A Weird Trick or Treat Means First Lines on Last Monday

The 31st of October is many things. It is:

Martyrs’ Day (in Burkina Faso),
Reformation Day (in Germany and Slovenia), 
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Jayani (in India),
Public Holiday (in Israel),
Boun Ok Phansa (in Laos),
Bank Holiday (in New Caledonia),
Samhain (an ancient Gaelic word pronounced “sow-win”), 
All Hallows Eve (an older term for the day), and
Halloween .

On November 1st it will be All Saints’ Day (in many, many countries).

For those of you observing a solemn day(s) of remembrance, I see you and hope that your day is peaceful with reason to hope for the future. Best wishes to you and yours.

Here in the U.S. we greet the onset of the darker winter months on October 31st, a day we now call Halloween. We celebrate the weird, the spooky, the mundane, the ghosts, and ghouls and goblins with tricks and treats. I’m twisting my usual blog schedule a bit to bring you first lines for stories that offer a few tricks and treats. 

First Lines Posts

“First Lines” is a series of blog articles posted on around the first of the month. The first line of a story, we’re told, must hook the reader. Implied is that the reader will not buy the book if the first line isn’t great. These entries are from Amazon, my personal library, lists posted on line, or other online booksellers. Do these first lines hook you? Do you want to read more?

Today I’m sharing first lines from science fiction or fantasy books that deal with events that defy rational explanation, the afterlife, the underworld or the heavens.

I hope you find a first line that hooks you enough you add the book to your to-be-read pile and read it this week. 

Book cover of The Library of the unwritten show the center of a couple pages of a book torn and bent back. There is what appears to be the naked arm of a woman reaching around the left side. The title is in white letters on a black background in the center of the "hole" left by thee pages.

Books ran when they grew restless, when they grew unruly, or when they grew real. Regardless of the reason, when books ran, it was a librarian’s duty to catch them.”

The Library of the Unwritten, A.J. Hackwith

The cover of The Investigation by Stanislaw Lem is white with the author's name at the top, then the title, then in the lower 2/3s is a cartoonish illustration of a man in a trench coat with his back to the viewer. He appears somewhere with empty shelving around him and looking into his reflection in a large mirror.

Rattling rhythmically at each floor, the old-fashioned elevator moved upward past glass doors decorated with etchings of flowers. It stopped. Four men emerged and walked down the corridor toward a pair of leather-covered doors.”

The Investigation, Stanislaw Lem

The cover of Layoverland has a blue sky with white fluffy clouds background, floating in the sky is a large neon sign similar to those of Las Vegas or a roadside motel. The sign reads Layoverland with a giant arrow that arcs above the sign, then behind it and swoops down to point to an airport with planes parked at the gate and one plane taking off the runway.

When I try to open my eyes, I am blinded by fluorescent light. I feel a gust of cold air directly above my head, and a chill runs down my spine.”

Layoverland, Gabby Nooner 

The cover of UBIK is a close-up photograph of three rows of shiny silver aerosol cans. A label-like sign pasted over the top of one can holds the authors name and the title.

At three-thirty a.m. on the night of June 5, 1992, the top telepath in the Sol System fell off the map in the offices of Runciter Associates in New York City. That started the videophones ringing.”

Ubik, Philip K. Dick

His wife had held him in her arms as if she could keep death away from him.

He had cried out, ‘My God, I am a dead man!’”

To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip José Farmer

Let’s get one thing straight from the get-go: if ever anybody deserved to fester in Los Angeles—that stinking pit masquerading as a city—it was me. Of the myriad sins disfiguring the souls of the damned, mine was one of the worst.”

Hell’s Detective, Michael Logan

Holding out both of his leather-palmed hands for balance, the gentleman corpse known as Jacob Campbell thrust a boot into Southheap. Infinitesimal bits of burnt plastic, chipped wood, and styrofoam plinked down the slope. When no landslide followed, he staggered forward with all the grace of a marionette operated by a novice.”

Dead Boys, Gabriel Squailia 

The cover of Salvation Day is an image of the blackness of outer space but the top third is covered by a red cloud. The title is in large enough letters that only three letters appear per line with Salvation in white against the red and black and day in red against the black. The letters have daggery smudges as if they've arrived on the page very fast.

FIRST SNOW: Can you confirm the ship’s identification?

SCOUT 1: Yes. It’s TIGER, Commander. It’s from HOUSE OF WISDOM. Lieutenant Naidoo is on tether and approaching the airlock now.

FIRST SNOW: What do you see?

SCOUT 2: There’s no visible damage. Hull appears intact. Control panel is powered and responsive. Systems says the airlock is functional and the interior is pressurized, but….”

Salvation Day, Kali Wallace

The cover of Graveyard Shift is a photograph of a short-haired woman in a tank top and jeans hurrying  as if off the edge of the left side of the cover. She appears to be carrying a scythe in her unseen hand as it rest over her shoulder and behind her neck. In the background in shads of green she appears to be in a city with high rise buildings behind her.

No one cared about Lial Gordon, but you might never have guessed if you had seen his funeral. A herd of socialites gathered around his grave.”

Graveyard Shift, Angela Roquet

The cover of the terminal experiment shows an image as if we are peering between two computer mother boards with bright bursts of light in the distance in the center and above.

What room is Detective Philo in?” asked Peter Hobson, a tall man of forty-two, with hair an equal mixture of black and gray.

The squat nurse behind the desk had been absorbed in whatever she’d been reading. She looked up. “Pardon?”

The Terminal Experiment, Robert J. Sawyer

The cover of the seven moons of maali is a multicolor abstract mask of a face with sabertooth tiger-like teeth.

You wake up with the answer to the question that everyone asks. The answer is Yes, and the answer is Just Like Here But Worse. That’s all the insight you’ll ever get. So you might as well go back to sleep.”

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, Shehan Karunatilaka

The cover of Surface Detail shows a close up of a face in sepia tones, the whites of the eyes of this person are a bunch of tiny glowy yellow bursts. The author's name and title of the book are just below the tip of the nose. and below that is an image of a glowy yellow planets with bursts of glowy yellow reaching from the planet into outer space.

This one might be trouble.”

She heard one of them say this, only ten or so metres away in the darkness. Even over her fear, the sheer naked terror of being haunted, she felt a shiver of excitement, of something like triumph when she realized they were talking about her.”

Surface Detail, Iain M. Banks

The cover of The Brief History of the Dead is a photograph in tones of gray that shows a man's overcoat hanging from a hanger but there are visible male hands holding the coat open just below the waist and the bottom of the coat is nearly transparent.

When the blind man arrived in the city, he claimed that he had traveled across a desert of living sand. First he had died, he said, and then—snap—desert!”

The Brief History of the Dead, Kevin Brookmeier

The cover of the Ferryman Institute is a beautiful blue sea that fades to black where ripples follow some unseen creature near the bottom. In the middle of the page between the words Ferryman and Institiute is a silhouette of a man in a hat in a rowboat, one oar visible above the water. On the first R in the word Ferryman a bird's silhouette looks ready to take off.

Suicides were Charlie Dawson’s least favorite part of the job for two reasons. The first was the inherent tragedy of the whole thing. Death was never pleasant, but there was a pretty dramatic gulf between an eighty-year-old-man passing peacefully in his sleep and a young woman demonstrating her outlook on life via an exit wound blown out of her skull. The second was that suicide assignments were never easy. There were few guarantees in the Ferryman world, but that was certainly one of them.”

The Ferryman Institute,Colin Gigl


There are no affiliate links in this post. I don’t make a cent off of the books listed on this page. Usually I find these books at random. They are here for your enjoyment. And to entice you to buy more books.

Did you enjoy this list? 

Check out previous First Lines posts

You have the power to improve the life of any creative you come across online. Really. Even if you can’t afford to buy from them, you can help. You help by interacting with their posts with a friendly comment, or hitting the like or share button, or following the creator, or subscribing to her newsletter (hint-hint). Doing this helps the system (social media platforms, sales platforms, blog posts, etc.) get seen by more people, which helps give creators a better reach. When we get a better reach, we get to keep creating the things you enjoy. So help the authors of these books (and if you have a second, help me, too).

Comment, like, share, follow, or subscribe. 

Oh! And buy if you can.

Thank You!

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