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2.9 out of 5 stars8
2.9 out of 5 stars
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on 3 March 2016
A lot of science fiction authors indulge in what's called "world building", imagining vast, complex new realities in which to set their stories. The problem is that the reader is not necessarily familiar with this new world, leaving the author with two options: familiarise the reader with the rules via authorial "info-dumps" - bite-sized lectures on history, sociology, science, or whatever else is necessary; or try and work all this information into inevitably clumsy expository dialogue.
Justina Robson has found a third way: don't explain anything, and hope that the reader can somehow figure it out for him/herself. Terms like "Forged", "Stuffies" "Sidebar Universes" and "Unity" are thrown around with little or no context or explanation. This isn't just futuristic window-dressing either - these concepts are central to the plot, so if you don't get it, the whole book may as well be written in Esperanto.
Or so I thought. Imagine my surprise then when I searched for reviews of her previous book Natural History, only to learn that that book details a lot of the events alluded to in this one, and that if I'd read Natural History I'd doubtless have had a far easier time with "Living Next Door to the God of Love". Yet nothing on the book cover or in the reviews I'd read indicated that it was a sequel or that I'd need to read the earlier book if I expected to understand ONE WORD of this one.
Robson obviously has affection for her characters, who she brings vividly and memorably to life, and there are many powerful scenes. But as for what they're up to, or why...sorry, I've no idea.
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on 14 February 2006
Anyone who has read and loved ‘Natural History’ is potentially in for a real treat with this follow on. It is imaginative, intelligent, filled with lively characters, wild circumstances – and philosophical juggling which ranges from the colourful and obtuse to breathtaking lucidity. This is not as easy to read as its predecessor, not as traditional a narrative, fluent or conventional – indeed many aspects come across as highly experimental. But I found that persistence with the less clear parts of the book, particularly in the first one hundred pages, are more than rewarded when the whole begins to fall into place. Forgive me, but it becomes un-put-downable brilliance. It is not perfect, but the positives so outweigh the negatives for me that the idea of picking holes would be a petty-minded anathema; critique for the sake of hearing my own clever voice. Credit belongs where credit is due, and in short – this is an ambitious, hugely imaginative, clever, brave, brilliant and entertaining novel, which I loved, I suspect some people will hate, and ultimately I don’t care what they think – as long as Justina Robson doesn’t care as well and continues to produce work as exceptional as this for years to come.
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on 3 September 2008
I bought this book having read Keeping It Real about six months ago. Unlike Keeping It Real, this book was utterly disappointing. The characters were lacking any interest, especially the main character of Jaleka who was particularly irritating. The historical context was largely irrelevant and unfathomable. None of the characters made the reader care about them.

Overall this book has some grand ideas some of which should definitely be developed separately. This story seems made up of a bucket of random good ideas that has been poured through a blender. If you want complex, exciting, multi-dimensional, AI, human, creature interaction Sci-Fi, read Dan Simmons' Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion.
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on 9 October 2007
My mum bought me this book, thinking it would be a nice easy read. Thankfully, it turned out to be the most hard-SF I have read.
The style is unusual, and there is no real explanation for the colourful and outragous world that you have been thrown in to.

It does come together if you've got your wits about you, as the universe becomes more real through regular exposure, but I got a real feel of culture shock, that I find male authors never quite achieve no matter how futuristic the technology level.

Over all, this is a really good novel if you like a bit of interesting SF. Worth trying, and you can always pass it around, either way.
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on 14 August 2006
So many things about this book promised a wonderful read: interesting futuristic ideas, an unusual writing style, finely detailed settings, wonderful descriptions and some quirky characters. Unfortunately, the parts failed to add up to a coherent and rewarding whole. The plot is incoherent, the characters inconsistent, the writing at some moments breathtaking and at other times self-indulgent. The book suffers from many of the flaws I see in the work of talented young writers in my post-graduate creative writing programme. They write a first draft, and because word processing makes it so easy to fill in the gaps and tidy up the plot, they think there's no reason to redraft. The very idea -- retyping every word they've written whilst constantly asking themselves if they could do better -- appals them, because they live in a culture that glorifies instant gratification. If their prose is flashy enough, as this author's seems to be, their efforts will be lauded. But what has been created is not a coherent and carefully crafted novel. Whilst reading it one does not have the feeling of trust that a careful writer bestows. The work is therefore ultimately unsatisfying, like eating a meal that consists of nothing but meringues.
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on 7 May 2009
Based on this troubled and inconsistent novel Justina clearly has the talent to produce something illuminating on the lines of a China Mieville or a Jon Courtney Grimwood... the novel runs ahead well and the people come into space but then... it becomes apparent that what we were interested in is lost somewhat in a chain of events that would put Greg Egan to shame for their catastrophism: was any one of her unreliable viewpoints able to hold the consistency or indeed keep their own vision..

This was quite a step back form her hard science based work into another dreamscape based on the unity of data.

The simplest way to express the character development is that it is visual- either characters are being integrated merged, lost in halls of bone. While it picks up this strength of a manga approach it unfortunately picks up a trait of some manga, and a less helpful one: the undercurrent of presenting abuse that passes as philosophy; and in a clunking fashion that requires you in 2 cases here key characters to abandon their present known powers to be even narrating them. In true manga-stylie abuse is explored explicitly, as apparently part of the "development", but instead of building the environment it destroys our credibility. 2 so-called dilemmas here are ultimately space-fillers neither real enough nor involved in the tale enough to exist here. you feel you should be being told what made the character this way: but that is not there.

Instead you are left hoping instead they are false memories, for it has done nothing for them to have contradictory experiences.

It is unclear why anyone forgives the central characters their failings here: given their potentiality their inability to take control.
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on 4 August 2006
So many things about this book promised a wonderful read: interesting futuristic ideas, an unusual writing style, finely detailed settings, wonderful descriptions and some quirky characters. Unfortunately, the parts failed to add up to a coherent and rewarding whole. The plot is incoherent, the characters inconsistent, the writing at some moments breathtaking and at other times self-indulgent. The book suffers from many of the flaws I see in the work of talented young writers in my post-graduate creative writing programme. They write a first draft, and because word processing makes it so easy to fill in the gaps and tidy up the plot, they think there's no reason to redraft. The very idea -- retyping every word they've written whilst constantly asking themselves if they could do better -- appals them, because they live in a culture that glorifies instant gratification. If their prose is flashy enough, as this author's seems to be, their efforts will be lauded. But what has been created is not a coherent and carefully crafted novel. Whilst reading it one does not have the feeling of trust that a careful writer bestows. The work is therefore ultimately unsatisfying, like eating a meal that consists of nothing but meringues.
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on 28 February 2007
I've tried so hard to enjoy this book and simply can't do it. The whole concept is fascinating but the execution is poor, confusing and just not at all fun to read.

I read this after Mappa Mundi, which I really enjoyed but this has been a task to read. I even had to restart because I thought it was my own mis-understanding. Second time around it was still poor.
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