Summerland

Hannu Rajaniemi. Tor, $25.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-250-17892-3
In this adroit if tangled fantasy of the years between the world wars, set in an alternate world where Marconi learned to tune his radio to supernatural frequencies, great national powers can assign agents to the afterlife, but espionage still relies on the most human types of intelligence. Englishwoman Rachel White works for the Winter Court of living spies. While guarding a Soviet defector, she is set on the trail of a mole in the Summer Court, whose spies have transitioned to the afterlife, aka Summerland. Chasing the clues leads her to the highest political offices. The civil war in Spain has England’s prime minister, H.B. West (a thinly veiled H.G. Wells), debating whether to continue supporting Franco or counter the Russians by backing their rebel, Stalin (who’s frustrated in his ambitions by a perpetually presiding Lenin). Rajaniemi cleanly describes a world in which death loses some of its sting given that there are literal tickets to heaven, though he never really gets into the consequences of Europe colonizing the afterlife and leaders still ruling after they die. Rachel and her husband, Joe, face their failings in this life, providing the book with its emotional resolution, whatever may happen in sequels or worlds to come. Fans of Rajaniemi’s Jean le Flambeur hypertech SF series need not be concerned; he smoothly transitions to this magical dieselpunk tale (airships battle “ectoflyers” in soul-powered flight suits) with all his technical skill in evidence. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/30/2018
Release date: 06/26/2018
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