Wednesday, March 29, 2017

"Regeneration" by Stacey Berg

(Echo Hunter 367 Book 2)
by Stacey Berg

Regeneration is the second book in the Echo Hunter 367 series by Stacey Berg. Also available: Dissension.

Regeneration is currently on tour with Providence Book Promotions. The tour stops here today for a guest post by the author, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

The world is ready to be reborn…
Protected by the Church for four hundred years, the people of the City are the last of humanity - or so they thought. Echo Hunter 367, made to be faithful to the Church and its Saint at all costs, embarks on what she’s sure is a suicide mission into the harsh desert beyond the City. Then, at the end of all hope, she stumbles on a miracle: another enclave of survivors, a lush, peaceful sanctuary completely opposite of anything Echo has ever known.
But the Preserve has dark secrets of its own, and uncovering them may cost Echo more than just her life. She fears her discoveries will trigger a final, disastrous war. But if Echo can stop the Church and Preservers from destroying each other, she might have a chance to achieve her most impossible dream - saving the woman she loves.

Echo Hunter 367 studied the dying woman in the desert with grudging admiration. The woman had walked long past what might reasonably be expected, if that lurching stagger could be called a walk. When she couldn’t walk any more she had crawled, and after that she had dragged herself along, fingers clawing through sand until they clutched some purchase, body scraping over rocks and debris, heedless of the damage. Now and then she made a noise, a purely animal grunt of effort or pain, but she forced herself onward, all the way until the end.
I smell the water.
Desperate as the woman was, she had still been cautious. Though an incalculable distance from any familiar place, she still recognized danger: the wind-borne sand that scoured exposed skin clean to the bone, the predators that stalked patiently in the shadows for prey too weak to flee. The cliff edge that a careless girl could slip over, body suspended in space for the briefest moment before her hands tore through the thornbush, then the long hard fall.
Echo jerked back from that imagined edge. It was her last purposeful movement.  From some great height, she watched herself collapse in the sand. One grasping hand, nails torn, knuckles bloody, landed only a few meters from the spring’s cool water, but she never knew it. For a little while her body twitched in irregular spasms, then those too stilled. Only her lips moved, cracking into a bloody smile. “Lia,” she whispered. “Lia.” Then she fell into the dark.
For a long time there was no sound except water trickling in a death rattle over stones.
Then the high whine of engines scattered the circling predators. Pain returned first, of course. Every inch of skin burned, blistered by sun or rubbed raw by the sand that had worked its way inside the desert-proof clothing. Her muscles ached from too long an effort with no fuel and insufficient water, and her head pounded without mercy. Even the movement of air in and out of her lungs hurt, as if she had inhaled fire. But that pain meant she was breathing, and if she was breathing she still had to fight. With enormous effort she dragged open her eyes, only to meet a blinding brightness. She made a sound, and tasted hot salt as her lips cracked open again. “Shhh,” a soft voice said. “Shhh.” Something cool, smelling of resin and water, settled over her eyes, shielding them from the glare. A cloth dabbed at her mouth, then a finger smoothed ointment over her lips, softening them so they wouldn’t split further when she was finally able to speak. Lia, she thought, letting herself rest in that gentle strength until the pain subsided into manageable inputs. Then she began to take stock.
She lay on something soft, not the rock that had made her bed for so many weeks, although her abused flesh still ached at every pressure point. The air felt cool but still, unlike the probing desert wind, and it carried, beyond the herbal tang, a scent rich and round, unlike the silica sharpness of sand she’d grown so accustomed to. Filtered through the cloth over her eyes, the light seemed diffuse, too dim for the sun. Indoors, then, and not a temporary shelter, but a place with thick walls, and a bed, and someone with sufficient resources to retrieve a dying woman from the desert, and a reason to do so. But what that reason might be eluded her. The Church would never rescue a failure.
Unless the Saint commanded it.
She mustered all her strength and dragged the cloth from her eyes. She blinked away grit until the blurred oval hovering above her took on distinct features, the soft line of the cheek, the gently curving lips. Lia, she thought again, and in her weakness tears washed the vision away. She wiped her eyes with a trembling hand.
And stared into the face of an utter stranger.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"Echo Hunter 367 may be a clone and callous killer, but she’s one with true heart and soul. Regeneration is a thrilling conclusion to Berg’s dystopia duology." ~ Beth Cato, author of The Clockwork Dagger series
"Regeneration by Stacey Berg is a paean to resistance, hope, and love, a Canticle for Leibowitz that passes the Bechdel Test and then some. This post-apocalyptic clash of values and technology demonstrates beautifully that physical bravery can only take you so far; real change only happens when we have the courage to listen." ~ Nicola Griffith, author of Hild
"This book is packed with action from start to finish." ~ Ginger Miller
"This is the second in a series and I would highly recommend reading the first book, Dissension. [...] I do recommend this book to those who enjoy science fiction, especially when it deals with difficult decisions. There could be much discussion about Echo and her actions and what was really best for her community." ~ Joan N.

Guest Post by the Author
My Inspiration for Writing this Book
When I started to write the first Echo Hunter 367 book, almost all I had was the basic concept of a nature/nurture conflict and a very strong image of a woman in the desert, a kind of soldier, protecting from some unseen enemy another woman, a runaway of some sort, who was her prisoner. The dynamic between them was clear to me right away: the soldier determined to do her duty no matter what it required; the prisoner, wryly admiring her captor’s skill, even though it meant her own doom. And, as the two of them faced hopeless odds together, we’d see a gradual switch in roles, until the duty-bound soldier wanted only to set the prisoner free, and the prisoner realized that she could run no longer and had to face her destiny.
That only left me about 89,500 words short of a novel.
And that’s where I really started to have fun. I knew the heart of my story, but building the world it would work in was something else entirely. A kind of soldier genetically programmed to think only of duty? Were there lots like her, or was she the only one? Who would have the tech to make people like that? What did her makers need her for? (Or as my editor astutely put it, what exactly was her job?) And that desert was starting to feel pretty post-apocalyptic. What had happened to all the people? Plague? War? Zombies?
I never seriously considered zombies. But I had just read Thomas Cahill’s brilliant history book How the Irish Saved Civilization, which they did by copying ancient manuscripts in their monasteries while the rest of the Roman Empire was falling into the dark. So I began to play with the idea of the Church saving civilization again, only this time not through religion but with science. Where that all went was into the first novel in the duology, Dissension.
Since Regeneration is a sequel, some of the inspiration was honestly just the need to get the characters out of the mess I had left them in at the end of the previous book! But I also wanted to go further with something I hadn’t had enough time to explore in Dissension: the idea of a post post-apocalyptic world. Many post-apocalyptic novels focus on the time right around the end of the world, on the disaster itself or the stories of the survivors. I wanted to set my books later than that, at a time when people are living a few generations into the next part of history. This wouldn’t be a changed world to the people born into it; it would just be the way things were. These citizens wouldn’t mourn the loss of television or football or coffee shops or the internet; they never had any of those to lose. They wouldn’t be haunted all the time by the past. Instead, they’d want things we all recognize: a nicer house, ready access to meals without subsistence farming, a family. And fun! They might not have clubs, but they’d certainly make music, and if they made music, they’d be dancing. In short, they’d be trying not just to survive, but to be happy.
Of course, being human (most of them), they’d also be trying to steal each other’s stuff; they’d be jealous and ambitious and selfish and kind. And some of them would be thinking about building civilization up again. That, finally, was my inspiration for Regeneration: I wanted to tell a story about the world being reborn.

About the Author
Stacey Berg is a medical researcher who writes speculative fiction. Her work as a physician-scientist provides the inspiration for many of her stories. She lives with her wife in Houston and is a member of the Writers’ League of Texas. When she’s not writing, she practices kung fu and runs half marathons.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win one of three ebook copies of Dissension by Stacey Berg.