(2013) Rod Rees, Jo Fletcher Books, £20, hrdbk, xvi + 528pp, ISBN 978-1-849-16505-1
This is the third in the highly creative SF cum steampunk quartet from Rod Rees: the first two being Demi-Monde: Winter and Demi-Monde: Spring. I say 'SF cum steampunk' not because one is a subset of the other (or more strictly 'steampunk' is a sub-set of 'speculative fiction' [due to recent debate for use of terms see Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction for definitions]) but because in this instance the steampunk elements that dominate the quartet have a firm science rationale: the 'Demi-Monde' world is the result of a quantum computer simulation.
There is little point my re-capping the basic set-up as I did in my review of Demi-Monde: Winter, suffice to say that the story is a straightforward continuation. You can dive straight in if you want but it will probably be a disorientating experience and you would be better off reading Winter first to become enchanted with the entertaining and inventive creation that is 'Demi-Monde'.
Of course if you have already read the first two titles in this quartet and want a non-spoiler steer regarding this third, then let me straight away say that it does not disappoint and is hugely enjoyable due to the action, plot, witty word play, and the oh so dry humour (not to mention a few outright comedic turns).
In Summer we get to see what are in effect the Sino-Asian sectors of Demi-Monde and explore (outrageous) gender politics as the forces of HerEticalism (sic) and HimPerialsim (sic) clash and which includes a LessBien (sic) threat – hatched in the Forbidding City (sic) – to wipe out virtually all the males in Demi-Monde! (Or is it to wipe out all the males in virtual Demi-Monde?)
There are only a couple of interludes in the 'real' world and it is clear that the 'real' world in the novel is not our 'real' world but (in all probability) some parallel universe. These interludes reveal that the real world plans of Demi-Monde's ForthRight (sic) leaders are progressing and it may well be that we see more of the real world in the final book of the quartet – Demi-Monde: Fall – due out shortly.
If you have not heard of the Demi-Monde novels then I do strongly commend them to you and urge you at the very least to check out other on-line reviews. I say this because I have not yet heard much buzz about this remarkable series in the SF community (so far no nominations for awards for instance) yet the majority of online reviews seem to support my contention that this work is more than very worthy of attention. (Indeed regarding the few negative reviews on Amazon all you need do is click on what other titles those reviewers have reviewed and you will see that those reviewers do not appear to be steeped in the genre.) My sole criticism of this work is that the pictures and their script legends in this volume are way too small, but then the map(s) to which you may want to refer are all properly rendered in the first volume.
This is a quartet that aficionados of both SF and steampunk will want to read and having read it they will probably feel duty-bound to inform their friends. And so they should.
Hugely looking forward to the conclusion.
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