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D.J. M


Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P
2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

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Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

Copyright © 2013 D.J. MacHale

ISBN: 978-1-101-60076-4

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any
printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage
piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

Published simultaneously in Canada

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of
the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons,
living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

For all the wonderful teachers, administrators,
and staff at Grand View Elementary School
in Manhattan Beach, California.


love to travel.

Doesn’t everybody?

Besides getting a break from the regular old routine, traveling is like going to school. In a good way, I mean. In school you are constantly exposed to new information, shown different ways of thinking, and introduced to people and places that you wouldn’t ordinarily come across. I would love to go back to school for a while. Seriously. As long I could skip the tests and sleep late. But since that isn’t likely, I’ll stick to traveling.

Like most writers I enjoy exploring unique places and talking with people who have lives that are totally different than mine. You never know what you might discover. I was once in Venice, Italy, where I met a guy who said, “If you come across small alleyways that look dark and forbidding…walk in. That’s where you’ll find the hidden treasures.” I thought that was great advice. (At least in Venice. I’m not so sure it’s wise to go down small, dark alleys just anywhere.) His point was that it’s important to be open to new experiences and to always look beyond the superficial. That’s where the adventure lies.

As a writer it’s critical to explore those dark alleys, and the sunny streets, and everywhere else in between.

Young (and not so young) writers often ask me for writing advice. My number one suggestion for them is to write about things that they know. When you write about the people and places and emotions and conflicts you’re familiar with, you will be writing with authority and readers will respond. The bottom line is that the more you know, the more you’ll have at your disposal to write about. That’s one of the reasons I love to travel. I am intrigued and inspired by the places I’ve been to. Inevitably, they end up playing a role in my books.

It was while sitting on a remote beach in Hawaii shooting my TV show
Flight 29 Down
that I came up with the idea for the tropical island of Ibara in
The Pilgrims of Rayne
. A trip to Rome sparked the idea that brought Marsh and Cooper to the Coliseum in the Morpheus Road trilogy. The climax of
The Black
took place in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal…a place I have been through thousands of times. The abandoned subway station where Bobby Pendragon first entered the flume in
The Merchant of Death
was inspired by an empty subway station that I passed through on the train every day on my way to college classes. I can still remember straining to catch fleeting glimpses of the dark, forgotten platform and imagining what real-life stories might have unfolded there.

Images like those are constantly being gathered up and stored in the hard drive of my memory, waiting patiently for me to come calling in search of ideas.


When I was in college my friends and I would take road trips
from our hometown in Connecticut to an island off the coast of Massachusetts called Martha’s Vineyard. I’m sure many of you have been there. Those who haven’t might know it because it was where the movie
was filmed. “The Vineyard” (as they call it) is a timeless throwback to a simpler time. I hadn’t been there since 1985 and it’s not an exaggeration to say than when I visited last year I found that it hadn’t changed a bit. I half expected to find the can of Coke I’d left on a fence near the beach in Menemsha twenty-five years earlier.

Okay, maybe that’s a little bit of an exaggeration but there was something comforting about visiting a place that has held true to its time-honored traditions in spite of the chaotic changes that have swirled around it. It was like a secluded oasis, stuck in time.

It was perfect…

…and the perfect setting for a story about ordinary people fighting for their lives while friends are dropping dead all around them on an isolated island that is suddenly invaded by a mysterious, deadly force.

Hey, what did you expect? You didn’t think I was going to write a story about some old farts rocking on a porch by the seashore sipping tea, did you? Give me a break.

A new adventure is about to begin and I’m thrilled that you’ll be joining me. Before heading for the island, I’d like to acknowledge some of the people who have helped bring this book to you.

This is the first book I’m publishing with Razorbill, and I couldn’t be happier about it. The team there has been wonderful from the get-go. Especially my editor, Laura Arnold. Laura embraced the
story as if it were her own and has been its constant
champion. She put an incredible effort into wringing the best out of every last word…and out of me. Her insight and talent show on every page AND…she did it all while pregnant, no less. Amazing. I’ve told her how much I appreciate her work a million times so this isn’t news to her, but it’s always nice for readers to know who deserves a boatload of credit. Thanks to her and to everyone at Razorbill.

Big thanks go to my personal team of Richard Curtis, Peter Nelson, and Mark Wetzstein. They have been with me through good times and not-so-good-times. I’m very fortunate to have those guys helping me steer the ship. Or the dingy. Or whatever it is we’ve got. Thanks.

My wife Eve and daughter Keaton are the best support group anyone could ask for. Eve is still my first and best critic, while Keaton is now weighing in with her own opinions about my stories. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, but it’s inevitable…and I couldn’t be prouder.

Of course a lion’s share of thanks must go to you, oh holder-of-this-book. Whether you’ve been with me since Bobby Pendragon first jumped into the flume or the only reason you picked this up was because you wanted to know what the heck “SYLO” means, I am sincerely grateful that you will be reading my story. I hope you like it.

I’ve made countless friends because of my books. I love answering your letters and corresponding online. Whenever I receive a note that begins, “You must be sick of reading letters like this…” I want to shout out, “No! Keep ’em coming!” (Sometimes I do.) Trust me, it’s a great feeling to know that somebody has enjoyed one of my stories. Thank you.

Okay, housekeeping done. Time to kick this off.

It’s an exciting moment when you begin to read a new series. You haven’t met any of the characters yet. You don’t know what they look like or if you’re going to like them or hate them or root for them or hope they die an excruciatingly painful death. Right now you have no idea what kind of challenges they’re going to face. Who will rise to the occasion? Who will crash and burn? Who knows the truth? Who has secrets?

Who will survive?

It’s the same deal when you start to write a story. In the beginning you have no idea of what’s going to happen. You just have to hold on and learn as you go. It’s kind of like taking a trip…and I love to travel.

I hope you do too because we’re about to begin another wild ride.

Hobey ho.

D.J. MacHale

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