BURROWED by Mary Baader Kaley (COVER REVEAL & EXTRACT)
We’re so excited to bring you an exclusive cover reveal and extract from Mary Baader Kaley’s upcoming release, Burrowed. Before we reveal the cover, here’s a bit about Mary:
Mary Baader Kaley is a realtor in the south suburbs of Chicago with a master’s degree in Psychology. Her youngest son is autistic, and struggled with multiple health issues when he was younger, which prompted Mary to write books and give voices to characters with disabilities and other health issues. On any given day, you’ll find her gardening, reading, sneaking bites of chocolate from her secret stash, and laughing with family and friends. Burrowed is her debut novel. Find Mary online: marybaaderkaley.com / @marybaka
Without further ado, feast your eyes on this eye-catching cover:
In the far-future aftermath of a genetic plague that separated human society into two different groups – sickly yet super-intelligent Subterraneans and healthy but weak-minded Omniterraneans – a brilliant Subter girl is tasked with fixing the broken genetic code to reunite the two groups in the next generation. But when a newer plague turns fatal for the surface-dwelling Omnits, the only group able to reproduce (giving birth to both Subter and Omnit children), Zuzan must find a cure or humanity won’t simply remain divided, it will become extinct. But there’s more conflict at hand than a broken genetic code. The fragile connection between Subters and Omnits has frayed to the point of breaking – to the point of war – and it will take more than genius to repair; it will take heart.
And now for the exclusive extract with an introduction by Mary:
Ever wondered what would happen if you crossed City of Ember, Jane Eyre, and The Plague? Mary Baader Kaley’s Burrowed is that novel. This exciting dystopian thriller is a thought-provoking debut: If you had to endure a debilitating condition of body or mind, which would you choose? In this world, everyone suffers.
The future of the human population is at risk, and brilliant “light-blind” Zuzan Cayan carries the weight of saving it against the ticking clock of her low Life Expectancy. Fighting against the systems in which her fragile health places her, Burrowed follows Zuzan as she attempts to cure and reunite two different groups of society, one living in burrows below ground to protect their tenuous health, the others living above. Significantly inspired by her lived experience as a mother, Baader Kaley questions the very world we live in, and the systems created to help, or hinder, those who most need it in this far-future look at the aftermath of a genetic plague that brought division at the DNA level.
In the following extract, meet Zuzan Cayan. Her genetic condition causes a lack of pigmentation in her eyes, leaving her unable to tolerate light without the aid of thick, darkening goggles. Even with the goggles, any flashes of light irritate her vision, so she cannot perform basic job duties and therefore is limited to tasks that don’t involve reading or computers. Maven Ringol (Head of the Genomic Center of Excellence, and loathed by Zuzan), however, recognizes her potential and searches for an eye doctor who might be able to help. Because Zuzan accepted her limitations long ago, she is reluctant to go through yet another misguided and painful eye examination when there is nothing that can be done…
Burrowed is expected for release on January 10th 2023 from Angry Robot. You can pre-order your copy now from:
Maven Ringol straightens his shoulders, but his brow twitches and he smiles. His eyes then settle on the dark blouse Kriz found for me and his expression softens for a moment.
“Kriz, fetch the optotech.”
“Optotech?” My voice cracks.
Kriz turns to leave, flashing a buoyant smile, as if she approves.
“I don’t need a new pair of goggles.” I struggle to tighten my old pair, as if they’re arguing with me in front of my maven. “I’m ready to get straight to research.”
He smirks like he did when he offered me this job. “The examination isn’t for a new pair of goggles.”
I bite the inside of my cheek. “My eyes just took a beating from the tattoo painter’s bright lights, and my migraines have finally stopped. If we could just delay –”
“You will be examined,” he barks.
I flinch at his raised voice. “My roommates already think I’ve been shown special treatment. What am I leading them to think if I don’t start working?”
“You’re not leading your colleagues to think anything.” He rubs his temples. “Directing their thinking is my job.”
“But, Maven –”
“I’m not looking for your opinion on this subject or on any subject unless I ask for it,” he says with tensed shoulders as he stands and paces around his desk. “This is how things work: I inform you of your assignments, and you are to reply, Yes, Maven, and then you are to smash every one of my expectations.” He stops directly in front of me. I smell a trace of coffee on his breath. Java catalyzes a whole host of biological issues for Subters. Clearly, temper is one of them.
He stares at me for a moment, and then I realize he expects a response. “Yes, Maven.”
“Medera Gelia did you no favors by raising such a contrary, categorical snob.[GC1] [MK2] ”
My eyes turn instantly wet at the mention of my medera, at his harsh judgement of her.
“For such a praised medera, she bumbled this one.”
My stomach twists. “Maybe you bumbled in your pursuit to hire me.” I face him directly. “You knew my personality, and you came for me anyway. Why?”
His face freezes and his arms stiffen. He opens his mouth but no words come out. I can’t figure out how to read him.
“Medera Gelia Cayan’s methods have been revered and duplicated by her peers,” I continue. “Her character, her poise, and her intelligence are surpassed by none.” My voice breaks. All I did was give her trouble when I left. “Insult me if you think it’s necessary, but don’t ever insult my medera. I can’t work here if you do.”
Kriz clears her throat, and both Ringol and I spin toward her. “Pardon.” Her gaze darts between the two of us.
A man flanks her side, open mouthed, pulling a wheeled cart of equipment. My fists tighten at my sides.
“Thank you,” Ringol says. “Good health, Optotech Hahn.”
“Good health, Maven Ringol. Is this our patient?”
“No,” I say as I start to walk toward the door, but Ringol catches my arm.
“Yes,” he says. “But don’t expect her to display any patience. This is Allele Crypt, our newest undertech. She must be able to read from tablets and chip projectors to perform the duties for which she was hired. Will you explain how you plan to examine her without the use of light?”
“I use black light,” the optotech says, “and as I told Maven Ringol yesterday, the rays should not bother you any more than light irritates you through your goggles.”
“If you’ve reviewed my records then you already know that nothing can be done.” I blurt, even though I’m relieved about the black light. “Please explain this to my maven.”
“I understand your records have been misplaced.” The optotech’s eyebrows go up, and he looks to Ringol.
Of course. I have a new identification number. What saved me from Woynauld causes problems for me here. New number, no records attached.
“Regardless,” the optotech says, “this examination is more thorough than those provided at the burrows.”
“Excuse her, Optotech. She’s suffering from her first case of jetlag. Call if you need assistance.” He retreats to the door, leaving the optotech standing by his desk. Ringol winks back at me like the hatless man I remember him to be. “Although, I’ll pay you a ten-percent bonus if you complete her examination without calling me.”
My mouth drops. “What –?”
“I could stay with Undertech Allele.” Kriz turns to Ringol. “She’s clearly shaken.”
“The only thing shaking Allele is her inability to follow orders. She’ll learn.” Ringol holds the door for Kriz and motions for her to leave. He nods to the optotech. “Best of luck, sir. And Undertech?”
I tilt my head, biting my cheek because the words that want to fly from my mouth are what Na’rm Anetta would call wicked.
“Behave.” He stands there, almost daring me to respond.
First he insults my medera, and then he ridicules me in front of Kriz and this optotech, and now he wants me to put me in my place after I’ve escaped a tyrant like Allund Woynauld. Is that who he’s trying to be like? Allund?
I snap my body into a military salute. “Yes, Lord Ringol.”
The maven’s eyes widen like saucers, but I remain at attention until he leaves. Once he slams the door behind him, I twirl around and flop into a chair.
The onyx desk, the granite floor, the screens made to look like ground-level windows, these are all things that speak to the wealth here at GCE while the Cayan Burrow floundered for watered-down cleaning supplies. I shake my head.
“Shall we begin?” asks the optotech.
He rolls his cart with two shelves full of apparatus toward me. I lean away as he approaches. I have yet to meet an optotech who doesn’t harbor sadistic tendencies.
The optotech blinks and presses his lips together. He holds up his hand, perhaps needing an extra moment to figure out what he’s going to say while I squirm. Then he pats my knee like he’s comforting a child. I feel like one.
“I’ll describe each step in detail, and will answer all your questions. None of the testing involves a process that should cause you alarm.” He folds his hands across his waistline, nails bitten to the quick. If anyone knows about anxiety-causing things, it might be him.
“I have nothing against you.” Except for the fact he’s an optotech. “But I’m up to date with my examinations.”
“This isn’t a standard examination, Undertech. This goes deeper. The first step is a simple bloodlab using microscopic needles.”
After my tattoo, I cringe. I will never think of needles in the same way again.
The optotech hands me a flat strip. “You simply roll this band around your finger and then press your forefinger into your thumb.”
“There are needles in this?” I hold it up sideways to examine its silhouette, too blurry through my goggles.
He smiles. “Tiny, tiny needles. One for each test.” He sits back and waits with an amiable, calm expression.
I wrap my thumb and press it into my forefinger. It’s a little abrasive to the touch, but not painful.
He takes the wrap and slides the strip into a reader. “Maven Ringol sets you on edge.” His tone is quiet and friendly, and it puts me at ease.
“I don’t have a good track record with supervisors.” Yet despite his temper just now, Ringol came back for me at Woynauld. He didn’t have to, but he did. He said he believed in me.
Hahn’s eyes scan the almost instantaneous bloodlab results. “Intriguing.”
Intriguing could mean a lot of things, but if the results were good, Hahn probably would have said so right away. My heart quickens. Clearly this is something Ringol overlooked. The maven can’t possibly convert everything I need into paper format for my undertech work. So what job can I do here at GCE instead?
“It’s okay,” I say tightly, steeling myself for the disappointment of his diagnosis. “Believe it or not, a labmaid position beats my last job.”
“No, Undertech Allele. The results are certain, and fascinating. Your immune system has made antigens against your own pigmentation. Even if we attempt pigment remediation – surgically inserting color into your eyes – it would fail. Your body would reject and attack the foreign pigment as if it were an infection. At some point, with the right researchers, we can figure out what can be done, if anything, for a permanent solution.”
“In the meantime, I’ll be scrubbing Petri dishes.”
He chuckles. “In the meantime, you’ll wear full-coverage contact lenses – sort of like a prosthetic pigmentation, protecting your eyes like your goggles do, only better. They will be worn directly on the surface of your eye over your iris and the exposed white. You see, the pink in your irises is actually the visible –”
“Blood vessels inside,” I finish for him.
“Quite right. The polymer used in the prosthetics is smart enough to automatically adjust depending on the degree of light present, which makes it possible for you to read from tablets or do anything an undertech would need to do.”
“So… no goggles?” A tiny smile creeps over my lips. Even so, I might cry. “Really? How long until –?”
“About ninety minutes.”
For the first time since I’ve met him, I gaze into Optotech Hahn’s eyes. They’re brilliant and soft, and I want to hug this man I hardly know. “What about my color-blindness?”
He blinks slowly. “There’s a special tint that helps with people who are challenged with colors. I worked on the visual development team for this technology. We’re going to add it to your lenses which will help. It’s not a perfect correction for color-blindness, but it’s a wonderful improvement.”
Wonderful? Miraculous, really. Maddelyn described the different colors to me over and over, and I have tried to imagine them in my mind and guess what color different objects might be. She once caught me staring at Jalaz during gallery studies, and whispered how his green eyes could mesmerize a demon, before she remembered I didn’t know his eyes were green.
I touch the Optotech’s hand. “I’m sorry for how I behaved when you first came in.”
“I’m sorry you’ve waited this long to see properly.” He turns and takes out a stainless-steel container. “We start by having you choose an eye color. Blue is most common for the albino coloring we Subters suffer through. Though, something tells me that you’re galaxies away from common.”