Author Victor Manibo Announces Sci-Fi Mystery Escape Velocity


After the success of his riveting debut, The Sleepless, author Victor Manibo has another intriguing sci-fi tale incoming: Escape Velocity, a murder mystery set in a space hotel, which sounds like an irresistible combination. io9 is thrilled to be announcing Escape Velocity—which will release April 23, 2024with an exclusive excerpt.

Here’s a more detailed description of the story:

“A decades-old murder looms over the glamorous clientele of a high-end space hotel . . . while an unforeseen threat percolates in the service corridors. The guests are about to experience the hospitality they deserve.

Space Habitat Altaire is the premier luxury resort in low Earth orbit, playground of the privileged and the perfect location to host reunions for the Rochford Institute. Rochford boasts only the best: the wealthiest, most promising students with the most impressive pedigrees. Complete with space walks, these lavish reunions are a prime opportunity for alumni to jockey for power with old friends and rivals—and crucially, to advance their applications to live in an exclusive Mars settlement. Earth is dying, and only the best deserve to save themselves.

Aboard the Altaire for their 25th reunion, finance magnate Ava pursues the truth about her brother’s murder during their senior year, which cast a dark shadow over their time at Rochford. Laz, ambassador and political scion, hopes to finally win Ava’s heart. Sloane, collecting secrets to conceal his family’s decline, angles for a key client. And Henry, heir to a healthcare empire, creates an unorthodox opportunity to get to Mars in a last-ditch effort to outrun a childhood secret.

While these erstwhile friends settle scores and rack up points, they fail to notice that other agendas are afoot at the Space Habitat Altaire, and their own futures aren’t the only ones at stake—’the best’ will soon regret underestimating those they would leave behind on Earth.”

In a statement provided to io9, Manibo shared more about what sparked the story of Escape Velocity. “I started drafting Escape Velocity in the year of Parasite and Knives Out, both of which inspired me to explore an aspect of capitalism slightly different from the one I portray in The Sleepless,” he said. “These films made me want to write about meritocracy and upward mobility, and what they look like in an increasingly stratified world. Our contemporary cultural conversations about space tourism and Mars colonization then gave me the perfect setting,one that is claustrophobic yet full of thrilling possibilities. I’m so honored to work with Erewhon again, and I’m so excited for readers to come aboard Space Habitat Altaire.”

Publisher Sarah Guan of Erewhon Books echoed that excitement in her own statement. “I have a soft spot for a number of well-loved tropes and story structures, and I’m always hankering for a fresh spin on a classic concept,” she said. “Who knew that in Escape Velocity, Victor would be able to blend together a whole fistful of these ideas into one thrilling, incisive book? This book contains a nail-biting locked-room murder mystery, a pointed upstairs-downstairs critique of socioeconomic inequality, an equally pointed critique of Mars colonization efforts, and the messy, voyeuristic drama of an upper-crust boarding school—which weave together to create a unique and timely story that we’re thrilled to be publishing at Erewhon.”

You’ll have to wait a bit longer to see the cover for Escape Velocity (there’s also no pre-order link for the book as of yet), but read on for an exclusive excerpt from Manibo’s latest.

“I’m so delighted to be here in the heart of your creation,” Nick said. “The Altaire is truly magnificent.”

Coen bowed at this politely and made his way to one of the seats in front of the captain’s command module. All four of them sat in silence, waiting for someone to fill the void. Nick gave Henry a curious look, no doubt wondering if and how Henry orchestrated this meeting. He hadn’t, and the opportunity had presented itself sooner than he’d planned. With a subtle lift of his brow, Henry told Nick what to do.

“Captain, I was wondering if you could show me where your comms are,” Nick said carefully. “I’d simply love to make a call to my mother from the bridge of the Altaire.”

The captain seemed bemused by the request, but at Nick’s mention of his mother, she obliged. With a permissive wave of Coen’s hand, Captain Williams rose from her seat, telling them to feel free to fix themselves a drink as they waited.

Henry’s mind raced as he scrambled to form a strategy. The last time he spoke with Coen, the man was reticent about Henry’s offer. It was in poor taste, of course, promising to pull strings with the donor board, but the Architect didn’t reject it outright. Coen knows how things get done, Henry told himself. One does not get to where the Architect is without these kinds of unsavory transactions. All that was left now was closing the deal.

“I’ve given this some thought,” Coen said as soon as the captain’s door slid shut. “And I didn’t want to waste any more of your time. The answer is no.”

“It’s only been a week, Tobias. It hasn’t been a waste at all.” Henry got up and walked to the bar, surveying the selections. His fingers danced around the bottles of brandy and rum before landing on a slim decanter of whiskey. It seemed the old man wanted to rush through this, but Henry was not going to let him. “Single or double?”

“Pass,” Coen replied. “On both the drink and the offer.”

Henry poured himself a double. “I appreciate you keeping up appearances before the captain,” he said before taking a sip. “It wouldn’t do well for either of us to be quite so. . .familiar.”

“Is that what we are? Familiar?” Coen asked. “Well, you know what they say about familiarity.”

Finally, the Architect was showing a little life. Resistance is good, Henry thought, a lot better than apathy. He slid his armchair closer. Coen shifted in his seat, leaning back as though cornered.

“I hear plans for the next orbital station are going very well,” Henry said. “The first one over the Martian skies. How much longer until the Altaire Group gets approval?”

“Six weeks,” Coen replied with some hesitation.

“Too bad you can’t be on Mars for all of that,” Henry said. “But, of course, family comes first.”

Coen bristled, and Henry thought to ease the reins. He left the suggestion hanging. Coen sought him out to have this conversation, Henry thought, tracking him down to the captain’s office for an unscheduled parley. Maybe he should let the man take the lead.

“Leighton’s doing fine, by the way,” Coen said after a pause. “Not that you asked.”

“I didn’t have to,” Henry said. “I’ve been paying close attention to your son’s case. I’m glad he’s doing well.”

“I don’t see what it is that you think I can credibly deliver,” Coen said.

“All I ask is your best effort,” Henry replied. “That’s more than enough for us.”

“I don’t decide these things. I just design them.”

Is that what the old man needed, some flattery? That, Henry could handle. “Your designs made it possible for humans to live comfortably on Mars. LMHC might be bankrolling everything, and their public-private consortium might be calling the shots, but they need you and your genius. I refuse to believe that your word could lack power when you can transform an entire planet at your will. As far as I’m concerned, you’re a god.”

Coen chuckled, pleased but not surprised. No doubt he’s been called this a lot. Henry was equally pleased, but he tried not to look too cocky.

“You know, some might view this as extortion,” Coen said, giving Henry a once-over.

“Come on,” Henry scoffed. “That’s such an ugly word. Inaccurate too. We’re merely trying to see how we could help each other. It’s a win-win, no commitments. Your best effort is all I ask. Mine is all I offer.”

“You’re getting a lot more out of this than I am,” Coen said.

“Well, I wouldn’t devalue your son’s health quite so cavalierly.”

“You said it yourself: my word can transform planets. If I’m as potent as you think I am, my guarantee is worth more than yours. No matter how tight you are with the organ registry system.”

“We each have our spheres of influence, Tobias. Mine might be smaller than yours, but it’s the one that matters most to Leighton.”

“Because I know you, and your father and grandmother before you, I’ll be generous and believe that you didn’t mean that as a threat,” Coen said. “But be careful, young man. You are treading on thin ice.”

“I’m not in the habit of making threats.” Henry said. “But I do carry out my plans.”

With some effort, Coen pushed himself to stand. “You called me a god,” he said as he moved to walk away. “I don’t think of myself that highly. But by your logic, you should know—what a god can give, he can quite as easily withhold. Good day, Henry.”

Excerpt from Escape Velocity by Victor Manibo reprinted by permission of Erewhon Books.

Escape Velocity by Victor Manibo will be out April 23, 2024.

Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.

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