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Erewhon Announces A Philosophy of Thieves by Fran Wilde— Read an Exclusive Excerpt Here!


Erewhon Announces <i>A Philosophy of Thieves</i> by Fran Wilde— Read an Exclusive Excerpt Here!

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Erewhon Announces A Philosophy of Thieves by Fran Wilde— Read an Exclusive Excerpt Here!

A gender-and-class flipped Leverage meets Parasite meets Six of Crows...


Published on March 29, 2024

Photo credit: Brian Djerballa

Photo of author Fran Wilde alongside text announcing her new book A Philosophy of Thieves with Erewhon Books

Photo credit: Brian Djerballa

Erewhon Books announces Fran Wilde’s A Philosophy of Thieves—a thrilling, high-tech heist wrapped around a Gaslamp fantasy.

In a desperately unequal future where the wealthy live in exclusive, climate-controlled enclaves, the latest trend in entertainment is burglary—the more preposterous, the better. The most fashionable and lavish parties feature entertainer-thieves, who are allowed to keep their winnings if they make it out of the house. If they don’t, they risk imprisonment, or worse. 

Roosa and Dax Carnavier are part one of the best and most sought-after troupes of performance thieves—whose glittering success masks deep desperation. Called back from school to work one of the most exclusive parties of the year, Roosa and her brother must give the performance of their lives, or their father will be shipped off to die. But as the heist begins, they don’t know that their host, his girlfriend, his security chief and his business competitors are each playing a game of their own. And if Roosa wants to keep her family together, she and Dax must win the evening, the weeks ahead, and a game bigger than any heist they’ve ever done.

“The apocalypse has happened.… It just hasn’t been evenly distributed.” —A Philosophy of Thieves

As much as I love fantasy, one of my favorite topics—the impact and morality of consumerism and class—has, in the presence of opulence, occasionally faded to the background. (With that said, I am sustained by Daniel Abraham’s Long Price Quartet, Sarah Monette’s Goblin Emperor cycle, and CL Polk’s entire opus, among many.) 

For A Philosophy of Thieves, I wanted to play with economic, social, and relational aspects of a fantasy world where the magic is money, and where a post-apocalyptic world beyond its borders demands both entertainment and personal sacrifices. The families in  A Philosophy of Thieves are intertwined in ways they don’t yet understand. The unraveling of these ties impacts inheritances across the board.  And I’ve packed the plot with all sorts of heists and shenanigans, a few items from my future-tech wishlist (and a few that fall more into the category of “do not DO this”), and maybe a little romance. 

My fabulous editor at Erewhon is Sarah Guan—I’ve loved talking with her about future cities, class conflicts, and so much more.  So you’re in for lots of mayhem and crunchy thought-provocation. Since we’ve been working together, Sarah’s picked so many locks and unearthed so much treasure—the world of Thieves just keeps growing more complex and vibrant. 

I began this story on a dare from author Gregory Frost, and it’s been one of the great joys of my career to see it grow beyond a masked woman using a high-tech wardrobe to burglarize a ball. I’ve had so much fun writing A Philosophy of Thieves. I hope you love Roosa, Dax, and all my thieves as much as I do.

—Fran Wilde, author of A Philosophy of Thieves

It’s been such a joy watching Fran’s star rise in all corners of the speculative fiction genre—which can be measured not only in terms of the award recognition she’s received, but also in the interesting risks she’s taken and boundaries she’s pushed for years. I’m thrilled that I—and the whole Erewhon team—finally have a chance to work with her on this newest project, which is sparkling and subversive in many disparate ways. As with all the best stories in our genre, A Philosophy of Thieves holds up a mirror in which we can examine our own world; under its fanciful ballgowns and clever gadgets is a biting critique of capitalism, technocratic inhumanity, and climate change denialism. I can’t wait for this delicious story to arrive in  bookstores, and for this merry band of thieves to steal readers’ hearts everywhere. 

—Sarah Guan, Publisher of Erewhon Books

The Cocktail Job

At exactly half past five on a Wednesday evening, the Canarvier family announced they were robbing Dutton Change Corporation’s office party. Chaos followed.

Because Jayson Dutton was midway through his Founder’s Award acceptance when it happened, few guests noticed the thieves’ calling card at his feet. If they had, they would have seen Canarvier appear in elegant gold lettering on thick cream-colored fabricant.

The name of the most infamous thieves in New Washington glittered momentarily before the card dissolved into a yellow puff of dust.

“Dutton Change Corporation and the Dutton family have much to celebrate this quarter. We’ve been recognized by the offshore Enclaves for having — as you’ve seen on our feed broadcasts — a valuable impact on global disasters. I’d like to thank our investors — gathered among you tonight — for their support of our work as we celebrate our first Founders’ Award.” Jayson Dutton coughed as the dust cloud rose and expanded beside him. It obscured Jayson’s latest invention — a sturdier air purifier for New Washington’s citizens. It dimmed the shine on the founder’s medallion draped over the shoulders of Jayson’s quilted bamboo silk suit. 

“Welcome, everyone! Enjoy!” The host’s last words were muffled by his guests’ gasps.

Dutton’s investors — wearing cocktail silks and suits — and Dutton’s engineers in their dress whites took cautious steps backwards.

“Is there a problem with the vents?”

“An attack? In New Washington? Hasn’t been one for almost a year.”

They were here to celebrate Dutton’s medal for service to the city. They — especially those who’d flown in from the Enclaves for the event — had dressed for pleasure, not danger.

To their relief, Jayson’s new air purifier silently sucked the dust away admirably, as the host had requested. But the gold cloud lingered long enough for hidden lasers to write “Beware the Thieves” in the marred air.

At that, guests shrieked and patted their pockets. It was already too late.

* * *

At twenty-eight minutes to six, Dax Canarvier slid behind an overstuffed coat rack to cram himself and a bundled tablecloth into the antique air vent. No one was chasing him yet, but the trick, as King Canarvier had always taught his kids, was to get ahead of the crowd.

The vent traverse was a long, patient crawl, and Dax had promised King he’d go slow, be careful, and stay quiet. Noise from the party obscured the metal grill’s slight rattle when Dax slid it back into place.

At first it had been the noise of success — congratulations, murmured gratitude. Success was important in New Washington. Success signified emergence from the Mess — or, depending on who was describing the past thirty years, the turbulence. It meant power and security, both of which the Duttons had. A Dutton now sat on the Recovery Court alongside a number of illustrious families like the Lius, Morenos, and Benfords. So when Jayson Dutton’s personal assistant had offered King the job, King had laughed and accepted. “No better way to celebrate this kind of success than with thieves.”

Now Dax listened to partygoers shriek with delight at being part of a robbery while he hauled their watches and jewelry deeper into the air vents.

  He crawled the guts of the building’s fifth floor, feeling the party pulse against his palms and knees. Everyone’s always glad to celebrate that they’ve kept things from getting worse. As long as they don’t fix things too much.

The vents were a good example, filled with sharp, uneven seams and an industrial cleaning scent that didn’t quite eliminate the acridity of the dust. The white catering tablecloth Dax pushed in front of him held trendy vintage wallets and the kind of recovered and validated jewelry that New Washington’s citizens loved these days. It grew gray and greasy in the metal crawlspace.

Dax’s borrowed sommelier uniform became equally fouled. He wanted to sneeze, but it wasn’t time for that yet.

When the calling card dropped, according to the contract with the Duttons, the Canarviers had twenty minutes to grab everything they could, without getting caught. Dax stifled his sneeze with pride.

He’d scored the beats for this heist — card drop, vent traverse, guest chase, shaft jump — himself, under King’s watchful eye. The closer the clock ticked to five-fifty, the more Dax looked forward to his father clapping him on the back for a job well done. True, King would probably also hand him the laundry to soak overnight in the tub. The vent grime was going to be terrible to get out.

No private laundress service for the Canarviers, no sir. Not when we can spend all our winnings on improving our art. Dax grumbled, but in reality, he didn’t mind. The artistry was part of the family’s mystique.  

A gust of vent air agitated the city grime in his cheap service mask, tickling his nose and throat. Dax bit down hard on the sneeze. Just a few more minutes.

“When does Roo come home? It’s her turn for the laundry.” It was a small complaint. He missed his big sister. They were a team, even if she’d lucked her way into a fancy Enclave school with teachers, not recordings. They were a family.

“Quiet when performing this close to guests.” King’s voice buzzed in Dax’s ear.

Sorry, Dad. Dax hoped his silence would be interpreted as contrition.

Dax knew what King was training him for: if he could lead a successful heist — even a small one like this — the Canarviers could survive with or without Roosa to help run the big jobs. Dax would get to direct the entertainments more often, with the bigger share that went with the responsibility.  Dax loved performing, but he adored the payoff even more.

I wasn’t that loud. Besides, most guests are hunting thieves all the way across the building. Just as I planned.

Dax closed his eyes for a second, imagining what he would be able to afford when the job was done. Once they sold their take back — with a thieves’ markup — to the investors gathered in Dutton’s office. He’d get his own, loaded, uptown wristband for a whole month. He’d hit the clubs in the entertainment district, on the right side of the vents for once. Maybe he’d even have a real bath at a hotel with a working desalinator, rather than his bi-weekly sand scrub. Decadent.

He smiled and relaxed his jaw. The sneeze erupted. His loud ah-CHOO pushed its way down the vent and out the grill.

Perfection. Even King had no criticism to share over the comms.

The party’s noise changed tenor. “Did you hear that?” “Over here!” The searching guests shifted directions. Dax’s eyes slowly opened, and he smiled in anticipation. The reality before him — another stretch of dusty vent barely wide enough for his shoulders, one filled with air that tasted like stale metal —  could be dealt with. Profit awaited.

Four minutes left in the game. The guests were yanking at the grill, trying to cram their way into the air vent. This was their chance to catch a thief and get their things back for free.

Let the real games begin.

Excerpted from A Philosophy of Thieves, copyright © 2024 by Fran Wilde.

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