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The Cyber Puppets [Paperback]

Angus McAllister
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Product Description

From the Back Cover

Prime-time satire. The Lairds of Glendoune are rich and powerful, their wealth based on the family whisky. Their constant crises keep the lawyers and hospitals of Primeburgh in business, the eldest son Wilson Laird tried to frame his father for murder (but his parents forgave him after his near-fatal accident) and no one notices when the family patriarch Hector Laird comes back from Europe with a new head. Add all this to his memory lapses and complete absence of free will, and Hector's son-in-law Scott Maxwell slowly becomes convinced that this can't be right ... and then the reality around him collapses altogether, plunging him into a devastated world of the future.

Back in the real world, the Earth is dying; the environment is poisoned, and human society itself is on the downward plunge as vision and drive wither away from the human gene pool. What has all this to do with a twentieth century American soap opera?

About the Author

Angus McAllister initially qualified as a solicitor, though now earns a living as a lecturer in law at the University of Paisley. In 1978 he was a runner-up in the BBC's Read All About It short story competition (science fiction section) and in 1980 a runner-up in a competition run by the British edition of Omni. The first story, "What Dreams May Come", was sold by the BBC to a woman's magazine and appeared in a German SF anthology as well as being reprinted in Starfield (1989), an anthology of Scottish SF edited by Duncan Lunan. In the longer form, as well as being the author or co-author of three legal textbooks, Angus has had three science fiction novels published: A Variety of Sensations (Verlag Ullstein, 1985), The Krugg Syndrome (Grafton, 1988) and The Canongate Strangler (Dog & Bone, 1990).

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter 1

Scott Maxwell realised later that his doubts had been growing for some time. But he only became fully aware of the problem when his father-in-law Hector returned from Scotland with a head transplant. The shock of that homecoming was impossible to ignore. Even five colourful years living with his wife's family failed to prepare him for it.

It even managed to eclipse the news his wife Fiona had brought him earlier that day. For most people, two such traumas at the same time - Fiona's announcement and Hector's new face - might have been too much. But less so if you were a member of the Laird family. For them, troubles coming doubly meant a quiet period.

Fiona had called unexpectedly at his office during the afternoon. As usual, she looked as if she had just walked from the pages of a fashion magazine. "Hello honey," he said. "It's great to see you."

She accepted his kiss perfunctorily and sat opposite his desk. "It isn't exactly a social call."

"Never mind. I'm glad you're here. Why did you come?"

"I've something to tell you."

"Good news?"

"I hope so. I've just been to the doctor."

"What's wrong? You didn't say anything about it this morning." His manner showed alarm and concern. Inwardly, he took the news much more calmly.

"I'm pregnant."

"But that's impossible."

"So they said. Apparently they were wrong."

"There's no doubt about it?"

"None."

"But that's great news!" he said, coming round from behind the desk and embracing her. "It's what we always wanted."

She responded half-heartedly. "You're pleased?"

"Of course I am. And Hector and Kirsteen will be delighted."

"You can be sure of that. A new addition to the Laird dynasty is always welcome."

"That's unfair. You know how much they've been worried about you."

"I know. You're right."

"Anyway, what did the doctor say? Will there be any complications?"

"I don't think so. I'll need more tests, and they'll have to keep a close eye on me because of the miscarriages. But so far everything seems OK."

"Well, that's just wonderful!" Her kissed her again. This time she appeared to have relaxed a bit and responded more warmly.

When he paused for breath, he said, "I love you."

"And I love you too, darling."

Scott wondered which of them was being the more insincere. He decided it was a close-run thing. So the bitch is pregnant, he thought. Who's the father? Is it that bastard Walton or that snake Doberman? Why do I stick by her? She doesn't love me and I can't stand her. Why don't I walk out on her and her goddamned family? Without them I could have a good life, as well as a much quieter one.

"Does Kirsteen know yet?"

"No. I'm going straight home to tell her."

"She'll be delighted. They both will."

"So you said. Well, I'd better get going."

"It'll be a great homecoming present for your father."

"Yes, it certainly will."

"That doctor better know what he's doing. Otherwise, he'll have a lawsuit on his hands."

"Oh, Scott, stop being a lawyer for once. Everything's going to be fine. I'll see you tonight."

Scott continued to observe himself display the predictable series of reactions, as she took her prolonged leave, as they kissed again and re-affirmed their mutual devotion. What was wrong with him? It was more than just hypocrisy. It almost seemed as if he had no control over his speech and actions, as if the real Scott were trapped inside a body that was being operated by another person.

After she had left, he sat looking out of the window of his office, at the view it commanded of Primeburgh city centre. His modest premises were only a few blocks away from the giant Laird building, but his south-facing window allowed him to pretend otherwise. So far he had resisted all attempts by the Lairds to absorb him into their distilling business, though he spent so much of his time dealing with their legal work that they had managed to get him anyway.

He had a lot to think about and would have liked more time for contemplation. But, after only a brief period, whoever was controlling his actions decided it was time for him to call in his secretary.

"I'll be leaving early tonight, Dorothy. Are you nearly finished typing those letters?"

"Just about, Mr Maxwell. I hope there's nothing wrong."

"No, Dorothy, just the opposite. I'm going to be a father."

"That's wonderful, Mr Maxwell! Congratulations."

"Thanks, Dorothy. I'm so excited, I can't think about anything else for now."

I really sound as if I mean it, he thought. I'm wasted as a lawyer. I should have been an actor.

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