As to be expected from Hannu Rajaniemi, the author of the Jean Le Flambeur books, “Summerland”, his next book, is a bit crazy.
From the outside it’s a classic spy thriller. There’s a double agent and there is another diligent agent trying to uncover him against resistance from people on higher levels. And there’s politics and conspiracies.
It’s also a kind of alternative history novel. It takes place in 1938 and the main topics are the civil war in Spain and a conflict between the UK and Russia. What makes it alternative history is the crazy and science fictional aspect.
At the time the action in the book takes place, the realm of the dead was already discovered some years ago and the living communicate with the dead via devices called ectophones. The dead can also borrow the bodies of living mediums. They then take control of that body and can move around in the world of the living. The dead still have to work in their realm because they need something called vim (Is this an indication that Rajaniemi prefers Vim as his text editor or only a coincidence?) to keep on existing. If they don’t get that they fade and vanish. There are dead people still running their businesses in the world of the living. And there are also agents in the world of the dead.
As mentioned it’s also a classic western world against Russia situation. The western world has Summerland in the realm of the dead where all the dead westerners keep on being individuals. The Russians have the Presence which is kind of like a singularity. It started with Lenin, but worthy dead Russians are steadily added to it.
It’s really weird and fascinating. As with his earlier books Rajaniemi amazes with his inventiveness.