Out of This World is the first volume of the Worlds of Shadow trilogy, a story of people from our world caught up in the conflict between two other universes -- the Galactic Empire, in a universe where the laws of physics resemble those of 1930s pulp SF, and the Realm of Shadow, in a reality where magic works.
That would imply that the series is science-fantasy, blending two genres -- but actually, it's more like horror, because in none of the three worlds do the good guys always win. Rescues don't arrive at the last minute. Heroes are scarce. When real-world rules of behavior apply, spaceships and sorcery are scary stuff.
In this first volume, half a dozen people from Maryland are transported first to Shadow's world, and then to the untamed outskirts of the Galactic Empire.
They aren't trying to overthrow any evil overlords; all they want is to survive, and if possible, go home.
- First published as a Del Rey Books hardcover, March 1994, ISBN 0-345-37245-X
- First paperback publication by Del Rey Books, December 1994, ISBN 0-345-39114-4
- Wildside edition October 2004, ISBN 978-0809589043
- Ebook edition January 2012
- Copyright 1993 by Lawrence Watt Evans
- Del Rey cover art by Peter Peebles
- Wildside cover art by Dalmazio Frau
Out of This World
Excerpt from Chapter One
by Lawrence Watt-Evans
Amy Jewell leaned back in her lawn chair, the book on her lap forgotten for the moment as she rested her eyes and listened to the pleasant hiss of the sprinkler. The sun was warm on her face, unseasonably warm for early May, and enjoying it seemed more important just now than reading whatever Danielle Steel had to say.
She wasn't sure she was going to bother finishing this one; she was beginning to lose her taste for Steel. And it was good to just lie here, eyes closed, enjoying the warmth, knowing that she had all day with nothing important to do. She liked that about Sundays.
Her eyes snapped open and she looked up, startled, at the crack of a sonic boom. It sounded as if it was almost directly overhead; she scanned the sky, but she couldn't see any plane.
Then suddenly she did see a plane, or something like one, but it wasn't flying, it was falling. It was brightly painted, like the old Braniff jets, mostly purple, and she didn't see any wings, just stubs. And it was huge, and it was almost directly overhead and it was falling almost directly toward her.
She rolled out of the lawn chair, scrambled to her feet, and ran for the house.
An instant later the thing hit with an immense, booming thud. The shock of its impact rattled windows and the dishes in her kitchen, and a planter at the corner of the patio toppled over, spilling scraggly geraniums across the flagstones. The sprinkler bounced, but did not overturn; its spray rattled against the thing's metal side.
The object had completely flattened the back hedge and had torn a major limb off the big sycamore. One of the stubby wings, or fins, or whatever they were had missed the lawn chair by just two or three inches.
It had stayed in one piece, though, it hadn't broken into sections like the crashed airliners she had seen on the TV news. The nose was no more than twenty yards from Amy's back door, while the tail was well across the property line, on Mr. Janssen's vegetable garden.
Amy had reached the back door just as it struck; she turned for a quick glance, paused long enough to lean over and turn off the sprinkler, then slipped inside. From the safety of her kitchen she stared out the window over the sink for a few seconds, then reached for the phone and dialed 9-1-1.
9-1-1 worked on Sundays, didn't it? Of course it did. Emergencies weren't limited to weekdays.
She didn't wait to hear what the person on the other end said; when she heard the phone picked up she said, "This is Amy Jewell, at 21550 Goshen Road, and an aircraft of some kind just crashed in my back yard."
"Do you need an ambulance?" a woman's voice asked calmly.
"I don't know," Amy said. "There hasn't been any explosion or anything, and the plane looks mostly intact; I don't see any bodies or flame."
"We'll send one. That was 21550 Goshen Road?"
"Yes." Amy heard other voices in the background.
"Even if there hasn't been an explosion yet, you might want to get well away from the wreckage. Was it a private plane? We have no reports of any commercial craft in trouble."
"I don't know what it is. It's purple."
The voice on the other end was silent for a moment, then asked. "Ma'am, where are you calling from?"
"I'm calling from my kitchen. I can see the plane, or whatever it is, out the window, about fifty feet away, and it's purple, and I never saw a plane like it before. Maybe it's some kind of experimental military thing."
"Fifty feet? Ma'am, I strongly suggest you leave the building and get well clear, quickly."
"Yeah," Amy said, staring out the window, "I think you're right." She hung up the phone.
The thing was lying across most of the width of her back yard, easily over a hundred feet long, with leaves and twigs from the sycamore scattered all over it. Amy's yard was three acres, what the real estate people called a "mini-estate," and the aircraft, or whatever it was, seemed to cover most of it, and a fair chunk of the Janssens', as well. Three fins, each shaped differently, projected from the near side, and a fourth jutted up from the top of the tail; the fins were pink and maroon, with yellow lettering she couldn't make out on them. The fuselage was mostly purple, with maroon detailing and more yellow lettering. It didn't look like any sort of airplane Amy had ever seen; it had a rather old-fashioned appearance, somehow.
And a hatchway over the central, largest, nearside fin was opening.
Amy knew she should turn and run, go out the front door and either wait for help or alert the neighbors, but she stared, fascinated.
The hatch swung wide, and a man stepped out. He was tall and blond, wearing a purple uniform with a black belt and high, shiny black boots -- it wasn't any design she recognized, but it was clearly a uniform. He had a black holster on his hip -- securely closed, to Amy's relief, with a flap that hid whatever weapon was in there; for all she could tell, it might be empty. He held a helmet in one hand, something like a motorcycle helmet; it was purple, too, with a yellow star on the side. He gazed around the yard. He said something.
Long ago, Amy Jewell had learned to read lips a little, just for fun. She couldn't hear him through the closed window, but she knew what the man had said.
He had said, "Shit."
He turned and called something back into the hatch, but Amy couldn't make it out, nor could she see his lips.
The man looked perfectly normal and ordinary, except for his rather outlandish attire. He was clean-shaven, his hair in a military crewcut that was beginning to grow out. He was tall and broad-shouldered and reminded her a little of Harrison Ford. She could see no sign of any injury; the thing's fall didn't even appear to have seriously mussed his uniform.
He was scanning her back yard, looking over the lawn chair, the still-dripping sprinkler, the spilled geraniums and the branch that had been torn off the sycamore. He did not look pleased.
Then he spotted her in the window. He waved and cupped his hands around his mouth and called, "Hello!"
Amy stared for a moment.
Then another head appeared in the hatch, looking out -- another young man in uniform and crewcut.
Amy decided that she didn't want to talk to these people. They might be harmless -- but they might not, and she was alone in the house, the neighbors were still off at their church, and there were at least two of the strangers and either one was bigger than she was. Those blond crewcuts brought Nazis to mind, which didn't help any.
She didn't think that the plane, or whatever it was, was going to explode. If there were any possibility of that the men would be running to get clear, not standing there looking around as if her back yard was some sort of disaster they had to clean up.
She locked the back door and then went upstairs to her bedroom. She got the little gun her father had given her from the bedside drawer, then crossed to the back windows and looked out again.
There were three men standing in her yard now, looking about. They looked nervous; one of them, the one she hadn't seen at all before, looked downright twitchy, his head jerking back and forth, scanning the shrubbery.
Naturally, he was the one with the gun.
It was quite a large gun, too, not one that would fit in a holster and not a kind Amy remembered ever seeing before. It looked oddly bulbous, but very complicated and ominous. He had it tucked under his right arm, he wasn't pointing it at anyone or anything, but Amy still had to suppress a nervous shudder. She was very glad she hadn't gone out to yell at the men for wrecking her yard; that man looked as if he might have shot her without even meaning to.
The second man righted the fallen lawn chair and sat down -- making himself right at home, Amy thought with a stab of resentment. Then he put his head down in his hands and she felt a twinge of guilt for her resentment. She still didn't have the faintest idea what was going on, but obviously, whatever these people were doing had gone wrong. Let the poor man sit down if he had to.
The big blond who had been the first out cupped his hands around his mouth and called, "Hello, in the house!"
Amy didn't answer. She thought about it, but decided to wait.
"Hello!" he called again.
She put the gun down and opened the window-latch, then reconsidered.
"Where are we?" the man shouted. "Can you send for the authorities?"
Amy frowned. That seemed like a strange thing to ask. She opened the window a few inches.
"I already did!" she called.
The man blinked up at her, and the other man, the one with the big gun, turned to look. She ducked down and picked up her own gun.
This was crazy, she told herself. This was absolutely insane. These people were not acting like air-crash survivors at all. And that plane didn't really look that much like a plane.
So who the hell were they, then, and what was that thing? They didn't sound like foreigners, not really -- though asking her to send for the authorities, rather than to call the cops, was odd phrasing.
That thing they came in -- she had a better view of it from upstairs than she had had at ground level. It didn't look like an airplane.
It looked like a spaceship.
Not a real spaceship -- not the space shuttle or a moon rocket. It looked like something out of an old Flash Gordon serial, only real -- as if those comic-book spaceships had been based on this ship the way comic-book cars were based on real ones.
It bore the same relationship to those cheap models in "Flash Gordon," she thought, that a real 1947 Checker bore to Benny the Cab in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?"
She blinked. Was someone shooting a movie, maybe? She'd never seen a ship like that in any movie, though. They wouldn't build it full scale and drop it in her back yard, in any case -- not without asking her permission.
What the hell was going on?
Then she heard the sirens approaching and decided it wasn't her problem any more.
Where the Story Came From
The long sad story of how I came to write this novel is on the page about the Worlds of Shadow series as a whole; the series was always considered a single story split into three volumes.
I will mention, though, that some of the descriptions of the odd wrongness of ordinary details of life in the Galactic Empire were inspired by visiting Mexico, where the locals often try to cater to the tastes of gringos but get things slightly wrong. I also took details from Mammoth Cave, London, Paris, and other places I had traveled to.
The places in our world are all real, and described as accurately as I could manage, except that there is no 21550 Goshen Road; that address falls in a gap between two pieces of the real Goshen Road. Or at least it did in 1993. The prison that the crew of the Ruthless is bailed out of is visible from I-270, and I've driven past it countless times, but I've never been inside, so the details there are quite likely somewhat off.
My knowledge of the operations of Air Force Intelligence, such as it is, is based on being interviewed by them when a friend of mine who was getting a security clearance gave me as a reference; I asked almost as many questions as I answered, figuring it would be useful information to have.
That's it; here's your list of handy exits: