- Paperback: 345 pages
- Publisher: Pyr (March 6 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1591025397
- ISBN-13: 978-1591025399
- Product Dimensions: 13.6 x 1.8 x 21 cm
- Shipping Weight: 340 g
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #969,681 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Keeping It Real Paperback – Mar 6 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Life is anything but real in this entertaining fusion of SF and fantasy spiced with sex, rockin' elves and drunk faeries, the first of a new series, from British author Robson (Mappa Mundi). In 2015, the quantum bomb at Texas's superconducting supercollider blew a hole in spacetime's fabric, revealing "a total of five other realities" unknown to the human inhabitants of Otopia (formerly Earth). One of these is Alfheim, a home to elves. By 2021, Alfheim extremists, who despise Otopian technologies (and Otopians), have targeted Zal, a rebel rocker elf and his band, the No Shows, for thriving in a human realm. Death threats prompt the Otopian security agency to assign Lila Black, a nuclear-powered cyborg still adapting to her AI abilities, to Zal as his undercover guard. After Zal is kidnapped, Black travels to Alfheim, where she meets an old foe and tangles with a wicked necromancer. Deft prose helps the reader accept what in lesser hands would be merely absurd. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Robson lets loose and has fun with this tale, a rock 'n' roll saga including elves, magic, and cyborgs. After the Quantum Bomb of 2015, Earth proper has coexisted with alternate dimensions peopled by elves, demons, elementals, faeries, and the dead. Government agent Lila Black was nearly killed by elves while on a diplomatic mission, and now she is mostly machine. She has been assigned to guard the legendary band the No-Shows, especially lead singer Zal, who's precisely opposed to every elf stereotype out there, first and foremost in his music. Lila becomes trapped with him in a game caused by wild magic and, in the process of protecting him, discovers some of the complicated plots swirling just under the surface of Alfheim, the elves' dimension. Robson creates fascinating characters and worlds for them to inhabit, meanwhile sacrificing none of her other strengths and not once succumbing to the easy genre cliches, at least not without keen irony. Regina Schroeder
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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The publication of a book like Keeping it Real also demonstrates just how diversified Pyr's stable of writers and novels will ultimately be. Once again, it's evident that their desire to publish works that are different from what's being released by the powerhouses continues to fuel Pyr's passion for both science fiction and fantasy. And although they made a name for themselves with thought-provoking books by authors such as Ian McDonald, Sean Williams, David Louis Edelman and many others, by publishing novels such as Joe Abercrombie's The Blade Itself and Justina Robson's Keeping it Real they show that Pyr is not averse to release more humorous and entertaining books.
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.
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In the aftermath of that disaster, Lila has become a very reluctant Bionic Woman. She's super-strong, has built-in weaponry, and can fly thanks to rockets in her boots. She's also depressed and psychologically damaged. Her first big assignment as a cyborg spy is to protect Zal, an elvish rock star who has been receiving credible death threats, and figure out who's after him. When the assignment unexpectedly takes Lila back to Alfheim, she must confront her confront her painful past, accept who she is now, and learn that the multiverse is a lot weirder than she ever thought possible.
Robson's writing is vivid and fluid. Lila's story is both humorous and poignant. Although some story elements are ridiculous -- like rocket boots and elvish rock stars -- these silly touches enliven what might otherwise be a maudlin tale of pain and loss. In this book and in the (currently) three that follow, Robson does a creditable job of exploring her "Quantum Gravity" world while developing interesting and distinctive characters. If you enjoy stories with both high fantasy and science fictional elements, humor, and psychological/emotional depth, you should enjoy this series.
Note that there are sexually explicit passages, so the book is definitely "R" rated. Also, if you're someone like Fred Savage's character in "The Princess Bride", who, on encountering romance in a story, complains "They're kissing again. Do we have to read the kissing parts?", you will probably want to skip this series.
However, the story-telling is a bit average and the writing average as well. In an effort to make the world(s) feel "lived in", Robson invents places, characters, and concepts seemingly on the fly, resulting in what feels like deus ex machina solutions to plotlines. Some of the better developed concepts initially seemed to be integral to the plot (e.g., Game magic), but the story could very well have excluded these concepts (e.g., the game between Lila and Zal) and been none the worse.
I was looking for a nice fusion of sci-fi and fantasy, and on some level this book delivers. It is an honest attempt at bringing elves and demons into a reductionist/futuristic scientific framework, but the romance elements make it feel too much like a love story than the interracial epic about the future of the elven world that it wanted to be. Combining the excessive use of internal monologue with the unnecessary sex scenes made it feel like the chick lit that some of the one star reviews make it out to be. The problem is that it's not as bad as one star - it's just okay, hence the 3 stars.
Unlike in her previous, and far less successful, novel "Living Next Door to the God of Love," here Ms. Robinson establishes the rules of her world in the introduction, and she sticks to them. Readers who need a refresher course when the plot thickens need only turn back to that introduction, and they'll be up to speed.
The author sets the scene in her opening paragraphs of that introduction: in 2015 an explosion at a "superconducting supercollider" (gotta love it!) has torn a hole in the fabric of space time, which has in turn opened the paths to other realms. Old Earth, now known as Otopia, is visited by fantasy creatures, and trade routes have been established between the realms.
Lila Black, a semi-cyborg government agent (she's been rehabbed with cybernetic and mechanical add-ons after a previous caper), is assigned to duty as bodyguard for Zal, an Elf who's the lead singer of the Rock Band "The No Shows." His own people are trying to kill him. Our guys want to learn why the elven land (Alfheim) has closed its borders, and use the threats against Zal's life to bring Lila in.
The action starts quickly and builds to a fine, logical conclusion. Along the way the author has fun (you'll probably laugh in places) with fantasy conventions--she stretches them to the limits without breaking them--and she has a great time contrasting the flowery speech of the Elves' leader, Arie, with Lisa's street-gal patter.
Ms. Robson also has some fun with gender, too. The proactive female bodyguard falls (with the aid of some magic) for the relatively passive male diva (divo?) Their scenes together are hot--great fun.
The book (handsomely designed large-sized paperback on good paper) is billed as "Quantum Gravity, Book 1," but it's complete in itself. It won't leave you hanging from a cliff, but you'll probably be anxious for the followup, which is to be called "Selling Out."