three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
24-Sept-Oct-2006
user_rating: 
0

A-Living Next DoorLike most teenagers, Francine is ready to untie the apron strings. In her case, it’s a matter of cutting the connection to a subdermal microchip and jetting off to another universe. There she runs into Jalaeka, "an androgynous, magnetic blend of Jesus Christ and David Bowie, who might be the god Eros in corporeal form" (New York Times Book Review). Jalaeka and Francine fall in love, and are forced to fight the godlike Unity and its factotum Theodore. Chock-full of stuff that can take any form, as well as genetic modifications and time and universe hopping, Living Next Door is a modern fairy tale set in a mind-bending future.
Spectra. 464 pages. $13. ISBN: 0553587420

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"The first thing a reader notices about her work is the exquisite precision and thoughtfulness of her writing. There is simply no moment too small, no interaction too seemingly insignificant for her to resist putting her distinctive signature on it." Dave Itzkoff

SFSite.com 4 of 5 Stars
"The theme of competing aspects of love sets the novel apart, while the setting and occasional hints of mathematics and cosmology leave no doubt that this is a science fiction novel, one in which literary values, philosophical inquiry, and those elements unique to science fiction add up to form a much greater whole." Greg L. Johnson

StrangeHorizons.com 4 of 5 Stars
"She handles her characters’ voices with confidence and wit, weaving together multiple stories to produce an elaborate whole that’s somehow, finally, compacted into a simple seed, a timeless myth of death and resurrection." Tanya Brown

San Diego Union-Tribune 2.5 of 5 Stars
"The writing is quite tasty (I noted half-a-dozen striking samples) and the characters are worth caring about until four-fifths of the way through the book, when something—some small concern or failed hand-waving or a dropped cog in the unobtainium mill—just goes over my head and out into the huh?" Jim Hopper

The Guardian (UK) 2 of 5 Stars
"Living Next Door is deeply felt, but I’m not sure the mind-meld between high science and hot romance really works." Gwyneth Jones

Critical Summary

British writer Justina Robson first set forth many of the concepts explored here in the celebrated Natural History (2004). Critical response to Living Next Door tends to be a comparative sport: those that prefer her previous book find this new excursion into the future a little confusing, though all compliment Robson’s writing. The slight majority in support of the new book sees the plot as complex, not confusing, and the love story not only believable but essential to Robson’s deeper thematic concerns. While not as universally acclaimed as earlier books Mappa Mundi and Silver Screen (both recently reissued in the U.S.), Living Next Door is the work of a writer of "richness and complexity" (StrangeHorizons.com).

Also by the Author

Natural History (2003): Machine/human hybrids known as the Forged have been doing the dirty work for humans well into the 26th century. When one of the Forged discovers a new planet, it’s an opportunity for the hybrids to free themselves from their obligations to humans and start their own society. Will they be allowed to do so?