On the cusp of a new world: Beautiful Shining People by Michael Grothaus #blogtour #extract #BeautifulShiningPeople #RandomThingsTours

Hi and welcome to FromBelgiumWithBookLove where it is my absolute pleasure to share with you an extract from Beautiful Shining People! Check out my review here if you missed it the first time around, but the long and short of it is that Beautiful Shining People is EVERYTHING. It is just devastatingly beautiful. It made me smile, it made me weep, it made me turn the pages faster and faster, holding my breath in suspense. Beautiful Shining People is quite simply immense and I cannot recommend it enough.

Many thanks to Anne Cater for having me on the tour, and to Orenda Books for the excerpt.

Let’s have a quick look at the blurb first:

A damaged young man meets an enigmatic waitress in a Tokyo café, and they embark on a journey that will change everything … an emotive speculative literary novel set in a near-future Japan.
It’s our world, but decades into the future … an ordinary world, where cars drive themselves, drones glide across the sky, and robots work in burger shops. There are two superpowers and a digital Cold War, but all conflicts are safely oceans away. People get up, work, and have dinner. Everything is as it should be…
Except for seventeen-year-old John, a tech prodigy from a damaged family, who hides a deeply personal secret. But everything starts to change for him when he enters a tiny café on a cold Tokyo night. A café run by a disgraced sumo wrestler, where a peculiar dog with a spherical head lives, alongside its owner, enigmatic waitress Neotnia…
But Neotnia hides a secret of her own – a secret that will turn John’s unhappy life upside down. A secret that will take them from the neon streets of Tokyo to Hiroshima’s tragic past to the snowy mountains of Nagano.
A secret that reveals that this world is anything ordinary – and it’s about to change forever…

Okay, ready? Let’s head off to Japan!

I enter my apartment. The morning’s peculiar rays are long gone. Through the balcony’s door, only the artificial lights of the infinite city can be seen, though their glow is muted by the moist air that’s followed from Hakone. My backpack is nowhere to be seen. 

I throw on a hoodie and head back out. The leaves rustle as the café’s pinkish-peach exterior comes into view, but a weight hits my chest as I notice the sandwich board isn’t on the pavement. Have they already closed? Some little establishments here keep irregular hours – staying open late some nights, while randomly shutting early on others. 

Yet as I near, the weight on my chest lessens. A man steps from the café carrying a brown takeaway bag. He inspects the night sky for a moment as the stiff breeze hits him, then pulls his collar up. Through the window, I see a group of students in one of the booths. A couple of middle-aged women are on the couch where I had my ear cleaning – only they’re chatting over coffee. 

The door’s bell clangs as I enter, and my eyes immediately go to the dog with the spherical head perched on the counter. Despite the eternal surrealness of the dog’s geometry, the café has a distinctly different feel tonight. There’s no stillness in the air and no muted silence. The world outside and the world in here are indistinguishable. 

The dog’s wet nose gives a sniff, and it greets me with a double yap that cuts through the chatter from the dining area. In response, the big man turns from the open partition that shows into the kitchen. He holds a plate in each hand, both bearing quartered sandwiches and small cups of soup. His eyes lock onto me but as always, his expression is flat. It’s like he’s chronically displeased. 

He sets the plates on the counter mere inches from the dog, yet it doesn’t so much as sniff the food, which is all the more surprising since, even from where I stand, it smells delicious. The big man eyes me for a moment more before his attention turns towards a small scratchpad on the counter. A second later, he bellows words I couldn’t hope to understand in no particular direction at all. 

Konbanwa … I was here last night,’ I say, drawing his attention again. ‘I did the ear cleaning.’ And I mime a Q-tip in my ear. I bring my fists to my shoulders and move my hands as if I’m adjusting invisible straps. ‘I think I might have left my backpack here?’ 

The big man’s flat expression doesn’t budge. Not one millimetre. But as I drop my hands, something catches my eyes – a few flecks of brightness in that dark hallway that sits between the foyer and dining area. A sharp breath later, the girl materialises from its void like an apparition. 

Unlike last night, every inch of her body is now concealed below the neck, from the ends of her ankle-length grey skirt to the collar of the black, long-sleeve T-shirt. Even her hands are covered by shiny, white gloves that run underneath the cuffs of her T-shirt all the way up to her elbows. I can see where their outlines end under her sleeves. They look almost theatrical; the kind you’d buy at a cheap costume shop if you were starring in a grade-school play set on the fashionable boulevards of nineteenth-century Paris. It’s these shiny gloves that were the bright flecks in the hallway’s darkness. And they bear my backpack by its straps. 

‘Konbanwa,’ the girl says, smiling a soft, inviting smile that’s replaced last night’s neutral lips. And with that smile a fist again contracts inside my chest and I feel the air go just a little bit thin. She holds the backpack towards me like she’s a curator presenting a delicate artifact.

 ‘Arigatō, arigatō,’ I say, taking it. ‘Thank you so, so much. I was worried I’d lost it.’

Aww, this is just the very beginning and you have no idea what treats are in store for you! But! You can find out soon because Beautiful Shining People is out in paperback and digital formats on 16 March. Get it directly from Orenda Books here.

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