Now don’t say we never give you guys anything! We are delighted to not only be able to exclusively reveal the cover to Aliya Whiteley’s sci-fi novel Skyward Inn almost a whole nine months before the book is released, but we can also give you an excerpt from the novel as well!
To get you in the mood, here is a synopsis…
This is a place where we can be alone, together.
The Western Protectorate does not welcome visitors.
When humans first went through the ‘Kissing Gate’ to the planet Qita, the protectorate turned its back on modern civilization to live in rural isolation.
Now the war on Qita is over, for veteran Jem and her Qitan partner Isley, it’s a peaceful place to escape ugly memories.
But their peace is disturbed when a visitor comes to Skyward Inn, bringing reminders of an unnerving past and triggering an uncertain future.
And here’s an excerpt from Chapter 1 of the novel…
They’ve drunk their drinks and sung their songs, and it’s time for them to head for home. I wave them off, turn my back on the first streaks of light in the sky, and close the door to the inn.
Isley says, his voice soft and self-mocking, ‘Alone at last.’ He says it every time we’ve got the place to ourselves. He practised his English on Tung base, millions of miles away, by watching old films, and sometimes I can imagine the kind of drama he thinks we’re in. The lamps on the walls are burning low. I love this time, time between times. It’s a soft grey bleed from night into morning.
‘Pour,’ I say. I walk back to the bar and pull up the well-used stool with the cracked leather top. The smell of the heaped glass ashtray between us is very strong, and I slide it to one side. The ash settles into the grooves that make a pattern around its rim.
The glasses Isley pulls out are his good ones. We’re getting a taste from the best bottle. I smile when I see him lift it from under the counter – an automatic reaction to that conical shape in the orange clay from his world.
‘You don’t remember?’ He pulls out the cork with his thick, blunt teeth and tips the clear liquid into the glasses. ‘I thought you remembered everything.’
It’s the thirteenth of September. It’s not any anniversary I can think of, and we have drunk to them all.
‘It’s seven years since I first told you I love you,’ he says, and clinks his glass against mine.
That was in this bar, and I was sitting on this very seat. His chin trembled when he said it, and I remember I thought only that I wanted him to not be scared of what comes next, of where love leads.
‘I told you I loved you too,’ I say. ‘I didn’t even have to think about it. The words came easily.’
‘Are they still true?’ He frowns into the glass he holds just below his mouth. When he drinks, the moment will be over with, done. It’s impossible to feel bad with Jarrowbrew in your body.
‘Everything I say to you is true,’ I tell him, but it sounds unreal, so I add, ‘At least, I try to make it that way.’
‘You do try,’ he agrees, ‘and that’s why I still love you now.’
It’s a good thing to drink to. We drink.
Here it comes, here it is: the sweetness I associate with the fields, and the depth I think of as the sea. The light, soft shine it brings to my mind belongs to the sky of Qita. What do the regulars at our Inn see, feel, when they drink brew, I wonder? Most of them have never been off this planet, or even out of the Westward Protectorate. They must translate it into their own experiences, which are no less potent, I’m thinking. Just – miniaturised. Pin-sharp, unshakeable, mired in the thick grasses of the West Country moor.
‘Jem,’ he says, ‘You know Toulu? Where the rock divides? Did you ever go there?’
‘Did you look at the fossils? In the heart of the rock?’
I fix Isley with my patient eyes. ‘You know I did. I went to all the places, with my leaflets.’
‘Yes,’ he says softly. ‘Your leaflets. Your letters of peace, from Earth to Qita. You put them up everywhere you went, for us to find.’
He sounds so sad. I give him what he wants, and what he never asks for, directly: a description of his homeworld. It’s changed, of course. But here, right now, in my words, it hasn’t. Not for us, on our different sides, meeting in the middle.
Skyward Inn from Aliya Whiteley is out in hardback and eBook 18 March 2021.