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Justina Robson – Chasing the DragonChasing the Dragon is the 4th book (out of 5, so far) in Justina Robson's Quantum Gravity series. Justina is a British SF author with 9 books to her name – 5 in this series, and 4 standalone novels. Her books have been nominated for a number of awards, but not won any of them at the time this is written.

And, before I start, here is the standard warning for later books in a series – what's below contains, by its very nature, spoilers for the earlier books. If you don't mind, or have read the books already, then go on, otherwide I'd suggest you go and read the earlier books in the series (Keeping It Real, Selling Out, Going Under) first, they are worth your attention in my opinion!

Chasing the Dragon picks up where Going Under left off – Lila is back from a 50 year timout in Under (it felt like days to her); and the world has moved on.  Many things have changed – her sister Max is dead, there are new, full body metal/flesh converged 'Androids' based on her initial template (not Elemental-enhanced like she is, though, that wasn't part of the template), and the Otopian Security Forces Agency knows much more now, has a slightly different tack, and is led by a chap called Temple Greer, who Lila gets along with quite well. Well, within definitions of well... he sometimes wonders about his errant charge:
“Don't yo ever get rattled, Black? You drag a lost love out of a ghost sea, your parter goes AWOL, your spouse under sentence, you murder a rogue angent, your sister comes back from the dead, and your clothes don't even like you, what? Nothing? When are you gonna crack?”
Yes, Lila has definitely learned some lessons in Demonia and later in Faery/Under – and she has brough new (or rather old) powers into play. Not that she likes Tatterdemalion, her armor/dress, or the sword/weapon of intent any better than they like her, but these are her best allies it seems at the moment. And there are whiffs of Dragons (that's one meaning of the title), and other things at large; and the worlds are cracking up...

The rest of the setting has developed in the 50 years Lila was away – whilst Zal is still dead/missing (actually he's with the Fates – now that would worry Malachi if he knew about it) Teazle is under sentence of death in Demonia, for killing his way through Demonia's upper crust, in what he understood Lila's request to be. Callipe Jones is missing. The Hunter has been to Otopia, mopped up the Mothkin, and left, leaving behind the Chosen and the Changed (Human/Fairy hybrids, to be crude). And there is a new player out and about - Tath now has Jack's powers, and his kingdom, but also his old Necromancer knowledge.
Lila has been hiding away for a while with Teazle, moping. But now everything is changing, like things have reached some tipping point – a 'topple' in Teazle terms, when a load of important things all start to happen at the same time, seemingly unrelated.

The book itself is much darker, much more intense and urgent than the earlier instalments in the series. There also is much more sex, especially at the beginning, for better or worse (tastes differe, I hear... no, it's not Bad Sex in a literal sense).
There is an awful lot of exposition and new information for that late in a series – it feels like Justina is taking another step up with her universe/cosmology, similar to the step she took with book 2 which set up the rest of the series.
I'm not sure about some of the developments to the characters, especially Lila. Whilst there definitely is change I'm not sure development really is the word fo what happens to Lila. Malachi is much more static anyway (it's his more or less immortal Fairy genes, of course), and most of the other characters have changed roles, bodies, powers, so are rather different. The author is also not afraid to kill her characters as part of the story – and not all come back from the dead (or wherever they've gone to in this cosmos).

Overall I liked the book – it takes the series forwards, and it changes the tone. I couldn't help my impression that Justina is building towards a grand finale – if that's the 5th book in the series (Down to the Bone – on my Christmas shopping list. Tick.) or not yet.
Either way – a series well worth your time and money. You know what to do.

More Justina Robson


Title: Chasing the Dragon
Series: Quantum Gravity
Series Number: 4/5
Author: Justina Robson
Reviewer: Markus
Reviewer URL: http://thierstein.net
Author URL: http://www.justinarobson.co.uk
Publisher:  Gollancz/Orion
Publisher URL: http://www.orionbooks.co.uk
Publication Date: 2009
Review Date: 111230
ISBN: 9780575085626
Price: UKP 12.99
Pages: 397
Format: Trade Paperback
Topic: SF
Topic: Magic

 

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