British Fiction Focus

A Metropolis for the Recently Deceased: Revealing Summerland by Hannu Rajaniemi

To say The Quantum Thief made waves would be to gravely underplay the arrival of one of the most promising new authors speculative fiction has seen this century. Born in Finland but based in bonnie Scotland, Hannu Rajaniemi has been hailed as a herald of all that the genre has to offer. His books have been brilliantly original and quite marvellously imaginative, albeit so cerebral that they’ve been a struggle for some. Me, even. But like a lot of things, reading, I’ve realised, doesn’t need to be easy. In fact, some of the best experiences I’ve ever had, in literature and in life, have been the hardest.

In any event, as I concluded in my review of The Causal Angel, which fulfilling (if fearsome) finale closed out The Quantum Thief series, “Rajaniemi is without question one of the smartest and most exciting writers working in science fiction as we speak, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.” Well, it took nearly three years, but now we know what he has up his sleeves: a standalone called Summerland, in which the self-professed “purveyor of tomorrows” sets his startling sights on yesterday instead.

Truth be told, we’ve known Summerland was coming since the summer of 2013, when it was announced as the first of three new books Gollancz had signed for a six-figure sum. But despite delays in its delivery and its deployment—presumably due in part to the departure of Simon Spanton, Rajaniemi’s champion at Gollancz—Summerland finally has a UK publication date: August 31.

It also has a winningly conspicuous cover by the illustrious Jeffrey Alan Love, which showcases Summerland itself, as well as the text’s central characters in silhouette:

summerland-rajaniemi-cover

Last but not least, behold the blurb:

In 1938, death is no longer feared but exploited. Since the discovery of the afterlife, the British Empire has extended its reach into Summerland, a metropolis for the recently deceased.

Yet Britain isn’t the only contender for power in this life and the next. The Soviets have spies in Summerland, and the technology to build their own god.

When SIS agent Rachel White gets a lead on one of the Soviet moles, blowing the whistle puts her hard-earned career at risk. The spy has friends in high places, and she will have to go rogue to bring him in.

But how do you catch a man who’s already dead?

At this stage, Summerland doesn’t have a US deal to speak of, but Rajaniemi’s Twitter timeline indicates that “there is hope!”

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 lives with about a bazillion books, his better half and a certain sleekit wee beastie in the central belt of bonnie Scotland.

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