British Fiction Focus

Robson Returns

I have a real soft spot for Justina Robson.

I don’t know exactly what it was about Silver Screen that caught my eye. It might have been the Giger-esque qualities of the art on the first edition’s front cover; it might have been the thoughtful concepts the synopsis suggested; it might merely have been because I fancied some sci-fi—a much rarer impulse in those days than these—and the South African bookshop I bought it in didn’t exactly specialise in speculative fiction.

Whatever it was, I spent the next few nights with my nose buried in that book, and I knew, even sixteen or so years ago, that I’d read something remarkable. I remember feeling oddly fulfilled when the markedly more informed minds behind the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the BSFAs agreed with me.

Justina Robson has been busy since: with Mappa Mundi, the Natural History novels, and the five volumes of the Quantum Gravity saga. The last we heard from her, however, was with respect to her short story collection, Heliotrope, in early 2011. Only recently have there been rumblings about her next novel.

The Glorious Angels is due out in spring 2015, and it is, according to Gollancz’s Associate Publisher Simon Spanton, “every bit as rich in conception and clever in delivery as the best of Justina’s work.”

Tell me more!

It is [set in] a world where the tech is so advanced it might as well be magic and the aliens so strange they might as well be mythological creatures acting out the deeper dreams of mankind. And that is the allure of this novel—it dances on the boundary of SF and Fantasy but is rooted in its wonderful examination of the motives and desires of its main characters. And in a world where women naturally hold sway, we have some wonderful characters. An arch mage and her two wilful daughters who are testing themselves against her and the world. A capricious Empress and her courtiers and an alien advisor with his own agenda. They inhabit a world that is sliding into a war, a world peopled by aliens of utter strangeness (who are enchantingly described) and they are learning a secret about their world…

Spanton’s characteristically considered comments on the Gollancz Blog are rather more revealing that the paltry blurb we have to work with:

On a world where science and magic are hard to tell apart a stranger arrives in a remote town with news of political turmoil to come. And a young woman learns that she must free herself from the role she has accepted.

The aforementioned AP also spoke about the stunning cover by Dominic Harman, whose routinely remarkable art has lately graced the Poseidon’s Children series by Alastair Reynolds—this in addition to sixty-odd other speculative efforts.

Spanton wanted “something that would stand out, something that would convey the meeting of SF and fantasy,” and I dare say Harman’s cloud-shrouded cityscape does exactly that:

Don’t you think?

March is the month—of my birth way back when and The Glorious Angels’ proposed publication. So thanks in advance, Gollancz, for such a terrific gift.


Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative Scotsman, Strange Horizons, and Tor.com. He’s been known to tweet, twoo.

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