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Praise for John Love’s Faith:

“Succeeds both as a purely visceral, exciting story and as a meditation on the place of humanity in the universe...There is a kind of passionate wonder on display here that makes Faith exhilarating to read, a novel that demands and rewards the reader’s attention from the first sentence to the last.”

—Katherine Farmar, Strange Horizons

“A science fiction debut of the highest order. It has fascinating, well- rounded characters who will remain with you for a long time. [...] A novel I maybe would have expected from the mind of Iain M. Banks— and if that isn’t a compliment for an SF debut, I don’t know what is...I’m already sure this novel will end up on my list of 2012 favourites.”

—Stefan Raets, Tor.com

“A huge widescreen premise...The perfect mix of space battles and politics.”

—Charlie Jane Anders, io9.com

“Sophisticated, inventive and beautifully written, Faith is a cut above the rest. John Love has made an excellent debut.”

—Allen Steele, author of Oceanspace and The Coyote Chronicles

“The beautiful, brutal bastard of Iain M Banks and Peter Watts—abso- lutely brilliant.”

—Sean Williams, author of The Resurrected Man and The Grand Conjunction

“Gripping and original.”

—David Moles, Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award-winning author

“Tremendous science fiction that blends literary traditions with space opera and all the various subgenres therein...John Love’s debut is on par with Dan Simmons’s Hyperion in its quest to pose questions and attempt to answer them.”

—Justin Landon, Staffers Book Review

A genius bit of writing, and an absolute home run for first-timer John Love.”

—SteveSkojec.com

Also by John Love:

Faith

EVENSONG

JOHN LOVE

NIGHT SHADE BOOKS

AN IMPRINT OF START PUBLISHING LLC

NEW YORK, NEW YORK

Copyright © 2015 by John Love.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner without the express written consent of the publisher, except in the case of brief excerpts in critical reviews or articles. All inquiries should be addressed to Start Publishing LLC, 609 Greenwich Street, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10014.

Night Shade Books is an imprint of Start Publishing LLC.

Visit our website at www.start-publishing.com.

Cover design by Claudia Noble

ISBN: 978-1-59780-566-7

For Sandra, Helen and Ian

JUNE 2061

They’d wish her dead if they knew what she’d done. But they are only a congregation, mostly elderly and infirm, and they know nothing about her.

Some of them look round as she enters. This is the third consecutive Sunday that Olivia has come to Evensong at Rochester Cathedral, and they are beginning to notice her. She is shabbily dressed, her blonde hair lank and greasy. She looks like someone they would once have recognised.

Habit makes her glance round every few minutes, though she doesn’t expect to see those hunting her. Not yet. It normally takes them a few weeks, but they always find her—after what she did, they’ll never give up—and then the cycle begins again: flight, to another rundown flat, in another rundown neighbourhood. She thinks, Anwar would have handled the last few months much better, but Anwar is long gone.

The choir is singing the evening’s first psalm. She recognises the words from other Evensongs at other churches.

For he shall deliver thee from the snare of the hunter.

He shall defend thee under his wings,

And thou shalt be safe…

It is a pleasant summer evening. The sunlight is the colour of burnished copper; it deepens and enriches the red-brown of the pews and puts alternate light and dark bands across the aisle. Above her the Cathedral is vaulted and groined, with stone Gothic arches curving up into a dark wooden ceiling. Twilight floats there, bobbing against the ceiling like a helium balloon after a party, waiting to float down and become night.

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace...

The words of the Nunc Dimittis always sound to her like they should be the closing words, but Evensong doesn’t finish there; there are some responses and collects, a short sermon, and a hymn. Then they file out through the West Door into the Cathedral precincts: College Yard, with lawns and park benches, magnolias, and a huge spreading catalpa tree hun- dreds of years old. Something still remains of the copper evening sunlight, and there are some refectory tables in the courtyard and around the trees, where some of the congre- gation have stopped for coffee.

She avoids eye contact and hurries past them. She has lost many things in the last few months, including her need for companionship. And her capacity to return it.

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace…

Olivia’s flat is only a few minutes’ walk from the Cathedral, at the other end of the old High Street. It is above a computer repair shop, a low-rent business in a low-rent area: only poor people need to repair computers, and her landlord, who owns the business, is only marginally better off than she is.

The walls of the stairway and landing are painted dark green and cream. The landing smells of damp. So does her flat,when she opens the door, but it also smells more strongly of something else: nonhuman urine.

“Fuck you” is the ginger cat’s probable meaning as it meows at her indignantly; not for the first time, she’s for- gotten to put down its litter tray. She cleans up the mess (leaving a few more dark patches on the carpet, as though an old map had suddenly grown some new continents) and goes through to her bedroom. In there is the only genuine souvenir of the old days.

Anwar had once torn a page out of one of his books (an impulsive act, for someone who valued books as he did) and had left it on her bed. She has kept it ever since. It contains the first four lines of a Shakespeare sonnet: his favourite Shakespeare sonnet, and now he is as long gone as its author.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments. Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove.

ONE: SEPTEMBER 2060 

1

Anwar sat in a formal garden in northern Malaysia on a pleasant September afternoon, reading. The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on…He liked FitzGerald’s translation of Omar Khayyam, but felt it took liberties with the text; he preferred the original, in the cadences of twelfth-century Persian.

It was 4:00 p.m.: time. He closed the book and retreated back under the roof of his verandah, just as the afternoon rain began with its usual promptness and intensity. While he watched it he performed one of his standard exercises: using the fingers of his right hand to break, one by one, the fingers of his left hand. The core of the exercise was not to blank out the pain—though his abilities were such that he could have done that, too—but to feel the pain and still not react to it, either by noise or by movement, as each finger was bent back beyond the vertical and snapped. It was a familiar exercise and he finished it satisfactorily.

The rain stopped, as promptly and suddenly as it had begun. He leaned back, breathing in the scent of wet leaves and grass. A brief gust of wind shook rain from the trees, so that it sounded, for a few seconds, like another downpour beginning. He cupped his right hand round his left, easing his fingers back to their normal position, and waited for the bones to set and regenerate; it would take about an hour.

It was not unheard-of for a VSTOL from the UN to land on the formal lawn at the centre of his garden, but it was not something which happened often. This was one of their latest, silent and silvered and almost alien. A door melted open in its side and a dark-haired young woman got out and walked across the lawn towards Anwar. She was Arden Bierce, one of Rafiq’s personal staff, and they smiled a greeting at each other.

“Rafiq wants you.” She handed him a letter. He studied Rafiq’s neat italic handwriting, not unlike his own, and the courteously phrased request and personal signature. When Rafiq made this kind of request, he did so by pen and ink and personal meeting. Never remotely, and never electronically.

“I should go now.” He was telling her, not asking her. She nodded and turned back to the waiting VSTOL. Anwar Abbas stood up, stretched, and walked after her. He was as powerful as a tiger, as quiet as the flame of a candle.

Offer and Acceptance. The VSTOL would take him south to the UN complex ou ...