It is a little harsh to give Summerland three stars. It is not in any way a bad book. I was just a little disappointed. Rajaniemi is one of the finest SF authors writing today, but this isn't his best work.
His "Quantum Theif" trilogy was the most refreshing SF I had read in years, and his short story collection "Invisible Planets" is if anything even better, full of ideas and beautifully written.
Summerland isn't at the same level. It's not that it's bad - it's page turning and quite engrossing. It just operates more like Harry Potter, with a plot pulled along by mysteries and secrets that turn out not to be that interesting.
It feels like he could have got much more out of the ingredients than he did. The world of Summerland and the mechanics of the afterlife are novel and interesting, but not explored as completely as they could be. The very best SF starts with simple premises, and then wrings all of the consequences out of them. That deep exploration of the ideas feels incomplete in Summerland. There is sketch of something great, but it is too shallow. The result is basically an average spy novel against an interesting painted backdrop, but much less than it could have been.
On top of that, the book's characters are also a little bit flat. Again there are good ingredients there, but they just don't fully come alive.
Honestly, this book reads like a very good draft, but needs one more iteration to reach its potential. I saw on Twitter that the author is now founder of a tech startup, so perhaps he was a little bit short on time to complete this book. If that's true, he still did a very serviceable job, but it's just nowhere near his best. His other stories will stay with me for a long time, but unfortunately this one won't.
I do hope he gets the time to fully dedicate himself to writing at some stage again, because Rajaniemi at his best is amazing. Even the ideas in this book could be great, with a little more time.
- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Gollancz; 1 edition (26 June 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781473203280
- ISBN-13: 978-1473203280
- ASIN: 1473203287
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.4 x 23.2 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 399 g
- Customer Reviews: 65 customer ratings
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 447,554 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)