Strange Days by Constantine J. SingerStrange Days by Constantine J. Singer

Strange Days

byConstantine J. Singer

Hardcover | December 4, 2018

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Contemporary fiction with a sci-fi edge, perfect for fans of Ernest Cline and Marie Lu.

Alex Mata doesn't want to worry about rumors of alien incursions--he'd rather just skate and tag and play guitar. But when he comes home to find an alien has murdered his parents, he's forced to confront a new reality: aliens are real, his parents are dead, and nobody will believe him if he tells. On the run, Alex finds himself led to the compound of tech guru Jeffrey Sabazios, the only public figure who stands firm in his belief that aliens are coming.

At Sabazios's invitation, Alex becomes a Witness, one of a special group of teens gifted with an ability that could save the Earth: they can glide through time and witness futures. When a Witness sees a future, that guarantees it will happen the way it's been seen, making their work humanity's best hope for stopping the alien threat. Guided by Sabazios, befriended by his fellow time travelers, and maybe even falling in love, Alex starts feeling like the compound is a real home--until a rogue glide shows him the dangerous truth about his new situation.

Now in a race against time, Alex is forced to reevaluate who he can love, who he can trust, and who he needs to leave behind.

Debut author Constantine Singer's fresh-voiced protagonist leaps off the page in this captivating novel that weaves sci-fi and contemporary fiction.
Constantine Singer grew up in Seattle and earned his BA from Earlham College and his Masters from Seattle University. He currently lives in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles with his family and teaches history at a high school in South LA. He is of the opinion that all foods are better eaten as a sandwich or a taco. This is his...
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Title:Strange DaysFormat:HardcoverDimensions:432 pages, 8.56 × 5.81 × 1.35 inPublished:December 4, 2018Publisher:Penguin Young Readers GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1524740241

ISBN - 13:9781524740245

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One: The Tamale Lady comes around the front of the school early on Mondays, so Zeon and Big Schmo are already in line at her cart when I walk up. Zeon nods when he sees me. Coughs, “T’sup Plugz.” “T’sup.” I fall in line behind Schmo, watch as the lady pulls dollars out of people’s grips with one hand while grabbing tamales from her thermos box with tongs in her other. She says something in Spanish to a kid in front of me and then she smiles wide enough to show her teeth. The kid says something back to her and then she says something else and everybody laughs, including the kid, but my Spanish sucks so I don’t get the joke. “You get any of that?” Zeon asks me quietly. I turn back to him, give him a small shrug. “Yeah.” He smiles like he doesn’t believe me. “She just burned him to the ground, Pocho.” Pocho’s not my name or anything, it’s just a word for people like me who don’t know Spanish. Zeon’s been translating for me since we were in grade school and he gets tired of it. I move my head a little. “I heard her.” Zeon looks at me weird, but drops it when Fizzin comes up behind us, grabbing my shoulder. “You got me on this, bro?” Fizzin never has any money. I only have a couple dollars, so I shake my head. He turns and looks at Zeon, who nods, reaches into his pocket for some bills, and hands them to Fizzin. Zeon’s hair whips back when he turns, giving a flash of his ear. His pod doesn’t look normal—it’s small and matches the color of his skin. Somebody’s playing a guitar nearby, picking at the strings. “You hear that?” Nobody says anything. Nobody else seems to notice, so I ignore it too, and point at Zeon’s ear. “You got Live-Tech?” I’ve never seen one in real life, but Tony Baez has been bumping them endlessly on his channel. The size and color-blending are giveaways. The Tamale Lady looks at us. We tell her what we want and she collects our money before handing us our tamales. We take them and step back across the street into the shade from the big apartment building. When we’re situated, I reach out for Zeon’s ear with my free hand so I can pull his hair back. He lets me, tilting his head so it’s easy to see. “Gotta be prepared for Incursions.” Incursions. I can feel my jaw go stiff, so I force myself to open my mouth and take a breath. They’ve been happening for a while and even though nobody in the government is willing to say they’re real, a lot of us are convinced they are. For Beems and Zeon and Schmo and the rest of my crew, it’s a faraway thing, like a fight video with kids you don’t know—something to talk about, something to joke about—but to me they feel real. It feels like they’re going to be the death of me, but I haven’t said that to anybody. I mentioned them to my dad, but he said I should worry more about riding my board in traffic, and that if they were really aliens then the government would’ve made sure we’d never even heard about them. Still, they scare the shit out of me because the men in my family are cursed and if an Incursion is going to get anybody around here it’ll probably be me. I take another bite of my tamale, but my fear makes it taste bad. “You believe that shit? You believe that thing’ll keep you safe like Jeffrey Sabazios says?” Fizzin asks as he and Schmo fall in on the other side to look. Fizzin reaches out to touch it. “Does it really read your mind?” Then: “Isn’t the government getting ready to ban those things?” Zeon shrugs. “Fuck if I know, man. They’re legit cool, though.” He slides his screen out of his pocket—it’s smaller than most screens, but then it starts to unfold and ends up twice the size of mine. He holds it up in front of us. It brightens from black, scrambles for a moment, then I’m looking at a picture of us looking at his screen. “Oh shit!” Schmo yells, dancing backward and then jumping back into the circle, pushing Fizzin out of the way. “You did that with your mind? Controlled the screen? You didn’t even say anything. That’s . . .” He shakes his head. “Do it again.” Zeon’s screen brightens again, but this time instead of a picture of us, it’s showing something else. “Called your girl, Plugz,” he says. I freeze. He called Mousie. I don’t want to talk with Mousie in front of everybody—I don’t know what we’d say to each other that wouldn’t be weird and embarrassing. Too late. She’s on the screen now. She looks confused. “Who’s this?” Her voice isn’t going to his earpod—it sounds like it’s coming from the screen, so I lean in and shake my head. I can’t stop my mind from playing out all the dumb things I say in front of her when we’re alone that she might repeat in front of everybody. “Hey.” Lame. “Zeon’s got Live-Tech.” “Really?” She’s not looking directly at me—she’s scanning the heads falling in behind mine. “That’s cool.” “Yeah.” I reach out behind me, shove Fizzin and Schmo out of the picture. Something rings in my ear, a sustain, like a whispered chord on a distant guitar. I turn to look for the instrument, but there’s nothing to see. “Are you gonna be here?” Whatever it was, it’s gone. I turn back to look at Mousie on Zeon’s screen. “Huh?” “School?” “What time is it?” I dig into my pocket for my screen. “Eight.” “No shit.” I look down at my tamale. Then: “Yeah. I’ll see you at break.” “See you.” Zeon’s screen goes blank. By the time we’re ready to walk, we’re already ten minutes late, but that’s okay. We move slow and eat our tamales as we go. First period is chemistry, and no matter what Mr. Wakefield says, I’m not going to pass it even if I’m there from the beginning of class. On the way, Fizzin says something about Incursions again. Everybody else laughs, but I can’t do more than a smile.   Two: Ever since talk about Incursions started, my Tía Juana is the only person I know who’s freaked out by them like me. Even though they haven’t happened in America yet she doesn’t even like me walking home from school—she thinks it’s too dangerous to be outside alone. Her son Alex died before I was born, and because I’m named after him, she takes special care of me. She messages me right before the end of school saying that she’s coming to get me. I can’t say my message back to her because I’m in class, so I have to unfold my screen to type her a message telling her she shouldn’t because I’m going to hang with Mousie, but she says she’s already here. My hair falls over my face as I look at the screen in my lap, making it hard to see, so I have to readjust myself and my screen. My aunt says for me to meet her down at Beverly so she doesn’t get stuck in school traffic. I text Mousie to tell her that I can’t hang, even though I don’t want to. Meet me later? she sends back. Where? The lake The teacher’s saying something, she’s looking right at me, talking. I want to text Mousie back, but I can’t because the teacher’s pinned me with her eyes. I’m supposed to be doing something, but I don’t know what, so I lean forward and bring my arm up with my stylus like I’m going to write because that’s what everybody else is doing, but there aren’t even instructions on my desk’s screen and the response window where I’d input my work is grayed out, so I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. “Mr. Mata? Do you have any thoughts?” “About what?” It comes out with a laugh that I don’t mean to do, but I can’t stop it. She sighs, gives me a smile that says she’s tired of me. “Why people voted for Eugene Debs even though he was in prison?” She’s still staring at me and now my face is getting hot because I can feel everybody else staring at me, too. I think I sort of know the answer. We were just learning about how he was a socialist who wanted the working people to be in charge of things, and how that was what a lot of people wanted. But I’m not sure I’m right, so I shrug and shake my head. “No thoughts?” “Nah.” My screen lights up in my lap. Mousie again. If I had a Live-Tech pod, I’d be able to message Mousie with my mind and still look like I was working. My auntie gets me things sometimes. I showed her some stuff about Live-Tech a while ago, but she was totally against it. She doesn’t trust things that play with your mind, and like a lot of people she’s sure Jeffrey Sabazios is out to get us. Maybe I’ll ask again. I bring it up when I get in the car. “Jesse’s got Live-Tech.” My aunt squints at me. She still has a car that you drive, so she’s got her hands on the steering wheel as she pulls away from the curb, moving slow to keep from hitting the other cars picking up kids. “He shouldn’t have that,” she tells me. “Jeffrey Sabazios’s gonna know all his thoughts—even the president says so.” I shrug. “Sabazios says it’ll protect him from Incursions.” “That’s crazy, mijo.” She shakes her head like she’s disappointed in my thinking. “He’s using the Incursions to get people to give him their minds, and your mind is something you should never give up to anyone but God. You think it’s coincidence Jeffrey Sabazios ‘comes up’”—she makes air quotes with her hand still on the steering wheel—“with his mind-control stuff right when the Incursions begin and that suddenly it’s going to save you? Use your brain, Alex. He’s conning you. You want to stay safe from the aliens, you stick with me.” This is hopeless. “Maybe, but it means Jesse never needs to worry about getting his screen jacked.” The Live-Tech pods and their screens only work for the person they’ve been mated with. She knows that. “He won’t have to worry so much walking alone home from school.” She clucks, shakes her head. “Not about criminals, maybe, but he won’t be any safer from an Incursion no matter what Sabazios says.” She turns to put her eyes on me. “Sabazios is playing people for fools—trying to earn his money off your fear, scaring people into giving him control of their minds.” She bugs her eyes at me. “That’s why no serious people are buying his Live-Tech stuff and why President Castle’s trying to get it banned.” She looks across at me like I’m a baby. “Those are the facts, no matter what you see on your channels.” I reach up to fiddle with my pod. It’s new, but it’s a little too big for my ear and it hurts after a while, plus the sound pass-thru which they said was going to be 100% isn’t anywhere near that good. “People are buying it,” I say, sounding whiny, which I hate. “Lots of people. It’s already everywhere.” “It’s not everywhere, and it’s not going to be on in your ear, mijo.” I don’t really hear her, though. There’s other noise, sounding like a strummed guitar again. “Do you hear that?” “Hear what?” she asks, eyes fixed on the road. “That sound, like a guitar?” She cocks her head, brushes some of the hair away from her ear, listens, then: “You play that thing too much, now you hear it everywhere. I don’t hear anything.” “Yeah.” I’m not sure I do, either, anymore.