The Gone World

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Penguin, Feb 5, 2019 - Fiction - 400 pages
"I promise you have never read a story like this."--Blake Crouch, New York Times bestselling author of Dark Matter

Inception meets True Detective in this science fiction thriller of spellbinding tension and staggering scope that follows a special agent into a savage murder case with grave implications for the fate of mankind...

Shannon Moss is part of a clandestine division within the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. In western Pennsylvania, 1997, she is assigned to solve the murder of a Navy SEAL's family--and to locate his vanished teenage daughter. Though she can't share the information with conventional law enforcement, Moss discovers that the missing SEAL was an astronaut aboard the spaceship U.S.S. Libra--a ship assumed lost to the currents of Deep Time. Moss knows first-hand the mental trauma of time-travel and believes the SEAL's experience with the future has triggered this violence.

Determined to find the missing girl and driven by a troubling connection from her own past, Moss travels ahead in time to explore possible versions of the future, seeking evidence to crack the present-day case. To her horror, the future reveals that it's not only the fate of a family that hinges on her work, for what she witnesses rising over time's horizon and hurtling toward the present is the Terminus: the terrifying and cataclysmic end of humanity itself.

Luminous and unsettling, The Gone World bristles with world-shattering ideas yet remains at its heart an intensely human story.

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User Review  - Vokram - LibraryThing

4.5/5 (changed from 3.75 originally) The Gone World is a tough nut to crack. It's a mystery thriller wrapped in a sci-fi-horror-apocalyptic-time travel package. The basic story is that humans ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Vokram - LibraryThing

3.75/5 The Gone World is a tough nut to crack. It's a mystery thriller wrapped in a sci-fi-horror-apocalyptic-time travel package. The basic story is that humans developed a quantum drive that allowed ... Read full review

Selected pages


Section 1
Section 2
Section 3
Section 4
Section 5
Section 6
Section 7
Section 8
Section 12
Section 13
Section 14
Section 15
Section 16
Section 17
Section 18
Section 19

Section 9
Section 10
Section 11
Section 20

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About the author (2019)

| One |


"Special Agent Shannon Moss?"

She didn''t recognize the man''s voice, though she recognized the drawl on the vowels. He''d grown up around here, West Virginia, or Pennsylvania-rural.

"This is Moss," she said.

"A family''s been killed." A quaver in his voice. "Washington County dispatch logged the 911 a little after midnight. There''s a missing girl."

Two a.m., but the news was like an ice bath. She was fully awake now.

"Who am I speaking with?"

"Special Agent Philip Nestor," he said. "FBI."

She turned on her bedside lamp. Cream-colored wallpaper patterned with vines and cornflower-blue roses covered her bedroom walls. She traced the lines with her eyes, thinking.

"Why my involvement?" she asked.

"My understanding''s that our SAC communicated with HQ and they instructed him to involve you," said Nestor. "They want NCIS assistance. Our primary is a Navy SEAL."


"Canonsburg, on a street called Cricketwood Court, just off Hunter''s Creek," he said.

"Hunting Creek."

She knew Hunting Creek, Cricketwood Court-her best friend growing up had lived on that street, Courtney Gimm. The image of Courtney''s face floated from Moss''s memory like ice surfacing through water.

"How many victims are we dealing with?"

"Triple homicide," said Nestor. "It''s bad. I''ve never-"

"Slow down."

"I''d seen some kids hit by a train once, but nothing like this," he said.

"Okay," said Moss. "You said the call came in after midnight?"

"A little later," said Nestor. "A neighbor heard commotion, finally called the police-"

"Do you have someone speaking with the neighbor?"

"One of our guys is with her now," he said.

"I''ll make it there in a little over an hour."

She gained her equilibrium before attempting to stand-her right leg still the lean, muscled leg of an athlete, but her left terminated in a conical mid-thigh stump, the end muscle and flesh there wrapped like a fold-over pastry. She''d lost her leg years ago when she''d been crucified in the deep winter of the Terminus-a transfemoral amputation, the Navy surgeons having cut away the part of her that had gone gangrenous. When she stood, she perched on her single foot like a long-legged shore bird, rocking on the pads of her toes for balance. Her crutches were within reach, Lofstrand crutches she kept propped in the gap between her bed and nightstand. She slipped her forearms through the cuffs and gripped the handles, propelling herself through her bedroom, a cluttered mess of clothes and magazines, loose CDs, empty jewel cases-slipping hazards her occupational therapist had warned her against.

Cricketwood Court . . .

A shiver passed over Moss at the thought of returning. She and Courtney had been like sisters through middle school, freshman year-closer than sisters, inseparable. Moss''s memories of Courtney were the sweetest essence of childhood summers-endless days spent poolside, roller coasters at Kennywood, splitting cigarettes down by Chartiers Creek. Courtney had died their sophomore year, murdered in a parking lot for the few dollars she''d had in her purse.

Headline News on the bedroom set while she dressed. She applied antiperspirant to her residual limb, then nestled her polyurethane liner against the blunt edge of her thigh, rolling it to her hip as if she were rolling on a nylon stocking. She smoothed the rubbery sleeve of any air bubbles that might have accrued against her skin. The prosthesis was an Ottobock C-Leg, a prototype-a computerized prosthesis originally designed for wounded soldiers. Moss slid her thigh into the socket and stood, the volume of her thigh forcing out air from the carbon cuff, vacuum-sealing the prosthesis. The C-Leg made her feel as if her skeleton were exposed-a steel shank instead of a shin. She wore slacks, a blouse the color of pearls. She holstered her service weapon. She wore a tailored suede jacket. A last glance at television: Dolly skulking in her hay-strewn pen, Clinton touting the newly signed human-cloning ban, promos for the NBA on NBC, Jordan versus Ewing.

Cricketwood Court was a cul-de-sac, sirens flaring against row houses and lawns. A quarter after 3:00 a.m., neighbors would know something had happened, but they might not know what yet-if they peered from their windows they would find a confusion of patrol units, sheriffŐs cars and Canonsburg PD, state police cruisers, investigations a web of jurisdiction by the time federal agents were involved. MossŐs cases tended to concern Naval Space Command sailors home on shore leave from ŇDeep Waters,Ó the black-ops missions to Deep Space and Deep Time. Bar fights, domestic violence, drug charges, homicides. She had worked cases where NSC sailors had snapped and beaten their wives or girlfriends to death-tragic occurrences, some sailors spiraling after seeing the terrors of the Terminus or the light of alien suns. She wondered what she would find here. The county coronerŐs van was parked nearby. Ambulances and fire engines idled. The FBI mobile crime lab had backed over the berm into the front lawn of her old friendŐs house.

"Jesus Christ . . ."

The house Moss remembered from her childhood was as if superimposed over the house as it stood-two films playing concurrently, a memory and a crime scene. Courtney''s family had long since moved from here, and Moss never thought she would set foot within her old friend''s house again, certainly not under these circumstances. A two-story end unit, the other houses in its row lined up like mirror reflections, each with a driveway, a petite garage, each front stoop lit by a single porch light, the fa ades identical down the line, brick topped by white vinyl. Growing up, Moss had spent more time here than at her own house, it seemed-she still remembered the Gimms'' old phone number. An oily sensation of one reality oozing into another, like a yolk pouring through a crack in its shell. She took a swig of coffee from her thermos and rubbed her eyes as if to wake herself, to convince herself that this coincidence of houses was real, that she wasn''t caught dreaming. A coincidence, she told herself. There used to be a flowering dogwood in the front yard that had since been hacked down.

Moss slowed her pickup at a sheriff''s blockade, and a deputy approached her window, a middle-aged gut and Chaplinesque mustache that would have been humorous except for the weariness weighing in his eyes. He tried to get her to turn her truck around until she rolled down her window and showed identification.

"What is that?" he asked.

"Naval Criminal Investigative Service," she said, accustomed to explaining her agency''s initials. "Federal agent. We''re interested in a possible military connection. How bad is it?"

"My buddy was in there earlier and told me this is the worst he''s ever seen, just the goddamned worst," he said, his breath stale with coffee. "Says there''s not much left of them."

"Reporters been around?"

"Not yet," he said. "We were told some news vans are on their way down from Pittsburgh. I don''t think they know what they''ll find. Quiet otherwise. Come on through."

A lace of police tape cordoned off the lawn and driveway, stretching from a lamppost and looping around the house''s wrought-iron stoop railing. Some of the forensic technicians huddled near the garage, a smoke break. They watched Moss approach without the casual chauvinism or bald stares she sometimes encountered at scenes-their eyes were haunted tonight, glancing her way as if they pitied her for what she was about to endure.

The doorway was draped with a plastic tarp, but the smells of the house assaulted her once she ducked through, the cloying tang of blood and bright rot and shit mingled with chemical stenches of the techs'' solutions, the collection kits and ethanol. The odors seeped into her, a metallic tinge from the blood, her saliva immediately coppery as if she''d sucked on pennies. Criminalists in Tyvek crowded the foyer, busy with evidence preservation, photography. A nervous anticipation roiled Moss in the moments before her first view of a new crime scene; once she turned the corner and saw what she was dealing with, however, her nervousness dissipated, replaced by an urgent and sorrowful compulsion to reassemble the broken pieces as quickly as possible.

A boy and a woman lay on the floor, their faces smeared away in a mince of brain and blood and whorls of bone. Flannel pants on the boy, a jersey for a nightshirt-ten or eleven years old, Moss guessed. The woman''s nightgown was filthy with blood, her bare legs shading to plum where lividity had discolored her. Both had voided their bowels, the floor so sopped that shit and standing blood had pooled in the uneven runnels of the carpeting. The odors gagged her. The smells of the boy and his mother degraded them, she thought, their humanity debased by sewage stink and formlessness.

Moss had long ago learned the dissociative technique of viewing bodies through different lenses, divorcing the mutilation as much as possible from the personalities they once were-seeing her colleagues around her through the lens of humanity, seeing the bodies through the lens of forensics. Moss objectified the corpses. The kill stroke for the woman had been one of two blows to her head, either to her left zygomatic or to the parietal on the same side. The woman''s left pupil had dilated to a wide black saucer. Moss noticed that the boy''s fingernails had been removed, all of them. And his

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