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Tool of War
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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around October 10, 2017. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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Set in a dark future devastated by climate change, Tool of War is the third book in a major adventure series by a bestselling and award-winning science fiction author and starring the most provocative character from the acclaimed novels Ship Breaker and The Drowned Cities.
In this gripping, eerily prescient sci-fi thriller that Kirkus described as “masterful,” Tool–a half-man/half-beast designed for combat–proves himself capable of so much more than his creators had ever dreamed. He has gone rogue from his pack of bioengineered “augments” and emerged a victorious leader of a pack of human soldier boys. But he is hunted relentlessly by someone determined to destroy him, who knows an alarming secret: Tool has found the way to resist his genetically ingrained impulses of submission and loyalty toward his masters… The time is coming when Tool will embark on an all-out war against those who have enslaved him.
From one of science fiction’s undisputed masters comes a riveting and all-too-timely page-turner that explores the intricate relationships connecting hunter and prey, master and enslaved, human and monster.
“Suzanne Collins may have put dystopian literature on the YA map with ‘The Hunger Games’…but Bacigalupi is one of the genre’s masters, employing inventively terrifying details in equally imaginative story lines.” —Los Angeles Times
THE DRONE CIRCLED high above the wreckage of war.
A week before, it hadn't been there. A week before, the Drowned Cities hadn't been worth mentioning, let alone worth committing drones to overwatch.
The Drowned Cities: a coastline swamped by rising sea levels and political hatreds, a place of shattered rubble and eternal gunfire. It had been a proud capital, once, and the people who inhabited its marble corridors had dominated much of the world. But now the place was barely remembered on maps, let alone in places where civilized people gathered. The histories it had dominated, the territories it had controlled, all had been lost as its people descended into civil war—and eventually were forgotten.
And yet now a Raptor-class oversight drone circled overhead.
Held aloft by humid thermals, the drone surveyed brackish jungles and eroded coastlines. It circled, wings stretched wide to catch hot Atlantic winds. Its cameras swept across kudzu-tangled swamps and emerald mosquito-infested pools. Its gaze lingered on marbled monuments, spikes and domes and toppled columns, the shattered bones of the city's greatness.
At first, the reports had been dismissed as nothing but war-addled refugee accounts: a monster that led child soldiers to victory after victory; a beast that was immune to bullets, that tore enemies limb from limb. A towering savage creature that demanded an unending tribute of enemy skulls…
No one believed, at first.
But later, blurry satellite photos showed buildings burning and troops on the move, and gave confirmation to even the most outlandish accounts. And so the drone came seeking.
The electronic vulture wheeled, high and lazy, its belly bulging with cameras and heat sensors, laser microphones and radio-intercept equipment.
It photographed historic rubble and barbarous inhabitants. It eavesdropped on bursts of radio communication, parsing the movements of troops, the patterns of explosions. It tracked lines of gunfire, and video-recorded the dismembering of enemy soldiers.
And far away—across the continent—the information the Raptor gathered was received by its masters.
There, a great dirigible floated, majestic above the Pacific Ocean. The name on its side was as grand as the warship itself: ANNAPURNA.
A quarter of the planet lay between the command dirigible and the spying Raptor, and yet the information arrived in an eyeblink, and set off alarms.
The analyst pushed back from her control screens, blinking, wiping sweat from her brow. Mercier Corporation's Global Strategic Intelligence Center was hot with computing equipment and the shoulder-to-shoulder press of other analysts, all at their own workstations, all busy with their own operations. The murmur of their work filled the room, along with the labored whir of clean-room fans that fought to cool the place. The Annapurna prized efficiency of space and maximum eyes-and-ears over comfort, and so all of them were sweating, and none of them complained.
"General!" the analyst called again.
At first she'd resented the wild-goose chase she'd been assigned—an exercise in busywork, while her fellow intelligence analysts foiled revolutions, wiped out insurgents, and fought off price runs on lithium and cobalt markets. They'd made fun of her task—in the mess hall, in the bunkrooms, in the showers—heckling her for not contributing to the bottom line, reminding her that her quarterly profit bonus would be zero for failing to contribute to company profits.
Privately, she'd agreed glumly with them all.
"General Caroa! I think I've got something."
The man who responded was tall, his company blues perfectly pressed. Rows of medals gleamed on his chest, marking a bloody rise through Mercier's military ranks. His blond hair, fading to white, was cropped short, the habit of a lifetime of discipline, but the neatness of his personal appearance was marred by his face—a sloppy stitch-work of pink scar tissue, pocks, and puckered divots where battle surgeons had done their best to keep his pale features intact.
His face, if not tidy, was at least almost whole.
The general leaned over her shoulder. "What have we got?"
The analyst swallowed, unnerved by the man's cold gaze. "It's the augment," she said. "The one you flagged."
"It's almost an exact physical match." She brought up the drone's live feed. A bestial face filled the screen. "It has to be the one."
The image was grainy, but considering the distance and angle, their view of the monster was a miracle of technological wizardry. The augment could as well have been photographed from twenty feet away—a monster standing nearly eight feet tall, massively muscled. A combination of dog and human, tiger and hyena DNA. A battle terror, clawed and fanged and brutal.
"So, old friend, we meet again," the general murmured.
One of the creature's eyes was scarred shut. Other old wounds showed on its arms and face, giving the creature the appearance of one who had battled through hell and emerged victorious on the far side.
The analyst said, "I have this much of the design code, also." She pulled up a close image of the augment's ear: rows of numbers, tattooed. "Is this the one you wanted? Does it match?"
The general stared at the screen. His hand, seemingly of its own accord, had reached up to touch his own ravaged face, fingers lingering on a puckered scar line that started at his jaw and ran down his neck. Divots and pocks of missing flesh as if his head had once been trapped in the jaws of a monstrous wild animal.
"Sir?" the analyst pressed eagerly. "This is the target, right?"
The general gave her a sour look. Her uniform tag read JONES, ARIAL. No medals. No experience. Young. Another bright recruit, harvested into the security forces of Mercier, courtesy of the aptitude tests the company offered in its protectorate territories. She was driven, thanks to whatever hellhole she'd climbed out of to join Mercier, but she didn't know true battle. Unlike him. Unlike the creature they studied on the screen. So of course she was eager; she'd never been to war.
"That's the one," General Caroa confirmed. "That's our target."
"He looks like a tough one."
"One of the toughest," Caroa agreed. "What assets do we have?"
Jones checked her status screens. "We can put two Strike Raptors up within twenty minutes," she said. "We can launch from the Karakoram in the Atlantic." She was smiling. "Havoc on your order, sir."
"Time to target?"
"Very good, Jones. Flag me when the Raptors are on station."
TOOL’S EARS PRICKED, tracking distant gunfire, the comfortable conversational chatter of the Drowned Cities.
It was a polyglot language, but Tool understood all of its voices. The ratchet exclamations of AK-47s and M-16s. The blunt roar of 12- and 10-gauge shotguns. The authoritative crack of 30-06 hunting rifles, and the snapping of .22s. And of course, over it all, the incoming shriek of 999s, the voice that ended all other combat sentences with booming punctuations.
It was a familiar conversation that flowed back and forth—ask and answer, insult and retort—but over the last few weeks the conversation had changed. Increasingly, the Drowned Cities spoke Tool's language only. The bullet patois of his troops, the battle slang of his pack.
The war roared on, but the voices were merging now, becoming a single harmonious howl of triumph.
Of course, there were other sounds as well, and Tool heard them all. Even in the atrium of his palace, far from the battlefront, he could follow the progress of his war. His large ears were better than a dog's, and were always pricked tall, wide and sensitive, telling him much that human ears could not, much as all his senses gathered more than any human senses could.
He knew where his soldiers stood. He smelled their individuality. He could sense their movements by the way air currents shifted across his fur and skin. In the darkness he could see them, his eyes sharper than a cat's in the blackest night.
These human beings he led were blind and deaf to most things, but still he led them, and tried to fashion them into something useful. He had helped his human children to see, to smell, to listen. He had taught them to yoke their eyes and ears and weapons to one another, so that they fought as Fangs and Claws and Fists. Units. Platoons. Companies. Battalions.
Through the gap in the cracked dome of his palace, Tool could see the bellies of storm clouds, glowing orange, reflecting fires raging, the Army of God's last desperate attempt to stop his troop's advance by creating a battle line of self-destruction.
Thunder rumbled. Lightning spiked across the clouds. A hurricane was building, the second in as many weeks, but it wouldn't come soon enough to save the Army of God.
Behind him, Tool heard footsteps hurrying down marble corridors, coming his way. The limp and scrape of the person's uneven gait told him it was Stub. Tool had promoted the boy to command staff because he was hard and sharp and clever, and had been brave enough to storm the barricades on K Street.
Koolkat had led the charge when the Army of God threatened to break through and destroy their then-fragile hope, and had died for it. Beside him, Stub had lost a foot to a mine, and yet had tourniqueted himself, and then still dragged himself forward, rallying his fellows to fight on, even after their commanding officer had died. Ferocious and dedicated and brave.
Yes, it was Stub—he had the right scent, and the right limp—but another scent accompanied the soldier boy—fresh-congealing blood, the iron spike telltale of new carrion.
Stub bore a message.
Tool closed his one good eye and breathed deep, enjoying the scent and the moment—the bite of gunpowder, the growl and swelter of the brewing storm, the rich ozone tang of lightning burning the air. He breathed deep, trying to fix the moment of triumph in his mind.
So many of his memories were fragmented, lost to wars and violence. His history was a kaleidoscopic jumble of images and scents and roiling emotions, scattershot explosions of joy and terror, much of it blocked and inaccessible now. But this time—this one time—he wanted to secure the entirety of the moment permanently in his mind. To taste and smell and hear it. To let it fill him com-pletely, straightening his spine, letting him stand tall. To let it fill his muscles with power.
The palace he stood in was a ruin. Once it had been grand, marble floors, majestic columns, ancient masterful oil paintings, a graceful rotunda. Now he stood under a shattered dome, and could survey the city he warred for, thanks to a bombed-out wall. He could see right out to the ocean where it lapped below, on his very front steps. Rain spattered in and made thin, slippery pools on the floors. Torches guttered in the damp, giving light for the human beings, so that they could see the barest edges of what Tool could see without any aid at all.
A tragic ruin, and a site of triumph.
Stub waited respectfully.
"You have news," Tool said without turning.
"Yes, sir. They're finished. The Army of God… they're done for."
Tool's ears twitched. "Why do I still hear gunfire?"
"Just mop-up," Stub said. "They don't know when they're beat. They're dumb, but they're tenacious."
"You believe them truly defeated?"
The boy laughed shortly. "Well, Perkins and Mitali sent this for you."
Tool turned. Stub lifted the object he was carrying.
General Sachs's severed head stared emptily out at his surroundings, forlorn without his body. The last warlord of the Drowned Cities. The man's expression was frozen somewhere between shock and horror. The green cross of protection that the warlord had painted on his forehead was smudged with blood.
"Ah." Tool took the head and tested its weight in his palm. "It seems his One True God did not save him. Not such a savior prophet after all."
A pity not to be there at the last. To miss the chance to tear the man's heart from his chest and feed upon it. To gain sustenance from his enemy. Even now, the urge was strong in Tool. But killing glory was the privilege of the Claws. He was a general now, sending Fists and Claws and Fangs into battle as he had once been sent, and so he missed out on the adrenaline rush of combat, the hot blood of slaughter spurting joyous between his jaws…
Tool sighed regretfully.
It is not your role to strike the killing blow.
Still, there was this small pleasure—one general looking the other in the eye, accepting surrender.
"'Against nature,' I think you said of me," Tool mused. "'An abomination.'" He lifted the head higher, peering into Sachs's horrified dead eyes. "'The patchwork Frankenstein that would not stand.' And of course, 'Blasphemy.'"
Tool bared his teeth, pleased. The man had lived in denial until the last, believing himself a child of God, made in God's own image, divinely protected from the likes of Tool. "It seems his One True God favored blasphemy best."
Even now, Tool thought he could see the glimmer of denial in the dead general's eyes. The wailing tantrum at the unfairness of being forced to fight a creature that had been designed to be faster, smarter, and tougher than the poor human warlord who had thought himself blessed.
This simple man hadn't been able to grasp that Tool had been optimized for an ecosystem of slaughter. Tool's gods had been far more interested in modern warfare than this sad man's focus of worship. Such was the way of evolution and competition. One species replaced another in the blink of an eye. One evolved; one died out.
But then, the concept of evolution had never been the general's strong suit, either.
Some species are meant to lose.
A heavy boom shook the air. Tool's 999. The foundation of the palace trembled.
The city fell quiet.
And remained so.
Stub looked up at Tool in surprise. Tool's ears twitched, listening. Nothing. No gunfire. No mortar launches. Tool strained his senses. With the storm coming, the breeze carried an electric sense of anticipation, as if waiting for violence to resume—and yet now, finally, the Drowned Cities were silent.
"It's over," Stub murmured, awed. His voice strengthened. "The Drowned Cities are yours, General."
Tool smiled affectionately at the boy. "They always were."
All around, the youth of Tool's command staff had paused in their tasks, some in midstep. All of them were listening, too, all of them anticipating a new round of violence, and yet all of them hearing only peace.
Peace. In the Drowned Cities.
Tool took a deep breath, savoring the moment, then paused, frowning. Oddly, his troops smelled not of victory, but of fear.
Tool scrutinized Stub. "What is it, soldier?"
The boy hesitated. "What happens now, General?"
What happens now?
In an instant, Tool saw the problem. Looking over his command staff—his finest, his sharpest, his elites—it was obvious. Their expressions and scents told the story. Stub, the brave one who had fought even after his leg was destroyed. Sasha, his Fist gauntlet, who frightened even the coldest of new recruits. Alley-O, so apt at chess that Tool had recruited him to the central command. Mog and Mote, the blond twins who ran the Lightning Claws, brave and gutsy, with a flair for improvisation under fire.
These young humans were wise enough to know the difference between calculated risk and wild recklessness, and yet they were still years shy of even two decades. Some of them barely had the fuzz of manhood on their faces. Alley-O was no more than twelve…
They are children.
Drowned Cities warlords had always valued the malleable qualities of youth. Savage loyalty was an affectation of children; their eagerness for clarity of purpose was easily shaped. All the soldiers of the Drowned Cities had been recruited young, brainwashed early, given ideologies and absolute truths that demanded no nuance or perspective. Right and Wrong. Traitors and Patriots. Good and Evil. Invaders and Natives. Honor and Loyalty.
Blazing righteousness was easily cultivated in the young, and so the young made excellent weapons. Perfect fanatic killing tools, sharpened to the bleeding edge by the simplicity of their worldly understandings.
Obedient to the last.
Tool himself had been designed by military scientists for exactly this sort of slavish loyalty, infused with the DNA of subservient species, lashed to blind obedience by genetic controls and relentless training, and yet in his experience, young humans were far more malleable. More obedient, even, than dogs, really.
And when they were free, they became frightened.
Tool scowled down at General Sachs's head, still in his hand. What did a sword do when all of its opponents had been beheaded? What use for a gun, when there was no enemy left to shoot in the face? What purpose for a soldier, when there was no war?
Tool handed the bloody trophy back to Stub. "Stack it with the rest."
Stub cradled the head carefully. "And after that?"
Tool wanted to howl in his face, Make your own way! Build your own world! Your kind constructed me! Why must I construct you?
But the thought was unkind. They were as they were. They had been trained for obedience, and so had lost their way.
"We will rebuild," Tool said finally.
Soldier boys' faces flooded with relief. Once again, rescued from uncertainty. Their God of War was ready even for this terrifying challenge of Peace.
"Spread the word to the troops. Our new task is to rebuild." Tool's voice strengthened. "The Drowned Cities are mine now. This is my… kingdom. I will make it flourish. We will make it flourish. That is now our mission."
Even as he said it, Tool wondered if it could be done.
He could shred flesh with his clawed hands, he could slaughter multitudes with a gun, he could shatter bones to dust with his teeth. With a Fist of augments he could invade a country, emerging on a foreign shore to spread blood and slaughter, and end victorious—but what of a war of peace?
What to make of a war where no one died, and victories were measured by full bellies and warm fires and…
The harvests of farms?
Tool's lips curled back, baring tiger's teeth. He growled in disgust.
Stub retreated hastily. Tool tried to control his expression.
Killing was easy. Any child could become a killer. Sometimes the stupidest were the best, because they understood so little of their danger.
But farming? The patient cultivating of land? The tilling of soil? The planting of seeds? Where were the people who knew these things? Where were the people who knew how to accomplish these patient, quiet things?
They were dead. Or else fled. The smartest of them long gone.
He would require a different sort of command staff entirely. He would need to find a way to bring in trainers. Experts. A Fist of humans who knew how to engineer not death, but life—
Tool's ears pricked up.
The placid silence of the Drowned Cities at peace made way for a new sound. A whistling sound, high overhead.
A terrifying sound, barely remembered…
"STRIKE RAPTORS ARE on station, General."
"You have the target?"
"Target locked. Havoc 5s, loaded. Havoc in the tube."
"All tubes, fire at will," the general said.
The analyst glanced over, surprised. "All of them, sir? It's…" She hesitated. "There will be a lot of collateral damage, sir."
"Make sure." The general nodded definitively. "Make absolutely sure."
The analyst nodded and tapped her keyboard. "Yes, sir. Full six-pack, sir." She spoke into her comm. "Munitions control, confirm: Six-pack to strike. General Caroa confirms."
"Six-pack to strike, confirmed. Six-pack Havoc."
"Six, up. Six, armed…" She tapped more keys. "Six-pack in the tubes… Missiles away, sir." She looked up. "Fifteen seconds to Havoc."
The analyst and the general both leaned forward, watching the computer screens.
The monitors were filled with a rainbow of infrared signatures. Muddy reds and blues and purples of heat. Small heat blips for the human troops—oranges and yellows mostly—and a large blot of red where the augment stood.
The analyst watched. There were quite a number of heat signatures. The augment's command staff, most likely. Troops all doing their jobs, not knowing that death was arrowing down upon them.
The Raptor cameras were so precise that she could make out the residue of handprint heat when people leaned on their desks. Footprints appeared and disappeared ghostly as a soldier walked barefoot across the capitol building's ancient marble floor. It all looked so still and calm, from this distance. Silent. Unreal.
The augment was standing close to a couple of other troops—possibly giving orders, perhaps receiving some intelligence—none of them realizing that they were about to be erased from the face of the earth.
"Ten seconds," she murmured.
General Caroa leaned forward, intent. "All right, old friend, let's see you escape this time."
The strike monitor counted down.
"Five… four… three…"
The augment must have sensed danger. It began to move. Heat flooded its body as it threw itself into motion.
They were designed to be preternaturally alert, the analyst thought idly. It was hardly surprising that even now, this war beast made one last attempt at survival. It was the very nature of augments. They were built to fight, even when fighting was futile.
The screen flared.
Red, orange, yellow—
Searing white. Brighter than a thousand suns all burning. More impacts followed, flare after flare as missiles pounded the target.
The heat registers on the oversight drone flickered to black, overwhelmed by the hell unleashed.
"Contact," the analyst announced. "Six-pack, contact."
MAHLIA WAS LYING on the deck of the Raker, which was odd, because last she remembered, she'd been standing. But now she was lying down.
No. She wasn't lying on the clipper's deck; she was leaning against a cabin wall, next to a porthole. No, she was lying on the cabin wall. She wasn't standing up at all. In fact, the whole ship wasn't standing up.
My ship is on its side.
Mahlia stared up at the orange roiling clouds overhead, trying to make sense of that.
The Raker is on her side. My ship is not standing up.
Mahlia thought about that some more. The world around her felt surreal and distant, as if she were peering at everything through a very long length of pipe. It was all so far away, even though it was quite close.
Shards of fire looped and spiraled through the sky, flaming crows, swirling. Burning debris, flying free, bright and chaotic in the winds of conflagration.
One minute she'd been supervising the loading of a canvas-wrapped painting, an Accelerated Age masterwork, worrying about getting it secured in the hold before the hurricane rains got too heavy, and now she was lying on her back, staring up at the throb of fire on the bellies of storm clouds.
She had the feeling that she needed to do something urgent, but her body ached and the back of her head was tender. She reached back to probe the wound, and hissed in pain when metal banged her head.
Fates, she was so confused, she'd forgotten she'd lost her right hand to the Army of God's soldier boys years ago, and replaced it with a prosthetic in the Seascape. Mahlia hesitantly reached back to probe her scalp with her left hand, testing with fingers that actually had feeling.
Big lump, but no open wound, it seemed. No shattered skull, no spongy brain. She checked her fingers. No blood, either.
The Raker was coming upright, slowly righting itself. Mahlia started sliding down past the porthole. The deck rushed up to meet her. She braced to catch herself, but her legs crumpled and she fell unceremoniously onto the carbon-spool deck.
The clipper ship came fully upright, bobbing and sloshing, pouring seawaters from its decks.
Mahlia struggled to move her feet, afraid for a moment that she had a spinal injury. Please, let my legs work. She concentrated, and felt a flood of relief as one leg moved, then the other. She grasped for the lip of a porthole and hauled herself to her feet, groaning. Puppet body, wooden limbs, missing strings, but she made it up, and staggered to the rail.
"Where the hell is everyone?"
Something big had hit them. Epic big, as Van would say. Maybe a stray shell from the 999s? Dropped out of the sky, right onto them? But that didn't make sense. Tool was the only one firing 999s these days, and Tool's soldier boys were too well trained to screw up like this.
Mahlia looked down the length of the ship, taking stock of the Raker
Praise for Tool of War:
A 2018 Locus Awards Finalist for Young Adult Books
*"Bacigalupi's environmentally ravaged world remains both richly described and terrifying, his characters diverse and complex. Through Tool, he explores free will and the consequences of humans playing at being gods. ...Well worth the wait."
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Bacigalupi masterfully examine[s] larger questions about humanity, genetic engineering, loyalty, freedom, violence, and survival. This striking novel...is an all-too-timely reminder that humans' actions have the power to change the world for better or worse."
—The Horn Book
"Makes readers think about what it means to be human, the price of genetic engineering, and the inhumanity of the corporations who put profit above all else."
"A cleverly described, intricate, and equally desolate world. Fans of the series will love it, and...new readers will quickly understand the world."
*"A strong, entertaining continuation of Bacigalupi's postapocalyptic series."—School Library Journal, starred review
*"Tool is at center stage at last as readers move through Bacigalupi's exploration of the intricate relationships connecting hunter and prey, master and enslaved, human and monster. Masterful."—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Bacigalupi's action scenes are brilliantly cinematic, powering the pacing with breathtaking superhero stunts. Tool, as ever, is a character impossible to forget."—Booklist
Praise for Ship Breaker
Michael L. Printz Award Winner, 2011
A New York Times BestsellerNational Book Award Finalist, 2010A VOYA 2010 Top Shelf Fiction for Middle School Readers BookA Rolling Stone 40 Best YA Novels Book
A Washington Post Best Book for Young Readers, 2012
Green Earth Book Award Young Adult Fiction Honor Book, 2011
YALSA Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2010
Publishers Weekly Best Children's Books, 2010
ALSC Notable Children's Books, 2011
"Bacigalupi's future earth is brilliantly imagined and its genesis anchored in contemporary issues...The characters are layered and complex, and their almost unthinkable actions and choices seem totally credible. Vivid, brutal, and thematically rich, this captivating title is sure to win teen fans for the award-winning Bacigalupi." --Booklist (starred review)
"A stellar YA debut...the book's message never overshadows the storytelling, action-packed pacing, or intricate world-building." --Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Praise for The Drowned Cities
A 2012 Kirkus Reviews Best of YA BookA 2012 VOYA Perfect Ten BookA 2012 Los Angeles Times Book Prize FinalistA 2012 Los Angeles Public Library Best Teen BookA 2013 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults BookA 2013 CBC at Bank Street College Best Children's Books of the Year Book
A 2013 Capitol Choices Noteworthy Titles for Children and Teens BookA Junior Library Guild SelectionA 2014 Tennessee Volunteer Book Award Nominee
- On Sale
- Oct 10, 2017
- Page Count
- 384 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers