About the book:

Pictoria is the fourth book in the Ammonite Galaxy series. It is set mainly on the planet of Pictoria, in the Pictoris system, which is 30,000 light years away from the binary system, and 20,000 light years away from Dessia.

Ledin comes into the series seriously for the first time in this book. He was introduced in Kwaide, and was much more important in Xiantha, but in Pictoria he has become part of the team of Six, Diva and Grace.

You can find the first few pages of Pictoria up on the Xiantha website, here and for those of you who would like another excerpt from the story, here is a small extract from Chapter ten which won't give too much away:

 

Six looked around him, and gave a deep sigh.  He knew he ought to feel pleased to be back on Coriolis; at least pleased for Diva’s new acceptance on the planet, but in fact all he could feel was a prickling sense of discomfort which told him that he was not in the right place.

Diva looked at him with a beatific smile.  “Home!” she said, closing her eyes momentarily to savour a long breath of the warm air.  “Can’t you just feel that extra oxygen fizzing through your veins?”

Six muttered.

“—Six!Don’t tell me you can’t see that this is the most beautiful planet in the system?”  She started off along the straight road from the spaceport towards Mesteta, a walk of some five kilometers.

Six fell into step with her.  “Kwaide is the most beautiful planet in the system,” he said loyally. 

“Kwaide is a freezing block of icy rock populated by boneheads,” she told him severely.  “No comparison with here at all.  Look at the architecture!  Look at the greenery!”

Six raised one eyebrow.  “Do boneheads like me have the capacity to appreciate architecture?”

“Tskk!  I never said you were a bonehead.  No need to take offense.”

“I don’t go about criticizing your fellow countrymen, now do I?”

Diva gave a small frown.  “All right,” she said, surprising him, “I apologize.”  She put her head on one side as Six answered her with a mumble of words.  “What was that you said?”

“I was just wondering if Sacras has collided with Almagest.”

“I am not incapable of apologizing, you know!”

“Well, you don’t exactly make a habit of it either!”

“That—” she gave him a look of earnest conviction, “—is because I am hardly ever wrong.”

Six gave a disbelieving laugh.  “You are wrong at least fifty percent of the time.”

Diva stiffened, and her chin came up.  “Says who?”

“Says the bonehead standing in front of you.”

“Well don’t.  Who gave you the right to criticize me?”

“Excuse me, your haughtiness.  I thought that would be a husband’s privilege.”

“Well, you are wrong.  Husbands don’t have that privilege on Coriolis.”

Six muttered again, resulting in another sharp look.  He grinned.  “I don’t know why, but – having met your mother – that doesn’t surprise me in the slightest.”

“Now you are attacking my mother!”  Diva raised her eyes towards the blue sky of her home planet.  “She saved your life not so very long ago.”

“Yes.  Big of her.  You know, I have always had the feeling that Grace and I were just part of the package, and that if she could she would have left us to be cat-food.”

“You can hardly expect her to feel very much for—”

“—a couple of foreigners!  ... Diva, be careful.  If you aren’t, you are going to end up thinking and feeling just like she does.  And you aren’t that person.”  Six looked pensively at the shape of a distant Mount Palestron in front of him.  “At least, I hope you aren’t.”

Diva bristled again.  “What do you mean?  Take that back!”

Six turned to look her straight in the eye.  “I think you should be very careful not to feel too comfortable here, is all.  I know having the children was a ... a huge change, and means your acceptance back in the fold, and I know that is very important to you; but don’t lose sight of who you really are, will you?”

“I know perfectly well who I am!  I don’t know what you are talking about.”

“No, I guess you don’t.”  He shrugged his shoulders.

“Well, I think if anybody should be careful of how they behave it is you.”

“What?  Scared I’ll use the wrong fork?”  Six’s brows had come alarmingly together.

“No-o-o, but you are Kwaidian, and that means ... that means ...”

Six stopped, and went very still.  “Yes,” he said in a silky voice.  “What exactly does that mean?”

“Well ... you never had my ... advantages ...”

“You are right.  Of course, whether they were advantages or not might depend on your viewpoint.  Some people might think that you grew up pampered and spoiled.”

“How dare you! Of course they are advantages!  You never lived in a civilized country.”

Six, not without effort, managed to stop himself from grinding his teeth together.  The odd, out-of-place feeling was intensifying by the minute, and they hadn’t even got to the palace yet!  “Then you will be able to show me what it is like.” He forced his voice into a pleasant tone.  He was at least going to do his best to try to conform while he was here.  He thought he probably owed that much to Diva.

“Honestly Six, I think you are determined not to like Coriolis.  It is as if you don’t want to live in a luxurious palace or enjoy all the things that will go with it as my consort.”

“You know me, Diva.  Too much richness makes me sick.  I haven’t the stomach for it.  But I will try to get used to a life of privilege, at least for a while.”

“You never know.  You might end up enjoying it.”

Six remained unconvinced.  “I might, I suppose.”