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In which Lila Black finds herself in Hell,
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This review is from: Selling Out: Quantum Gravity Book Two: Quantum Gravity Bk. 2 (Hardcover)
In this second book in the excellent "Quantum Gravity" series, the cyborg heroine, Lila Black, finds herself in the world of the Demons, the realm of the dead, and Hell. Lest there be any doubt, Demonia, home of the Demons, Thanatopia, where she visits the dead, and Hell are three different places. The last is a state of mind: as Mephistopheles is supposed to have said to Faust, "Why this is Hell, nor am I out of it."
The first book in the series, "Keeping it real" was regarded by some readers, of whom I was one, as absolutely brilliant, while others found it awful. I predict that this book too will be regarded as brilliant by some and detested by others.
If you don't like stories with elves, fairies, and demons in them, don't read this. If you don't like stories which mix genres, for example by including both magic and high technology, don't read this. If you don't like books with plenty of incongruous humour, don't read this. If you don't like books which sometimes have more than a hint of very strange sexuality, don't read this. And if you dislike one or more of those things but descite this warning decide to read it anyway, please don't come back here and put off people who might enjoy "Selling out" by posting a review which criticises the book for containing 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, initially, five other worlds including those of Elves, Demons, Faeries, and the dead.
However, by the time of this book set in 2021, six years after the bomb, it is becoming clear that the new cosmos is not stable. Weak points in the fabric of the universe are coming into being or spreading in all six worlds.
The heroine and central character is Special Agent Lila Amanda Black, who works for the human National Security Agency. It is never made quite clear in either of the first two books whether this is the USA's agency by that name or a united human body, but the omission doesn't matter as there is no intrigue between human nations in either book. However, there is plenty between different factions of Elves, Demons and other non-humans - and indeed within the Agency bureaucracy.
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.
Following the events of the first book Lila also has the spirit of an elf sharing her body, and adding his magical skills and knowledge to her technological ones. Lila is deeply worried about to what extent she is still human and self-conscious about what she has become. In the first chapter of this second book you briefly get the impression than she is coming to terms with her status as a lethal cyborg killing machine. When her boss shakes Lila's hand, and comments that the artifical skin "feels like the real thing" she replies "From the other side too." But it soon becomes clear that Lila still has real challenges accepting her new self.
At the start of the book, Lila is sent on a mission in Demonia, lodging with the Demon sister of her half-Elf, half-demon boyfriend, Zal. She has hardly arrived when she has to fight off the first of many assassination attempts. Meanwhile, her boyfriend Zal, intending to visit her in Demonia, accidentally sends himself to a very strange realm and spends most of the book trying to get back.
The "Quantum Gravity" series is a strange mix of hard science fiction and fantasy, but it works surprisingly well. The author manages to include seriously weird events but those of us who like this series consider that she somehow make these peculiar events seem plausible while you are reading about them.
If you accept the premise that a mixing of different worlds has made possible the interaction of magic and high technology, this is mostly internally consistent and very good fun. It's much easier to follow if you have read the first book: I would advise anyone who is considering reading either of these to start with "Keeping it Real."
There is plenty of snappy, cynical humour in "Selling out." One example: three Demons are playing a game, and the loser gets turned into a tiny statue. The others are most upset that he's only the size of a chess piece rather than a larger figure so they won't get as much money by selling him - they decide their most lucrative option is to sell him to the humans on eBay. Another example occurs during an acrimonious meeting , when an imp materialises on Lila's shoulder and says, for all the world like a politically-correct psychologist, "I'm sensing a lot of anger in the room ..."
When I reviewed the first book, "Keeping it Real," I suggested that anyone who liked Firefly/Serenity, Blakes 7, the novels of Peter Hamilton, or those of Jack Chalker would probably enjoy it. That applies to "Selling out" too, but this one also reminded me of the best fantasy/SF work of Piers Anthony.
The ending of the book leaves a lot of things unresolved and there is clearly due to be at least one more book in the series. I can't wait to read it.