"Go Deeper," they said. "Look Closer."
Pleo Tanza is a survivor. Her father was broken by tragedy, her twin sister is dead—chewed up and spat out by the corruption and injustice of Chatoyance—but she's going to make it, whatever it takes. She's going to get off this rock.
But escape is for the rich or lucky. Pleo's framed for the murder of a rival student—the daughter of one of the colony's wealthy, squabbling clans—and goes on the run, setting off a chain events that could destroy the fragile balance of the old colony forever…
Science fiction. Noir. Strange cities. Even stranger gems. Space. An investigation. What more do you want! This is the debut novel by Eeleen Lee and I can't wait for the next one. – Lavie Tidhar
"Liquid Crystal Nightingale is an ambitious and complex debut… with a deeply realised world and an utterly unique tone."– The British Fantasy Society
"This novel zooms down a motorway at 150 miles per hour on the back of a motorbike... a strong debut from a writer I will be watching."– Geek Syndicate
"Lee strongly invokes the tension between the different elements of the colony... Richly imagined and engrossing."– SFX
"Shut up, you ant!" Gia snapped. The word hung in the air between her and Pleo.
Instead of anger, an odd relief came over Pleo. She had been waiting for Gia to call her that in front of everyone.
"You picked that up from your parents? Do Tier-Dwellers still refer to us as 'ants' during their parties?"
Pleo almost laughed. But the word was not only meant to sting, but as a threat. Gia could crush Pleo like an ant—and Pleo's life mattered less than a mite living on the ant. Pleo's neighbourhood was based around a central spine of repurposed administrative blocks at an Aront water treatment plant. Hence the functional ugliness of the neighbourhood, and also Gia's attitude towards her: as if Pleo and the families of the Forty were squatting on her father's land.
And was it not earlier this term that some toadying Polyteknical instructor got worked over by a dozen Dogtooths, the personal guards of the Aronts? The incident allegedly happening in an underpass because he remarked to Gia that she was the mirror image of her mother.
Gia held her fla-tessen fan in front of her face. With a flick of her wrist the weapon unfurled with a soft rasp, revealing its leaf of intricate black lace covering ribs of gold-lacquered wood. Pleo instinctively backed away from its arresting beauty, brushing up against the mural behind her, next to Ignazia Madrugal's outstretched hand. Fla-tessen fans appeared to be made with lace and wood, but the "lace" was actually layers of living membrane grownover a mesh of threads finer than silk. Modified stinging cells, harvested from offworld coral farms.
"You're only a tentative candidate for Adept. Threaten me and you'll be off the longlist before Shineshift," Pleo warned.
"Threaten you? With a training fan?" Gia smirked and stepped closer to Pleo. "There's no blade, and the venom will only give you bad rash. Once they award me with a real fan, I won't hear another word out of you, right?"
Pleo extended her index and middle finger forceps and used them to parry aside Gia's fan. The tips of her forceps tingled as they came into contact with the mild venom, and she drew back her arm.
"One little tragedy and thirty-nine families are entitled to special treatment forever," continued Gia.
"Forty miners!" Pleo shot back.
"Apologies, I forgot one survived. Luckily the salvage teams found your father in time. So let's imagine if all Chatoyants were handed a free pass due to some tragic occupational event. This time it's forty, then comes another incident—300, and after that, 3000 more?" Gia gestured to the rest of the students. "Soon enough, Polyteknical classrooms, and even the Tiers themselves, would be overwhelmed with the children of other miners, war veterans and long-haul pilots—"
A sudden bang interrupted Gia's grandstanding. The doors of the hall flew wide open, framing the figure of Saurebaras, and Pleo marveled at her strength. Saurebaras flicked her arm up in a gesture of exasperation and hurled something small at Gia and Pleo.
Both women covered their faces as the thing flew past their faces and hit the mural, smack between the eyes of Ignazia Madrugal. It was shaped like a sea star, matte black and bristling with silver mother-of-pearl spikes. Aside from training footage, Pleo had never seen a fla-tessen caltrop in use before.
Saurebaras took long strides as she approached the mural, not so much walking but flowing towards it with purpose like mercury at room temperature. Gia and Pleo stood to attention, but Saurebaras dismissed them to get changed with the rest. Gia darted off but Pleo stopped halfway to the changing rooms to watch Saurebaras.
She drew closer to Ignazia Madrugal, reaching out to touch the face of the painted image. Saurebaras was more interested in sizing up the damage she had just inflicted on the mural than admiring the artwork. Not enough, Pleo thought, judging from Saurebaras's piqued expression. She had been aiming for the eyes.