Selling Out (Quantium Gravity Series #2)

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Overview

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.

Justina Robson's new series is a joyful melding of science fiction and fantasy brought together in the figure of the dangerously lovely Lila Black, a 21-old secret agent who's had much of her body replaced ...
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Selling Out (Quantium Gravity Series #2)

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Overview

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.

Justina Robson's new series is a joyful melding of science fiction and fantasy brought together in the figure of the dangerously lovely Lila Black, a 21-old secret agent who's had much of her body replaced with weapon-and-armor-heavy intelligent metal and who isn't sure where her mind ends and her installed AI begins. Lila's world is one where demons, elves, and elementals live alongside people. And somehow Lila and the other agents of the security agency have to provide security for all and stay alive themselves.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Cyborg secret agent Lila Black learns that her worst enemy may be her own traumatic past in Robson's high-powered second Quantum Gravity installment (after 2006's Keeping It Real). Lila's first assignment was a disaster: she was forced to kill a friend to save elven rock star Zal, and now that friend, the elven necromancer Tath, lives inside her, commenting on her actions à la Jiminy Cricket. There's no cure for a tough job like diving headfirst into another, so now Lila is off on an undercover mission to Demonia to investigate the results of the recent quantum bomb explosion and learn how Zal managed to travel to Hell and become part demon. Her investigation is complicated by her cover as a journalist reporting on Demonian high society, as dangerous forces lurk behind the social whirl of luxurious parties. Robson's mix of magical and technological elements, intrigue and action should be just the thing for paranormal and fantasy adventure readers. (Oct.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

In Robson's second book of the "Quantum Gravity" series (following Keeping It Real), it is the new millennia, and the world has opened up to reveal a number of parallel realms inhabited by beings more easily identified as elves, demons, elementals, and other once-mythical creatures. Dealing with the resulting security problems are secret agents like 21-year-old Lila Black-part human, part machine, and with the capability of existing in multiple realms. When Lila is mysteriously drawn into the world of dreams, she realizes just how easy it is to get pulled in and why a struggle with that world may involve more than just her life. A good choice for sf readers who like their tales cutting-edge and their heroes memorable.


—Jackie Cassada
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591025979
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books
  • Publication date: 10/28/2007
  • Series: Quantum Gravity Series , #2
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 975,138
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Justina Robson is an author from Leeds in Yorkshire, England. Her first novel, Silver Screen, published in August 1999 in the UK and in 2005 by Pyr, was short-listed for the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the BSFA Award, and is currently nominated for the Philip K. Dick award. Her second novel, Mappa Mundi, together with Silver Screen, won the Amazon.co.uk Writer's Bursary 2000 and was also short-listed for the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2001. A third novel, Natural History, a far future novel, placed second in the 2004 John W. Campbell Award and was short-listed for the Best Novel of 2003 in the British Science Fiction Association Awards and the Philip K. Dick Award. A fourth novel, Living Next Door to the God of Love, was a finalist for the BSFA Award.
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Read an Excerpt


SELLING OUT


By JUSTINA ROBSON
Prometheus Books
Copyright © 2007

Justina Robson
All right reserved.



ISBN: 978-1-59102-597-9



Chapter One Lila Black sat in the office of her psychologist, Dr. Williams. Her memory of her last mission was downloading through one of her WiFi outlet channels; key features streamlined for Williams's analysis by her AI-self, statistics ready-packaged for the medical teams that monitored her health, cybertronic readouts tabulated for the engineering experts, weapons and armour performance playing back for her master-at-arms.

Dr. Williams was reading as the information spread out before her on her flat screen. Lila was playing with the doctor's antique Rubik's Cube. It had been two days since she'd returned from the near total disaster of her first assignment, acting as bodyguard to the most famous rock star in Otopia. Well, it had been three actually, but she wasn't prepared to admit the first twelve hours they'd been holed up alone in a luxury hotel. That was personal, and as such she had deleted it from her AI memory.

There were many other things she would have liked to delete. The cold-blooded murder of a friend was top of the list, alongside the haunting memories of her family's appalled faces-the way she imagined they'd look if they ever found out what she'd done, and what she'd become; the first cyborg agent of the Otopian Security Agency. They thought she was missing in action in Alfheim, the elven universe.

In those old, long-lost days of innocence Lila had gone there as a diplomat's secretary. It was a great assignment, because Alfheim was one of the least-visited realms, and open only to the diplomatic corps from Otopia. She had been among the first humans to ever be permitted inside its borders. But the high-level meetings, attempting to forge a treaty permitting cross-border activities, had faltered. Lila didn't know the details, only that she had agreed to spy for the Otopian Secret Service and that it had seemed the most exciting adventure. The only thing she had to do was report on what she had seen in the course of her normal duties.

But then she met another spy, Vincent, and had gone into the deep country to check out the rumours of odd magical trading-weapons' grade magical artifacts being smuggled into Alfheim's heart. They had been caught by the elven secret service agents, the Jayon Daga. Vincent was dead. Lila had survived by the slenderest of margins, her body almost completely ruined by a magical attack. And then she had been sent back, a slab of meat, a warning to Otopia, and Otopian SS had made her into a multibillion-dollar hero. And that was only the beginning.

For the first time since those days Lila found herself glad that her family would never know the truth. She was glad that her psych profiles would show the redlines all over her shame and revulsion, because she didn't think she could speak about them aloud.

The luxury of self-recrimination is not for you, said a familiar voice from somewhere close to her heart. We are already slaved to duty, and we must endure, and go on.

You'd better keep quiet, Lila replied in the silent speech of thought. I don't know how much of you the AI can pick up. She sighed aloud without thinking and Williams glanced at her.

Lila gave the white-haired old woman a nod and a shrug, knowing that the substance of her report was enough to excuse a few heartfelt sighs. Having a "dead" elf living inside her chest wouldn't be one of the causes that Williams might automatically jump to.

In response to her words Tath coiled up obediently, a slow-whirling green energy. His andalune body was all that remained of him after Lila's sometime colleague, the elf agent Dar, had murdered him. Tath was a necromancer, and thus unique among the elves in being able to switch hosts for his aetheric self. His andalune-the magical body all elves possessed-had jumped from his dead body to hers when she had kissed his face in pity.

Regret it?

Shut up when you're winning, Lila suggested. She knew perfectly well that her survival and what success she'd had were in part due to Tath-the two days it had taken her to re-edit her memories of the mission, removing him, proved that. Waiting for a reaction to her download was agonising as a result. She kept thinking of all the inconsistencies, the mistakes she might have made that would give her and him away. Of course, as a good agent and a loyal girl, thankful for her life, she should have told everything. But she was no longer sure how much she trusted Otopian SS, even if she trusted these friends and colleagues who worked on her team. She had heard too much in Alfheim, and she had to look out for herself. She hated that. She wanted to go back to the first days, when it had seemed straightforward and honest in every degree, everyone trustworthy and Lila Black doing heroic information-gathering for the security and safety of the human race.

It was all she could do to bite her tongue and suppress a laugh at the idea now. But how she longed for it! Tears threatened. Tath growled internally, a vibration against the wall of her heart, and his impatience and the tickling sensation made her laugh burst out.

Dr. Williams looked up. "What's so funny?" Her face was serious.

"Sorry," Lila said. "Hysteria."

Williams gave her an I-don't-believe-a-word look and went back to her analysis. At that moment the door opened and two more of Lila's Technical Team came into the room.

Lila got up to greet her Aetherial Supervisor, the elf Sarasilien. Since humans were incapable of sensing or using magic he was on loan from Alfheim to the service as part of yet another diplomatic wrangle. He had served the OSA since the early days of the realms' discovery, some ten years ago, and he had been the one who had helped Lila to survive her transformation from human to cybernetic organism. She hugged him in spite of his natural elven reserve and the situation. Although his physical self remained formally polite she felt the cool-water contact of his andalune body touch her with kindness.

/ Tath signalled, afraid that Sarasilien would go more than skin deep and see him. It was a great effort for him to stay so self-contained that nothing of his presence was detectable outside Lila's rib cage and every time they met another aetherically tuned being it was always going to be touch and go.

It's okay, she said to him and stepped back reluctantly from Sarasilien's fatherly embrace.

It's dangerous, Tath corrected her. He feels affection for you, and his andalune is strong. He will be very hard to fool for long.

When she stood back she could see the faintest hint of a smile at the corner of the older elf's long mouth, a sign most humans would easily have missed unless they were very familiar with his race. His long ears, the tips level with the top of his head, moved forward slightly. She could smell wintergreen in the long silky fall of hair that parted over his shoulders in fox tones, white and auburn. The aetheric symbols woven into his jacket sparkled.

His slanted eyes blinked slowly, "It is good to see you so well, Lila." Was that a special meaning Lila could detect in his words? Did he know about her and Zal, or her and Tath? Could he-smell it on her or something? She was appalled at the idea.

Behind him the team head, Cara Delaware, gave Lila a brisk smile and a nod. Cara was never anything but functionally social. Lila smiled in response and they took their seats, waiting for Williams to conclude her study.

Lila finished the cube puzzle for the third time and closed down her memory automatic archive so she could scramble it up again. Things which had seemed incredibly awkward, boring, and annoying to her about her cyborg self when she was originally made were now second nature. She glanced at the three faces quietly observing her and sighed, putting the cube down. It was worse than facing her parents after staying out all night.

Dr. Williams was, to look at, a kindly little-old-lady figure, like Red Riding Hood's grandmother, but in a white coat. Sarasilien was an alien presence in the high-tech environment of the Incon headquarters, an ageless elf sitting with the stillness of a statue at the point in the room which was least disturbed by strong electromagnetic fields from all the machinery, including Lila. Cara Delaware was a sharp suit from Langley, who looked as though she'd been born in a button-down white shirt and tailored slacks. None of them fooled Lila for a second.

She knew that Williams was a merciless and devious interrogator, Sarasilien a master aetheritician (why can't humans just say mage?), and Cara, well, Cara was the agency personified-a young and ambitious woman venturing out into an all-new world of five new universes, keen to make friends and influence people, desperate to know something about the sudden appearance of five new sets of dimensional neighbours: the elves, the demons, the faeries, the elementals, and the undead.

Lila was their instrument. No, all right, she meant a bit more than that, but she'd come to realise very recently (about the time she'd knifed her friend, the elven agent Dar, in the chest), that fifty billion dollars of research and engineering and the knife edge of interdimensional relations had bought parts of her she didn't even know were for sale. So she was sitting here, part employee, part volunteer, part slave, part friend, a little bit of daughter and a whole shitload of resentment, explaining to their quiet, experienced faces the grim details of how she had fulfilled her last mission.

Lila did her best to tell it in her own way, even though they all had the benefit of the download.

It had been a success in its central cause-Zal had been saved from a fate worse than death and was now playing stadium concerts in the midlantic states. But the peripheral discoveries and events were less than great.

Zal turned out to not just be a freak elf who liked playing mode-X rock. If he had been that would have been enough, because Alfheim saw that alone as sufficiently treacherous and defiant of their core beliefs to exile him forever. But Zal was much more than that. During his work for the Jayon Daga as an agent in Demonia he had somehow changed his aetheric allegiance and was now-well, even Lila didn't know what he was. An elf with demonic tendencies? Not quite half and half, but definitely changed in radical ways so that the oppositional magics of Alfheim and Demonia were both available to him. As a result of that, and his subsequent defection to the Otopian music scene, he had become one of those magical items most prized by people with really big ambitions.

One such person was Arië, a ruler in Alfheim's arcane monarchic government, who had taken it upon herself to use him in a spell to sever the realms altogether. In saving Zal, Lila had caused the destruction of a large part of the Alfheim ruling classes, indirectly caused the death of Arië herself, and now Alfheim was in open civil war.

Still, it was even worse than that.

She had killed one friend to save another. She hadn't mentioned that.

She didn't plan to.

She had a dead elf necromancer living inside her chest.

She didn't plan to mention that either.

She felt no loyalty, sitting there. She didn't know what she felt, but it wasn't good. She had hoped, thought-well, she had had some stupid idea that coming here and debriefing would be like a confession which would absolve her. It wasn't. Didn't. She longed to go back forty-eight hours and to be in bed with the curtains closed, Zal's naked, sleeping body in her arms-when she hadn't had a care in the world and every fuse in the place was blown dead so that nothing and nobody could find her.

"Lila?" Dr. Williams asked her.

"Oh. Well. Arië was eaten by the water dragon and then ..."

"What did it do next?" Sarasilien asked.

"I didn't see," Lila said, honestly. "It could still be in the lake for all I know. So, chomp. Which was lucky, otherwise I probably wouldn't be here. Chomp. Then we fell into the lake-everything fell. The whole palace collapsed when she died. Lots of people drowned and I caught hold of Zal and got him back to the surface okay and we made our way back out of Sathanor and then, here. Arië-there was a moment when I thought her whole spell to sever the realms was working but I don't know if that was true."

Cara flipped through the notes on her lap. "Extensive earth tremors were reported at that hour here in Otopia. It has been put down to crucial tectonic pressure shifts as several conjoined plates moved at once. Nothing too bad. Small tidal waves. Only a few hundred dead. Nothing since you came back."

Lila stared at her, wondering what kind of statistics Cara was used to dealing with that these seemed such small beer to her. "Arië was helped by necromancers from all the other realms, including this one."

Cara nodded. "A specialist team has been dispatched to attempt to reclaim or otherwise prove the deaths of those Otopians involved."

"Right," Lila said. "We were about two hundred metres down. It was very messy. They almost certainly drowned. I don't believe they could have survived."

"There was an aetheric shockwave," Sarasilien said. "Congruent with your descriptions. It was-difficult-to avoid." He winced. "All the other realms have sent us intelligence about the effects they have perceived. We are convinced Arië's efforts would have been reasonably successful if Zal had continued to function as the spell's axis. You are to be congratulated on a most successful outcome."

"Thanks," Lila said, wondering if she'd have sounded any more enthusiastic if he'd been inviting her to a funeral. Yes, she'd have been much more enthusiastic about funerals.

Dr. Williams made yet another note on her clipboard. Lila zoomed in on what she was writing but it was all in wretchedly tiny shorthand and on intelligent paper too, which concealed messages until it was cued to display them, so she could read nothing. Dr. Williams noticed her attempt, and made a note about that too. Lila frowned.

"As it stands," Cara said, "what interests us the most now is the connection between Zal's kidnap and the evidence concerning the Quantum Bomb fault underlying Bay City, which you and Malachi have uncovered."

"There's a link?" Lila said. She felt a tremor in her chest as Tath stirred with interest at the news. The quiescent, green shimmer of his presence opened out: alien spring.

"We believe that Arië was not alone in wanting to achieve fundamental separation of the realms. The recordings you found near the studios in Bay City were being taken by faery agents for their intelligence-gathering moot. Though our relations with them are somewhat hampered by the fact that we are all new to one another and have much to learn, they were willing enough to admit that they have been pursuing similar research in all the realms. They would not say what they were looking for but we believe it is closely related to the faultlines in Otopia which were created by the Quantum Bomb. As you know, faeries deny the Bomb as a fact, as do the other realms."

"Weird that they're so interested in evidence about it then?" Lila asked, recalling that it was faeries who had been key to Zal's kidnap in the first place.

"Yes. It is also known to us that Zal's own efforts are hardly limited to making money or music in Otopia. As you said in your report, your Jayon Daga informant ..."

"Dar. He was called Dar."

"Yes. Said that it was not an accident where or what Zal sang. That he was one of Alfheim's principal defenders until he 'went native' in Demonia."

"Elf and demon aetheric usage is very different," Sarasilien said quietly. "Their cultures are built around those differences. Elves use language to mobilise and shape aetheric energy. Demons use music. We suspect that Zal is adept in a new, hybrid form of aetheric control. It is possible that he was made so by demon agencies and acts for them, or that he was deliberately involved in this spell of Arië's ..."

"No way," Lila said.

"We are assigning you to discover exactly what happened to Zal in Demonia," Cara told her. "We need to know how, when, and why he was changed, and what it means to the demons, the elves, and everyone else on the aetheric block."

Sarasilien winced-Lila knew it was because of Cara's words. Clumsiness or imprecision of speaking were almost physically painful to elves. She was surprised that Delaware didn't notice. "Zal is no innocent bystander," Sarasilien said and Lila wanted to kill him, even though, of course, he was right and she knew that.

Dr. Williams made a note.

(Continues...)




Excerpted from SELLING OUT 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
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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 9, 2009

    Good Bridge book, but also stands alone

    Most second books of series are bridges to later events. At least, in this case, this one stands along. The author does a good job of keeping the action moving throughout the books and fleshes out things for the characters as well. There are some points where I just had to go along with things, but motivation is sometimes questionable for some of the characters.<BR/><BR/>Good sci-fi/fantasy.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    A reviewer

    By 2021, the Quantum Bomb changes the universe by creating six interlinked realities. Earth no longer exists as we knew it now called Otopia magic works where sprites, ghosts and other formerly paranormal species exist. A third realm Alfheim contains elves, who have forged a shaky alliance with the residence of Otopia. Other realities include Zoomenon consisting of Elementals Daemonia home to magical adept demons Thanatopia, the ¿land of the dead¿ in which no living human has ever returned after a visit and Faery, a fun tourist trap.----------- Her handlers and superiors, fearing the fragile peace between realms may be breaking, assign twenty-one years old super secret agent Lila Black, as much artificial intelligent metal as human, to learn more about rebellious royal fairy Zal. The Otopia leadership fears Zal without being aware that he and Lila are dating because she hides her relationship from her employers. Somehow Zal has done the impossible to himself when he altered his e essence to add other magicks found only in Alfheim and Daemonia, destroying a delicate balance.------------- Although SELLING OUT can stand alone, to better understand the six realms, especially their interrelationships, alliances, and discords, readers should read book one of the Quantum Gravity saga, KEEPING IT REAL. The first book introduced readers to the realms, but mostly through the residents of Otopia where almost the entire book occurs this time the audience visits Daemonia and Zoomenon while also learning how Zal and Lila got to where they both are super changed beings. Though darker in scope (hell - we are on the demon realm), Justina Robson provides a strong entry that continues to establish the physics of her multiverse.-------------- Harriet Klausner

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