Keeping It Real (Quantium Gravity Series #1)

Keeping It Real (Quantium Gravity Series #1)

by Justina Robson


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The Quantum Bomb of 2015 changed everything. The fabric that kept the universe's different dimensions apart was torn and now, six years later, the people of earth exist in uneasy company with the inhabitants of, amongst others, the elfin, elemental, and demonic realms. Magic is real and can be even more dangerous than technology. Elves are exotic, erotic, dangerous, and really bored with the constant Lord of the Rings references. Elementals are a law unto themselves and demons are best left well to themselves.

Special agent Lila Black used to be pretty, but now she's not so sure. Her body is more than half restless carbon and metal alloy machinery, a machine she's barely in control of. It goes into combat mode, enough weapons for a small army springing from within itself, at the merest provocation. As for her heart, well, ever since being drawn into a game by the elfin rockstar Zal (lead singer of The No Shows), who she's been assigned to protect, she's not even sure she can trust that any more either.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780575079076
Publisher: Gardners Books
Publication date: 11/09/2006
Series: Quantum Gravity Series , #1

About the Author

Justina Robson is the author of Selling Out, Going Under, and Chasing the Dragon (Books 2-4 of the Quantum Gravity series). 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 was nominated for the Philip K. Dick award. Her second novel, Mappa Mundi, together with Silver Screen, won the Writer's Bursary in 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, was short-listed for the Best Novel of 2003 in the British Science Fiction Association Awards, and was also nominated for the 2006 Philip K. Dick Award, receiving a special citation. A fourth novel, Living Next Door to the God of Love, was a finalist for the BSFA Award.

Visit Justina Robson's Web site at

Read an Excerpt


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.


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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Keeping It Real 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
gregandlarry on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fun story with lots of action.
krau0098 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the first book in the Quantum Gravity series by Justina Robson. So far there are four books in the series with a 5th being planned for future release. I wasn't able to find the number of books actually contracted for this series. Anyway, I really liked it. It is a great first book in the series and I want to learn a lot more about both the world and the characters.A quantum bomb exploded in 2015 ripping a hole in reality and revealing five other realities; an elven realm, an elemental realm, a demon realm, the realm of death, and Otopia (Used to be known as Earth). Zal is an elf that has abandoned his homeland and become half demon; he then entered Otopia and started performing as a rock star. The elven community wants him dead and Lila Black is the one assigned to guard him. Lila is not quite human. She got into a horrible accident and the only way to save her life was for her to agree to be part of an experiment. Now she is part AI, part cyborg, and part human. Initially she thinks that she is guarding a rock star...then she finds the plot goes much deeper and wonders how deep into Elven territory it will take her.This was a very creative book. I loved the five realms (with a possible sixth somewhere) they were awesome. We really only get to visit Otopia and the Elven realm, Alfheim, in a lot of depth and I am eager to visit the other realms. The characters are very engaging. All of them have their heroic points and their flaws. Lila and Zal both struggle with being different in a world where things are more bizarre than ever before. The dialogue was witty and funny most of the time; Lila in general is a kick butt character always ready with a quick jibe and tease.The plot is complex and densely packed. There is a ton of action and Robson does a very good job writing the action scenes. Robson's writing style is pretty straight-forward, there is not a lot of flowery language here or over-description, the writing style fits the story well so it all works out.There were some small problems with the book. The whole world (actually five worlds) are a lot to throw at a reader all at once; it can get a little bit confusing. I thought this was handled okay. Also most of the book is written from Lila's viewpoint, then suddenly in the second half some chapters are from Zal's point of view. This was a bit odd; although it worked okay, it took me a few moments to figure out what was going on. The last problem was that a lot hinges on The Game that Lila and Zan are bound up in. I never really understood what a Game was or how it got initiated; I understand it happens through Wild Magic but I though that aspect of the plot could have been clarified better.Other than the above, I thought the complicated world and plot was handled pretty well. The characterization, world-building, and action scenes were fantastic. I am really, really looking forward to reading more books in this series. I stumbled upon this series in a special display at a bookstore and I am wondering why this series isn't getting better coverage. It is a good series. People who have described it as Dragonlance meets Star Trek are right on. I can't wait to see what the next book holds.
enelya_telrunya on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Just finished it tonight! I really enjoyed this one and didn't expect that I would. Normally I don't read science fiction and only pulled this off the shelf on a whim. Glad I did though! There was enough action, romance and fantasy to keep it all balanced, so you won't find yourself bored.
TheDivineOomba on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found this book at the library, and thought I would give it a try. Considering the genre, I was expecting a light on plot, heavy on romance and was expecting to give up half way through. I was pleasantly surprised. Lila Black lives in a world that has collided with others in an accident called the Quantum Bomb. This brought into contact elves, fairies, demons, and even a world of death to the previous alone and un-magical human. Lila was seriously hurt during a trip to the elf world. To save her, the government repaired her with a curious mix of machinery, magic, and technology, turning her into half machine, half human, and utterly alone. When she gets assigned to protect Zal, Elf rock star hated by his own people, she takes a trip to the elfworld learns a bit about herself, finds love, and takes a few steps into the world of magic.Over all it was a well written book. A few slow spots, some bits and pieces glossed over. I still don't understand why Earth's name was changed. The author has managed to take a stereotype elf and turn it into something else, even if the language seemed right out of Tolkien.
Shrike58 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'll cheerfully admit that it was image of the cyber-girl on the cover (very much like "Alita") that sucked me into reading this book, and for about the first quarter or so my thought was that the whole affair was a little too "high concept" (i.e.: let's do a "Shadowrun" novel!). At that point the story turns into a page-turning thriller and is well worth your time. As for what you would call this mash-up of science fiction, fantasy, thriller, and very sexy romance story, I like to think of it as manga or anime without the pictures.
tinLizzy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I dig the story and the author's writing style, it even prompted me to be a little impatient waiting for the next in the series. Lila Black is a great and engaging heroine, can't help but think of Trinity (The Matrix), which is a good thing. However in contrast to Trinity - Lila gets to play 1st fiddle rather than 2nd, and has depth of character as well relative to what we ever see of Trin. Harkens back to another book I just finished, Finder by Emma Bull. Similar themes of racial/species tensions between humans, elves and - in the case of Keeping It Real - demons, but does so with humor and cynicism woven in and without taking itself too seriously or getting mired in emo/feelings-fest.
lewispike on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book starts off with Lila Black being the new off the press spy cyborg on her first assignment. She has a back-history too, that is hinted at rather heavy-handedly, in a way that made me wonder (until it was finally revealed in this book) whether there was a book before this one, despite this being clearly labelled as book 1.Despite those issues, it takes off into a rip-roaring adventure that is fast paced, and mixes some hard science, some magic, some mysticism and lots of action. It left me wanting more, always a good thing in book one of a series, whilst coming to a natural conclusion too.It contains some oddly subdued sex scenes and a fair amount of angst and character death - and they work well, mostly, although clearly she's not that happy writing the sexy stuff.
wyvernfriend on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lila Black has had an interesting history with Elves. Magic, elemental energy, demons and technology exist side-by-side in this alternative version of our world. A little Shadowrunish, or maybe TORG, there was a Quantum Bom and the spaces between the different dimensions were pulled together, or ripped apart. Lila Black was put back by technology after the Elves damaged her, she hasn't quite got used to the implications of her new body and it's limitations. The AI that co-exists with her is also not a completely known quantity. When she's assigned to guard an Elf magician she's dragged into the games Elves play and their politics. I'm looking forward to checking out more of this series to see what happens next.
kd9 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Justina Robson has written several intricate, cutting edge novels. This is not one of them. This is a R-rated YA adventure tale. I read the first fifty pages and almost gave up. I really did not need another story about a damaged, whiny young adult. But after the whining is over, there actually is an interesting story about what would happen if there was an Event that opened the doors between Earth (now called Otopia), Fairy, Elven Lands, Demonia, and other mythical places. Lila Black is a former low level diplomat/spy damaged by Elves to such an extent that the only way to save her is to replace half her body with battle hardened cyborg structure and weapons. She is hired to protect an Elf turned part Demon from retribution by other elves. He is the lead singer of the rock band, so there are quite a few musical references. Her job leads her back to the Elven Lands where she joins forces with the Elf that damaged her in the first place and other Elves who might or might not be part of a revolution against the ruling Elvish leader. People die, some at her hands, but in the end her Elf/Demon lover is saved and a structure is in place for more novels set in the same universe.
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nicolamattos More than 1 year ago
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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FriscoBookworm More than 1 year ago
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.
SunshineQueen More than 1 year ago
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.
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.)
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.
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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Guest More than 1 year ago
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.