The Cityborn by Edward WillettThe Cityborn by Edward Willett

The Cityborn

byEdward Willett

Hardcover | July 4, 2017

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Two young individuals must uncover the dark secrets of their stratified city in this suspenseful sci-fi standalone

The metal City towers at the center of the mountain-ringed Heartland, standing astride the deep chasm of the Canyon like a malevolent giant, ruled with an iron fist by the First Officer and his Provosts in the name of the semi-mythical Captain. Within its corroding walls lies a stratified society, where the Officers dwell in luxury on the Twelfth Tier while the poor struggle to survive on the First and Second, and outcasts scrabble and fight for whatever they can find in the Middens, the City’s rubbish heap, filling the Canyon beneath its dripping underbelly.

Alania, ward of an Officer, lives on Twelfth. Raised among the privileged class, Alania feels as though she is some sort of pampered prisoner, never permitted to explore the many levels of the City. And certainly not allowed to leave the confines of the City for any reason. She has everything a young woman could want except a loving family and personal freedom.

Danyl, raised by a scavenger, knows no home but the Middens. His day-to-day responsibility is to stay alive. His sole ambition is to escape from this subsistence existence and gain entrance to the City—so near and yet so far out of reach—in hopes of a better life.

Their two very different worlds collide when Alania, fleeing from an unexpected ambush, plunges from the heights of the City down to the Middens, and into Danyl’s life.

Almost immediately, both of them find themselves pursued by the First Officer’s Provosts, for reasons they cannot fathom—but which they must uncover if they are to survive. The secrets they unlock, as they flee the Canyon and crisscross the Heartland from the City’s farmlands to the mountains of the north and back again, will determine not only their fate, but the fate of the City…and everyone who lives there.
Edward Willett is the award-winning author of more than fifty books of science fiction, fantasy, and non-fiction for adults, young adults, and children. Born in New Mexico, he moved to Weyburn, Saskatchewan, from Texas as a child, and now lives in Regina, Saskatchewan, with his wife, Margaret Anne Hodges, P.Eng., their teenaged daughte...
Title:The CitybornFormat:HardcoverDimensions:416 pages, 9.31 × 6.25 × 1.31 inPublished:July 4, 2017Publisher:DawLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0756411777

ISBN - 13:9780756411770

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Rated 2 out of 5 by from Review: The Cityborn by Edward Willett **Review courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy** THE CITYBORN is fueled by its dystopian society. In a place only known as ‘The City’, there are clear lines between the rich and the poor. There can be so much intrigue to a class-ruled dystopia. It’s always fun learn about how these strange societies are built, and it’s even better to watch them fall. Unfortunately, the City was a cipher for too much of the book. If you want the reader to root for the demolition of society, you need the nitty-gritty details. It took too long to confirm where the City was, how it originated, or why it was there. In the City, the Officers are the ruling class, and have been maintaining power and money for generations. The rest of the population is spread out on lower levels. Some are simply poor, others essentially live in a Mad Max style dump. Stolen as children, Alania and Danyl have been raised in totally different class spheres. Alania, protected and sheltered, with the upper crust. Danyl, scavenging and fighting, in a garbage level. When they turn 20, everything changes. The relationship between Alania and Danyl was...strange. They snipe, argue, and slowly respect each other. But, even when they learn about their shared personal history, there's a lot of longing looks and awkward feelings that never go away. It was almost like the first draft of the novel had them written as lovers and the subsequent drafts never erased that tension. THE CITYBORN is oddly weighted to the point where it felt like I was reading two different novels. The first chapters follow the protagonists at different ages, but the time jumps are pure set-up. We explore the protagonist’s surroundings but ignore the more interesting aspects of the society. The plot didn’t start until Danyl and Alania turned 20. Conversely, the last few chapters are completely different. Characters die, plots speed by, settings are replaced over and over. It’s almost impossible to take a breath. But --just when it seems that the book is coming to fruition-- the plot stalls. Needless obstacles are thrown in Danyl and Alania’s escape. It seemed like only purpose for yet another sabotage was to pad out the ending. THE CITYBORN also suffers from tonal whiplash. Some plot elements are needlessly grim: forced sterilization, infanticide, graphic deaths, hidden cameras. It’s a rebellion, and it should be bloody, but it’s a little much for YA, especially since these issues are never properly investigated. The ending itself also shies away from making hard choices. When monumental, world-changing, information is discovered, it’s shrugged away. Radical changes are made, but the book ends before the City’s population (and the reader) feels the effects. Overall, THE CITYBORN is a frustrating book. Some sections are intriguing and fast-paced, but others are slow and meandering. Danyl and Alania may be the protagonists but they’re also the least interesting characters. The robots, clones, and amazing side-characters easily steal the focus from Alania and Danyl. A dystopian fan with a special love for class-division and clones may forgive THE CITYBORN’s flaws, but I found it hard to focus on the shiny metal buried under the debris.
Date published: 2017-07-24

Read from the Book

P R O L O G U E   THE BLACK-CLAD FIGURE crept through the unlit corridor on Second Tier, silent and slippery as the sludge oozing from the corroded pipe running the ceiling’s length. The gunk from the pipe had very conveniently covered the lenses of the surveillance cameras at each end of the hallway, and this corridor was so unimportant in the grand scheme of the City that it would be days— possibly weeks or months—before anyone would even notice, much less come to clean them.   At least, the corridor had been unimportant, Yvelle Forister thought. Now it was potentially the most important corridor in the whole reeking edifice that those who had set her on this path hoped to bring figuratively, if not literally, crashing down. Because three-quarters of the way along its length, a maintenance hatch opened into a no-longer-used elevator shaft that rose all the way to Twelfth Tier.   Through her night-vision visor, the corridor glowed deep green, the blinking light of the obscured security camera at the far end flashing brightly every few seconds. Yvelle didn’t like the thought of that thing looking at her, grease-covered or not, so she hurried to the hatch and knelt beside it.   The tool she pulled from her belt was as illegal as her night-vision equipment, if not quite as illegal as the beamer holstered at her hip. The worker who had “lost” it had done so knowing it would cost him his job, but like Yvelle herself, he no doubt had good reason to help the shadowy anti-City forces who called themselves the Free Citizens.   Her own reason had returned to her two months ago, from the notorious prison on Tenth Tier, as ashes in a small plastic urn. The cheap aluminum plaque embedded in its side bore a name, once as precious to her as her own: THOMAS DEVILLE.   Yvelle’s hand tightened on the maintenance tool. Then she leaned forward and touched its tip to the first of the hatch’s access points. There was a sharp click, and a light on the tool’s handle flashed green. Eight clicks and eight green flashes later, she pushed at the bottom of the hatch. It sank into the wall a centimeter, then popped out, and she dug her fingers under the edge and swung it upward.   The inside of the hatch had three metal ladder rungs built into it at thirty-centimeter intervals, a small segment of a ladder that she knew continued above and below the opening. She turned around and backed through the meter-wide portal, feeling with her feet for the rungs below the hatch. Once firmly on the ladder, she pulled the maintenance hatch closed. It clicked as it locked back into place.   The square shaft, three meters on a side, glowed green, lit by the luminescent tubes called “eternals” because they were supposed to last forever. Like most things in the City, though, several of them were out of order, belying their nickname. Still, with the night-vision goggles, they provided more than enough illumination for Yvelle to see the intimidating climb ahead of her.   They also showed her the old elevator doors, presumably sealed, on the opposite side of the shaft, and the rails on which an elevator car would ascend and descend. Those gleamed suspiciously brightly, which meant this “abandoned” shaft maybe wasn’t as abandoned as she’d been told. She just hoped whatever surreptitious purpose to which it was being put did not involve a car moving through it tonight, or she’d be a smear on the wall before she got anywhere near her destination. Presumably the shaft was being secretly used by the Free, not the Officers, and since her mission was theirs . . .   She took a deep breath and started climbing.   The City’s First through Seventh Tiers were each fifteen meters in height. Eighth and Ninth were each twenty meters tall, as was Tenth, where Thomas had died in prison. Eleventh and Twelfth, home to the Officers, were a lofty twenty-five meters. And the crown of the City, Thirteenth, dwelling place of the Captain . . .   Thirteenth was a mystery.   Fifteen meters of infrastructure in two levels separated the Tiers: pipes, conduits, service corridors. That meant well over three hundred meters to climb. Yvelle had to be at the top within twenty-five minutes.   The shaft gave no hint of what lay beyond its closed doors on each Tier, but she could picture it well enough. At the very bottom of the City, below even First and Second Tiers, were the Bowels: four levels, some sixty meters tall, full of mysterious machines. Some functioned to provide power and water and other services to the rest of City, some were supposed to but had long since malfunctioned, and some served no purpose anyone could decipher. Only squatters lived in the Bowels, in dark corners and for dark purposes. Occasionally the Provosts would attempt to evict them. Sometimes they managed to arrest half a dozen people. Sometimes they came back empty-handed. Sometimes they didn’t come back at all.   First and Second Tiers were crazy quilts of temporary structures made of any materials the denizens could obtain, dividing and subdividing what had once been a neat grid of orderly structures. Many of the original metal walls had been cut down, the pieces used elsewhere. The only remnants of the original neat, logical layout were the old street signs embedded in the corroded metal floors. Condensation from the ceilings dripped like rain into the dank, fetid streets, the ventilation systems overwhelmed by the sheer number of people crammed into spaces never intended to house so many. Fog, smoke from cooking fires, and strange vapors from the overworked and failing recycling plants— and the equally overworked but thriving illegal drug labs— drifted through the air, sometimes so thickly you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face and every breath burned. Like the ventilation, lighting was poor and erratic. Only the lucky or ruthless had reliable sources of power.   In those dark, dangerous, deceiving streets, people went missing all the time. Sometimes they’d been robbed and murdered.   Sometimes they’d been secretly arrested.   Like Thomas.   Despite the mask he’d worn, the Provosts had identified him at a protest held after an overhead pipe had ruptured and sprayed a market courtyard with an acidic sludge that had killed twenty-three people and disfigured a hundred more. They’d seized him in the middle of the night, dragging him and Yvelle out of bed. He’d been imprisoned; she had not. Instead, they had torn up her precious Reproductive Right card before her eyes and explained with cold contempt that since her husband had been identified as a Level-Two Security Threat, her right of reproduction had been terminated— as would be the now-unauthorized child she carried.   She remembered the horror of that conversation and the brutal drug-induced miscarriage that had followed. She remembered the doctor explaining to her, his face impassive, his eyes focused not on her but on a spot over her right shoulder, that the drugs had also sterilized her.   Two weeks later she had been contacted by the Free: an “accidental” encounter with a woman who gave her name as Bertel, who claimed to have been a friend of Thomas’s. Bertel ran a First-Tier bar— “a nicer place than most,” she’d said— and she’d invited Yvelle to come have a drink and a friendly talk. One conversation had led to another, always in Bertel’s Bar, a small place in which Yvelle never saw another guest. Bertel had confided her hatred of the Officers, and Yvelle had responded in kind, grateful to have someone she could safely talk to.   Maybe all that sympathy and support had only been bait to get her to bite the Free’s hook, but when Thomas’s ashes had been returned, Bertel had somehow known it, and she had been at Yvelle’s door within an hour. Do you want to make them pay for what they’ve done? she’d asked, and Yvelle had replied, Hell, yes. They’d gone to Bertel’s Bar. Bertel had produced a highly illegal commset, and Yvelle had found herself talking to someone named Prime. His voice had been digitally distorted and his image blacked out, and he had claimed to be the Commander of the Free. He had told her what the mission entailed, what she might have to do to make it succeed, and then gravely asked if she had the courage to carry out such a task. Yvelle had gripped the silver locket she now wore beneath her snug-fitting black top— a locket containing a hologram of Thomas as he had looked the day he asked her to marry him and two grams of the ashes that were all that remained of him— and sworn that she did.   Two weeks later, Bertel had given her detailed instructions. Following them, she’d found the maintenance tool in a back alley on Second Tier, right where the “negligent” worker had “dropped” it two minutes before. She had retrieved the night-vision goggles and beamer from a box buried in a rubbish heap on First Tier that hadn’t been disturbed in a decade. And tonight, at the appointed time, she had come to the sludge-slicked corridor and this ladder.   She continued climbing. She’d passed two more sealed doors, so she had to be past Third and Fourth and ascending toward Fifth. In all three, she knew, conditions were better than in First and Second. Though still overcrowded, the streets were wider and cleaner, the structures less haphazard in location and construction. There were proper factories and residential blocks for those fortunate enough to have jobs in them.   Sixth and Seventh were middle-class respectable, Seventh more so than Sixth. The managers of the factories lived there, and, unlike on the levels occupied by their workers, they didn’t have to shove furniture in front of their doors every night in case some bloodlust-gripped flash-user made a midnight call.   Yvelle had never been there, but she’d heard that on Eighth there were green spaces. A lucky few even had balconies and windows through the ancient metal skin of the City, providing views out over the rolling Heartland to the distant snowy peaks of the impassable Iron Ring. Accountants and lawyers and engineers and doctors lived there, and lived well . . . though not as well as those on Ninth, home of the wealthy. Yvelle could only dream of what that must be like.   She could only dream of what Tenth must be like as well, but those dreams were nightmares, the nightmares that had haunted her night after night when she’d still held out some hope Thomas would return to her alive— nightmares that had only grown worse when that hope was so brutally and finally crushed. All the time he’d been held there she’d had no contact with him, no way to comfort him. No visitors were allowed on Tenth, at least not for a Level-Two Security Threat snatched from the lowest Tiers.   Eleventh and Twelfth Tiers, home of the Officers, the City’s hereditary ruling class? They were unimaginable to Yvelle, yet it was to Twelfth that she was ascending. Or almost: her goal was another access hatch, this one in the service corridors beneath the Twelfth-Tier deck. From there, she would make her way to the hospital, her ultimate destination . . . provided a second Free operative known to Yvelle only as The Officer had done his job. If he hadn’t, this mission would come to a bloody end in— breathing hard, she looked up the ladder— about five minutes.   She reached the access hatch. She glanced over her shoulder; there were the expected elevator doors. She looked up and found herself staring at the underside of an elevator car, perhaps thirty meters above her head. Stay where you are, she thought fervently as she drew her stolen maintenance tool from her belt once more and applied it to the hatch. Eight flashes, and she was able to swing the hatch out into the darkness beyond.   The corridor into which she emerged wasn’t much different from the one where she’d entered the shaft. They were both part of the City’s under-street infrastructure. Robots and maintenance workers and Provosts (and on the wealthiest Tiers, servants, or so she’d heard) used them to move around more freely than the hoi polloi above, who were putatively forbidden to enter them. The biggest difference between this corridor and the one she’d started in was that this one was clean. It ran unimpeded in both directions. There had to be security cameras and possibly motion detectors in here, keeping a watchful eye, since up above her Officers and their families slept snug in their palatial quarters, but Yvelle had been assured no security systems would pose a threat to her this night. She hadn’t been told how such a feat had been accomplished, but she had no choice but to accept the claim. If it turned out to be a lie, she’d know soon enough.   Yvelle consulted the map in her head and set off at a jog down the corridor to her right. It intersected another after twenty meters or so, and she turned right again, then left, then right one more time, finally stopping at a closed door with a lockplate to its right. She inserted the tip of the maintenance tool into the key port as she’d been instructed, and the door swung silently open, revealing a flight of metal stairs. She climbed those to another door with another lockplate. Another touch of the tool, and it, too, opened, sliding aside rather than swinging upward, to reveal a dark street. City lighting on all Tiers was synced with that of the natural world, and it was now 2630: half an hour past midnight. Across the street she could see a decorative light post, but the crystal globe that hung from it was dark, as her instructions had promised it would be.   She stepped through the door. The floor felt odd; she looked down and saw that rather than being made of bare, pitted metal like those on First and Second Tiers, it was paved with white, overlapping, brick-shaped tiles. She raised her eyes and looked both ways. There was little to see: tall buildings with stone or brick facades surrounded by high walls; dark windows. She filled her lungs with the freshest air she had ever breathed, scented with something sweet and spicy and delightful, then consulted her mental map again and hurried a few meters to the right. As she’d been promised, she found a dark gap between two stone-covered buildings, barely wide enough to admit her. She slid through it into an ornamental garden, trellised blossoms overhanging white gravel paths, the air heady with the scent she had first detected upon emerging into the street, and then hurried down a longer and wider passage with closed, locked doors on either side. She finally emerged into a far larger garden space, this one filled with shrubs, surrounding a building of white stone, so brilliantly lit that her night-vision visor shut down completely, letting her see it with her own eyes.   Stone pillars supported a portico from which hung ferns and trailing vines, ablaze with red and yellow flowers. Along the front of the portico, green-glowing letters spelled out TWELFTH TIER HOSPITAL. Through the glass doors below she saw movement— people in white coats, a few robots— but her intended entrance lay on the far side of the building. She closed her eyes, consulted the memorized map, and backed up ten paces to yet another maintenance hatch, this one in the surface of the street. It, too, opened at the touch of her stolen tool, and she climbed down a short ladder into another utility corridor. Presumably it connected at some point with the ones she’d been in when she’d first entered the Tier, but for whatever reason, it had been deemed safer for her to approach the hospital at street level. She pulled the overhead hatch closed, then headed along the corridor in the direction of the hospital.   Her tool unlocked a doorway into the hospital’s sublevel in an out-of-the-way corner behind an air-filtering unit. Unlike the corridors, the hospital basement was brightly lit, but Yvelle had been assured that all surveillance cameras would be disabled here as well: The Officer’s work again. He was burning through all his access privileges tonight. But then, after tonight, as she understood it, he wouldn’t be an Officer any longer.   That was probably just as well. Once the Provosts figured out who was behind the various outages and overrides, as they surely would, he’d be a dead Officer if they found him.   Yvelle hurried past laundry facilities and a darkened kitchen to a particular stairwell in a particular corner. Up the stairs to the fourth floor. A quick peek through the door: dark— another “lighting failure”— but bright enough to her enhanced vision, which had adjusted again to the dimmer illumination. A dash along a deserted hallway. She used the maintenance tool to unlock a room. She slipped inside.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Edward Willett's science fiction:"Willett brings J.G. Ballard’s High-Rise into the distant space age in this dystopian tale of class, power and freedom that will entertain devotees and non-genre fans alike." —RT Reviews"Willett wraps his capable new adult science fiction adventure around the fate of a mysterious many-tiered city and its inhabitants.... Willett’s spunky protagonists and colorful world will entertain SF adventure fans." —Publishers Weekly"Set in a metal city at the center of the mountain ringed Heartland, The Cityborn is sprawling space opera centering on Alania, born to the City’s privileged caste, and Danyl, a lowborn scavenger.... This is one suspenseful sci-fi thriller not to be missed." —Unbound Worlds“Their moral dilemma is only one of the reasons this novel is so fascinating. The Selkie culture and infrastructure is very picturesque and easily pictured by readers who will want to visit his exotic world.” —Midwest Book Review“Mr. Willett blends science fiction with heavy religious beliefs into a well-written storyline that’s filled with dramatic scenery and character detail. Sci-fi and fantasy fans should find this story full and entertaining.” —Darque Reviews"An intriguing take on genetic modification.... A very good read." —Night Owl Reviews“The author was constantly surprising me, which doesn’t happen often, twisting the usual sci-fi conventions into more than just a shoot ‘em up space opera. Edward Willett has created people, personalities with belief systems and misguided judgments who make mistakes in trying to do what they believe is right.” —Boomtron"Terra Insegura is an action-packed thrill-ride...a novel that knows it is good science fiction and isn't afraid to show fiction at its best." —Fantasy & SciFi Lovin' News & Reviews"Both of Willett's books in this series have a wonderful, driving pace, which, when coupled with multiple well-rounded characters and fascinating stories, make wonderful, captivating books that deserve to be read over and over." —Book Chick