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Living Next Door to the God of Love
Justina Robson
Bantam Spectra, 453 pages

Living Next Door to the God of Love
Justina Robson
Justina Robson lives in Leeds in Yorkshire, UK. She began writing as a child in the 70s. Her short fiction has appeared in various magazines in the UK and the USA. Her first novel, Silver Screen, published in 1999, was nominated for the Arthur C Clarke Award and the British Science Fiction Association Best Novel Award. Her second novel, Mappa Mundi, won the Writer's Bursary.

Justina Robson Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Keeping It Real
SF Site Review: Living Next Door to the God of Love
SF Site Review: Silver Screen
SF Site Review: Silver Screen
SF Site Review: Natural History
SF Site Review: Natural History
SF Site Review: Mappa Mundi
SF Site Interview: Justina Robson

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil


"So what were you doing last night?" Francine asked.

"Obliterating myself."


I shrugged, slightly embarrassed. Why does anyone?

It seems appropriate to begin this review with a nod to Procul Harum, as reading Living Next Door To The God Of Love made me feel like I'd skipped the light fandango, turned cartwheels across the floor, and was feeling rather seasick. What Justina Robson does in this work is a disjointed, post-cyberpunk exploration of human nature. The setting is a surreal, narcotic-washed future, in which AI is fully in control of both virtual and actual reality. Gene manipulation, possession and magic all play their parts, sometimes to fine effect. At other times, the sensation is like a few too many glasses of wine, resulting in a blurry vision of what might be going on. For example, there's Theo, the embodiment of all knowledge, who possesses other characters as he searches for Jalaeka, his twin, the embodiment of the indescribable. What I could make out of the bizzare plot, which is told from half a dozen characters perspectives and mostly written in the first person, centres around 14 year-old Francine, a runaway to the higher interaction universe of Sankhara. Francine finds work with a scientist recording the Stuffverse; the world of the novel itself, in which anything that can be imagined is possible. In, under, above and around this is Unity, a virtual deity capable of god-like creation, whose main agenda seems to be hunting down a fragment from itself, a cosmic chip off the old block. Francine, decides to help out Jalaeka, the afore-mentioned fragment, get a boyfriend who has been a god of love.

The book starts off well enough, with clearly defined scenes and characterization that appear to be substantial. There's a waterfall of interesting ideas and umpteen possible pathways for them to develop. Invention is not something that Justina Robson is ever going to lack. Here and there, Living Next Door To The God Of Love rises high above the average, only to be pulled crashing down by the weight of is own indulgence, or frustrating lack of definition. The experience was reminiscent of watching a really promising SF TV show, which gets cancelled before all the interesting threads are properly developed or explained. Nor could this work be described as easy to read, indeed I found it took enormous concentration. There's a quantity of sex and violence tossed in, but that only adds to the distraction. One of the joys for any reader is surely trying to work out what happens next, but such speculation is flat out impossible with this book, as the author appears to be changing what is and isn't possible on a whim.

Ultimately, the wonderful and exotic ingredients that go into the mix at the beginning, fail to deliver on their promises. It's not so much that Living Next Door To The God Of Love is badly written, it's that it is written in such an experimental, almost chaotic fashion, as to defy all but the most dedicated comprehension. Most readers, I suspect, simply do not have the time or will to bother with something that's such hard work. Although, I would not be surprised to find this book featuring in future dissertations.

Copyright © 2006 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at

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