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The Unlikely World of Faraway Frankie
Keith Brooke
Newcon Press, 170 pages

Keith Brooke
Keith Brooke's first novel appeared in 1990, since when he has published four more adult novels, two collections, and over 60 short stories. Since 1997 he has run the web-based SF, fantasy and horror showcase Infinity Plus (www.infinityplus.co.uk), featuring the work of around 100 top genre authors, including Michael Moorcock, Stephen Baxter, Connie Willis, Gene Wolfe, Vonda McIntyre and Jack Vance. His previous novel, Genetopia, was published by Pyr in February 2006. Writing as Nick Gifford, his teen fiction is published by Puffin, with one novel optioned by Little Bird.

Keith Brooke Website
ISFDB Bibliography: Keith Brooke
Nick Gifford Website
SF Site Review: The Accord
SF Site Review: Genetopia
SF Site Excerpt: Genetopia
SF Site Interview: Keith Brooke
SF Site Review: Infinity Plus One
SF Site Review: Parallax View

Past Feature Reviews
A review by D. Douglas Fratz

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The Unlikely World of Faraway Frankie Keith Brooke has been writing superior science fiction and fantasy for more than two decades, but has largely flown below the radar of American readers, despite two excellent adult science fiction novels in recent years -- Genotopia (Pyr, 2006), a thought-provoking story of young protagonists in a degenerate far future world destroyed by nano- and biotechnology, and The Accord (Solaris, 2009), one of the finest novels of virtual reality yet written.  Before those novels, Brooke wrote four novels aimed at teen audiences under the pseudonym of Nick Gifford, and his new novel, The Unlikely World of Faraway Frankie, returns to the style of those works.

Frankie Finnegan is a contemporary teenager living in a seaside English town where he is psychologically bullied by his peers, which he deters through self-deprecating humor.  His sister (and closest companion) was killed in an accident, after which has parents separated.  He is a terribly average teen whose only real talent is his vivid imagination, leading many to call him Faraway Frankie.  His imagined world is, at first, just a subtle variation of his own village, but it slowly becomes more and more different, and when his sister inexplicably returns, he finds he can change things in his new world to be more to his liking.  But things don't always turn out as he plans, and he begins to suspect that the reason is the mysterious "owner" who owns the amusement pier on which his father works along with most of the rest of the town.  Frankie's unlikely fantasy world begins to degenerate as he desperately seeks to find who the owner is and what he can do to fix what is happening.  In the end, sad lessons are learned.

Although ostensively a book for teen readers, Faraway Frankie is actually more likely to appeal to adult readers who remember what it felt like to be an uncomfortable teen, and can appreciate its subtleties and deliberate pacing.  Frankie is not a character with which most teens will likely identify.  He is not more intelligent or clever than his peers, nor is he superior in any other way.   He's just a nice British kid who would not intentionally do anything to hurt anyone. The very adult message of this book is that wish fulfillment is not the answer. 

So I cannot really recommend that you get this book as a gift for the gifted but awkward teenagers you might know -- even though I wish that I could.  I can, however, recommend that adult fantasy readers obtain and read this special signed limited edition before it sells out.  The Unlikely World of Faraway Frankie is one of the best short novels of childhood you will read this year.

Copyright © 2011 D. Douglas Fratz

D. Douglas Fratz has more than forty years experience as editor and publisher of literary review magazines in the science fiction and fantasy field, and author of commentary and critiques on science fiction and fantasy literature and media.


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