Given the recent discussion about CERN’s Hadron Collider on this blog, I was pleasantly surprised by the opening sentence of Justina Robson’s Keeping It Real: “In the days that followed the explosion at the Superconducting Supercollider in Texas, at some unknown point in the Lost Years, 2015, scientists discovered a hole in the fabric of spacetime over the blast site.” How incredibly prescient, I thought. Imagine, we could find ourselves a heartbeat away from unwittingly initiating a similar disaster. And then where would we be? Well, I can guess where a lot of YOU would be – trying to score a date with an elf!
But I get ahead of myself. In Keeping It Real, Robson posits a near future in which the aforementioned supercollider incident ends up tearing the fabric of spacetime, opening a passageway between six alternate dimensions: elfin, fairy, elemental, demon, dead, and our own. Much of our planetary history prior to the event has been forgotten, but the denizens of Otopia (formerly known as Earth) persevere, forging ahead in a reality not all that different from the one that came before with its rock ’n roll, NSA-sanctioned ops, and conspiracies pitting conservative factions vs. moderate voices. So when agent Lila Black is assigned to act as a bodyguard for the lead singer of a rock band called The No Shows, she accepts it business as usual. Never mind the fact that the singer in question, Zal, is an elf. Or that he seems to be the target of elfin extremists who object to his lifestyle. Or that Lila herself has recently recovered from the life-saving surgery that transformed her into a partial cyborg possessed of a nuclear-powered core. Indeed, Lila has no trouble accepting the assignment at first but a magical message, a night time attack, and one mysterious discovery later she begins to wonder exactly what the hell she’s gotten herself into.
And, to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t quite sure myself at first. The story moves along at a swift pace, punctuated by unforeseen twists, rapidfire action sequences, an amusing array of pop culture references, and a healthy dollop of elf sex. At times, the narrative outpaced my efforts to keep up with some of the elf-specific cultural revelations but, still, I managed to play catch-up before the satisfying conclusion.
It’s a fun read that pokes fun at fantasy tropes and certain genre-specific narrative conventions while also offering up a cast of colorful, nicely-developed characters (with the possible exception of Zal who, throughout and to the end, remained a self-absorbed jerk). Our protagonist Lila Black is particularly well-drawn and sympathetic, a woman struggling to reconcile herself to a tough post-traumatic existence. Her inevitable encounter with the elf who nearly killed her, and the ensuing sacrifice that neatly parallels her past ordeal, is surprisingly poignant.
Inventive in its world-building, engaging in its humorous, fast-paced narrative, Keeing It Real is a promising start to the Quantum Gravity series.
So, what did everyone else think? Let’s hear your thoughts and start posting your questions for author Justina Robson who will be swinging by later in the week.
Hey, early results of Friday night’s airing have The Queen doing a 1.26, beating our season 4 back-half average (which, in turn, handily beat it’s first half average). And as we head toward our mid-season two-parter, I have no doubt that average will continue to rise. The early numbers also indicate that the episode pulled in its best performance in key demos since Midway and Be All My Sins Remember’d. Damn, this is going to look great on my resume!
You’ll never guess who dropped by my office today. Go ahead. Guess. You’ll never…
Oh. Yes. Right the first time. Amanda Tapping. Who told you? She was at The Bridge for her Enemy at the Gate costume fitting. Also in for the day was Paul McGillion who was kind enough to record a video thank you to the fans. Somebody remind me to post it as part of tomorrow’s entry.