Fiction Reviews

Selling Out

(2007) Justina Robson, Gollancz, 10.00, pbk, 284pp, ISBN 0-575-0-7865-9


This is book two of 'Quantum Gravity', the continuing adventures of sexy cyborg secret agent Lila Black that takes us on from Keeping It Real. Following the effects of a 'quantum bomb' in 2015, six (or possibly seven) realms of existence have come to co-exist, including elves, fairies, demons, elementals and humans (now Otopians). Lila is the secret weapon of humans and her mission(s) is/are to discover as much as possible about the other realms. Following the events of the last installment, in which Lila went to Alfheim, was integrated more closely with her cyborg attachments, acquired the spirit of a dead necromancer, and a half-elf, half-demon rock-star boyfriend, this time around she is sent to Demonia to see what she can see. While there she is almost assassinated immediately upon arrival, but kills her would-be assassin and thereby earns the enmity of said killer's family. Shortly thereafter she offends (largely by chopping into bits!) a demon necromancer, which will have tragic repercussions for her family. On the brighter side, Lila also attracts her fair share of suitors and a couple of proposals of marriage, not to mention the friendship of the most feared killer in the realm.

In many a trilogy or series, the second book is always the hardest. You have to acknowledge what has gone before (and not contradict it), move the story on a pace (but without giving further climaxes away too much), and set up your probable ending(s) (ditto). In this case what appears to be going on is the setting up of, for want of a better expression, a 'super-team' composed of members of the various realms, hinting towards a climax featuring the as-yet-unclear seventh realm. The organisation for which Lila works is 'restructured' to accommodate the new team, with its attendant characters, and the tragedy which affects Lila, sadly, comes across as almost an afterthought. Lila's boyfriend nearly loses his life in the elemental realm, but gains a piece of the ongoing jigsaw puzzle of the plot, as does a fairy character in the area of 'interstitial space', or I-space, that borders all the realms, involving an entire fleet of ghost ships (as in sailing vessels). Robson is clearly having a lot of fun, and long may she continue to do so. On the whole, this volume is more frustrating than enlightening, but no doubt all will become clear in due course.

Tony Chester

See also the review of Robson's Mapa Mundi.

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