Keeping It Real by Justina Robson

First of all – this book is a trade paperback and… I HAVE to say this – it smells good! The paper is a nice quality, it does not have that newspaper smell of mass market paperbacks, instead it brings to my mind the smell of a nice new textbook (in a good way). I could get high on the smell. And the book feels heavy, meaning the paper is dense. I was quite pleased with the experience of reading because of this. I would not mind it at all if more publishers paid attention to things like paper if they are going to charge $15+ for a trade paperback.

Anyway, moving on to the actual words on the pages. The book begins with a short summary under the heading of "Common Knowledge" that describes what has been going on in the world. A quantum bomb that exploded in 2015 has changed the world as we know it, opening up five other parallel realities to ours. When I read the first page which described the bomb and altering matter, I was a bit bored. It was pretty late at night and I was sleepy, and I was suspicious that this was a prologue in disguise. Many people skip those things. I never do, but I did put the book down. A while later I read past page 1, and things got interesting.  I recommend that you DO NOT skip the Common Knowledge section, it explains much about the parallel worlds (Alfheim - populated by elves, Zoomenon – world of the Elements, Demonia – filled with demons, Thanatopia – realm of Death, and Otopia – world of Faerie). By the time the story starts the information there will be useful.

The basic premise is that Lila Black, a special agent with a body that is mostly machine, has been tasked to protect the lead singer of The No Shows – an elf named Zal. Zal is unusual amongst his kind and has made a strange choice to be "slumming" down on Earth. Someone from Alfheim, who disapproves of Zal's lifestyle is sending him death threats. Half of the book takes place on Earth and the other on Alfheim, but I don't think I can even begin to start describing it. It was so much fun to read! How do I explain why!? First of all – this was not done in a fluffy silly way – when I tried to explain it to someone: "There were elves, and one of them is a rock star-",  I got a face. It's not like that at all. The characters are compelling. Lila is a woman who has guns popping out of her body and rides a black motorbike, but she's very confused about how she feels about elves – they almost killed her and that's what made her this way. She has difficulties with accepting what she looks like now. And Zal is a bit of a mystery at first, an elf who has chosen to defy his people and "go native" in another world, exiled because of his choices. His character is rather complex and undefinable. There were a couple of other very interesting characters I wish I could get into but I can't without giving away big chunks of plot. Speaking of the the plot, it unlike anything else I've read, unpredicable, full of action and thrills. There are a lot of pop culture references and jokes (other reviews say many funny LoTR references, which totally went past me, I haven't read those books since I was 14), but you don't need to get them to enjoy the story. The only thing I'd complain about is that there were times in the story where, especially dealing with elves, I felt like they understood something about what was going on that I did not (why did they do that now?). Maybe this lends itself to the whole clash of cultures between human and elf, or maybe I just need to reread those parts. I felt like Robson was an intellectual writing something fun instead of something with a serious agenda. And I'm glad, because I loved it.


Read and post comments | Send to a friend

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s