Excerpt from The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Book Eaters

by Sunyi Dean

The Book Eaters by  Sunyi Dean X
The Book Eaters by  Sunyi Dean
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2022, 304 pages

    Paperback:
    Aug 1, 2023, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Callum McLaughlin
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1

DEVON BY DAY

PRESENT DAY

We have just begun to navigate a strange region; we must expect to encounter strange adventures, strange perils.
—Arthur Machen, The Terror

These days, Devon only bought three things from the shops: books, booze, and Sensitive Care skin cream. The books she ate, the booze kept her sane, and the lotion was for Cai, her son. He suffered occasionally from eczema, especially in winter.

There were no books in this convenience store, only rows of garish magazines. Not to her taste, and anyway she had enough books to eat at home. Her gaze skipped across the soft porn, power tools, and home living publications down to the lowest strata, where children's magazines glowed pink and yellow.

Devon ran short, ragged nails across the covers. She thought about buying one for Cai, because he seemed to like reading that kind of thing at the moment, and decided against it. After tonight, his preferences might change.

She walked to the end of the aisle, linoleum squishing beneath her heeled boots, and set her basket at the checkout. Four bottles of vodka and a tub of skin cream.

The cashier looked at the basket, then back at her. "D'you have ID?"

"Pardon?"

"Do you, have, any ID?" he repeated, slowly, as if to someone hard of hearing.

She stared. "I'm twenty-nine, for Christ's sake." And looked every year of it, too.

He shrugged, crossed his arms. Waiting. Wasn't much more than a kid himself, at most eighteen or nineteen, working in the family shop and likely trying to follow all the rules.

Understandable, but she couldn't oblige him. Devon didn't have any ID. No birth certificate, no passport, no driver's license; nothing. Officially, she didn't exist.

"Forget it." Devon shoved the basket at him, bottles clinking. "I'll get a drink somewhere else."

She stalked out, annoyed and flustered. Hordes of teenagers bought booze from other corner shops all the time. It was a daily occurrence around here. That someone would choose to card her, so clearly an adult, was ridiculous.

Only after she'd crossed the badly lit street did she realize that she'd left without buying the skin cream. It was a small failure, forgetting the lotion, but she failed Cai so constantly in so many different, myriad ways that even this tiny mistake was sufficient to wring her insides with fresh anger.

She considered going back for it, then checked her watch. The time was pushing 8 P.M. Already in danger of running late.

Besides, eczema was nothing compared to his hunger. Much more important to feed him.

Newcastle-upon-Tyne was a pretty enough city, if a little rowdy for Devon's liking. This time of year, the sun set at 4 P.M. and the sky was already fully dark, the lamps abuzz. The lack of ambient light suited her mood. Compulsively, she checked her phone with its short list of contacts. No texts. No calls.

She slunk past a row of decrepit terraces. Passersby drifted up and down the pavement. A tight knot of people huddled outside one of the houses, drinking and smoking. Music leaked through curtainless windows. Devon took a left off the main street to avoid the crowds.

There were so many things to remember when she was out and around humans. Feigning cold was one of them. Thinking of it, she drew her coat tight around her, as if bothered by the chill. Walking with sound was another. She scuffed her feet with deliberate heaviness, grinding gravel and dust beneath her heels. Big boots helped with the plodding tread, made her clunky and stompy like a toddler in adult wellies.

Her vision in darkness was another awkward one. Having to remember to squint, and to pick her way across a detritus-littered pavement that she could see with perfect clarity; having to feign a fear she never felt, but which should have ruled her. Solitary human women walked with caution in the night.

Excerpted from The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean. Copyright © 2022 by Sunyi Dean. Excerpted by permission of Tor Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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