Wednesday 27 January 2016

Book Spotlight: Loose Threads by J.O. Quantaman

Loose Threads: Cool Assassins 1
by J.O. Quantaman


Alternate History, Literary Fiction.  About 400 pages, ten color pictures, 85 endnotes, glossary, appendix and list of characters.

"Loose Threads" doesn't fit in one genre or another.  It could be romance without an object, suspense on the installment plan, historical fiction for an era that's yet to happen.

More important, the narrative has memorable characters.  Nyssa, the orphan who finds a home.  Kazuo, the security chief who oversteps.  Shepp, the former smuggler who learns to play Big Brother.

LINK to 3-chapter FREE Excerpt as PDF or MOBI.



On wobbly legs she watches the taxi speed away.

Two carryalls dangle at her teeter-totter’s antipodes.  The duffel sways and twists her arm tendons to knots.  When she eases the stress on her elbow, the haversack strap tries to scribble off the opposite shoulder.  Rejigging her torso, she rebalances the totes and utters a subvocal curse for the cabby, though he doesn’t deserve it.

The cabby helped with the luggage and waited till she fastened the safety harness.  Once in the tunneled thoroughfare, he goosed the pedal and pancaked her to the backrest.  The taxi shot like a guided missile down foreshortened straightaways.  It rushed toward splayed forks where it swerved either left or right and climbed concave walls, as she corkscrewed sideways.  Her eyes grew to full moons.  Her tongue recounted each molar as if contact might calm her heart.  Trapped in the safety harness, she listened to the cabby’s affable gab, but his yarns didn’t ease her fright.

At least her heartbeats have calmed down and her stomach has caught up.  The loot from her shopping spree maybe cumbersome, but it’s worth every octal deducted from her smartcard.  Shoes, overalls, swimsuit, underwear, cosmetics, Pocky and toiletries cater to her tastes way better than handouts from logistics.

Nyssa stands on a pedestrian outskirt and gapes at the large hexagonal enclosure to which she has come.  Its length and breadth are nexus-sized, though its height from floor to ceiling spans but ten meters.  Structural columns sprout like weeds that block many sightlines to the far walls.  A banner on the central stairway hints at a parkland above.  Off to the side a wino sprawls in a heap.  He’s dead to the world, reeking of alcohol and snoring like a clogged bellows.  Paces away, there’s the sign for “Biped Trough” hanging above a down-turned stairwell.  She hears voices of merriment coming from below.  It’s hard to believe this is the right place.  Alcohol would make fools of acks in training for qat.

For two weeks she has played Japanese tourist and explored the urban colossus.  She has looked for Mr. Right, without much luck.  When she lured a gigolo for a cozy fling, she drew a blank.  The one guy who showed promise was Professor Jan, but he fell shy on the threshold.

Lifeways in Tsawwassen have been an eye-opener.  She has tangled with strange new customs, modest dress codes and informal markets that charge an arm & leg for high-quality goods.  The metics, she has to admit, seem content with their lot.  Whoever’s in charge must be doing something right.  There are no real downers except for the Public Eyes.

If Dog Breakfast lets her back, she’ll be safeguarding TCP, which she deems a worthy task.  She has friends in the dataroom and elsewhere in DB, including her qat mates.  Their feedback will be sorely missed if she’s cut loose.  Even a jerk like Rod has managed to push her in the right direction.

She admires Cook and the other rundogs.  On the upside of hope, she dares imagine a blackbelt around her waist.  That is if she can ever score more wins in the combat circle.  Yet her status in the co-op is anyone’s guess.  There’s no guarantee they’ll take her back, unless she scored the jackpot when she took down Fewer.

Biped Trough doesn’t look promising.  But there’s no other choice.  It all depends on who or what she finds inside.

Nyssa readjusts the haversack and lets the duffel swing free of her thigh.  She clomps down a darkish stairway and pauses at the entrance, then sallies into a large taproom with utility pipes across the ceiling and bare-bones décor.

The patrons sit around tables in knots of five or six.  Voices are interspersed with boisterous laughter.  Mugs are hoisted.  Tabletops resound with loud thumps.  Talkers wave arms at wide-eyed listeners.  Guys occupy most of the seats and outnumber the gals six to one.  Women are all ears, posing Mona Lisa smiles and come-hither eyes, save for one who’s red-hot angry and is spouting words in an alien tongue.  Both genders have coarse-black hair gathered in braided ponytails.  Aboriginals from the outback, she gathers.

Nobody pays her much notice as she weaves around tables, her luggage in tow.  There are no familiar faces at the tables.  Then a man in a plaid woolen shirt rises up and marches straight on like a runaway train, his eyes glazed in tunnel vision.  At the last instant, Nyssa forsakes her duffel and leaps clear of his path.

“Henry!” shouts the bartender who wears a lopsided chef’s hat.  “You darn-near overran a guest.  Wake up and use your eyes, or you’re outta here.”

The room grows quiet.  The gabble pauses as patrons ogle the bartender.  Henry stops in his tracks and shrugs.  “More careful I go.”

The bartender nods as if expecting no less.  After a moment the talkfest resumes with less gusto.  Nyssa picks up her duffel and takes a closer look at the bartender.

It’s rundog Cook!


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