Eugene Byrne's second SF novel Things Unborn
is as eccentric and offbeat as his first, ThiGMOO
--but in different ways. Here it's 2008, on a timeline where Britain is still recovering from 1962's world nuclear war and subsequent "Feudal Wars", both helped and hindered by crowds of the returned dead.
No one knows why people who died prematurely through history are coming back as "retreads". Britain learns to cope, though, and civil servants gently explain to new arrivals--in Latin or Anglo-Saxon if required: "You are not in Heaven or Hell."
London is a seething melting-pot of past, present and future. The Metropolitan Police (including DI Scipio Africanus, a black former slave who first died in 1720) stake out the Marble Arch area where those hanged at Tyburn tend to return, as it were, to the scene of the crime. The rakehell Earl of Rochester writes BBC comedies like Carry on Courting, in collaboration with Marlowe and Chatterton. Richard III, though under the thumb of Parliament, is king again--and saving the truth about the Princes in the Tower for his memoirs. It's all profoundly silly, yet developed with tongue-in-cheek plausibility.
Alas, there's a fanatical underground of (mostly) retreads from more devout days, the Sons of John Bull, who long to smash Britain's "Liberal Settlement" and end the godless practice of religious tolerance. Sympathetic police have their hands full as theft, terrorism and assassination plots rage through London's brothels, cock-pits and abandoned Underground tunnels. It all ends appropriately, and it's all great fun. --David Langford
About the Author
Eugene Byrne has had several stories published in INTERZONE, as well as other magazines and anthologies. He is Deputy Editor of a listings magazine. His first novel, THIGMOO, has been shortlisted for the British Science Fiction Association's award for Best SF Novel of 1999.