"Now look," said Billy, in an uncertain approximation of his reasonable voice. "What's all this about? Can't someone tell me?"
"Oh, for fuck's sake," replied Collingwood in disgust. "Someone's been trying to tell you for most of your sodding life. You just won't listen, will you? But if you want something more explicit
, there's always Goodreads."
She opened a grubby-looking Apple Powerbook with a Hello Kitty sticker on the lid and began typing.
"What's Goodreads got to do with it?" whispered Billy, but Collingwood waved her hand dismissively.
"Just one fucking minute. Almost there. Okay."
She turned the laptop to face him. There was a review with an embedded video JPEG. A shaven-headed man with a strong London accent was talking. He looked vaguely familiar, but Billy couldn't quite place him.
"This," said Collingwood with evident satisfaction, "is a review of Kraken
by China Miéville. Now pay attention for once."
"We have tried various ways to reach you," the man was saying. "We hoped you would notice the works of E. Nesbit, H.P. Lovecraft, Philip K. Dick and J.K. Rowling. To name but a few."
"How about Stephenie Meyer?" asked Billy. The man gave him a dirty look.
"Meyer was a mistake," he snapped. Billy turned open-mouthed towards Collingwood, who paused the video and shrugged. "I know an algorithmomancer. Don't let the ad libs distract you." She pressed Play again.
"We particularly hoped," the man continued, "that you would read James Blish. Do you ever wonder why people keep recommending you Black Easter
and They Shall Have Stars
Billy's last girlfriend had in fact made repeated attempts to get him to read both books, but without success. He stared at the screen.
"Now," the man concluded, "Kraken
should drive the point home. If not, I give up."
He bowed and walked off.
"But what is
the point?" asked Billy helplessly. "I still don't get it." Collingwood did the ostentatious eye-rolling thing.
"The world is not as it seems, you twat," she sighed. "Something bad is about to happen. But maybe you can do something about it."