Selling Out (2007), the second book in Justina Robson’s Quantum Gravity series, is another fast-paced, carefully plotted, entertaining novel with elements of fantasy and science fiction. This time Robson builds out the Quantum Gravity universe she’s constructing with characteristic descriptive power, here exploring the realms of demons and death. Book two is more psychological than book one, delving into the internal lives of the story’s two main protagonists.
I’m not sure why, but I keep finding myself comparing Robson’s writing to that of other authors. In Selling Out, she displays a streak of dark mysticism reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy:
There was no need to speak, because all thoughts were understood, all desires known. Nothing could be hidden. She understood implicitly that she and Tath were being judged, though against what standards there was no knowing, and in this place of shared knowledge she realized the fine thread by which their lives clung to existence—this being had the power to sever them from the material world, to strand them here, or banish them far from either kind of reality, or sunder them to nothing. And there was no knowing why, or what it would do but now that they had drawn its attention they must endure its reasons because that was the cover charge for the living in Thanatopia.
Also like McCarthy, Robson believes in the power and significance of relationship. Unlike McCarthy, she maintains an optimistic sense of our inner natures and a persistent confidence that we have the ability to do more than the best we can with the cards life deals us; i.e., we have the chance to alter our destiny when we try. Lila Black, Robson’s heroine, may be enmeshed in a complicated governmental web of secrecy, lies, and manipulation, but she and her community have the power and determination to rise above it from time to time.
I’ll be taking a break from the series for a while after this, but I’ll definitely be returning as soon as I can.