Sunday, April 3, 2011

"The Enterprise of Death"

Jesse Bullington spent the bulk of his formative years in rural Pennsylvania, the Netherlands, and Tallahassee, Florida. He is a folklore enthusiast who holds a bachelor's degree in History and English Literature from Florida State University. His novel The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart was one of Amazon's top ten Science Fiction & Fantasy books of 2009.

Bullington applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Enterprise of Death, and reported the following:
Dusting herself off and ignoring the necromancer’s guffaws, Awa peered down at the bones. She remembered well what he had taught her but hated the notion of ordering any spirit to do her will, even, were the necromancer to be believed , a piece of a spirit. She would do as she always did and ask instead of order, much as it might displease him, and with a bit of concentration she saw the shard of the skeleton’s spirit crouching like a little gray mouse in the skull’s eye socket. Yet when she asked it to pull itself together in exchange for a proper burial once she disposed of the necromancer she received no answer, nor any sign it understood.

“What have I told you?” the necromancer sneered, cottoning on to the delay. “This parlaying with spirits you do is pure sheepshit, it’s just what you tell yourself you’re doing to justify to little Awa what she’s about. Now stop talking to walls and raise the fucking thing already!”

The bones came off the floor in a cloud, passing over the table like a swarm of bees and reforming atop the necromancer. He yelped and spilled his tea, falling back as the skeleton dug its fingers into his throat. Then the necromancer jabbed his finger and it passed through the skeleton’s skull as though it were soft clay, the heap of bones rolling off of him onto the floor. He clapped a shaking hand to his bloody neck, Awa staring open-mouthed at her injured tutor. She had only thought it for an instant but—

The door burst open behind her and the bonemen snatched her up and threw her on the table. The necromancer reared and struck like a riled serpent, something sharp and metal in his hand, but Awa did not scream even as the knife bit into her stomach, the blade breaking its point on the granite table as it passed through flesh and skin, shards of metal splintering off inside her, and then the night took her.
This pretty intense encounter my protagonist Awa has with her tutor is, I think, representative of the novel as a whole—one of the central dichotomies in the book is the difference between how Awa approaches necromancy, as opposed to how her master goes about it. This exchange also showcases the abuse Awa undergoes in the first act of the novel; hers is not a happy or voluntary education. Those concerned for Awa’s safety following this scene should be forewarned that things do get worse before they get better…but they do, decidedly, get better, as she finds agency and empowerment through necromancy.
Read an excerpt from The Enterprise of Death, and learn more about the book and author at Jesse Bullington's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue