Spotlight on Minecraft: The Shipwreck (C.B. Lee), Excerpt, Plus Giveaway! ~ (US Only)
Today we're excited to spotlight Minecraft: The Shipwreck (C.B. Lee).
Read on for more about C.B., plus a excerpt & a giveaway!
Meet C.B. Lee!
C. B. Lee is a Lambda Literary Award–nominated writer of young-adult science fiction and fantasy. Her works include the Sidekick Squad series, Ben 10, and Seven Tears at High Tide.
Meet Minecraft: The Shipwreck!
Unravel the mysteries of an extraordinary underwater world in this official Minecraft novel! When three kids discover a mystery in an abandoned Minecraft server, they must race against the clock to uncover its secrets.
Jake Thomas is always the new kid. His family moves so much for his dad’s work that it’s easier to keep his head down and not get attached to anyone. He’ll be gone in a few months anyway. But when they end up in Los Angeles, Dad promises this will be the last time they move. The Pacific Crest Apartments are home now . . . which means it's time for Jake to finally make friends.
Jake isn’t sure he should count the two kids he meets at the apartment’s community center as friends, though. Tank Vuong is a large and intimidating boy who hangs with a tough crowd, and Emily Quesada is a fashionista who’s quick with a sarcastic remark. But when he discovers an old computer lab in a forgotten corner of the community center, with a strange Minecraft server containing cryptic riddles, he realizes he's going to need help cracking the code—because at the end of the summer, the community center will be demolished, and all hope of solving the mystery will go with it. Following the hints left by an enigmatic figure known as The Wizard, the trio journeys into the dangerous depths of the ocean, where uncanny creatures lurk and untold treasure awaits.
~ Excerpt ~
“ ere we are, home sweet home!”
Jake steps out of the truck and shuts the door. The tar on
the street almost seems to sink under his feet as he stands. It’s fresh, still soft from the hot sun, marked with crisp, clean, re- cently painted lines of white.
Dad whistles, the sun hitting the top of his balding head just right. He puts his hands on his hips, nodding to himself.
Jake follows Dad’s proud gaze and looks across the street at the gray building situated on the corner of a tree-lined street. A wide swath of grass separates it from the sidewalk. The apartment com- plex seems just as drab and dull as the rest of the buildings on this street. It’s a far cry from the beachside paradise Dad had been gloat- ing about on their three-state road trip. The neighborhood has seen better days: rows and rows of mismatched apartment buildings and
peeling paint, yellowing lawns and trash-lined streets. Jake sighs and shakes his head as Dad turns back to flash him a grin.
“This is the place you’re tearing down?” Jake eyes the ancient apartment complex.
“Yup. Already did one of the buildings in this complex, the one we’re moving into. Oh, you’re gonna love it. Everything is brand new and perfect, eh?”
Three towers of apartments are clustered behind the first building. One is clearly new; gleaming white, shining glass win- dows reflecting the pale blue sky, almost as if the tower is trying to be a part of the sky itself. The other two are built from the same dull gray concrete as the first, occasionally spotted with bricks flecked with color for a bit of artistic flair. Jake can’t help but smile, thinking about lines of ore in Minecraft. He imagines de- stroying the entire complex, one row of blocks at a time, gathering the jewels, coal, and different types of rock from the building’s sides. He sees two, maybe three different building materials. They look a lot more sturdy than whatever the new building is made out of, although the glass is pretty neat. It’d be interesting, mining a tower like this, but simple enough, just craft a few ladders and get to the top and make your way down—
Jake’s in the middle of his daydream when he realizes Dad’s still waxing poetic about the project.
“It’s going to be a long haul—my company is doing this com- plex and two more down the street for a fancy new design firm. There’s a lot of work in Los Angeles. Aren’t you excited? All this great California sunshine, and we can go to the beach whenever we want!”
“Sure, Dad.” The sun feels like any other sun Jake’s ever felt; then again, it is the same sun. He would hope so.
Dad gives him a small smile full of promise, one that Jake
wants to believe means they’ll actually go to the beach together. Every new state, every new city in the past three years has been full of the same promises: We’ll go to the country fair. I’ll take you to a ball game. We’re going to go camping. But Dad said it was because he was still building up his company’s reputation, and now everything is going to change, apparently.
Jake will believe it when he sees it. Chicago, San Antonio, Seattle—each of these places Dad said would be home, and each of them just turned out to be a stopping point.
“Isn’t it beautiful? I tell you, the architect who dreamed up the renovation, she’s a genius.” Dad grabs a box from the back of the truck and sighs happily, still admiring the view.
Jake makes a noncommittal grunt in reply. It’s just another picture-perfect condo, filled with the same uncomfortable furni- ture and nondescript landscape paintings. There’s a moving van parked outside that isn’t theirs, and for a moment Jake wonders what it’s like to actually have comfortable furniture that you’d haul across the country, knickknacks and little odds and ends that make a home.
They don’t actually own furniture anymore. They haven’t really, not since they packed up their old house in Maryland and everything went into storage. Jake tries not to think about the boxes of photo albums, the yellowing Perfect Attendance certifi- cates Mom kept from first through third grade, the perfect ratty couch he loved. All of it is slowly gathering dust on the other side of the country.
Now every place they move into comes with furniture, usually leftovers from model homes or staging, weird pieces thrown to- gether that never really feel intentional, much less like a home. He goes to the back of the truck and grabs his backpack and a box of his stuff and follows Dad across the street, up to their new place.
“The stuff I ordered got here yesterday, so we should be all set!
Are you ready?” Jake shrugs.
They pass by a young couple laughing as they heave a squashy couch up the steps. It looks worn in and perfect and Jake glances away, almost colliding with a small boy who completely doesn’t notice as he scoots a toy truck across the sidewalk.
“See, people are moving in already. What did I tell you? These new condos are spectacular, if I do say so myself, and we really got here at the perfect time. This neighborhood is going to skyrocket in price.” Dad proudly tugs his own box closer to himself as he hums the first chords of a cheerful tune.
Jake hasn’t been too impressed since arriving in California. He was asleep for most of the drive, and since waking up he hasn’t seen a single palm tree or celebrity or even a pool. So far this neighborhood on the outskirts of Los Angeles looks like every other town, with its strip malls and stoplights and sidewalks, and this street looks like any other street in any other city. Jake’s seen so many of them now that it doesn’t mean anything anymore.
Dad’s struck up a conversation with the couple as he helps them through the main glass double doors of the first building. Up close, the place looks even more unappealing: a dusty lobby with another set of glass doors on the other side, open to a court- yard of some sort. The new building stands out even more now, a polished monstrosity of off-white slabs and gleaming glass. It looks jarringly strange next to its neighboring towers.
Jake closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. He opens them again, imagining the street transformed, brick by brick. The build- ing is just another set of resources, ready for him to reconstruct and rebuild in his own design, and—
“Come on, buddy, let’s go check it out!” Dad’s voice jolts him back to reality and all its disheartening glory.
Jake follows him up the steps to where Dad has the heavy- looking door propped open with his foot.
“Look, I know you’re upset, but this time I promise it’s gonna be the last move. We’re gonna stick around Los Angeles. This is a really lengthy renovation project and I’ve got more coming soon.”
“Did you design this one?”
Dad looks down at his feet quickly and then back up at Jake. “Just project managing. But we have three more buildings to ren- ovate, and it’s a project that’s going to take years, maybe.” He gives Jake a small smile. “You’re starting high school. I figured it was time to stop moving around.”
Jake nods but doesn’t reply. He’s used to the moves by now, always being the new kid. It’s tough, trying to make new friends, especially when he doesn’t know how long he’s going to stay.
The lobby is empty and dark, the only light emanating from the two sets of double doors that flank each side of the wide room. It’s weirdly big for an apartment building, and as Jake walks through he can see why. The lobby opens up into a huge room with dingy and dust-covered furniture, and doors that look like they haven’t been opened in a decade.
PACIFIC CREST COMMUNITY CENTER AND APARTMENTS
The words are mounted on a faded sign above a huge painted mural. The sign is cracked and falling apart, but the wall itself is still bright and cheerful. The buildings are painted a deep aqua- marine here, and different scenes show laughing people walking
through a park, swimming in pools, working in a computer lab. In the center of the mural, a cartoon sun wearing sunglasses grins down at the building, and an ocean sparkles behind it, a wave cresting in a swooping painted arc. The rest of that wall is covered in blue waves, a colorful contrast to the rest of the room: gray bricks stacked tediously on top of one another, and fake ficus trees, the kind you see in office buildings attempting to feel more homey. The trees have a thick layer of dust on them, and the open space is filled with empty tables, empty chairs, and a broken pool table in the corner. There’s a mostly bare bulletin board with a single sheet of paper that reads activity sign-up. It’s blank.
“Yeah, cheesy, I know. Don’t worry, all of this is gonna be com- pletely rehauled. I mean, a ‘technology room’?” Dad shakes his head. “Talk about outdated, even for my time. No one’s even stepped foot in this activity center for ages. I don’t blame them; there’s nothing here.”
A laminated poster is propped on an easel with a mock-up of the completed complex: all shining glass and slabular architec- ture. In the graphic, the three buildings dwarf a manicured park with strange steel-and-glass sculptures. The community center facing the sidewalk is replaced with a sleek set of coffee shops and fancy-looking boutiques. “Now, that’s what I’m talking about! Isn’t it beautiful?” Dad says, nodding at the poster.
“Sure, Dad,” Jake says, clutching his backpack strap tighter.
Through the lobby of the abandoned community center and the next set of glass doors, they’re met with an overgrown mess of shrubberies and trees and wilting flowers. The complex on the inside is just as unimaginative and dull as the outside, not at all like the lush park Dad was talking about where he could play sports and make friends. Jake rolls his eyes as he takes it all in. He turns around and considers walking back out, but there’s nowhere
to go. He sighs, looking at a dingy plate that reads manager on the door of a single apartment attached to the first building.
Must suck to live there, so close to the street and the doors where everyone goes in and out, Jake thinks. At least we don’t have that unit.
“Let’s go!” Dad says, leading the way to the brand-new tower.
They walk past a sign that reads pool, even though Jake can’t see anything except an overgrown fence and in the distance, some sort of playground structure amid the scraggly trees and weeds.
“This timing is great. You’ll get a head start on making new friends before school, huh?” Dad says cheerfully.
Jake looks around the empty courtyard and sighs. Yup. The perfect place to make new friends.
At least they’ll have Wi-Fi.
The new building still smells like fresh paint and something sharp, like the metal of the bare support columns inside. After fumbling for the elevator, they arrive on the second floor with their boxes. Jake eyes the courtyard from the outdoor corridor that links the doors of all the apartments, wondering if it’s going to be noisy.
“Here we go!” Dad wobbles and nearly drops the box labeled kitchen trying to get the keys out of his pocket. He balances the box on his hip and unlocks the door.
“Our new place! Executed perfectly by my team,” Dad says. “I’ll get the rest of the stuff from the truck. You need anything?”
“Nah,” Jake says, setting his box down. “Internet?”
“Looks like someone will be coming in tomorrow,” Dad says.
Jake’s room is a blank square, like so many blank squares be- fore. It’s already got a brand-new mattress in it, still wrapped in
plastic. Jake sets his box and backpack down and walks over to the thing, giving it a shove. It flops over, revealing an unassembled bed frame behind it. Jake sighs and yanks a sheet out of his box. It’s not the right one, but he doesn’t care right now. He drags it over the mattress and flops on top with his laptop; the plastic crin- kles underneath him. He can make the bed later for real once it’s sunk in that he’s somehow both in Los Angeles and not anywhere near the ocean or Disneyland or anything cool at all, really.
There’s also no Internet.
Jake sighs and checks the time. It’s probably dinnertime over in Maryland, not that Danny has been logging in to the Minecraft server they share recently anyway. They used to be best friends back when they lived in the same neighborhood, and stayed in touch when Jake moved to Chicago. But that was three moves ago and now they barely see each other, even in Minecraft. Usu- ally Jake will build something funny for him to find or vice versa, but it’s a far cry from the days when they used to plan epic mis- sions to look for strongholds together.
Hopefully they’ll get connection soon. Jake can play offline, but he definitely will want to work on his most recent build in their server at some point. Jake’s put in too much work mining quartz to build a replica of the Roman Colosseum to let it go unfinished.
Jake lies on his stomach and starts Minecraft. The familiar music cues up, a trilling welcome, a call to anticipation, discov- ery, and excitement. Jake selects Singleplayer and scans through his older worlds. He could open up any one of these and have a good time—there’s the one with the half-finished Eiffel Tower, the one where he’s gotten super into enchanting and all the best weapons and armor, the one where he’s mapped out entire conti- nents and discovered monuments and strongholds. Each of these
worlds is special. No matter where he is in the real world, what city he’s in, what school he’s going to with new rules and new people and new cliques to figure out, he can always count on Minecraft.
Here the rules are steady: A log always yields four planks, four planks always make a crafting table, and you can always decon- struct something to its bare building essentials. Here, Jake is in control. He decides what stays, what goes, where he travels to, and what the places he spends time in will look like.
Jake taps on Create New World and smiles. He’s home.
Jake spawns in a forest biome, filled with pixelated flowers and trees. He wastes no time getting what he needs to survive his first night. He’s done this so many times before, but it never fails to amuse him, how adept he is at gathering resources; it’s old hat now, and by the time night falls in the game, he’s built a shelter and is safe from the zombies prowling about. He waits for the sun to rise and keeps moving.
Jake’s tempted to explore until he finds a picturesque spot to build a base, but it’ll be smarter to gather what resources he can rather than just wandering around and making no progress. He builds a temporary hideout close to a mountain that turns out to be a reliable source of coal, returning to the hideout each night with his day’s worth of supplies. Slowly but surely he builds his fort up, even though he’s not quite sure he wants to stay here per- manently yet, but it’s worth having a steady supply of food from the small wheat farm he’s started. He’ll need iron and other ores soon if he wants to craft better armor, but randomly striking into the mountain hasn’t yielded anything.
It’s by chance that he finds the cave system.
Jake’s running away from a creeper when it explodes, catching Jake in the center of the impact. He groans; he’d just been on a successful mining run and was carrying a good amount of coal. He respawns back in his base. Jake crafts a few more pickaxes and makes loaves of bread for the journey before he heads off again, determined to pick up his items before they despawn.
Starting over in Minecraft is easy to Jake; he knows exactly what he needs to do and how to succeed. He tries to remember where exactly he met the creeper, trusting his gut and going east. Things look familiar—there’s that mountaintop that looks like a wolf’s head, there’s that lava flow careening down into a lake. The trees around it are slowly catching fire, and Jake takes care to avoid the inferno. He skirts around the lava, reassured when he sees a swath of floating treetops leftover from his search for lum- ber.
Yesterday’s crater is easy to spot in the next morning’s light. The explosion’s exposed a mass of rock, and Jake spots the open- ing as he gathers his things.
“Ooh, nice,” Jake says. He cracks his pickaxe into the small dark window, enlarging it by several blocks. Torches to mark his place and to light his way. Inside, Jake spots the beginnings of a promising cavern, with twists and turns and even water in the distance. He builds a chest and stashes most of the coal in case he doesn’t survive this particular adventure, then drops into the cave. Here in the dark, without the cycle of night and day, Jake loses track of time. At some point Dad tells him he’s going to a work thing, and Jake grunts out a reply, lost in the game. He finds veins of coal and a good source of iron, and puts up a good fight against the skeletons he encounters, even though he eventually loses. He respawns back at the hideout and takes the time to craft more weapons and torches and plenty of bread to help him heal after
attacks, and travels back to the cavern. With a steady supply of iron a short journey away the hideout becomes a real base in just a few days, well-stocked with food and iron ore ready to be crafted into even better armor and weapons. Jake is fortifying a new pe- rimeter wall when his stomach grumbles.
He blinks, and the starkness of the physical world hits him. The bare white walls, the emptiness of the floors, the single box and backpack he’s dragged in here sitting forlornly in the corner. It’s dark now, everything cast in a strange, sinister shadow. The only colors are the rich greens of the fields and forests beyond and the bright reds and blues and yellows of flower fields bursting with vibrancy from his laptop screen.
Staring at the computer, Jake supposes he should refuel his physical body before coming back to this. In the game, he makes sure he’s behind the perimeter wall at his base before he saves and quits so he’ll come back in a safe spot. He stretches. His reflection in the window stretches with him, a mousy brown-haired boy, pale and sickly-looking. Jake frowns and shakes his head, prefer- ring the armored hero he sees when he plays. He pads to the window and yanks it open with some difficulty; someone had painted the window into the windowsill, almost fully sealing it shut.
Night air blows inside, fresher and cooler than the stuffy heat that’s built up in his room. Jake takes in a deep breath. He kind of wishes they were on a higher floor for a better view, but it isn’t bad. He can see the skyscrapers huddling together—downtown, he guesses. Their lights sparkle, and a trail of red and white lights blink steadily in a flowing river of cars traveling to and from where they are.
From up here the courtyard seems even more like an over- grown forest, hacked at to keep it in line. A play structure with
swings lies in the center, and an empty concrete pool sits in the far west corner, filled with leaves and branches and trash. Jake shakes his head.
The living room is filled with boxes labeled carefully with things like electronics and jake school supplies and office. There’s an older box with neat, printed handwriting with large rounded letters that reads baseball. Jake traces the way Mom made her A’s, his fingers lingering on the box. He doesn’t open it. The apartment is a blank canvas, all gray modern furniture sit- ting in the hot, dry heat. His dad’s drafting desk is sitting uncon- structed in pieces, leaning against the wall of the hallway to his office. Inside, the room is mostly set up, the plain desk already clut- tered with blueprints and folders and a half-finished cup of coffee. Dad’s bedroom isn’t set up; his mattress is standing up against the wall, empty bedframe and an empty suitcase sitting next to it. Clothes and jackets are scattered across the floor, like Dad got dressed in a hurry. Must have been a last-minute business meet- ing or something. Jake always tells Dad to just pack his lucky suit separately so he won’t have to look for it, but he never remembers.
Jake snorts to himself as he gathers the clothes and shoves them
into an empty dresser.
The hard gray couch is still wrapped in plastic, and on the din- ing table is a twenty-dollar bill and a note.
For pizza. Will be back late. Have a great first night!
Jake pockets the cash and opens the refrigerator, finding it empty. He sighs, wondering if it’s worth it to walk around and find a grocery store.
Shouts and laughter echo from the kitchen window. Jake struggles to open this one as well, making a note to tell Dad that his painters haven’t been doing a good job. He manages to get it a few inches open, and fresh air starts to stream in.
From this window he can see the park area more clearly, the early evening bustling with activity. Cars honk and people chatter and somewhere there’s a TV playing a telenovela. On the swings are two boys—eight or nine, he guesses. Babies, practically. Jake is fourteen and about to start high school, too old to be playing on a swing set, but something about it looks fun. Maybe he could see if there’s anything to do around the community center. He watches the two boys jump off the swings, grinning at each other and throwing up their arms in excitement. They run to the mon- key bars, laughing as they goad each other on to climb higher and higher. Must be nice, having a best friend like that, someone who gets you and can make any time turn into a great time.
“It’s Tank! Run!” The shrieks draw him back to the window, where Jake watches the two boys flee as a shadow approaches. A new boy, older than Jake, probably—he looks tough and mean. His dark hair is slicked back and he wears a thick denim jacket despite the heat. He shakes his head as the kids empty the play- ground, and then takes a seat on the swing, pushing himself slowly. “That’s right, run,” he says, scoffing as he squares his shoulders.
Footsteps echo behind him, and a little girl with pigtails ap- proaches. She has the same forehead and wide eyes as the boy, Tank. “Push me, Thanh-anh,” she says, and Jake watches the boy’s shoulders soften as he gives the girl a small, secret smile while she gets on the swing. He pushes her gently, laughing as she laughs and reaches for the sky.
Minecraft: The Shipwreck
By: C.B. Lee
Publisher: Del Ray Books
Release Date: November 3rd, 2020
One winner will receive a copy of Minecraft: The Shipwreck (C.B. Lee) ~ (US Only)
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