- N. N. Light
Beating the Apocalypse by Joyce Reynolds-Ward is a Spring Break Bookapalooza pick #scifi #giveaway
Title: Beating the Apocalypse
Author: Joyce Reynolds-Ward
Genre: Science Fiction/climate fiction/cozy apocalypse
Rianna and Bobby are Canaries—two of the living toxin monitors who are the Coalition for North American Survival’s best tools for predicting and enduring an outbreak of the poisonous Clouds that threaten to destroy all life under the Dome. Their heightened sensitivity to airborne toxins coupled with bioengineered tweaking, training, and medications means they can take data on current conditions as they affect living beings—and tolerate higher exposures than most people. More than that, Rianna and Bobby are a couple. They’re the two best forecasters of Cloud behavior, prized and protected by their supervisor, LeBrand, because of their complementary talents. So why are their bosses trying to kill them? What’s the real agenda—and just how bad is that last Cloud formation going to be? Can Rianna, Bobby, and LeBrand manage to stay alive long enough to find out what’s going on?
They dumped their cups in a trash can filled to the brim. Rianna looked around.
“The best place to take our measurements is out in the middle.” She nodded toward what they could see of the towering dark clouds to the southwest, between the tall skyscraper spires. “That way we’ll get the full effect.”
A flash of lightning snaked between clouds, immediately followed by a low rumble. The people walking around them glanced nervously about, starting to move toward the edges of the Square.
“Don’t really want to get struck by lightning,” Terry muttered.
“It’s unlikely here.” Rianna focused on the clouds. “Taller buildings all around us.”
“Huh? Then why are folks getting out of here?”
He’s new. He hasn’t gone through Meteorology 101. Bobby choked back a snide comment.
“It’s going to get pretty wet,” Rianna said. “And even if the population hasn’t experienced acid rain, they don’t want to get soaked.”
“So why are we here again?” Terry grumbled.
“We’ve gotta take data,” Bobby answered. “That’s part of our mission as Canaries. That’s why we went through the series of shots.”
“Brace for straight-line winds and put on your glasses,” Rianna murmured as she faced directly southwest. A ripple of wind tossed a few strands of her bright red hair. “Here it comes.” She slipped off her jacket and tied it around her waist. Her shirtsleeves left her forearms bare. She slipped on the clunky glasses that were supposed to supplement their protective eyeshields.
God, Ri, do you have to do this?
But she’d put shielding cream on her face, made him and Terry do it too, along with the eyeshields and glasses.
I’d much rather measure acid rain effect on my arms than my face, she’d told Wick earlier.
Bobby’s heart pounded harder. He couldn’t face the possibility of searing rain on his skin. It gave him the squicks.
God, she was brave. Even though the Canary enhancements would keep her from permanent harm once she applied the SkinRelief creams—at least they were supposed to do that—facing that had to be tough.
The wind intensified and she spread her arms wide, tossing her head back defiantly. Except for the glasses, she looked like a painting he’d seen of an ancient Celtic goddess.
Terry winced. “Something’s burning my nose.”
“Already? Note it,” Rianna said. “I’m not feeling anything in my nose or lungs. Skin versus Nose. Bobby?”
He shook his head. “Nothing yet.” Still, he breathed shallowly as a faint acrid stink vaguely reminiscent of that event in Oakland washed across them. Stop it. He forced himself to take a deeper breath. It burns. He tapped his chip to note that sensation. “I feel it in my lungs now.”
“All right. Nose, Lungs, and then Skin,” Rianna muttered. “So that is how the progression works.”
Someone screamed. A young woman stumbled down the steps that served as auditorium seats. She collapsed and tumbled to the bottom, lying still as lightning flashed above them, simultaneous with the rumble of thunder that shook deep inside of him.
Rianna winced toward the fallen woman, along with Bobby. Then she grabbed his hand and shuddered, shaking her head. More cries echoed through the streets as the wind grew sharper and more biting.
Bobby’s lungs tightened and he coughed, fighting back the urge to pull out his inhaler.
Three men ran down the brick steps, gasping hard. One collapsed.
“You fools! Run!” one of the men yelled at them.
“Not yet,” Rianna murmured. “Wait for the rain. I can’t measure effect until I’ve gotten wet.”
Then he heard the rain coming, roaring loud and hard as it pounded on the pavement, sounding like the AC compressors back at the Shop.
Terry doubled over, sneezing. Bobby grabbed Terry, kept him from collapsing to the bricks. Breathing got harder, his lungs burning like fire. The wind intensified and Bobby choked, leaning against Terry.
And then the worst of the pain passed as the first raindrops fell. Red wheals rose on Rianna’s arms. The people on the edges of the Square screamed as the rain struck, clapping hands futilely to exposed skin as the rain pelted them. But there was no burn on his exposed skin—guess that means the cream works.
Well-dressed workers and shabby streeties alike raced for cover across the bricks, turning into a melee that buffeted the three of them, pulling them away from the center of the Square. Some unfortunate people fell, overcome by the burning wind and searing rain. Bobby did his best to avoid stepping on the fallen as the swarm dragged them along, but others weren’t as careful.
Rianna grabbed him to keep from being swept away by the horde, hooking her left upper arm under his right one, still keeping her forearm exposed. His stomach turned as he looked at how raw and angry-red her pale skin was.
Worse than the sharp bite of the rain, the air burned, searing his lungs.
And then the others were gone, leaving them alone at the edge of the Square.
If money were no object, where would you go for a Spring Break vacation and why?
Probably Tokyo, to see the cherry blossoms (if the timing is right, that is) and otherwise to see Japan in spring. However, Amsterdam is a strong second just to see the flowers in spring.
Why is your featured book a must-read this spring?
While Beating the Apocalypse has its grim moments, it also promotes the power of people working together to change things even in the darkest of circumstances.
One lucky reader will win a $75 Amazon US or Canada gift card
Open internationally. You must have a valid Amazon US or Amazon CA account to win.
Runs April 1 – 30, 2023.
Drawing will be held on May 1, 2023
Joyce Reynolds-Ward has been called "the best writer I've never heard of" by one reviewer. Her work includes themes of high-stakes family and political conflict, digital sentience, personal agency and control, realistic strong women, and (whenever possible) horses, frequently in Pacific Northwest settings.
She is the author of The Netwalk Sequence series, the Goddess's Honor series, The Martiniere Legacy series, The People of the Martiniere Legacy series, and The Martiniere Multiverse series as well as standalones Beating the Apocalypse, Klone's Stronghold and Alien Savvy.
Samples of her Martiniere short stories/novel in progress and her nonfiction can be found on Substack at either Speculations from the Wide Open Spaces (writing), Speculations on Politics and Political History (politics), or Martiniere Stories (fiction).
Joyce is a Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off Semifinalist, a Writers of the Future SemiFinalist, and an Anthology Builder Finalist. She is the Secretary of the Northwest Independent Writers Association, a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association, and a member of Soroptimists International.
Social Media Links:
Counter Social: joycereynoldsward
Substack (writing) https://joycereynoldsward.substack.com/
Substack (Martiniere Stories) https://joycef1d.substack.com/