Keeping It Real

Posted by : atcampbell | On : November 20, 2007

Keeping It Real by Justina Robson

Nine people gathered at A. T.’s house for this meeting. Our topic, Keeping it Real, is a novel about a bionic woman, rock and roll, nuclear power, elves, and motorcycles. Only two of us had read Robson before. Eight of us started this book, with five finishing it.

We liked many things about this book. The story is simply fun.  The narrative hooks the reader quickly and then moves quickly through to the end. The author fills in back story while the story is moving along, without tedious info dumps. The disparate elements work surprisingly well together. The book is filled with memorable images of magic. Jousting on motorcycles is a highlight.

Several members commented that when they were reading this book, people would notice the distinctive cover and ask them what the book was about. They all found it difficult to describe in few words.

In the universe of the novel, several divergent worlds (human, demon, elf, etc.) converge and it is possible to travel from one realm to another. We all thought this was a neat idea and well-handled. Most of us found the first half of the novel, which takes place on a human world much like our own, to be more focused and engrossing. The story gets more convoluted in the second half in the land of the elves, where clearly we’re getting set up for a sequel.

The main character, Lila Black, is interesting. She seems to fit in everywhere, but not everyone else does. However some of us commented that Lila is not terribly good at her job. The guy she is bodyguarding keeps getting kidnapped, and she falls in love at the most inopportune times.

We liked the elf, human, elemental, and demon societies, and the well-thought-out rules governing contact between individuals. “The game,” a special type of interaction between two individuals, is well thought-out and integral to the story.

A couple of people had problems with the author’s prose style. One noticed several instances of missing words, wrong word choice, etc. Another person complained of “too many adverbs”.

At the end of the discussion, we tried to come up with examples of similar books. We thought this book had a lot in common with Terri Windling’s Borderlands books and Aaron Allston’s Doc Sidhe novels.

Overall we felt Keeping it Real was an enjoyable and different book. After the meeting, we had a nice dinner at Opal Divine’s.

—A. T. Campbell, III