The Light at the Bottom of the World


London Shah


YA Sci-Fi

Word Count:

95,000 words


In 2099, the world is submerged a thousand feet beneath the ocean’s surface, and Great Britain holds dark secrets. Secrets that must be kept at all costs.

Sixteen-year-old Londoner Leyla McQueen loves blasting punk rock and racing in her submersible. But when her gentle papa is framed and arrested, she must use her racing prowess for more than just thrills. Leyla must now win the London Submersible Marathon: The Prime Minister will grant the champion any request, and she hopes to ask for her papa’s freedom.

Amid mounting tension and anonymous threats, Leyla is attacked at the marketplace. Ari, a complete stranger and total nutter, comes to her rescue. The marathon doesn’t go according to plan, when in order to save the life of a fellow contestant, Leyla sacrifices her one shot at securing her papa’s freedom. Then new information about his arrest comes to light: The authorities have been lying about her papa’s situation. He’s not in the capital, and they have no intention of ever releasing him. In order to find and rescue her papa, Leyla will have to venture outside of London for the very first time. To make matters worse, the maddening Ari thinks he’ll be accompanying her—not bloody likely.

When she discovers the desperate extent the government will go to in order to keep Britons living in the past, Leyla must remain defiant and cling to hope. She will have to brave the unfathomable waters, defy the corrupt authorities, and learn to work with the ever-secretive Ari, who is slowly working his way into her heart. If she fails, Leyla risks capture—or worse. And her beloved Papa could be lost forever.

I am a British Muslim of Afghan descent. My main character is Afghan and English. A prevalent theme to have emerged in my story is a fear of, and resistance to, change.

First 300 words:

Blaring music ricocheted off the submersible’s interior as it lurched in the murky, green-grey waters. Leyla McQueen sat in the clear-domed cockpit, head banging to her favorite punk-rock sounds. She peered into the depths. Beneath her, early morning London was a giant interlocking puzzle of shadowy shapes and misty lights. It receded from view as her craft rose. Leyla shook her head.

Sixty-five years tomorrow. Only sixty-five years ago, all this had been air, not water. Like, nothing all around. Nothing in between things, below, or overhead. Surroundings had been clear and people carried on outside as if they were safely inside. Imagine being out in the open without the security of the water, exposed to the whole universe like that? Definitely a tad surreal, and the most rocking proof of magic if ever it was needed.

A violet warning light pulsed across the sub’s dashboard: She’d hit the treacherous no-go waters, and needed to descend. Leyla stopped nodding along to the music. Her grips tightened on the throttle and joystick, and she continued climbing the choppy currents. She could do this, dammit.

She simply had to learn to keep her head under pressure—anything could happen during the marathon. Conquering the freefall would prepare her for the unexpected. Just a smidge higher.

A shoal of silvery tuna split either side of the single-seated vessel, their shimmering forms darting away. Wild winds above the surface rippled through its skin and rocked her sub. Crikey. She slid sideways in her seat. The shifts in the waves decreased immediate visibility. Leyla grit her teeth and checked the depth-gauge. Here we go.

She grimaced and cut the power. Her body tensed. See, nothing to it.

Her insides heaved at the sudden drop. Oh bugger.

The compact sub plummeted through the void, hurtling towards the dark, glimmering city.


  • Fitriyanti Tapri says:

    Ah. Cliffhanger… I LOVE IT, Shah.
    Your words probably need a little trimming esp the query. But this…This entry is gold.
    Now I know why the slush squad love this so much, And I’m with them 1.000.000%
    What a delightful reading in the holy month of ramadhan.
    The pace and the storytelling (the aura) reminded me to when I first read Josephine Angelini’s Starcrossed. It’s that good.
    Well done,

    I wrote for that number in the hope that you can get your own seven figure book deal when signing your book deal…(wish luck)
    And if you go into a book tour, someday, to Indonesia, tell me.

  • I’m really drawn into the action here! I’d love to see a synopsis + 50 pgs at query@psliterary.com.

  • Uwe Stender says:

    Please send the full as an MS Word attachment to my email.

  • What an intriguing world! I would love to see the first 100 pages. Please send as a Word doc attachment to patricia@marsallyonliteraryagency.com, and make sure to include “WCNV Request” in the subject line. Can’t wait to read!

  • Rachel Stark says:

    I’m intrigued–I’d love to see this submission. You do not need an agent to submit to me; feel free to send your query and your manuscript (as a Word doc) to me at rstark[at]skyhorsepublishing[dot]com. Please include “WCNV Request” in the subject line.

  • Anonymous says:

    This looks amazing!

  • Brilliant world building mixed with opening action. Please send the synopsis and query in the body of the email, with your full MS attached (.doc or .docx) to michelle@inklingsliterary.com

    Please put #WCNV in the subject line with the title of your book.

    Thank you!

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