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Keeping It Real (Quantum Gravity, Book 1) Paperback – March 6, 2007

3.8 out of 5 stars 57 customer reviews
Book 1 of 5 in the Quantum Gravity Series

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Editorial Reviews

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.

From Booklist

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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 345 pages
  • Publisher: Pyr (March 14, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591025397
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591025399
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.7 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,066,716 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Joe Sherry on April 4, 2007
Format: Paperback
While Keeping It Real by Justina Robson is her fifth published novel, she shows off the full strength of her imagination here and announces to those who may not have heard already that she is a major talent and that she will write a blend of science fiction and fantasy that demands to be read.

How is that as a selling point?

Keeping It Real opens with a not quite a chapter, not quite a prologue telling us what we need to know. In 2015 there was some sort of Quantum Bomb which detonated in Texas and which opened our world to five alternate / parallel worlds where there are elves, fairies, demons, the dead, and elementals. The other races insist they have known about us all the while.

The novel takes place in 2021 and we need to know that this is the state of being because this is not what the novel is about nor is it the story Robson is telling. But it is the setting.

Lila Black is possibly less than half human. The other half is machine. At the start of the novel we do not know why or how, only that she is assigned security for a rock band called the No Shows which consists of fairies singing backup and an elf as the lead singer. The No Shows are immensely popular and someone is trying to kill the elf, Zal. Lila, as it turns out, does not entirely trust elves and is barely comfortable in her own skin, such as it is. She is in control of her body and machine, but not entirely. There are glitches.

This is the starting point of Keeping It Real. The rest needs to be discovered to be believed. Robson keeps the novel moving at a reasonably fast clip with action, excitement, elf sex, imperfect cyborg machinery, inept fake [...] attempts, and a heroine who is broken more on the inside than on the outside...
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Format: Paperback
This is the first book in the "Quantum Gravity" series. The publication date for the second, "Selling out", has unfortunately slipped to mid 2007 and I don't know how I'm going to stand the wait.

The Quantum Gravity series is set in a future where a disaster in 2015, the "Quantum bomb" has removed the barrier between the world inhabited by humans like ourselves, (formerly known as "Earth" and now as "Otopia") and other realms including those of Elves, Demons, and Faeries. The book starts six years later in 2021.

The heroine and central character is Special Agent Lila Black, who works for the human National Security Agency. (It is never made quite clear whether this is the USA's agency by that name or a united human body, but the omission doesn't matter as all the intrigue in the book involves different factions of Elves and other non-humans.)

Lila Black is a brilliant creation: having been severely wounded she has been rebuilt as a cyborg powered by her own miniature nuclear reactor, with rocket jets in her legs, more lethal weaponry than a squadron of main battle tanks, more electronic snooping equipment than a Hawkeye AWACs, and more computing power than IBM. Unsurprisingly the human mind inside this lethal killing machine is worried about to what extent she is still human and self-conscious about what she has become. Dduring the course of the book it becomes clear that she is still capable of everything that is best about being human.

The book is a strange mix of hard science fiction and fantasy, but it works well, and the author manages to include seriously weird events and somehow make them seem completely plausible while you are reading about them.

If you really don't like books with Elves, fairies etc you probably shouldn't read this.
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Comment 17 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
This book is a helluva lot of fun. And by fun, I don't mean in a light and fluffy kind of way, though one might expect that from a book focusing on an elf rock star and his cyborg bodyguard chick. And given the various descriptions of this book, I didn't know what to expect out of it, other than it'd be fun (which it was), weird (which it was), and rather unpredictable (which it was).

Robson has a wonderful talent for humor and for revealing the zaniness of pop culture. Not only is this book littered with pop culture references (LOTR and Toy Story being just two of them), they're funny and not cliche. The characters, too, are exceedingly well-crafted, and no one gets out of this book unchanged. I'm still puzzling over a few characters' allegiances, but it's nothing I'm too upset over, because I'm content with my own interpretations.

I think my only real qualms with this book were certain action scenes that I couldn't visualize at all what was happening or why. I'd name the scenes, but they take place towards climatic moments of the novel, and I don't want to give anything away. So I won't. And because this book is first in a series, I suspect some of my questions will be answered later, so I don't have a problem with the ending.

Would I recommend this title? Most definitely. But you should probably have an affinity for elves, and you should also appreciate all the snark that goes along with the elf stereotype, because Robson mercilessly makes fun of her elf characters (the LOTR references are constant, and funny). But I think anyone who enjoys modern fantasy/pop fantasy will enjoy this. There's sex, love, and SF, but the SF shouldn't scare non-SF readers much. It's really icing on the cake, and Robson's characters make the story worth the rough patches.
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