Keeping It Real (Quantium Gravity Series #1)

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Keeping It Real (Quantium Gravity Series #1)

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Editorial Reviews

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 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

The world changed in 2015, when the Quantum Bomb tore a hole in the fabric of reality and opened doors to other dimensions, including Alfheim, or Elfland. When undercover agent Lila Black, part human and part combat machine, is hired as a bodyguard for an elven rock star, she gets caught up in an elaborate game that affects not only relations between Otopia (the Earth) and Alfheim, but the other quantum realms as well. The author of Silver Screenskillfully builds a seamless connection between sf and fantasy in this fast-paced series opener featuring a strong, action-oriented heroine and a unique world setting. With appeal to fans of contemporary culture and mature YAs, her latest effort belongs in most libraries.


—Jackie Cassada
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591025399
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books
  • Publication date: 3/28/2007
  • Series: Quantum Gravity Series , #1
  • Pages: 337
  • Product dimensions: 5.35 (w) x 8.26 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Read an Excerpt


KEEPING IT REAL


By JUSTINA ROBSON
Prometheus Books
Copyright © 2007

Justina Robson
All right reserved.



ISBN: 978-1-59102-539-9



Chapter One The story of how The No Shows got signed was one of those legends that seem completely manufactured by the celebrity press. Rolling Stone ran it as lead story the day their first single was released for download. Lila Black reviewed it as she travelled to a meeting with the owner of Ozo Records, Jelly Sakamoto.

* * *

A few months ago Jelly had been the producer of a modestly successful indie music label. He was sitting in his office playing a quick five-minute game of Dune Car Rally on his pod, which had become an hourlong frustrating game of Dune Car Rally by the time his A&R girl burst in without warning and said breathlessly, "You gotta hear this!"

Jelly was used to being told that, but he knew that Lucie was frequently right. Still, no point in breaking old habits. He saved and shrugged without looking up, "What?"

"This great new band. They play their own gear, write their own material, and do this kind of weird heavy rock Mode-X number. The backing vocals are all faeries, the DJ is that chick from Zebra Mondo. And-get this-their lead singer is an elf!"

"Elves don't rock," Jelly said, unknowingly coining one of the greatest quotes in the history of popular music and the phrase that would follow him to his deathbed. He added, rather more forgettably, "They pavane and jig, they play the flute and the triangle, they do orchestra, they do chant, they sell shitloads of that. They sing like cats with firecrackers up their asses. The only time they ever get sampled is when they've been pushed through an audio sieve so human listeners don't shit themselves, or when they're slowed down ten times to scrape the frequencies for distortion effects to shove behind Crash bands. So, what? Does she mime? Does she look good?"

"Here." Lucie threw a Berrypic of the band down on the desk. "He sings his own lyrics."

Jelly ignored her and the invitation of the Berry's flashing Play command, got up, and went out, allegedly to the toilet, although he claims in a later interview that he was going to fit some new EarWax with higher grade buffers, in order to protect his hearing.

Lucie hung out waiting, and when she convinced herself he must have gone down the fire escape she stormed out, leaving the Berry face-up on his empty desk. An hour later in came Roxanne, the sales director for Northern Otopia at Ozo Records, the largest music company in the Four Realm Trading Bloc. Fed up of waiting for Jelly, who was notoriously late for everything, she sat herself down in his chair and, glancing down at the Berry, pressed Play.

Twenty minutes later Jelly comes into his own office and she says, "Why didn't you tell me you were going to be sending me a million-bytes-a-minute-shifter? I need another month at the least to prep publicity! Honestly, you'd be late for your own funeral."

Jelly bought Ozo Records on the first week's sales and Lucie ran it for him in her new post as executive director, whilst he fussed around producing a whole lot of other bands and arguing with The No Shows' volatile addict of an agent, Buddy Ritz.

The rest, Lila reflected as she reread the tale, was the talk of the medianets every other day of the week. There was no hotter property than The No Shows at the moment.

Lila Black was undercover. She was pretending to be a bodyguard working for Doublesafe, a company specialising in personal security for celebrities. It was an easy job since she was already kitted out for much more active duties as part of her job in the Otopian National Security Agency's Intelligence and Reconnaissance Division, or Incon. The only difficulty she had was in concealing those parts of her body which were entirely metal prosthetics, but she'd found a silk trouser suit and smart boots to do that for her. The synthetic skin on her hands and arms was thankfully wearing well enough to pass for the real thing. As she took a sidelong glance at herself in the mirror at Ozo Records' Reception, she saw a tall, powerful young woman in elegant black flares. Her silver eyes-the irises and pupils perfect mirrors-could easily be put down to decorative contact lenses beneath the soft swing of her ruby and scarlet hair. There was nothing to show that she was barely half a human being any longer. She enjoyed the feeling, until the receptionist popped her bubblegum and said, "Jelly'll see you now."

Lila walked into the office. It hadn't changed since the Rolling Stone shoot, except that there were two more platinum discs hanging over his desk, both printed with The No Shows logo: a heart inside a red circle with a diagonal slash across it. She stood in front of the desk and looked at Jelly as he looked at her. He was a thin, leathery whipcord of a man, brimming with nervous energy, and could barely sit still a moment.

"Doublesafe said you were the best," he said and shrugged, not very impressed. "I got to tell you, I don't know. We're getting some trouble. Letters. Threats. We have a tour to do. You look like kinda lightweight, like a kid could push you away in a crowd, or maybe even a big wind. What you got to say?" He took off his dark glasses and folded his hands under his chin. He had a gold ring on every finger.

Lila shrugged back, also not impressed. "If we get into a crowd, then I didn't do my job. We won't be in any crowds." She was recording the entire conversation, sending it to her Incon boss on a secure, wireless feed the entire time, using the camera system inside her eyes.

"Well, you don't look too bad," he said. "And I know shit about it all, only that I need Zal to survive the tour and make some more tracks. You cool with elves?"

"I'm cool," Lila said. The lie rolled easily off her tongue. She felt her heart rate go up and she would have begun sweating, but her autosystems kicked in and masked all of her nerves with effective machine frost. Drugs and hormones from adapted glands in her neck and brain smoothed her until it was true. She was cool.

"Good. You're hired. You can start now. Go pick him up and take him down to the studios. He ..."

"I have all the details," Lila said in her most professional tone, tapping the back of her hand where an ordinary person kept their Organiser. "Your office sent me everything already."

"Oh yeah?" For the first time Jelly seemed fazed. Then he grinned, "I like having the mostest people working for me." Then, "Why you still here?"

Lila walked out. On her way to the parking lot she connected briefly with her boss, Cara Delaware, to tell her that the job was successful and to hear Cara say, "Great. You okay? Your reflexes showed some peak stress levels there. We can pull you if it gets too much."

"No," Lila said quickly. She'd reached her bike. Its sleek, powerful lines and instant reaction to her touch on the grips had already calmed her more completely than her AI-self's drug response to her nervousness. The doses themselves had been so low that their effect was already gone and here, where inappropriate reactions didn't matter, the AI didn't bother masking her true responses. The engine purred like a giant cat, making the concrete vibrate under her feet. "I'm fine."

"Then you're activated," Cara said. "Partial cover. Your support team are online when you need them. You're operating out of central offices now. Everything goes through the team. Nobody else. Not even me."

"Thanks. Take care of everyone for me." Lila thought of her dog, Okie, whom she'd had to leave at home to be looked after by her colleagues until she returned. She thought of her family, although they'd been left behind years ago when she stopped being plain diplomatic attaché Lila Amanda Black and became something quite different. There was no telling when she might be back from this job, but she had agreed to one thing for certain when she agreed to live as a cyborg of the AI division instead of die of her wounds and now, no matter when the cover ended, she was never going home again.

"Good luck, Lila." The line cut dead. It was the first time since she had been Mended that she was really and truly on her own. Where Cara and the NSA office had been a constant, monitoring presence fresh zones of silence opened in Lila's head. She smiled and the bike traced an arc of beautiful speed into the traffic heading downtown.

(Continues...)




Excerpted from KEEPING IT REAL by JUSTINA ROBSON Copyright © 2007 by Justina Robson. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 20 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 20 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 20, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A Fervently Hip Sci-Fi/Fantasy Unlike Anything You Have Ever Read Before.

    Lila Amanda Black is no more. In her place is a half-human half cyborg hybrid body. Meshed with her own psyche and an onboard Ai, Lila is no ordinary girl anymore, but she still bleeds, and still feels within that drop dead exterior-even if she can bench-press a small auto.


    Now working for Incon, Lila is test-driving her new body on a routine bodyguard assignment for one of the most popular bands to hit the realms. An unorthodox mix of faery and elven witchery, The No Shows have recently seen some press action since their lead, mysterious Zal Ahriman and Rolling Stone darling has been seriously threatened-with death. Lila has to get to the bottom of the conspiracy before she loses control of the situation and before she loses control of Zal. Little does she know that the death threats are of a political nature, that not only threaten her realm but others, and that Zal is not who he seems. Everything eventually comes full circle-including her life.


    Magic and science collide in Robson's worlds, the casualty of a super collider incident that split realities and opened the 'verse up to multiple realms: Demonia, Alfheim, Zoomenon, Thanatopia and Faery, the aetheric magic wielding realms versus the non-aetheric technology driven Otopia (formerly Earth). Not everybody in the realms are happy about their worlds being revealed, and xenophobia as well as burgeoning terrorism is running rampant. There are also threads of real world scenarios that add a certain depth to Robson's writing: racism, technology saturation, and ethnocentrism to name a few. It's fairly coherent with the exception of some terminology and theorizing about interstitial space between the realms. I'd recommend a legend to accompany the reading.


    Aside from that criticism Keeping it Real was like nothing I had ever read before and I loved every minute of it especially the intense attraction between Zal and Lila which only grows as she traverses the realms to rescue him. From the wilds of Zathanor to the clutches of the Jayon Daga and Arie, to the gig circuit where Zal and his band rock on, Robson doesn't relent until she is sure that she has taken us for an incredibly lavish ride. Readers will detect a slight Isaac Adamson-Jamie Hewlett-Lester Bangs feel to the story. It's a rock n' roll tale merged with slick technology, magic, and futuristic popular culture. I've heard others remark that it reminds them of the Bionic Woman, but come on.the Bionic Woman only wishes she were as cool as Lila! I've already finished Selling Out, Book #2 and have started on Book #3 Going Under, that's how much I have been sold on this series.

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  • Posted July 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Exciting Read for a "Cyber Punk-Lord of the Rings" Mood

    I had a great time reading this book, so much so that I went out and bought the 2nd (good) and 3rd (disjointed and weird) in the series as soon as I finished. I was looking for an adventure story that was fresh and exciting, that took me someplace new - and Keeping It Real delivered. It's one part cyberpunk, three parts Lord of the Rings with hot elves. It went particularly well with the soundtrack from Last of the Mohicans.

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  • Posted February 6, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    So Original Its Hard To Describe

    This book was so startling, so different and amazing that every time I finish reading it I just want to start all over again. The problem with recommending it or reviewing it is that it is unlike anything else I've ever read.<BR/>It takes place in our world but after a very well thought out and explained bomb goes off that changes everything. The countries aren't the same, the continents aren't even the same, but at the same time no one can really remember exactly what the world was like before it went off. As if that wasn't enough, there are other worlds out there connected to our own now. One is populated by a race of people who look like everyone's idea of elves and even go by the title. They're magical, aloof, and mysterious. Another is populated by demons. Not the evil demons of hell kind, but ones who look like those descriptions. THey're playful, dangerous and have a highly intricate society based on their own mafias and laws. (Assasination and duels are social events.) <BR/>Those are just two of the major worlds, but there are others. Fairies and all sorts of creatures who're never as nice as they appear, nor as helpful but always surprising. <BR/>Throw into this world of magic and magical creatures one spy, half woman and half machine, and you get a chaotic mix of magic and technology. Of intricate politics, plots and subplots like nothing I've ever read before. Not to mention there's also love, battles and rock n roll. I can't recommend this highly enough to anyone. I just have a real problem trying to explain them to anyone who asks.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2008

    A Page-Turner Even for Us Non-SF/Fantasy Readers

    Although I rarely read science fiction or fantasy, I had heard great things about Pyr and chose this as my first book by the publisher. I was not disappointed. For those readers who, like me, have no clue what the other reviewers are referring to when they write of 'urban fantasy', 'military SF' and 'cyberpunk', it doesn't matter. The book is for us too. Although I have kids and a job, I managed to read the book in three days. Because I couldn't put it down. (Of course, this meant much late-night reading, so I'm suffering a major book hangover right now.) I will definitely be ordering the sequel. I found 'Keeping It Real' highly entertaining, and recommend it as a really fun read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2007

    Clever, fast-paced, sexy, and 'real'

    Although the title is a bit of a misnomer (it doesn't really fit in with the themes), the blend of scifi, fantasy, and dark traumatic themes are blended well enough to seem real. Publisher's Weekly comments that in other hands, this story would be absurd - and it's right. The humor and fast pace keep it from falling into that realm, using friendly self-deprecation and punchy sarcasm. Sometimes scenes are rushed - something that should be extremely traumatic is conveniently bypassed, a complicated scientific description hurries on by without making much sense. We find ourselves using a cinematic eye to forgive on paper as we would forgive in a movie theater, watching special effects used to carry us through a scene with FEELING. That feeling is what is the driving force in the book - a heroine who doesn't know herself or what she wants any more, who chooses stubborness over common sense, walking among other races trying to both prove and find herself. A strong theme of the book is blending - your own identity, racially, sexually, as a friend, as a foe - no one thing is fixed, all is fluid, and in so doing the book reads like a fine cocktail, heady, sometimes overpowering and not perfectly smooth, but complex, rich, and thoroughly entertaining nonetheless. Sometimes the dark themes are toyed with too lightly (losing some believability) so hopefully in future installments she'll develop those more believably and deeply.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2007

    A reviewer

    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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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    A strong blending of science fiction and fantasy

    No one anticipated what the reactor meltdown of the Texas Superconducting Supercollider would do but it led to a Quantum Bomb explosion that ripped open portals to other realms where magic instead of science was predominant. Five years have passed since the Quantum Bomb Lost Year of 2015, earth is no more at least as we knew it in fact the name is now Otopia with five other realms while the former earth resides in the fourth area of I-space. Relations with the other realms remain top secret, but between us it is not so good so the Odonian Security Agency was created to combine espionage, antiterrorism, and criminal investigation especially with the third real Demonia sending agents into the neighboring fourth realm to cause mischief and to control magic leaking into Otopia.----------------- OSA Special Agent Lila Black, a bomb survivor who has become more than human due to all the technology imbued in her to keep her alive, provides protective services to an elf Zal, who is lead singer of the No Shows band. Zal¿s manager fears someone wants to kill his star attraction as the elf has received threatening notes. The undercover bodyguard and the obstinate lead vocalist argue over her protecting him because he wants no babysitter. One thing both hide is their desire for the other.-------------------- The first Quantum Gravity KEEPING IT Real is a strong blending of science fiction and fantasy that fans of both genres will enjoy. The story line is action-packed with the heroine trying to keep the singer safe as attempts on his life occur. Though for someone born in the twenty-first century, Lila has quite history that at times overwhelms the prime plot, fans will root for her as she battles Otopian enemies who want to use Zal as an expendable pawn in a unique cold war that traverses the realms. Hopefully future books will provide fans with more insight into the other realms of elementals, elves, demons, death and fairy.---------------- Harriet Klausner

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