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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First book in a brilliant new series
This is the first book in the "Quantum Gravity" series. The publication date for the second, "Selling out", has slipped to May 2007 and I don't know how I'm going to stand the wait.

The Quantum Gravity series is set in a future where a disaster in 2015, the "Quantum bomb" has removed the barrier between the earth inhabited by humans like ourselves, formerly...
Published on 25 May 2006 by Marshall Lord

versus
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some good ideas, but overall weak execution
Keeping It Real is the first novel in the Quantum Gravity series by British SF author Justina Robson. Robson is a noted author of hard SF novels such as Silver Screen and Mappa Mundi, but for her latest project she has ventured into Science Fantasy, giving us a world where cyborgs and elves coexist with fairies and advanced AIs.

In 2015 the Quantum Bomb...
Published on 8 Jun. 2007 by A. Whitehead


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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First book in a brilliant new series, 25 May 2006
By 
Marshall Lord (Whitehaven, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This is the first book in the "Quantum Gravity" series. The publication date for the second, "Selling out", has slipped to May 2007 and I don't know how I'm going to stand the wait.

The Quantum Gravity series is set in a future where a disaster in 2015, the "Quantum bomb" has removed the barrier between the earth inhabited by humans like ourselves, formerly known as "Earth" and now as "Otopia" and other realms including those of Elves, Demons, and Faeries. The book starts six years later in 2021. The heroine and central character is Special Agent Lila Black, who works for the human National Security Agency. (It is never made quite clear whether this is the USA's agency by that name or a united human body, but the omission doesn't matter as all the intrigue in the book involves different factions of Elves and other non-humans.)

Lila Black is a brilliant creation: having been severely wounded she has been rebuilt as a cyborg powered by her own miniature nuclear reactor, with rocket jets in her legs, more lethal weaponry than a squadron of main battle tanks, more electronic snooping equipment than a Hawkeye AWACs, and more computing power than IBM. Unsurprisingly the human mind inside this lethal killing machine is worried about to what extent she is still human and self-conscious about what she has become. However, during the course of the book it becomes clear that she is still capable of everything that is best about being human.

The book is a strange mix of hard science fiction and fantasy, but it works surprisingly well. The author manages to include seriously weird events and yet somehow make them seem completely plausible while you are reading about them.

If you really don't like stories which include elves, fairies, demons etc you probably shouldn't read this. If you ignore that advice, don't come back and slag off the book because it contains them. If you accept the premise that a mixing of different worlds has made possible the interaction of magic and high technology, this is internally consistent and good fun.

There is plenty of snappy, cynical humour in the book - anyone under forty reading this book who wants to get one of the funniest jokes should look up the lyrics to the old song with the first line "I am the God of Hell-Fire" before reading it, but that was the only joke which most readers won't easily get.

Anyone who liked Firefly/Serenity, Blakes 7, the novels of Peter Hamilton, or those of Jack Chalker will probably enjoy "Keeping it Real". (It's actually better than Chalker but I mention him because there are a lot of transformations.) Anyone else who likes either science fiction or fantasy is also likely to love this book.

Postscript added 2011: the series currently consists of

1) Keeping it Real
2) Selling Out (Quantum Gravity)
3) Going Under: Quantum Gravity Book Three
4) Chasing the Dragon (Quantum Gravity)
5) Down to the Bone (Quantum Gravity)
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some good ideas, but overall weak execution, 8 Jun. 2007
By 
A. Whitehead "Werthead" (Colchester, Essex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
Keeping It Real is the first novel in the Quantum Gravity series by British SF author Justina Robson. Robson is a noted author of hard SF novels such as Silver Screen and Mappa Mundi, but for her latest project she has ventured into Science Fantasy, giving us a world where cyborgs and elves coexist with fairies and advanced AIs.

In 2015 the Quantum Bomb exploded. An accident at an atom-smasher has fractured reality and opened Earth - now called Otopia - to waves of immigration from other dimensions, home to demons, fairies, elves and elementals. It is now 2021 and Lila Black, a special operative condemned to live as a cyborg after losing her limbs on a dangerous mission, has been assigned as bodyguard to Zal, a charismatic elven rock star. Zal's decision to live among humans and do unelven things such as eat meat and exist as a celebrity has made him many enemies among his own people in Alfheim, some of whom have made threats against him. Black has to protect Zal from death or capture whilst uncovering secrets that threaten the relationships between the realms.

Keeping It Real is a book with a lot of excellent ideas. The combination of SF ideas and fantasy tropes works pretty well for the most part and the plot fairly clips along, as it has to in a relatively short (270-page) book. However, there is no denying that the central idea is pretty zany, and the reader is probably expecting a zany, funny book to explore it. This isn't what you get with Keeping It Real. This is a serious book which treats the central daftness of its concept with grim severity. There is some humour in the book - the demon bouncers at a party for example - but overall this is a mostly laughter-free zone.

This wouldn't matter if the characters are likable and interesting. They are not. When she's not dwelling on her horrific injuries, being cut off from her parents and her somewhat tedious 'Game' relationship with Zal, Lila Black is an intriguing character. Unfortunately this is in only about a quarter of the book. The rest of the time her character is engaged in moody introspection about how awful it is to be welded into a metal body with enough firepower to level a small city secreted about your person. Zal is completely unlikeable from the second you meet him to the very last page of the book: a selfish hedonistic egotist with no redeemable features at all. Some of the other characters were much more intriguing - Black being forced to work alongside a rival intelligence agent who was responsible for her injuries is an interesting plotline - but with the two central characters being rather unsympathetic, this made engaging with the novel very hard work.

Luckily, the story kicks into gear towards the end, after the action moves from Otopia to Alfheim. The last 50 pages or so are much faster-paced and you do find yourself drawn more into the narrative. However, for most readers I fear this improvement will come too late in the day to keep them interested.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining read, 1 Mar. 2007
Justina Robson's books have been short-listed for the Philip K. Dick, Arthur C. Clarke, John W. Campbell, and the British Science Fiction Association Awards. In light of all this, a novel such as Keeping it Real isn't something one would normally expect from an author of this caliber. And yet, this is good news indeed. Not only is it Robson's most accessible work, but it will certainly encourage potential readers to check out her more ambitious and "serious" novels.

When the Quantum Bomb exploded in 2015, the fabric of the universe was torn asunder and its different dimensions were revealed. The inhabitants of Earth must now coexist with elves, elementals, demons, faeries, and other such creatures and entities. Special agent Lila Black is now more machine than woman. She's been assigned to protect elfin rock star Zal, lead singer of the No Shows, the most popular band on the planet. Zal has been receiving death threats from elfin fundamentalists, and Lila must become his bodyguard.

The worldbuilding is interesting, and Robson's portrayal of the disparate realms is done with neat imagery. The story revolves around Lila, who shows a lot more depth as the tale progresses. Seeing her "discover" all that her new cyborg body has to offer adds a little something to this book. Zal and Dar stand out from the rest of the supporting cast, but this remains Lila's story.

This is a fun, entertaining and action-packed novel. There's a lot of humor, and the pace is at times fast and furious. I was using Keeping it Real as my "commute" book, and I was always disappointed when I realized that my stop was next. Indeed, I found myself turning those pages, always eager to see what would happen next.

Don't get me wrong. The Quantum Gravity sequence (there will be a sequel released later this year in the UK) isn't Hal Duncan's The Book of All Hours or R. Scott Bakker's The Prince of Nothing. Still, it's a light yet extremely enjoyable reading experience.

Check out my blog: [...]
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4.0 out of 5 stars Reminded me Final Fantasy. Crazy mix of sci-fi and fantasy!, 24 Feb. 2013
First of all, the writing style reminded me strongly of Lilith Saintcrow because it pushed the heroine constantly to the limits of her endurance. More than once I wondered how Lila will come out of the impossible situations she was getting into... and she did come out swinging, although not without heavy repercussions.

Lila was a fascinating woman, broken, empty, cold, feeling worthless because after being tortured and damaged beyond repair as a human being she was turned into a cyborg, a perfect multi billion machine which is constantly poked and probed and experimented with. No wonder the woman felt sub-human and unworthy of reconnection with her old life.

Her first real life task is to guard a famous rock-star elf Zal who keeps receiving death threats from other elves. The human intelligence service suspects that Zal who always was a rebel is supposed to fulfil some sort of elven prophecy, and elven community which wants to separate itself from the rest of the worlds tries to stop it from happening by eliminating Zal.

Zal and Lila accidentally start a Game when they first see each other. Game is something that can happen with all the otherworlders, it's like a magical power that catches us making promises or refusing to do something or making a deal and forces us to adhere to the stakes until the Game is played out. It's complicated ad intricate like everything else in this book :)

Actually, expect to be constantly puzzled and awed by the depth of world-building and meticulous details in the series. Sometimes I was thinking "no way it could get more complicated", and sure as hell I would turn the page and find out something else that would change my perception of the world.

This is the only drawback of the series, sometimes it feels too much and you start developing a headache trying to cope with the onslaught of the information, otherwise it's action driven and rich multi faceted story, a rare mix of sci-fi and fantasy, which strongly reminded me of popular animated series Final Fantasy.

Recommended with reservations.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Lila Black, Sex, Elves and Rock'n'Roll . . ., 12 Mar. 2011
By 
cybermage.se (USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This new-to-me series (I have in fact finished all five books now) takes place in a fantasy world that works according to scientific principles where a quantum bomb unraveled reality and put earth in contact with other dimensions that already knew all about us. Alfheim, Demonia and Fae being the more accessible. Earth still doesn't know much about the other worlds but have intelligence agencies working on it. One such agent is Lila Black, our intrepid and formidable protagonist.

Lila is not exactly peachy after being turned into half a machine after a supposedly safe recon mission into Alfheim. Her new mission is to be the body guard of a sexy elven rock star Zal of the band No Show. He is not exactly as she expected and then she gets locked in a Game with him. But before it gets too steamy things derail a bit and she has to enter Alfheim again in pursuit of answers.

I really like this multi verse of unpredictable Fey, mysterious Elves and haughty Demons. Lila's journey through Alfheim peels layer after layer of our preconceptions of what is really going on and shows us the greater game but the ending is still a great surprise.

The characters are also great. Lila is slightly flawed, damaged psychologically from being maimed and being turned into a machine but with a lot of spirit and tenacity she prevails. Her battle mode also helps. Zal is a bit of the mysterious dangerous but charming stranger and I do enjoy the Game they play a lot. Lila also has a thing for motorcycles I enjoyed immensely. What a ride! This is something that we return to in later books too.

Keeping it Real is is a bit like a more steamy Buffy with cyborg enhancements, gunfights and wonderful one liners (they have those on Buffy too). It was a fast read too. Justina Robson and Lila Black are guilty pleasures I warmly recommend.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A little confusing, but I still liked it..., 14 Aug. 2010
By 
Stella (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
A bit of fantasy, a bit of sci-fi, a bit of mystery and a bit of romance. It's got it all.

It's maybe got a bit too much going on though, if I'm honest. I did really like it, but sometimes it felt like it wasn't sure what it wanted to be. It's got science and tech stuff which is good for the sci fi fan but is a minus for me because in truth I can do without knowing the 'why's' and 'how's'. Then it's got the fantasy stuff which I'm more comfortable with (elves, demons, fae...otherworldly types), but the parallel otherworld thing was a bit confusing because I never really worked out who belonged where and/or why. Then there was the mystery part which kept the story moving and I enjoyed that part but at times even that failed to deliver and I was left wondering the significance. More than all of that though, it was the romance which seemed out of place and incomplete. There was a bit of the 'will they, won't they?' going on and more could have been made of that to keep tying things together but every time it looked like it was going somewhere and had a point....it fizzled out and went flat.

I think (expect) that side of things will take off in further books and I do plan on reading them, I'm looking forward to them actually, but I just wish there had been more of a connection for the two main characters in 'this' one.

I never really felt like I got to know the full story here, all the way through I kept thinking there was something I was missing or something I wasn't being told. It's quirky and unusual and you'll have to open your mind and just accept it for what it is but sometimes 'what it is' isn't that clear.

However, for all my misgivings I'd definitely recommend it. It's a good story which I'm hopeful will flesh out over the rest of the series.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Oh come on it's not *that* bad, 4 July 2009
By 
Shutsumon (Staffordshire, UK) - See all my reviews
I think the people giving this book bad reviews are expecting too much.

"Keeping It Real" by Justina Robson is a fun read. It's one of those Science Fantasy novels that blurs the distinction between Science Fiction and Fantasy even more than it already is. That the female main character is a cyborg and the male main character is an elf kind of sums that up.

Premise - in 2015 a Supercollidor in Texas explodes and rips a hole between dimensions. Six years later humanity is having to deal with magic, elves, demons, faeries and elementals. And Special Agent Lila Black, a young woman who's half-robot after nearly being killed by an elf (and who thus has 'issues' with elves) has just been assigned as bodyguard to Zal - an elven rockstar.

Yes, it's fun, but it's certainly not high art. It has no pretensions of being high art.

This is, however, a book in serious need of an editor. I've read in many writing books that the major publishing houses are neglating editing and publishing stuff that they think will sell without editing. And bloody hell, I think they're right. This could have done with both editing (the plot flags in places - but not too many) and copy-editing (hello, traditionally published book with more gramatical errors than some self-published books I've read). Clearly Gollancz are neglecting editing.

It's sad, because this is a good book that could have been very good with some tight editing. It's still a good read anyway as long as you can tolerate the slight sloppiness of the execution, and as long as you take it for what it is (extremely silly fun) and don't expect more than that.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Intrigued by the conflicting reviews..., 20 Mar. 2007
... I bought this book, and am pleased to say I did really enjoy it. Completed it in one sitting.

Yes - it would have benefited from tighter editing; yes, some of the characters may be 'borrowed' from other fantasy novels.

But overall, it was fun. I'm looking forward to finding out what happens next.

One reviewer said that if you like Serenity/Firefly, you'd like this. Well, I do, and I did.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Moments of narrative dissonance - but enjoyable, 19 May 2010
By 
Mr. C. J. Limb "chris_catmachine" (Brighton, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This was a very enjoyable read aside from a couple of moments of dissonance in the narrative perspective that really threw me.

For more than half the book, the narrative was firmly limited to a third-person subjective view of agent Lila Black and we were privy to almost everything that made her tick - which was especially interesting given that she's a cyborg. Then all of a sudden it switched to rock star elf Zal for a single chapter (a trick repeated a couple of chapters later). This really interrupted the flow for me. Fortunately it soon got back on track.

I was directed to this book via Amazon recommendations, so am not familiar with the author or her earlier Arthur C Clarke award nominated work. However, this was fun rather than cerebral, an enjoyable romp combining cyberpunk with Tolkienesque fantasy - and the music business.

It ended if not on a cliffhanger then still right in the middle of the story. I will read the next one at some point and look forward to reacquainting myself with Lila and exploring the other worlds alluded to in the first volume.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First book in a brilliant new series, 25 Nov. 2006
By 
Marshall Lord (Whitehaven, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
"Keeping it Real" is the first book in the "Quantum Gravity" series. The publication date for the second, "Selling out", has slipped to May 2007 and I don't know how I'm going to stand the wait.

To my surprise, some people appear to seriously dislike this book. I can see that those who don't like books with magic in, or don't like mixing genres, or who take everything very seriously, might not appreciate the "Quantum Gravity" series. However other people found it great fun, and I was one of them.

The Quantum Gravity series is set in a future where a disaster in 2015, the "Quantum bomb" has removed the barrier between the earth inhabited by humans like ourselves, formerly known as "Earth" and now as "Otopia" and other realms including those of Elves, Demons, and Faeries. The book starts six years later in 2021. The heroine and central character is Special Agent Lila Black, who works for the human National Security Agency. (It is never made quite clear whether this is the USA's agency by that name or a united human body, but the omission doesn't matter as all the intrigue in the book involves different factions of Elves and other non-humans.)

Lila Black is a brilliant creation: having been severely wounded she has been rebuilt as a cyborg powered by her own miniature nuclear reactor, with rocket jets in her legs, more lethal weaponry than a squadron of main battle tanks, more electronic snooping equipment than a Hawkeye AWACs, and more computing power than IBM. Unsurprisingly the human mind inside this lethal killing machine is worried about to what extent she is still human and self-conscious about what she has become. However, during the course of the book it becomes clear that she is still capable of everything that is best about being human.

The book is a strange mix of hard science fiction and fantasy, but it works surprisingly well. The author manages to include seriously weird events and yet somehow make them seem completely plausible while you are reading about them.

If you really don't like stories which include elves, fairies, demons etc you probably shouldn't read this. If you ignore that advice, don't come back and slag off the book because it contains them. If you accept the premise that a mixing of different worlds has made possible the interaction of magic and high technology, this is internally consistent and good fun.

There is plenty of snappy, cynical humour in the book - anyone under forty reading this book who wants to get one of the funniest jokes should look up the lyrics to the old song with the first line "I am the God of Hell-Fire" before reading it, but that was the only joke which most readers won't easily get.

Anyone who liked Firefly/Serenity, Blakes 7, the novels of Peter Hamilton, or those of Jack Chalker will probably enjoy "Keeping it Real". (It's actually better than Chalker but I mention him because there are a lot of transformations.) It doesn't appear to have pleased everyone, but I would expect most people who like sci-fi and fantasy to love this book.
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