Monday, September 17, 2007

Selling Out - Review

Selling Out by Justina Robson

A quick summary stolen from back cover: Book two of the Quantum Gravity series sees Lila Black drawn into the intoxicatingly dangerous demon realm. Capricious, in love with beauty, demons are best left to themselves. This is not easy when they can't resist tampering with humans.

How I'd sum it up to another reader: Simply, Lila goes to Hell. Her Latest mission has her going to Demonia to discover out how Zal, the elfin rockstar, became part demon. The task will prove to be harder than described, even deadlier than she first expected, and not without its surprises. Meanwhile, Zal is being an honest elf, and he goes out in search of Lila only to find himself in an entirely different realm.

The cover sez and shows: The New Bionic Woman II striking a pose. I think it's for a magazine ad. For Swiss Army knife arms. All the rad these days with the kiddos.

Number of dragons, wizards, and reluctant farmer boys: Nope. But plenty of demons, elves, and other fun fantasy creatures to hold you over for the ride.

Hardest name to pronounce in my head: Sarasilien. Other than that, nothing too troubling.

Best part: Spoiler alert for Keeping It Real! Spoiler alert for Keeping It Real! Tath, the dead elf living inside Lila's chest and encompassing her conscious, is simply good stuff. He pops up always at the right moment to lay the snark out on Lila or tell her something she doesn't know. His knowledge of demons is limited, but his history of Alfheim in tier one, making him both a clever way around exposition and a fun secret that both Lila and the reader have to constantly worry about being discovered.

Worst part: The ending. It fell kind of flat on its face. And by that I mean that it just didn't do anything. The whole tension of whether or not Zal and Lila are going to get to meet up or not by the end of the book is resolved so nonchalantly that it made me wonder why I read all that in the first place. To be fair, there's a fun plot involving Lila and some demoniacally creepy critters complicating everything along the way, but that storyline ended well and good. Same with the whole mystery of Zal's background and how he became part demon, part elf. But, surprisingly, I wanted the budding romance that started to blossom in Keeping It Real. Sadly, it wasn't here. Snartleblast.

Random thoughts and theories: Justina Robson's books here, Keeping It Real and Selling Out, have their moments. They can be silly, preposterously plotted SF adventures with people hopping to and fro, but they can also be quite serious. Almost touching. Like the reunion Lila finally gets with her family after they'd long thought she was dead. The language is heavy, then light; airy, then bloated. I think I much preferred Keeping It Real to Selling Out. Everything was more fresh then, and it was a fun experience traversing through the realm of Alfheim with Lila who was trying to win a Game and save herself at the same time. Meh. We'll see where the third book goes, if anywhere. I'd like to know more about the ghost busters and the Others, personally.

If said book were a ride at a Disney theme park: It'd be a bunch of them actually. Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin from Tomorrowland mixed with the Rock n' Roller Coaster from MGM Studios. Oh, and all this is done while on a dangerously high amount of acid. After that, everyone in the theme park will begin to appear to look like elves and demons and then blam! You're in Selling Out.

If in school its grade would be: B

Come on, write us a haiku:
O those low demons
Hurting human bots like our
Lila, still so lost

Overall, y'all: Selling Out is an admirable sequel to Keeping It Real, taking Lila Black and Zal and throwing them into another set of mysterious and deadly situations. Readers hungry for an adventure stuffed with futuristic technology, mystical magic, and engaging not run-of-the-mill characters need look no further--Selling Out delivers. It's not quite as rewarding as Robson's first book, and in the end it might suffer from the middle child syndrome, but for now it's an excellent read that'll challenge imaginations and hook its talons deep.

Books I might or might not compare to: Crossover by Joel Shepherd and Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow

Some linkage: Justina Robson's homepage, and the band The No Shows, which is the band Zal sings for inside the canon world of the book, have a website


Daniel Ausema said...

I loved her Natural History, was impressed with the ambition of its sequel but didn't think it was as good. I've been hoping to get around to Keeping it Real for a while now, but haven't yet.

Paul Abbamondi said...

I actually haven't read any of her other work, but I've heard only good things.