By Hannu Rajaniemi

In the alternate history presented in Summerland the undiscovered country has been not only discovered but colonized by spooks.

The year is 1938 and death is no longer the end. Instead, lucky stiffs have their “Tickets” punched to an afterlife in the ethereal dimension next door. From there they can still communicate with the land of the living by way of ectophones and other pseudospiritual technologies.

It’s a complicated premise and Hannu Rajaniemi layers an even more complex spy story on top of it, with agents from the Winter Court (Britain’s secret service in this world) liaising with the Summer Court (its counterpart in the ghost world). Together the living and the dead have to unravel a plot involving lots of double agents and international (not to mention interdimensional) intrigue.

In addition to being a fantasy spy thriller, there’s an analogy here to our current imagining of a “cloud” that consciousness can be uploaded to, wherein we enjoy a digital afterlife. Summerland suggests that this might not be such a great thing, or will at least involve us in complications we need to consider more deeply.

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