Ageless Temperance Progress and Sample

Book cover: Ageless Temperance by Ryan Southwick

UPDATE 2024-01-10: Ageless Temperance was the working title for Holtondome

13k words so far. I'm not in love with the title, but that's what I get for trying to name a book based on characters alone before I've even written the first chapter. Let's call it a working title. =]

Ageless Temperance is a new dystopian based 500 years in the future. My mother is a huge dystopian fan (which I found out after I told her I was writing one), and referred me to The Road by Cormac McCarthy and Wool by Hugh Howey. Both are amazing so far, but to be completely transparent, I'm not sure I can be as gritty as these genre classics, so reader be warned that this may be on the light side. It may become a series, but we'll have to see how the first book goes. I'm having fun with it so far, so prospects are promising.

Here's a sample for your critique.

Seg yanked his steering wheel to the right and hit the gas. Performance off-road tires, backed by a monster all-wheel-drive powertrain, responded with authority. The vehicle swerved right, throwing a rooster tail of dirt and gravel in his wake. The wheel jerked and shimmied like a wild beast. Seg redoubled his grip, muscles straining. A pothole the size of his racer loomed just ahead. If the beast won at this speed, they were both dead.

His front left tire dipped a toe into the gorge-like pothole, skirting its edge. Instead of fighting death, Seg cranked the wheel left and met the pale horseman head-on. All four tires grabbed the dirt. The back-left tire hooked the pothole’s edge like a train to a railroad track. The racer whipped around the crater like a rollercoaster car, and he shot out the other side.

Wind teased his hair like a rough lover too long away. Seg drank it deep, then let it out with a soulful “Yeeeehaaaaawwww!” they could probably hear on Mars Colony a hundred and thirty million miles away.

Heavens above, it was good to be alive.

But Seg wasn’t done yet. The racer had more to give, and he’d be damned if he let even one of the seven hundred and eighty-six horses under the hood go unridden.

With a grin bigger than Jupiter, Seg mashed the gas pedal. The engine roared, flattening him back against the custom racing—

# # #


Seg jerked his foot off the accelerator. The hauler had overloaded—again—protesting his mistreatment of its aged electrical system. Apparently, sixty-four kilometers per hour on a dirt road with a full load of wheat was too much to ask from the vehicle that had served his great-grandfather.

With a silent prayer, he eased the throttle back up. The electric motor warbled, then settled into a steadier hum. Seg wiped his brow in relief, and nearly poked his eye out when the hauler lurched sideways from another monster pothole. A glance in the rear-view mirrors showed he hadn’t lost any bags of wheat, and since the hauler’s bumpy ride hadn’t worsened, he hadn’t broken the suspension, either. The hauler had evidently survived three generations of Holtons for a reason.

And if it doesn’t make it to the fourth, Mom will kill me.

The thought wasn’t as metaphorical as he would have liked. Seg reluctantly relinquished his racing daydream and instead focused his driving skills on hitting as few potholes as possible.

In other words, he drove his great-grandfather’s hauler like his great-grandfather.

The sun was high, diffuse behind the ever-hazy gray sky. Not for the first time, Seg wondered what their star, Sol, looked like—not the splotch of amorphous light hiding above layers of chemical gasses and who-knew-what-else, but how it must have appeared in the twenty-first century, when the sky was purportedly crisp and blue.

Seg shook his head. He couldn’t imagine it anymore now than when his parents used to tell him those stories at bedtime as a child. No one alive remembered the sky the way it used to be. They’d have to be three hundred years old at least, and people just didn’t live that long. Well, maybe in the big cities, but certainly not in the Federated State of Wyoming.

We’re lucky to be alive at all, Seg thought, looking around the countryside.

Sharpgrass grew waist-high in large clumps as far as the eye could see, its wide, pointy leaves painting the landscape dull-green between barren patches of dirt and rock, interspersed with winding streaks where acidic rain had carved brown-colored troughs in the terrain.

Maybe “lucky” is the wrong word…

According to his parents, there used to be towering trees, some of which bore edible fruit, and grass that wouldn’t slice flesh open if you walked too close. And it grew on its own, outside the protective domes.

Living outside of a dome…

Seg laughed at the idea. Nothing but sharpgrass and insects lived outside of the domes. Not for long, anyway.

Suddenly paranoid about getting caught outside himself, he surveyed the horizon. The sky was gray, but not tornado gray. The winds, too, were stiff, but carried none of the musty smells of a dust storm, nor the caustic stench of an acid downpour. With Holtondome just three kilometers ahead, even the hauler’s leaden pace would have him home before Mother Earth could smite him.

Thunder peeled in the distance.

Or she might fry me with lighting just to prove me wrong.

A glance in the rear-view mirror showed dark-gray clouds where they hadn’t been a minute before—which meant they were moving in fast.

Seg stepped on the accelerator. The old hauler lurched forward with a few electric pops.

Then it died.