Expiration Day

Expiration Day

by William Campbell Powell

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It is the year 2049, and humanity is on the brink of extinction….

Tania Deeley has always been told that she's a rarity: a human child in a world where most children are sophisticated androids manufactured by Oxted Corporation. When a decline in global fertility ensued, it was the creation of these near-perfect human copies called teknoids that helped to prevent the utter collapse of society.

Though she has always been aware of the existence of teknoids, it is not until her first day at The Lady Maud High School for Girls that Tania realizes that her best friend, Siân, may be one. Returning home from the summer holiday, she is shocked by how much Siân has changed. Is it possible that these changes were engineered by Oxted? And if Siân could be a teknoid, how many others in Tania's life are not real?

Driven by the need to understand what sets teknoids apart from their human counterparts, Tania begins to seek answers. But time is running out. For everyone knows that on their eighteenth "birthdays," teknoids must be returned to Oxted—never to be heard from again.

Told in diary format, Expiration Day is the powerful and poignant story of a young girl coming of age and discovering what it means to be truly human by a talented debut novelist.

At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781466838406
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 04/22/2014
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 336
Lexile: HL760L (what's this?)
File size: 612 KB
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About the Author

WILLIAM CAMPBELL POWELL was born in Sheffield, England, and grew up in and around Birmingham, the "second city" of England. He attended King Edward's School in Birmingham and won a scholarship to Clare College, Cambridge, where initially he studied Natural Sciences and subsequently majored in Computer Science. He now lives in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, with his wife, Avis, and his two teenage sons. Expiration Day is his first novel.

WILLIAM CAMPBELL POWELL was born in Sheffield, England, and grew up in and around Birmingham, the "second city" of England. He attended King Edward’s School in Birmingham and won a scholarship to Clare College, Cambridge, where initially he studied Natural Sciences and subsequently majored in Computer Science. He now lives in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, with his wife, Avis, and his two teenage sons. Expiration Day, a science fiction story for teens, is his first novel.

Read an Excerpt

Sunday, July 18, 2049

What a funny old day!
We got a robot today. And it was my eleventh birthday. So I thought I’d start to write a diary, because it was a weird day, and if you can’t even write a decent diary when you’ve got something to write about, what chance have you got when the days are dry and dreary?
But I’m not going to start every entry with “Dear Diary” or anything so Victorian. That would be just so wet. Anyway, I want to decide who’s going to read it. Whoever you are, my distant, unknown friend, I need to see you in my mind.
Maybe no one will read my diary, except me when I’m ninety. So just in case, “Hello, me-of-twenty-one-twenty-eight! This is me-of-twenty-forty-nine.”
Maybe, though, my grandchildren are reading this. “Hello, grandkids! This is your dotty granny Tania writing, before she lost her marbles. I hope you’ve found me a nice home.”
No, I don’t hope any such thing. If I have to become anybody’s granny, please don’t let me be a boring granny. Instead I shall be a grand Dame, knighted for my services to the country, and I shall tell fabulous stories, mostly true, about my adventures as a spy, or a detective, or an actress. So by 2128 you’ll need me, whoever you are, because there won’t be many like me left.
And if you’re just a boring old historian, or some kind of slimy-tentacled alien archaeologist called Zog from the Andromeda galaxy, trying to find out who on earth I am and what human beings were …
Do you have churches in Andromeda, Mister Zog? Weddings, christenings, and funerals? Too much detail, I think, at least for today. Anyway, my dad is a vicar. And in these times he has a lot to do. He says thirty years ago the churches were empty. Now they’re full. Full of unhappy people, looking for help to make things bearable. Looking for the little rituals that make things feel normal.
The church business is good. But vicars are still poor. Mum says he’s keeping half the village sane, but still we live on people’s cast-offs. We have Value Beans in the larder. Our vid is someone’s old 2-D model. And our “new” robot is a reconditioned ’44 model, donated by a kindly parishioner.
But we have a robot, a real, honest-to-goodness robot. And Dad says even the bishop only has a ’47 model. Ted, one of the churchwardens, dropped him off. Him? It? I’m going to keep on saying “him” for now, as his voice was rather deep, and very “Home Counties.”
We called him—the robot—Soames. It seemed like the perfect name for a 1930s butler—right out of an Agatha Christie 3-Dram. Dad activated him, and I watched as the eyes lit up for the first time. I asked Dad about that, and he smiled.
“Yes, there really isn’t any need for glowing eyes. They’re more for show, part of a retro look, that the psychologists say makes us feel more comfortable with them around. We see all the old-fashioned twentieth-century sci-fi movies, and we laugh, because they’re so quaint. This is the same thing—robots deliberately made to look clunky and antique, and act like it, too, so we feel superior, rather than feel afraid.”
We had to do an imprinting, of course, to get Soames to recognize the voices of his new owners, so that he’d obey our orders.
“Michael Deeley, primary registrant. Acknowledge.” That was Dad.
“Annette Deeley, secondary registrant. Acknowledge.” Mum.
“Tania Deeley, junior registrant. Acknowledge.” Me, reading from the instruction manual and sounding very formal.
And that was it. Soames would obey Dad, then Mum, then me. In that order. There were a bunch of other commands built into his brain that we couldn’t override, sometimes called the Asimov Laws, after some ancient writer who came up with the idea. Dad says Asimov’s original laws were very simple, but Soames’s version had been made very complicated by the lawyers. So under stress any robot just became completely useless.
Anyway, we put Soames to work doing the washing up. He didn’t break anything, but I could have loaded up the dishwasher myself in half the time. Tomorrow, though, he will be faster, because he’s learned what to do and where to put the plates afterward.
And then, because it was the summer holidays, there was no school, so I got him to play table tennis, because it was my birthday and Dad said I deserved a treat for that. Soames spent most of the time picking up the balls, when he didn’t crush them underfoot (two destroyed) or knock them into the lamp shade (one out of reach).
Then we took him around the house, showing him where everything was. So we can tell him to tidy the house now, and everything will find its way back to where it was on my eleventh birthday. Or whenever.
Big deal.
Okay. I’m not frightened of domestic robots, honest. But can you make one that can play table tennis, please?

Copyright © 2014 by William Campbell Powell

Table of Contents


Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Sunday, July 18, 2049,
Monday, July 19, 2049,
Sunday, July 25, 2049,
Saturday, August 21, 2049,
Interval 1,
Interval 2,
Interval 3,
Interval 4,
Interval 5,
Interval 6,
Interval 7,
Interval 8,
Interval 9,
Interval 10,
About the Author,

Reading Group Guide

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Text Type: Narrative

In the character of Tania, write a series of journal entries exploring the following moments from the story: Seeing the silver threads in your ankle; Going back to school after being repaired; Being with John; Working with your father to research your case.

In the character of Tania’s mother or father, write a letter explaining how you felt the day you received her from Oxted and how you imagine your relationship might have been different if you’d disobeyed the Oxted guidelines and told her she was a teknoid when she was small.

In the character of John, write a long email to Tania explaining why you’ve been out of contact, the truth about your identity as a teknoid and how you found out. Conclude the email with a thought as to whether you will or will not hit the “send” button.

In the character of Sian, write a letter to Tania describing your new life as a mother, what you wish for the children you will not raise, and what you hope for your friend.
Text Type: Opinion Piece

Should adults keep secrets from children and teens? For example, is it all right not to tell a kid they are adopted or at high risk for a genetically transmitted disease? Is it right to keep family financial or job stress secret from kids? How old is too old not to be in on such secrets? What secrets are probably not okay?

Should the government keep secrets from its citizens? For example, is it all right to send troops after a terrorist, and not let the public know until the operation is complete? When should a government tell citizens about outbreaks of diseases such as influenza? What argument could you make for keeping citizens “in the dark”? As a citizen, do you want to know everything?
Cognitive Robotics

Online or at your library, find definitions
for cognitive robotics, artificial intelligence
and sentience. Imagine you are a reporter who has infiltrated Oxted. Write a newspaper-style article discussing what you have found there. Make sure to include all of the terms you have researched. Share your article with friends or classmates.

Divide into small groups to research Cognitive Robotics programs at colleges and universities around the world. Select one program that appeals to your group and create a PowerPoint or other multi-media style presentation to entice friends or classmates to apply to the program. Include the location of the program, degrees you can receive, the focus or philosophy of the program, and other details as desired.
Research&Create: Tribute Bands

William Campbell Powell uses the notion of “tribute bands” to show the way creativity is devolving. Make a list of the bands from the 1970s featured in the novel. Select a band from twenty-five or more years ago and make a playlist of at least four songs that you think might be popular in Tania’s world. Write 2-3 sentences explaining each song selection. Play your list for friends or classmates.

Imagine you are a musician forming a tribute band. Select any band (does not have to be old) to cover. Use colored pencils, paints, or other craft materials to create a poster advertising your band. Give your band a tribute-style name (not the same as the original).
Research&Perform: Shakespeare&Classic Children’s Tales

In the course of the novel, Tania makes subtle references to Pinocchio and Alice in Wonderland to describe her own experiences. Imagine you are creating a film or television adaptation of Expiration Day. Using colored pencils, sketch a scene from your adaptation that incorporates images or ideas from one of these stories in your design. Or, write a new page for the novel in which Tania further explains how she sees herself as Pinocchio or Alice.

As she is trying to help Sian learn her lines for the school play, does Tania’s ability to inhabit the character of Portia affect your sense of her creative capacity? How might the ability to act—to take on another character—show us something about her humanity? Go to the library or online to learn more about the art of acting. Then, in the character of an Oxted scientist, give a presentation explaining what Tania’s acting ability reveals to your research community. Cite moments from the story and information from your research in your presentation.

Tania’s classmates are rehearsing The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare. While Tania feels emboldened by working with Sian on the Portia role, another character in the story also resonates. Read Act III, scene one of the play, paying particular attention to Shylock’s speech. Imagine Tania giving this speech as part of the testimony during the lawsuit against Oxted. Adapt the speech for this purpose and present it to friends or classmates.

Supports English Language Arts Common Core Writing Standards: W.8.1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7; W.9-10.1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7; W.11-12.1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7
Supports English Language Arts Common Core Literacy Standards RL.8.9, 9-10.9; RL.11-12.7

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