraterrestrial species, the Hosts. Here's how it begins:
The children of the embassy all saw the boat land. Their teachers and shiftparents had had them painting it for days. One wall of the room had been given over to their ideas. It's been centuries since any voidcraft vented fire, as they imagined this one doing, but it's a tradition to represent them with such trails. When I was young, I painted ships the same way.
I looked at the pictures and the man beside me leaned in too. ‘Look,' I said.
‘See? That's you.' A face at the boat's window.
The man smiled. He gripped a pretend wheel like the simply rendered figure.
‘You have to excuse us,' I said, nodding at the decorations.
‘We're a bit parochial.'
‘No, no,' the pilot said. I was older than him, dressed-up and dropping slang to tell him stories. He enjoyed me flustering him. ‘Anyway,' he said, ‘that's not…It is amazing though. Coming here. To the edge. With Lord knows what's beyond.' He looked into the Arrival Ball.
There were other parties: seasonals; comings-out; graduations and yearsends; the three Christmases of December; but the Arrival Ball was always the most important. Dictated by the vagaries of trade winds, it was irregular and rare. It had been years since the last.