It is 1848 and the British Empire has grown rich exploiting Lilliputian slaves - the finesse of their working allowing unheard of feats of minature engineering; even Babbage's computing device has been made to work.
But now the French have formed a regiment of previously peaceful Brobdingnagian giants and invasion looms. In a world where humanity is both smaller and larger than it once was, love and hate loom large.
Mankind discovers itself at the centre of scale. Lilliputians are twelve times smaller than us but there are those twelve times smaller than them, and twelve times smaller again and so on. And the scale of being goes up from Swift's giants also ...
Adam Roberts has written both a rip roaring 19th century adventure, a love story and a thought-provoking pre-atomic SF novel about our place in the universe.
The dozen stories in this impressive collection from British author Roberts (Salt), his first U.S. publication, form a natural progression. The style echoes classic British speculative fiction with its focus on individual characters, each meticulously drawn and authentically voiced (particularly the non-Brits). They all steal the spotlight from fantastical surroundings, from the woman in "Dantesque," who has become bored with heaven and begins to look for a way back to hell, to the man in "The Time Telephone," who is so caught up in thoughts of his ordinary life that he dismisses a cry for help from the future. These simple, honest tales showcase heroism, forgiveness and understanding, while not shirking from stark portrayals of error, cowardice and clumsiness. Truth may be stranger than fiction, but this fiction feels strange because it's determined to tell the truth. Unfortunately, it's the same truth every time in essence, that people remain people no matter where they are leaving one feeling a bit sledgehammered on reaching the otherwise satisfying conclusion. American readers may be caught unprepared by Roberts's departure from the plot-driven norm, but perhaps this change of pace is just what they didn't know they were looking for.