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Across the Dark Water

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An uncontrollable plague has left the city in ruins and trapped in perpetual quarantine. A thief hires a guide to lead him safely through the city’s many dangers to the one person who can give him the travel papers he needs to escape. At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied. An uncontrollable plague has left the city in ruins and trapped in perpetual quarantine. A thief hires a guide to lead him safely through the city’s many dangers to the one person who can give him the travel papers he needs to escape. At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.


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An uncontrollable plague has left the city in ruins and trapped in perpetual quarantine. A thief hires a guide to lead him safely through the city’s many dangers to the one person who can give him the travel papers he needs to escape. At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied. An uncontrollable plague has left the city in ruins and trapped in perpetual quarantine. A thief hires a guide to lead him safely through the city’s many dangers to the one person who can give him the travel papers he needs to escape. At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

30 review for Across the Dark Water

  1. 4 out of 5

    MarilynW

    Across the Dark Water by Richard Kadrey Our main character is only known as the thief and he is making his way through a city that is in perpetual quarantine due to an uncontrollable plague. The city is a festering rubble of decay and death and the remaining living creatures (including humans) aren't in any better shape. The thief wants out and his only way out is to find the person who can give him traveling papers. He's hired a guide to help him maneuver the deadly dangers of travel and the gui Across the Dark Water by Richard Kadrey Our main character is only known as the thief and he is making his way through a city that is in perpetual quarantine due to an uncontrollable plague. The city is a festering rubble of decay and death and the remaining living creatures (including humans) aren't in any better shape. The thief wants out and his only way out is to find the person who can give him traveling papers. He's hired a guide to help him maneuver the deadly dangers of travel and the guide is a running commentary of grisly facts and a source of, hopefully, helpful drugs.  In the end, things aren't what they seem and we come to a resolution that has many drawbacks, in my mind. But then, I'm not in this story and have better options than the people of this repulsive existence. I think many of my horror loving friends will enjoy this story more than I did, since I can be squeamish when it comes to this sort of thing.  This story is available for free from Tor.Com and I appreciate that they provide such stories. The artwork on the website, for this story, fits it so very well.  https://www.tor.com/2021/02/03/across...

  2. 5 out of 5

    carol.

    It's very Kadrey, which is to say the world-building is based more on vivid images and less on actual physics or cultural sense-making. The characters are tropes--literally, 'the thief' and 'the guide'--that exist more to move through the setting and do things than to be in any comprehensive way in a society. The plot is rather standard and exists mostly as a street for him to build his images on with the expected bend on the end. That said, I enjoyed it more than Sandman Slim novels, which are p It's very Kadrey, which is to say the world-building is based more on vivid images and less on actual physics or cultural sense-making. The characters are tropes--literally, 'the thief' and 'the guide'--that exist more to move through the setting and do things than to be in any comprehensive way in a society. The plot is rather standard and exists mostly as a street for him to build his images on with the expected bend on the end. That said, I enjoyed it more than Sandman Slim novels, which are pretty much the same thing only much, much longer. It's a brutal, post-plague world in the future with the undead, bizarre tech and bioengineering. If you like Kadrey, you'll probably like this.* I still appreciated it all, even the truncated ending other reviewers were not crazy about. Three and a half stars, rounding up today. At Tor.com: At Tor.com *If you want something that makes sense, you probably don't read Kadrey very often.

  3. 5 out of 5

    karen

    Finally, the thief spoke. “Do think they’ll ever lift the quarantine?” he said. The guide kept walking. “We were the epicenter. What do you think?” “I don’t think they’ll ever let us out.” They walked for perhaps a half hour more before the guide said, “Shit.” this story = many admirable things, many puzzling things, many typos. the good news is it's a fun story; a post-plague city in quarantine, overrun by zombie-ish hordes, genetically modified dogs, drones, hucksters, thieves, and one grave-robber Finally, the thief spoke. “Do think they’ll ever lift the quarantine?” he said. The guide kept walking. “We were the epicenter. What do you think?” “I don’t think they’ll ever let us out.” They walked for perhaps a half hour more before the guide said, “Shit.” this story = many admirable things, many puzzling things, many typos. the good news is it's a fun story; a post-plague city in quarantine, overrun by zombie-ish hordes, genetically modified dogs, drones, hucksters, thieves, and one grave-robber who just wants to get out of quaran-town after his wife leaves him. and if you read it just to read it; because you like reading stories before going to work or making dinner or while you're pooping, you'll be totally satisfied. but if you can't turn off your "but wait" setting, you might have a lot of questions at the end; about how people live, who's controlling what, and why—if you have clear objectives and the means to effectuate those objectives—why not just...do the things you want? instead of going (or making other people go) a whole roundybout way ? in times of plague and destruction and people dying all over the place, shouldn't efficiency be a priority, just in case? cutting out the middle man? and as for item #2 on the wish list, yes, there is an explanation about why they didn't just DIY, but "because i wannit" is narratively unsatisfying. did i miss the explanation of what the "job-related implants" were? where do maggie and her pals live? do they stand there ALL DAY, waiting for someone to come by? Later, there was a charred apartment building festooned with torn biohazard tape, as if decorated for a party. An hour on, a street sculpture of two people kissing that had been constructed from bricks and broken glass. Then, a children’s playground full of naked mannequins. who is making this art, hauling these mannequins? it's not crucial to the story that we know who or why, but if we suspect that the "why" is because they hoped an author would one day use it as casual window dressing background-detailing their post-apoc story, well, it just deflates as imagery. striking visual, sure. but there are less awkwardly contrived ways to show "shit's messed up." y'already got human heads on spikes, after all. i'm gonna be late for work if i keep thinking about this but i had MANY QUESTIONS. and yet, i enjoyed the story overall. i just need to exit logic mode. beep boop beep. read it for yourself here: https://www.tor.com/2021/02/03/across... come to my blog!!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Elena Linville

    Stars: 3.5 out of 5 For about 90% of the story, this was a solid 5 star story for me, but the ending was... underwhelming to say the least. I loved how the author managed to capture the horror and despair of a broken down and quarantined city so well. I was rather meh about the thief, our protagonist. I found him way to judgmental, opinionated, and frankly rather naïve to have survived long in this dystopian world. Plus, I wasn't very clear what the author meant about robbing the dead and why wou Stars: 3.5 out of 5 For about 90% of the story, this was a solid 5 star story for me, but the ending was... underwhelming to say the least. I loved how the author managed to capture the horror and despair of a broken down and quarantined city so well. I was rather meh about the thief, our protagonist. I found him way to judgmental, opinionated, and frankly rather naïve to have survived long in this dystopian world. Plus, I wasn't very clear what the author meant about robbing the dead and why would have have to dig for that. Did he mean he was robbing the houses of people who died from the plague? Or even their pockets? Who needs shovels for that? Or did he mean that the thief was robbing actual graves? In which case, it's very unrealistic because who the heck has time to burry the dead when most of the city's population is dead? I really liked the guide and found his character a lot more in sync with the post-ap world described here. He is crafty and down to earth. He knows his environment and the dangers he has to face. In fact, he reminded me of the Stalker from Roadside Picnic by the Strugatski brothers. I was fully on board of watching him dragging his hapless charge through thick and tin and to the final destination. Then came the ending that put everything on its head and I honestly hated it. Hence the 3.5 instead of 5 stars. I found the way the author decided to end the story a cheep cope out.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    The premise and setting are interesting, if not unsurprising, but at the end of the day it wasn't terribly engaging. The premise and setting are interesting, if not unsurprising, but at the end of the day it wasn't terribly engaging.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    A very intriguing post-apocalyptic world. I read it in one go. Since it's the aftermath of a plague...well, that hits a little too close to home... A very intriguing post-apocalyptic world. I read it in one go. Since it's the aftermath of a plague...well, that hits a little too close to home...

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Pongratz

    Original Review at Jaunts & Haunts 4/5 I gave this short story four stars!  Overall, I'm pretty impressed with how good this read was, as this was my first time reading anything by this author.  In a nutshell, this story is about a thief who is looking for a way out of a post-apocalyptic city. His quest, to obtain traveling papers, but the road is long, and he's not sure if he can trust the guide he hired as he heads into unfamiliar territory. Will he make it, or will he end up dead like so many oth Original Review at Jaunts & Haunts 4/5 I gave this short story four stars!  Overall, I'm pretty impressed with how good this read was, as this was my first time reading anything by this author.  In a nutshell, this story is about a thief who is looking for a way out of a post-apocalyptic city. His quest, to obtain traveling papers, but the road is long, and he's not sure if he can trust the guide he hired as he heads into unfamiliar territory. Will he make it, or will he end up dead like so many others? This story was fairly simple, and I liked that.  We have two main characters, the thief and the guide. No names are given, and that's fine by me. The thief made a lot of sense to me. He's stuck in this awful dirty, crappy city and wants out no matter the cost. He does have a little backstory involving an ex, but I was mainly entertained by his journey forward, not backward. The interaction between the guide and the thief was really great. Lots of tension there, and I loved the snappy, witty comebacks.  The plot wasn't complex and I think that was a smart choice, given that this is a short story. This world is dark and apocalyptic, and that's definitely my cup of tea. I wanted to know everything about it, and that really drove me forward. There are a number of odd creatures sprinkled throughout, some zombielike, some just strange and deranged. That really kept me on my toes throughout the action scenes.  The only thing that kind of irked me was the ending. It just didn't end the way I wanted it to and seemed a bit abrupt for my taste.  All that being said, this was a solid read, and I'm definitely going to keep my eyes peeled for other works by this author. Give it a go!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Alex Sarll

    "An uncontrollable plague has left the city in ruins and trapped in perpetual quarantine." No, but really, where do writers get their ideas? This is the wonderful thing about the web-spawned resurgence of short fiction – as against all the books where it's 'just' my apophenia finding the echoes of the Event, it means there is also a delivery system for quick responses which really are addressing it in art, and they don't have to be the wave of godawful pandemic novels we're going to get in a yea "An uncontrollable plague has left the city in ruins and trapped in perpetual quarantine." No, but really, where do writers get their ideas? This is the wonderful thing about the web-spawned resurgence of short fiction – as against all the books where it's 'just' my apophenia finding the echoes of the Event, it means there is also a delivery system for quick responses which really are addressing it in art, and they don't have to be the wave of godawful pandemic novels we're going to get in a year or two. Broken people still jumpy about proximity, refusing to believe the epidemic is over, lurking in an ashen, broken city where only a few untrustworthy guides know what two neighbourhoods over looks like now. On my optimistic days, this is about what I expect late 2020s London to feel like; the rest of the time I doubt we'll ever again be allowed the freedom of association these lucky ruin-runners have.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jack Ellis

    Great little short story, well fleshed out post apocalyptic landscape with captivating characters and a meaningful ending!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Badseedgirl

    When I need a little break from the real world, Tor.com never lets me down. I have never read a not-a-zombie apocalypse story quite like this. But I did have some questions at the end...

  11. 4 out of 5

    David

    If Kadrey publishes more sci fi, I am all for it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Marc Hilton

    Nice work. Mr. Kadrey created a murky world, as is his style.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nathan

    I really liked this short story. It was interesting that the main characters didn't have names. I wish there was more to it. Maybe there will be more stories that are set in this universe. I really liked this short story. It was interesting that the main characters didn't have names. I wish there was more to it. Maybe there will be more stories that are set in this universe.

  14. 4 out of 5

    ✘✘ Sarah ✘✘ (former Nefarious Breeder of Murderous Crustaceans)

    📚 Free short story from Tor 📚 Actual rating: 2.95874569 stars. I’ve never been a fan of post-apocalyptic stories. “Then why the fish did you read this one,” you ask? Quite possibility because I’m slightly masochistic. And also probably maybe because this story was written by Wondrous Mr Kadrey, aka my boyfriend Sandman Slim’s daddy. “But why do you not like post-apocalyptic stories when they’re so bloody shrimping cool and stuff,” you ask? Well call me despicably soft—quite the devastating blow 📚 Free short story from Tor 📚 Actual rating: 2.95874569 stars. I’ve never been a fan of post-apocalyptic stories. “Then why the fish did you read this one,” you ask? Quite possibility because I’m slightly masochistic. And also probably maybe because this story was written by Wondrous Mr Kadrey, aka my boyfriend Sandman Slim’s daddy. “But why do you not like post-apocalyptic stories when they’re so bloody shrimping cool and stuff,” you ask? Well call me despicably soft—quite the devastating blow to my ruthlessly nefarious and nefariously ruthless rep, that (view spoiler)[🤫 🤫 (hide spoiler)] —but I just can’t deal with the sense of utter hopelessness and despair that most stories in the genre convey. I mean, I 💕lurves💕 darkly dark stuff, I really do, but enchanting little tales like this one tend to make books like Bleak Seasons feel as fluffy as a Noddy Goes To Toyland. They also tend to have a moderately somber impact on my mental health: A good thing I'm considerably immortal. Well most of the time, anyway. It probably didn’t help that this story is about a post-plague world and quarantine and vaccination and medication and stuff, which I think we’ve all had just about enough of this past year (view spoiler)[ (hide spoiler)] . Of course this being Kadrey, the story is packed with cool stuff like zombies/ghuls/whatever, bio-engineered dogs with necrotizing saliva (note to self: see if this can be achieved with crustaceans), skinned cat-bots (don’t ask) and spoiler spoiler spoiler. Things like these I definitely would have liked to read more about, but alas, to be this was not (view spoiler)[😭😭 (hide spoiler)] . Now for the story itself…The plot is pretty basic, to be disgustingly honest, and the characters…well, let’s just say they’re very much on the bland side and I didn’t really give a shrimp about what happened to them. They’re not quite as flat as my favorite herd of ironing boards (and thank fish for that), but I can’t say they’re Super Extra Complex (SEC™) either. Also, the main character is a thief—and a grave robber at that—which usually ensures High Security Harem Worthiness (HSHW™), but in this particular case the guy’s TSTL tendencies kinda sorta ruined it all. (A little.) And finally, the icing on the cake shrimp on top of the paella: the resolution of the story is just about the most underwhelming thing in the history of most underwhelming things. I mean, all of that for that? Really? [Pre-review nonsense] Well this was depressing as fish. Review to come and stuff.

  15. 4 out of 5

    R.C.

    [Read for free on the Tor.com site.] I liked some of the atmosphere here, but in the end there were too many things that left me scratching my head for me to really get into it. In particular, I had a hard time getting into the main character's head. I get that he's desperate and somewhat compromised, but he starts on his journey fairly underprepared, not asking seemingly reasonable questions of the guide about what he'll need. His reactions through the novella also seem a bit off, as if he's re [Read for free on the Tor.com site.] I liked some of the atmosphere here, but in the end there were too many things that left me scratching my head for me to really get into it. In particular, I had a hard time getting into the main character's head. I get that he's desperate and somewhat compromised, but he starts on his journey fairly underprepared, not asking seemingly reasonable questions of the guide about what he'll need. His reactions through the novella also seem a bit off, as if he's reacting in place of the reader, who hasn't been living in a post-apocalyptic hellworld. For someone who IS in a post-apocalyptic hellworld, some of his attitudes seem strangely, recklessly altruistic, as we don't know much about the thief's background and what his life has been like. Is he still relatively privileged? Is he living with some level of normalcy and this jump into the wasteland is new to him? It's not easy to tell, and thus he seems disconnected from the world around him. Also, the (view spoiler)[biomechanical horror beasts (hide spoiler)] made a great plot device, but it was hard to see how any military would think that they were a good idea to make. And finally, I didn't really feel the ending flowed from everything else. (view spoiler)[There wasn't enough of the thief's or the Turk's background for me to tell if Mina's explanation about how she "helped" nudge him to her really made sense. His motivation to leave the city and seek out the Turk seemed totally organic to how miserable he was, not to something she was doing. And if she really wanted to kill the guide and bring the thief to her...why not just do it? Why not kill the guide with one of her mechanical hellbeasts and send Maggie and co to bring the thief to her in complete safety? And if the answer is "because she's insane", then that just makes the thief's easy belief of her story a sad letdown. (hide spoiler)] In the end, it just didn't gel for me.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nikki

    It was okay. That's it. That's all I got. I gotta cut the author some slack because there's only so much that one can cram into a short story. But I was really missing out on stuff. The characters weren't engaging and the ending was a complete surprise, and not in a good way. The setting and premise did hold great potential for a full book, but a post-apocalyptic world isn't the best theme for a short story. It was okay. That's it. That's all I got. I gotta cut the author some slack because there's only so much that one can cram into a short story. But I was really missing out on stuff. The characters weren't engaging and the ending was a complete surprise, and not in a good way. The setting and premise did hold great potential for a full book, but a post-apocalyptic world isn't the best theme for a short story.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Netanella

    The thief and the guide work their way out of the decaying city, quarantined with strange ghuls that eat the infected, not the living, and even stranger bioengineered wild dogs and AI. It's a story focused on the journey more than the characters or even world-building, and I'm left with more questions than answers. The thief and the guide work their way out of the decaying city, quarantined with strange ghuls that eat the infected, not the living, and even stranger bioengineered wild dogs and AI. It's a story focused on the journey more than the characters or even world-building, and I'm left with more questions than answers.

  18. 4 out of 5

    MollyK

    Wow. That was beautiful and horrible. I bit shallow, yet somehow profound. The guide said, “Endings always make me happy. Don’t they make you happy?” “It depends on the ending.” “That’s your problem. You want things. People who want things are never happy.” I've never read this author before. I will have to rectify that. Wow. That was beautiful and horrible. I bit shallow, yet somehow profound. The guide said, “Endings always make me happy. Don’t they make you happy?” “It depends on the ending.” “That’s your problem. You want things. People who want things are never happy.” I've never read this author before. I will have to rectify that.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    A generally enjoyable story, if enjoyable is really the right word for the plague riddled world the story takes place in. However, I thought the ending with the Turk was too contrived to be believable and the story lost a bit for me as a result.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Marie

    I really love your story, it deserves a lot of audience. If you have some great stories like this one, you can publish it on NovelStar, just submit your story to [email protected] or [email protected]

  21. 5 out of 5

    emily

    A truly creepy story, one I could easily see play out cinematically in my mind-- one part Station Eleven, one part The Last Of Us-- grim and gripping in equal measure. A few times I thought I'd guessed how the end would play out, but I was wrong about all of them. Really good work. A truly creepy story, one I could easily see play out cinematically in my mind-- one part Station Eleven, one part The Last Of Us-- grim and gripping in equal measure. A few times I thought I'd guessed how the end would play out, but I was wrong about all of them. Really good work.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Herlyne Paul

    Good

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nathanael

    Dark, compelling short story about living in the aftermath of a futuristic society’s pandemic. The characterization is a bit thin and archetypal (complete with ye olde dead and/or missing girlfriend as motivation for the protagonist), but I still enjoyed it quite a bit.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jason

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ben

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mark

  27. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ab

  29. 4 out of 5

    Alian

  30. 4 out of 5

    Margot

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