Cover image for Idlewild
Sagan, Nick.
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Publication Information:
Minneapolis, MN : HighBridge, [2003]

Physical Description:
8 audio discs (8.25 hrs.) : digital ; 4 3/4 in.
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Compact disc.
Format :
Audiobook on CD


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FICTION CD Adult Audiobook on CD Audiobooks

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Idlewild is stylish and clever fiction set in the day after tomorrow. It opens with a young man awaking with amnesia; the only thing he knows is that his memory loss has been caused by an attempt to kill him. Unsure who he can trust, he is reacquainted with eight companions, all of whom are being trained at a special school, run by an enigmatic man named Maestro. As he tries to uncover the identity of the person who has tried to murder him, he will quickly begin to unravel a series of truths, making it clear that there is much more than his life at stake.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The tension is palpable from the first page as a young man recovering from a powerful electrical shock realizes that all he knows is that he's about 18 and a student of some kind--and that Lazarus is dead. Halloween, as he is known, becomes certain that someone wants him dead, too. He is one of 10 students attending an exclusive Immersive Virtual Reality boarding school while their bodies lie in a hospital attached to IVs and virtual-reality equipment. Add to the mix a hard-nosed virtual schoolmaster, virtual nannies, and sophisticated computer hacking as the teens try to manipulate the system. In his first novel, the son of Carl Sagan captures perfectly the voice and actions of a rebellious, extremely intelligent teenager. Juxtaposed with Halloween's first-person narrative are snippets of events in a lab where scientists are working against time to cure a deadly plague capable of wiping out all human life. Though its appeal is much wider, recommend this mesmerizing, multilayered futuristic tale to fans of Card's Ender novels. --Sally Estes Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Billed as a near-future thriller, Sagan's first novel plods through terrain all too familiar to SF readers. The narrator awakens with amnesia in a mysterious realm easily identified as a computer-generated virtual reality, fraught with metaphors and symbols. He slowly grasps that his name is Halloween, and that he may have murdered someone called Lazarus. Eventually, he realizes he's one of a handful of high school students attending "Immersive Virtual Reality" classes at the Idlewild IVR Academy, sponsored by the Gedaechtnis Corporation, a multinational biotech company. Intimidated by the villainous teacher, Maestro, and wary of his fellow students, Halloween is determined to recover his memory, apparently damaged in a power surge that threatened to destroy the IVR, and learn what really happened to the missing Lazarus. Despite a compelling twist near the middle, the low tension and meandering plot will likely frustrate the primary target audience, mainstream fans of such futuristic action films as The Matrix and Minority Report. Sagan may not be the next Philip K. Dick or William Gibson, but he shows enough talent here to suggest he can improve on pacing in the promised sequel. (Aug. 11) Forecast: As the son of the late popular astronomer Carl Sagan, the author is bound to get more than the usual media attention for a first novel. The stark, stylish jacket-of an impressionistic brown-toned butterfly superimposed on a "solar eclipse"-signals that, unlike a lot of genre SF, this is a class act. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Awakening with amnesia after a near-death experience, the 17-year-old narrator, alias Halloween, is propelled into a "virtual reality" educational landscape supervised by a mysterious teacher dubbed the Maestro and populated by eight other students playing dangerous games. Certain that someone is trying to murder him, Halloween begins to delve beneath the layers of illusion to discover that not only his life but also that of humanity is at stake. In this fast-paced debut set in the near-future, the son of the late astronomer Carl Sagan touches upon contemporary issues such as technology immersion, youth violence, and the fear of biological disaster. But filtered through the eyes of an angsty, self-absorbed, albeit smart, teenager, the narration becomes claustrophobic and thin, despite the ambitious scope of the plot. Aimed at the audiences of The Matrix and Minority Report and fans of Neil Gaiman, Orson Scott Card, and Mark Danielewski, Sagan's novel lacks their richness and depth, occasionally reading more like a drawn-out short story rather than a novel. Still, disregarding publicity hype, it is a fine debut by a writer with potential to grow, and fans of those same authors will enjoy this as a quick beach read. Recommended.-Ann Kim, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Don't place faith in human beings. Human beings are unreliable things. machines of loving grace, "butterfly wings" P R O L O G U E DAY 1 I'm not dead. A dim realization but an important one, because I should have died. The shock of whatever just ripped through me was strong enough to do it-some kind of electrical overload lighting me up from head to toe like a fireworks display. But my brain kept repeating the mantra: "not dead, not dead, not dead," and pretty soon I had to believe it. One eye popped open and then the other, and consciousness (if you can call it that) slowly returned. Cold and dark. Orange. Harvest. A damp, musty smell; sound of crickets; the bite of a monster headache. Yes, I was trapped in a pumpkin patch, twisted and tensed, taking shallow breaths like a newborn kitten. Clarity did not follow consciousness. My mind felt sluggish, and all attempts at coherent thought made my temples ache worse. Why? What had happened to me? I remember the shock and... ...and nothing. Just the shock. Disturbing doesn't even begin to cover it. Sitting up seemed like a bad idea, so I tried to grab my hornet's nest of a head. Simple. Left hand, up. Right hand, up. But nothing happened. My arms won't move, I realized. I tried to wiggle my legs, fingers, hips, toes, nose, ears and neck. They didn't answer the bell. I'm paralyzed. I could feel my pulse coming faster now and I wondered what would happen if my breathing stopped. No mystery there, eh? My brain would atrophy like a wilting flower and the consciousness I'd fought for would be hideous as I spiraled down the path of no return. Panic hit me hard. I started making desperate deals with phantom deities I invented on the spot. Please, I thought, don't let me die. Whoever you are, if you can hear me, get me up on my feet. I'll do anything. I'll give you anything...well... Well, what? What did I have to offer? Nothing. I know nothing, and thus I have nothing. I don't even know my own name. Puzzles have pieces, don't they, so why can't I remember? A new theory came to me: brain damage. Two words I didn't want to consider, but they made frightening sense. The paralysis didn't need to stem from a broken vertebra, after all-I could have simply forgotten how to move, the way I'd forgotten everything else. Let's not jump off that bridge just yet. If you forget something, surely you can remember it, given enough time. That's me-looking on the bright side, like always. I clung to hope and faulty logic and waited to remember. And waited. And waited some more. Words came to me in my senselessness, another mantra from the dim recesses of my jigsaw mind: "There is no pain. Keep control. No pain in the house, just keep control." But I didn't have control, damn it, it hurt like fire and I just stayed sprawled there, useless and pathetic, for who knows how long. I'm not a control freak, mind you-not per se-but deprive me of something basic and I begin to go stark raving mad. The possibility dawned on me as I lay there. Stark, yes. Mad, possibly. But raving? Was I raving? Hysterical paralysis, they used to call it. Hysteria: a psychoneurotic condition characterized by violent emotional and sensory disturbances, by paroxysms in the motor functions, and by changes in consciousness that are symbolically or psychically determined. Hysterical, sure, but somehow I didn't feel like laughing. Could I be dreaming, I wondered? Half awake, eyes open, body still asleep, dreaming my paralysis-a hypnogogic state? I was, perhaps, a prisoner of my unconscious mind... Friction of the forewings; the crickets kept pissing me off. There's a formula for crickets, just like there's a formula for everything. I don't mean their genetic formula, but rather their thermometric formula. Crickets chirp less often as the temperature drops, so you can estimate heat by timing the chirps: (chirps per minute / 4) + 40 = # of degrees Fahrenheit. I counted a chirp per second, making it a slightly nippy fifty-five degrees. I could remember that, but not my own identity? Or how to move? A strange organ, the brain. As the crickets mocked me with their love songs, I began to hear another sound-a distant whine-faint but getting clearer. And then, like a thunderbolt, the rules suddenly changed. I heard a loud toc and my body could move again, just like flipping a switch-or having a base-two zero snap over to a one. I jumped to my feet. My body wasn't stiff. There was no soreness. My nerve endings felt alive and open. Little flowers of pins and needles bloomed along my spine and down my arms and legs, but the pain was already beginning to fade. C H A P T E R 1 HALLOWEEN "Dropping like flies," drawls the first Gedaechtnis employee. He is a Southern Gentleman who has never quite been able to kill his West Memphis accent. He has defeated both the poverty of his youth and the inherent racism of twenty-first-century America, but the twang remains like a stubborn mule. As his red felt-tip pen highlights the latest casualty figures, the gentleman tries not to wonder about his own condition. He finds he can't help himself and reluctantly places two fingers to the side of his neck to hunt for signs of swelling. There is no swelling, but this does not reassure him. His doctor has informed him that he will be dead within the year. "What do you expect? A last-minute reprieve?" This is the second Gedaechtnis employee. Her English is harsh and clipped, much like her hairstyle. She had hoped for something like a pageboy cut but the stylist botched it and she is making do as best she can. She is part of the Munich contingent. Gedaechtnis corporate headquarters is in Munich and she is a very important cog in this machine. The Southern Gentleman does not like her and would not be working with her if their task were less important. She reminds him of a poster child for Aryan eugenics, she with her blond hair and piercing blue eyes. Blue was once a heartbreaker, he thinks, but now her looks have faded. "I expect the worst. I'm still hoping, though. Hoping for a miracle." "There are no miracles. Not for you, certainly not for me. Not for any of us." "No, not for any of us," he repeats, thinking of his wife and daughter. "But what about all of us?" Confusion set in. I imagined a thought bubble floating up from my head with a question mark on display. In actuality, a meter above my head, a rapidly blinking light hovered in place. It flipped back and forth between two colors-red-green-red-green-red-green, bright like a fantastically annoying firefly. Was it a firefly? I couldn't see any wings. I took a step back. It floated forward. I thought: I am on some terrible drug. "Go away," I said and my voice sounded strange to me. I cleared my throat and took another step. "Go away," I repeated. The twinkling sprite didn't respond, but it moved forward again, recovering the lost ground. I took my jacket off, rolled it up, and lashed out, but it passed through the light without affecting it at all. Red-green-red-green-red-green, over and over, an optical siren. And then another popped into existence next to it, this one yellow-blue-yellow-blue-yellow-blue. I ran for it. The lights matched my speed. A hollow voice billowed up from all around me at once...what little I heard, I couldn't understand. It kept fading in and out, loud-soft-loud-soft-loud-soft. It sounded like: "EX...EE...ERE SEE...UNCT...URGE...RE SKREEEEEE!" Nonsense, I thought. I don't know how far I ran. Half a mile, maybe. I tried not to look back. When I did, the sprites were gone. I stood there, panting, trying to catch my breath. "This stops right here," I warned whoever was listening-Providence, the crickets, the phantom deities who had given me back the use of my limbs. No one answered. Worse, with the sprites gone, it was dark again. The bad, inky kind of dark-the dark that makes you think you're about to be surrounded. The moon was all but eaten by gathering clouds. Storm on the way. Cursing, I fished through my pockets. I came up with a stainless-steel lighter and a half-empty packet of clove cigarettes. The smokes seemed awful familiar, so I shook one out and tasted the end. Sweet. Spicy. A good thing. A piece of sanity. I lit up and took a few puffs, forcing myself to relax. I like cloves, my brain managed to assert. Okay, that's something I know about myself, something real that can't be taken away. A few more epiphanies like this and I might have something to go on. When I felt calmer, I tried sifting through the rest of my thoughts, but no memories rose to the surface. So what did I know? I knew (1) I was young. Just shy of or just past eighteen years old. And (2) I was a student-or something like a student. I had to know things, important things, and I had to know them by rote. What was I doing here? So murky. So much lost to me. I also knew (3) Lazarus was dead. Lazarus? The name vexed me. Details were fuzzy, but no, I didn't like him. In fact, I was pretty sure I hated his guts. So maybe his being dead wasn't a bad thing. Except it was. It was a very, very bad thing indeed. Stubbing the smoke, I wiped my hands on my pants and started moving again. Past a cornfield, through the woods, down a desolate road. I used the lighter as a torch. The rain finally came, gently at first, then like drops of falling steel. It made me think of baptisms. And then a flapping sound made me think of leather. I whirled round, but I could only see the lighter's glint. "Who's there?" I called, straining my eyes. Again, no response. No one here but us paranoid amnesiacs. I hurried off in the other direction. Cold, wet, looking over my shoulders-what a miserable picture I made. I followed the road down a slope to a cul de sac. Lightning flashed and Gothic cathedrals came to mind. But by the time the thunder hit, I realized I was looking at a mansion wrought from stone and stained glass, magnificent and dreadful and yet somehow...familiar. I know this house, I thought. I don't know how I know it, but I know this house. Impish gargoyles sneered down at me like I owed them money. I didn't have any on me, so I focused my attention on the heavy wooden door. It was a thick block of oak with a colony of locks running up the side. Upon it, dead center, a tiny relief-an anthropomorphic sun chased an anthropomorphic moon: Helios and Selene. Ornamental or functional? I noticed there was no keyhole, which didn't stop me from looking under the mat. I could burn the door down, I thought. (A testament to my befuddlement. You try burning a wet door with a pocket lighter.) I touched the moon along the side, and pushed it nice and gentle. Gentle didn't cut it, so I pushed a little harder. It slid counterclockwise on a thin circular track, swiveling up to cover the sun, where it settled neatly into place. An eclipse. The door unlocked with nine hollow clicks. Nine locks. Nine, for a reason. I grabbed the doorknob. Halfway inside, I wondered if I should've knocked. The ashlar exterior gave way to a soft, comfortable interior. Plush couches; tapestries, paintings, a rocking chair. The ominous faÁade had been just that, designed strictly for show. I felt my teeth itch. I thought of turtles. Chelydra serpentina. Penetrate the shell and you get to the meat, but most turtles are defensive creatures, prone to snapping off fingers at the slightest provocation. I succumbed to a morbid daydream, seeing myself running blind through this mansion, trying to open doors with ten bloody stumps. Seeing myself, eh? The hell do I look like? I needed a mirror. Room by room I went, looking for lights to flip on. Switches flipped, but light didn't follow. An electrical system seemed in place. Someone needed to change the fuse. My lighter was sputtering; I clicked it off. Pitch black. I tried not to bump into things, or at least not bump into things with pointy edges. One coffee table later, I was clutching my knee and biting my lip. And in the kitchen, I stumbled. Grabbing the counter saved me from a nasty fall. I righted myself and took my bearings. Then I fished. Rifling through drawers: no, no, no, yes. A knife. Serrated. I gripped it hard. I jabbed the air. It felt good in my hand, but I still didn't feel safe. A spiral staircase corkscrewed up to the top floor. I took it and peered down the hallway. Now where would the master bedroom be? A bead of sweat rolled down my forehead and trickled into my eye. My stomach flip-flopped. If I had no choice-if it meant my survival-could I kill? Hang on, I thought. Kill who? You're creeping through someone's house with a knife? Are you crazy? That's when I understood. Question: Why is Lazarus dead? Answer: Because I killed him. From somewhere, a mental image had been summoned up. I could see Laz falling back and collapsing because I'd perforated some of his favorite arteries. He bled to death and I let him die. But I had to. It was him or me. But is that what actually happened? Or just what I'd wanted to happen? I cracked a door and gave it a gentle nudge... Fluorescent lights, burning wax candles and lava lamps. I squinted from glare and spun around, hunting for the occupant. Here? There? No one in sight. Pulse still pounding, I relaxed my grip on the knife, filled my lungs with air, and took a look around. Master bedroom, all right, and the room screamed carnivore. Animal skins. Fur rugs. Big leafy plants. A jungle motif with flamboyant tiger stripes, a cavalcade of orange and black. My gaze shifted to the mahogany four-poster bed. It was impressive, but rumpled. Gothic letters had been carved fiercely into the headboard, like a proud declaration. Nine letters, one word: HALLOWEEN. I'll confess to a certain chill upon reading the inscription, but it wasn't a chill of recognition. If the bed was mine, it didn't look any more familiar than the rest of this place. I felt like an intruder. I felt like Goldilocks in hell. Halloween. What, the holiday? I doubted it. A name? A statement? A threat? A philosophy? I touched the covers, half expecting them to be warm. They weren't. A perverse urge hit me to tuck myself in for a catnap. Just slip on in and sleep this place away. Instead, I hit the adjoining bathroom, ran some water over my face and stared up into the mirror. There was no reflection. --from Idlewild by Nick Sagan, copyright © 2003 Nick Sagan, published by G.P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission from the publisher. Excerpted from Idlewild by Nick Sagan All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.