An Unbelievable Space Mystery Sets Up Sci-Fi Thriller Braking Day

An Unbelievable Space Mystery Sets Up Sci-Fi Thriller Braking Day
Excuse me, ma'am, you forgot your helmet! (Image: DAW)

We love a space mystery — and Braking Day, from debut novelist Adam Oyebanji, sounds like an exceptionally juicy one. It begins as a man working on the generation ship where he’s spent his entire life sees something unbelievable: a woman floating in space without a helmet. How… and who? Gizmodo has an exclusive first look at Braking Day’s cover and an excerpt from its first chapter to share today.

First, here’s the book description.

It’s been over a century since three generation ships escaped an Earth dominated by artificial intelligence in pursuit of a life on a distant planet orbiting Tau Ceti. Now, it’s nearly Braking Day, when the ships will begin their long-awaited descent to their new home.

Born on the lower decks of the Archimedes, Ravi Macleod is an engineer-in-training, set to be the first of his family to become an officer in the stratified hierarchy aboard the ship. While on a routine inspection, Ravi sees the impossible: a young woman floating, helmetless, out in space. And he’s the only one who can see her.

As his visions of the girl grow more frequent, Ravi is faced with a choice: secure his family’s place among the elite members of Archimedes’ crew or risk it all by pursuing the mystery of the floating girl. With the help of his cousin, Boz, and her illegally constructed AI, Ravi must investigate the source of these strange visions and uncovers the truth of the Archimedes’ departure from Earth before Braking Day arrives and changes everything about life as they know it.

Here’s the cover, being revealed here for the first time. The cover artist is Kekai Kotaki, and the designer is Adam Auerbach.

Image: DAW Image: DAW

Finally, here’s the excerpt from Braking Day’s exciting first chapter!

Hands tucked into armpits, Ravi floated easily in the middle of the compartment and let the drone’s readouts wash over him. Numbers and schematics coated the inside of his eyelids. Everything was green. Everything matched the remote diagnostics. The system, if it were ever needed, would do its job. The drone, inspection complete, headed for home.

Tap, tap, tap. Tap, tap, tap. Tap, tap, CLANG!

There were no straps to save him this time. Ravi jumped out of his skin. His body spun through the air like a wayward top. The compartment rang like a bell.

Tap, tap, CLANG!

Ravi’s breath was coming in short, cloudy gasps. Beads of sweat prickled his forehead.

This wasn’t creaking caused by heat. Something was banging against the hull. Right outside the compartment. Ravi held his breath.

Not something, he realised suddenly. Some one. There was nothing random about the noise outside. This wasn’t a collision with some broken-off piece of ice or other accidental debris. There was cadence to it. Rhythm. The deliberate act of an intelligent mind. Someone was banging on the bulkhead. In deep space.

Aliens!

The word smashed its way into his head, an unwelcome guest. The spit disappeared from his mouth.

Then he laughed, sudden and hollow. Aliens were for kids. Stories for the pitch black. Halloween. This whatever-it-was was a trick. A stupid trick to scare him witless. Ansimov, probably, or maybe even Boz. He had to admire the trouble they’d taken. And the nerve. Fifteen kilometers – on the outside. They must have hitched a ride on the elevator running gear.

Tap, tap, tappity-tap, tap.

The sound was drifting away now, toward the next compartment. In which, so said the schematics, there was an airlock.

Ravi’s lips twitched, animated by vengeful mischief. He was meant to think that aliens were banging on the airlock door. Maybe even sound the alarm and make a complete fool of himself. And then Ansimov or whoever it was would burst in and live broadcast his stupidity all over the ship.

But not if the airlock was actually, like, locked.

Ravi’s smile grew wider. With the elevator going nowhere and standard tanks, there was no way Ansimov had enough air to freestyle 15 klicks to safety. He’d have to beg Ravi to let him in. And when Ravi spread his hands and said the lock was jammed, Ansimov would be the one panicking. Punker punk’d.

There was a small tightening in Ravi’s right eye as he turned on the video camera. Technically, he was abusing the privacy laws. Only medics and engineers had a recording function, and it was for work use only. But Ansimov was similarly equipped, so….

Racing to beat Ansimov to the airlock, Ravi opened the hatch to the next compartment and flitted through. The compartment itself was little more than an anteroom. It was small and cramped, with starlight as the only illumination. The blue light of the Milky Way shone through the porthole in the airlock’s inner door, making silhouettes of the ice-rimed emergency suits that lined the walls like an honour guard.

Ravi barely noticed. He rushed to open the inner door before Ansimov reached the outer one, and succeeded. The outer door deadlocked with a satisfying thunk, and Ravi gave himself a metaphorical pat on the back. So long as the inner door was open, the outer one would remain closed. That was how airlocks worked. There was nothing Ansimov could do about it.

Tappity-tap, tap.

Ansimov and whatever he was dragging across the hull were getting closer. Ravi floated through the airlock to the outer door and pressed his face against the porthole. He didn’t want the camera to miss a thing.

The view, it had to be said, was spectacular. The porthole looked “up” toward the prow of the ship. He could see the gantry that formed the ship’s kilometers-long spine stretching away from him, its crisscrossing struts coated with layers of icy, pinkish dust. And then, in the vacuum-clear distance, the habitat wheels, rotating about the spine in slow majesty, each one moving opposite to its neighbour, their walls dotted with lights. And beyond even the wheels, more than 20 kilometers from where he was floating, sat the vast disk of the ship’s forward shield, a shadowed expanse of black against the white glare of Tau Ceti, the Destination Star.

There was a face at the porthole.

It wasn’t Ansimov, or even Boz. It was a young woman – a girl, really – no older than he was. Blonde. Blue-eyed. A friendly smile revealed slightly crooked teeth. Ravi stared at her in disbelieving horror.

She wasn’t wearing a spacesuit.


Excerpt from Braking Day by Adam Oyebanji reprinted by permission. Copyright DAW.

Braking Day by Adam Oyebanji is out April 5, and you can pre-order a copy here.

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