GtPGKogPYT4p61R1biicqBXsUzo" /> Google+ Excerpt: Silver Helix by Xan van Rooyen + giveaway | I Smell Sheep

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Excerpt: Silver Helix by Xan van Rooyen + giveaway

by Xan van Rooyen
September 18, 2023
Genre: Science Fantasy / Aetherpunk
Publisher: Android Press
On the surface, the city of HelsInc appears to have recovered from the war waged between humans and Ethereals, but beneath the scars, the city seethes. The remains of magic festers, causing mutations in human DNA which could give humans Ethereal power-not that the HelsInc government would ever let that happen. The Legion resists, ripping out their neurochips and protesting the mandatory gene therapy for humans with cryptomine in their DNA.

At only 19 years old, Omyn Talvinen isn't ready to play parent to her kid brother, but with her mom in prison on trumped up charges and her deadbeat dad AWOL, she's left with little choice. Forced to risk her freedom to pay the rent, Omyn finds herself at the mercy of a pair of cyborg soldiers when they catch her red-handed stealing nanites from a cyberware Salon. But the synths' powers don't work on Omyn, and they discover they all share a common memory that they must get to the root of.

Wanted dead by the government, Omyn and the renegade soldiers turn to a rebel Legion group with dreams of resuscitating dead magic for help. With the clock-ticking for the synths, Zee-Five and Omyn are forced to confront the secrets of their past and a dark conspiracy that'll shake the blood-soaked foundations of the city.
"Van Rooyen spices up a familiar cyberpunk world with appealing, voicey narration and an added layer of mutagenic magic."

-Publishers Weekly

From SILVER HELIX by Xan van Rooyen
Pg. 37

The quickrail hurtled along the streets, past massive, cloud-scraping malls, their flanks advertising everything from exotic cuisine to the latest chip protocols promising near immortality.

People ebbed and flowed through the quickrail doors, a swell of sweat and perfume, fried street food, and the cloying, pervasive stink of the sea. The train’s ventilation system did its best to maintain a decent atmosphere in the confined cars, but the burned treacle scent of decaying magic had long ago infused the upholstery.

The crowds gradually diminished as our route took us farther north. Two songs later and the landscape morphed into pristine bands of orange, red, and gold. It was so beautiful it made me want to puke.

After the war against Ethereals, HelsInc had replanted the forests in designer patterns of birch and oak, maple, and spruce. All the delineated patterns were crafted by machines. A wild forest might have stirred residual magic from the soil, and HelsInc wasn’t going to take that chance. The apartments and homes here were all new too, all shiny replacements for those razed decades earlier.

Eventually, the landscape faded to gray as if we were reaching the limits of an in-game map, only no message flashed the warning ‘Death Imminent.’

Out of the no man’s land rose a giant zit: VankilaNorth, a lopsided pentagon metastasizing in concrete and steel, ribboned in layers of razor wire and electric fencing. The architect who designed it must have had a fetish for Brutalism. A few layers of spray paint might’ve improved it, but I doubted the people in charge would appreciate d├ęcor advice from someone like me. Guess I should be grateful for all the gross architecture begging for a face-lift. It’s not like I’d tag an Aalto or Engel creation.

I pocketed my ear pods before we hurried from the quickrail, following behind the mournful band of fellow convict families all headed for visiting hours. The protesters gathered at the prison gates were a bedraggled, motley bunch held back by barricades and bots. Several placards bore the “PEOPLE≫PROFITS!” slogan, while others read:



Others bore the face of our former health minister with JUSTICE FOR TERHI scrawled below it.

And then there was my personal favorite: IF THE FUTURE IS HUMAN, HOW COME A DROID IS PRESIDENT?

I scanned the crowd for friends but didn’t recognize anyone. Their faces were wrapped in scarves and balaclavas. If any of the protesters had scars instead of chips, they were wise enough to keep them hidden.

Bracken tugged my hand. We’d fallen behind the others already being ushered through the first round of security checks.

“Do I look okay?” I whispered to Brack before it was our turn. I’d tried to soften my usual aesthetic by leaving the points of my hair hanging loose and my eyes devoid of shadow and liner.

“A little less like you want to punch someone than usual,” he said.

“That’ll do.” I even attempted a smile as they scanned and x-rayed every bit of us before waving us through. I tried not to panic as the visitors’ gate swung shut.

About the Author
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Climber, tattoo collector, and peanut-butter connoisseur, Xan van Rooyen is an autistic, non-binary storyteller from South Africa, currently living in Finland where the heavy metal is soothing and the cold, dark forests inspiring. Xan has a Master’s degree in music, and–when not teaching–enjoys conjuring strange worlds and creating quirky characters. You can find Xan’s stories in the likes of Three-Lobed Burning Eye, Daily Science Fiction, and Galaxy’s Edge among others. They have also written several novels including YA fantasy My Name is Magic, and adult arcanopunk novel Silver Helix. Xan is also part of the Sauutiverse, an African writer’s collective with their first anthology due out this November from Android Press. Feel free to say hi on socials @xan_writer.

Author Photo Credit: Ekaterina Trayt

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