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Authors: Ian R. MacLeod

The House of Storms

BOOK: The House of Storms
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PRAISE FOR THE WRITING OF IAN R. MacLEOD

The Light Ages

“A meditative portrayal of an exotic society, fascinating in its unhealthy languor and seemingly imperturbable stasis … so powerfully recalls Dickens’s [
Great Expectations
] that this affinity animates the entire work.” —
The Washington Post Book World

“MacLeod brings a Dickensian life to the pounding factories of London in a style he calls ‘realistic fantasy.’ It’s a complete world brought to life with compassionate characters and lyrical writing.” —
The Denver Post

“Stands beside the achievements of China Miéville. A must-read.” —Jeff VanderMeer

“An outstanding smoke-and-sorcery saga to rival Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials trilogy and China Miéville’s
Perdido Street Station
.” —Michael Moorcock

The House of Storms

“Ian MacLeod writes like an angel. He strings together ideally chosen words into sentences that are variously lush, sparse, subtle, bold, joyous, mournful, comic, or tragic … But it’s on the character front that MacLeod truly expends his best efforts and achieves the most.” —SF Signal

“One of the finest prose stylists around, and—borrowing as he does much of the melodrama of Victorian literature, along with the revisionist modernism of later authors like D. H. Lawrence—his writing is unfailingly elegant.” —
Locus

The Summer Isles

Winner of the World Fantasy Award and the Sidewise Award for Alternate History

“Projecting Nazi Germany onto the England of the [thirties] is a most effective counterfactual device; and in the opposition of the narrator, historian Geoffrey Brook, and Britain’s Fuehrer, John Arthur, MacLeod sums up very neatly the division in the British psyche at the time, between Churchillian grit and abject appeasement.” —
Locus

The Great Wheel

Winner of the Locus Award for Best First Novel

“A serious, thoughtful work of futuristic fiction, this haunting novel is a bridge between Huxley’s
Brave New World
and Frank Herbert’s
Dune
.” —
Publishers Weekly

Song of Time

Winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award

“Confirms MacLeod as one of the country’s very best literary SF writers.” —
The Guardian

Wake Up and Dream

“Set in an anti-Semitic U.S. drifting towards collusion with Nazi Germany,
Wake Up and Dream
slowly picks at the artifice of Hollywood to reveal its morally rotten core.” —
The Guardian

The House of Storms
Ian R. MacLeod
Contents

Part One

Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III

Chapter IV

Chapter V

Chapter VI

Chapter VII

Chapter VIII

Chapter IX

Chapter X

Chapter XI

Chapter XII

Chapter XIII

Chapter XIV

Chapter XV

Chapter XVI

Chapter XVII

Chapter XVIII

Chapter XIX

Chapter XX

Chapter XXI

Chapter XXII

Chapter XXIII

Chapter XXIV

Part Two

Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III

Chapter IV

Chapter V

Part Three

Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III

Chapter IV

Chapter V

Chapter VI

Chapter VII

Chapter VIII

Chapter IX

Chapter X

Chapter XI

Chapter XII

Chapter XIII

Chapter XIV

Chapter XV

Chapter XVI

Chapter XVII

Chapter XVIII

Chapter XIX

Chapter XX

A Biography of Ian R. MacLeod

PART ONE
I

W
HEN GREATGRANDMISTRESS ALICE MEYNELL
brought her son to Invercombe, she fully believed she was taking him to die there. Not that she had given up hope—
hope
was something she still clung to resolutely—but through the years of Ralph’s illness she had discovered shades of meaning within simple words which, previously, she had scarcely known to exist.

She gazed from the car as it rumbled out of Bristol. It was a cold, grey morning, still cornered with night, and Ralph was shivering under his blankets, his breath as blue as his lips. That overnight train from London, and now they were being driven in this outwardly fine but actually quite freezing vehicle around the backs of yards which gave tawdry glimpses of a city which Alice had always felt to be more alien than many a far-flung reach of the Continent. The trams here went humming on high cradles which pressed their tips together over the streets like praying hands. And the buildings! Festoons of coralstone which the master builders grew and mutated, and which reminded her of dough creatures shaped out of flour and water. Everything twisted and curved and looking as if it was still growing, and in pinks and blues, like an explosion in a nursery. It was all so different from Northcentral’s orderly grid. Slowly, in the better districts towards the dam at Clifton, the fantastic houses were coming to life, and servants were hurrying along the pavements to their day’s work as the street-lamps blinked out. Then, in that quick way which could never happen in London, they were in open countryside.

Ralph’s first sight of Bristol, and already it was gone. Even though the city would be within reach from where they were heading, Alice wondered, as she often found herself doing whenever they saw any new sight, whether her son would ever see it again. She gave an inward shudder. The clock, fevered and quick as his pulse, was always ticking. London, then Bristol, and now this tumbling landscape which the dawn had yet to touch as the lights of the car shone on bare hedgerows.

Before this, before that. Baden and then Paris. That place in the mountains. And doctors’ surgeries. The glow of their vials. The glint of their glasses. Whispered, useless spells. The months and the shifterms sometimes condensed in her imagination to that one single protracted moment from a summer’s afternoon back in London up on the Kite Hills—Butterfly Day, it had been, and she’d never felt the same about that particular holiday since—when Ralph had run up to her and he’d started coughing and she’d glimpsed flecks of blood amid the spittle in his palm. From there to now was like an endless fleeing, and the times they’d spent in so many admittedly pretty and interesting places seemed like nothing but pauses to catch their breath before they started running again. Even a healthy child would have been wearied, just as she felt wearied herself. And all to find that words like hope could be sliced into endless shades of nuance and grow so thin that eventually you could see right through them. But now, as they turned out from a valley and the rising sun suddenly poured from banks of grey cloud and twirled though the patches of mist, they were heading for Invercombe, and there they would make their last stand.

Ralph’s breathing was more regular now. The sun was in his face, and Alice saw with a pang that this new day’s light was glinting on the thickening down which was now covering his cheeks. Even though his illness had prevented him from living an ordinary childhood, Ralph was already becoming a man.

Sensing some change in her gaze, he turned towards her. There was a line of sweat across his upper lip.

‘Is it a long drive?’

‘I don’t know, my darling. I’ve never been there.’

‘What’s it called again?’

‘Invercombe.’

He nodded and looked again out of the window. A ghost of his breath pulsed across the glass from his lips. ‘So this is the west.’

Alice smiled and took her son’s hand, feeling heat and lightness. Now that the sun was properly risen, she was remembering just how pretty this western landscape could be, even on a late winter’s morning. The way the hills never ceased unrolling. The sense that the next turn would reveal the sea. But she scarcely knew the west herself. Little more than honey-stoned towns in which she’d spent worthless half-afternoons in her younger, more difficult, days, sitting on a suitcase as she waited for a change of trains. But still, Ralph seemed happy as he looked out at the road angled down beside the huge estuary and the far hills of Wales. London, even the few days they’d spent there, and with its dense fogs and all the endless comings and goings, was unthinkable. Yes, for all the reasons she’d rehearsed, and for the odd, increasing sense that it had been calling to her in some vague yet significant way, Invercombe felt right.

‘You really have no idea what it’ll be like?’ Ralph murmured.

‘No. But…’

Ralph turned back to her, and together they chanted the phrase which they always did when they arrived at somewhere new.

‘We’ll soon find out …’

Trees parted. There were tall outer walls, a small gatehouse, a long estate road with a glimpse of some kind of castle or ruin across the parkland on the right, and then the land was rising through perilinden and evergreen plantation towards a stumpy lighthouse. No, that would be the weathertop.

Invercombe, Alice knew from her researches, had been here a long time. The Romans had possibly fortified this seaward command of the Severn Estuary, and there had certainly been a small castle here before it was sacked by Cromwell’s armies. Then had come the years when the English landscape erupted once more into bloodshed after a lonely and obsessive man named Joshua Wagstaffe extracted a hitherto-unheard-of substance from the rocks he had spent a lifetime collecting. He named it aether after the fifth form of matter which Plato had surmised, and dowsing for it soon became the obsession of the Age. Aether persuaded corn to grow into bushel-sized heads on land which had furnished little but chaff. Aether made frozen axles turn. Aether bent the very fabric of the world. Aether, above all, was power, and the trade guilds understood that better than anyone, and, in their battles with the king and the church, took it as their own.

After the bloodshed of the co-called Wars of Unification, as the first of the Ages of Industry began, Invercombe was rebuilt, no longer as a castle, but, infused with new wealth and the abilities of aether, as a fine house on this precarious promontory; a veritable jewel of stone. A family by the name of Muscoates lived there for generations until their power waned and it was finally made part of a bankruptcy settlement, and drifted like so many things into the ownership of the Great Guilds. It became just one of many investments and holdings which were passed forgetfully from will to will, marriage to marriage, until it reached the hands of the Guild of Telegraphers towards the end of the Third Age, although it was doubtful if any of its greatgrandmasters ever visited the place. Still, the place meandered on, and a use was found for it as a base for the development of a technology which was to become the wonder and wellspring of this current Age. The old water race was cleared, and a generator, new in itself, was built to feed Invercombe with electricity. A reckoning engine, also advanced for its time, was then installed, and a small but functional transmission house was constructed on the boundaries of the estate. From this early work, a new kind of electric telegraph, through which it was no longer necessary for skilled telegraphers to commune mind to mind, but through which ordinary guilds-people, at least if they were rich enough, could simply talk to each other as if they were face to face, was developed. It became known as the telephone, and by this great invention, the entire world was changed. But, and once again, Invercombe retreated from fame and from memory. It drifted, its halls abandoned in the chaos of the end of the last Age of Industry, until it was granted in a life lease to a certain Greatmaster Ademus Isumbard Porrett.

BOOK: The House of Storms
10.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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