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Literature / Quantum Gravity

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A series by Justina Robson.

After the Quantum Bomb of 2015, there are six worlds. In no particular order, they are: Alfheim, Faery, Demonia, Thanotopia, Zoomenon, and Otopia.

Skip ahead a couple generations and meet Liles. Lila Black is a cyborg, with a functioning AI, which is slowly meshing with her. She's magic-scarred from an earlier job gone wrong in Alfheim. She comes from Otopia, and is a member of the Agency, a national security service focusing on inter-world interactions. It's her job to spy on an Elvish rock star named Zal, while hidden as a bodyguard. On their first meeting, they get into Game, a type of wild magic that binds them until one of them loses or dies. Games create strong impulses enough to turn murder charges to manslaughter, so losing isn't really a pertinent option, and both Lila and Zal are shaping up to live a good, long time.


Lila has to go to various worlds, and... things get weird. There is more mystery than she can imagine, and the only way to figure it all out is to dive right in herself.

Well. It is with Lila, anyway.

Books: Keeping It Real, Selling Out, Going Under, Chasing the Dragon, Down to the Bone

Contains Examples Of:

  • Aborted Arc: That whole seventh world thing which was made to look like a really big deal just got sort of quietly dropped after its inhabitants appeared without much fanfare.
  • Archer Archetype: Zal, though the cool, calm part only comes out when he needs to fight.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: Age aside, the series is this for Lila. At least Cyborg!Lila.
  • Conflicting Loyalty: This is going to happen in standard elf culture. An elf will probably be working for multiple factions, and even if one is trying to undermine the other, will not necessarily have one that overrules the other. Yeah.
  • Curse Cut Short: "What the f..."
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  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Lila frets after this.
  • Elvish Presley: Zal, despite the preconception that elves can't rock.
  • First-Name Basis: An elf giving you the first half of his/her first name is this.
  • Fisher Kingdom: Some places can forcibly transform creatures into other shapes.
  • Foil: The worlds. Interestingly, they manage to all be this for all the others.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: Characters, individually, are occasionally insane. But given their environments...
  • Growing Up Sucks: Malachi's opinion. Reality? Not so much.
  • I Know Your True Name: But this only really works on elves, and/or in Alfheim.
  • Interspecies Romance: As mentioned, elf Zal/human cyborg Lila. As not mentioned, Lila/demon Teazle, Sarasilien the elf/Sorcha, demon.
  • Kangaroo Court: Zal is put through something akin to a hearing by the elves. He noticed the vacancies in the council where his supporters should have been.
  • Karma: People who act out of a desire to "do the wrong thing" bring about their own downfall. This is stated in so many words.
  • Misery Builds Character: Devils will whisper roughly this to their victims.
  • Mundane Utility: Lila tends to use her cyborg appendages this way after the second book. Using a flamethrower to light a cigarette is the most obvious example.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Zal is an elvish, demonic rock star. Oh, and he's half and half of both types of elves. Lila is a cyborg secret agent with what just might be latent magic talent and then she gets an Elvish necromancer in her chest. A dead one.
  • Not So Stoic: Zal manages to get one, despite being...not so stoic.
  • Offscreen Afterlife: We see the areas leading up to Thanotopia, but...
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: The default state for elves, see I Know Your True Name.
  • Our Demons Are Different: Essentially hedonists. No, really. The essential part of being a demon is experiencing as many things as possible, as much as possible. Fighting, cooking, painting, it is an art to them. And color is a huge part of their communication. Their language sounds like song to those who aren't being spoken to.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: And incredibly mysterious. They can communicate, and are supposed to be marks of good a distance. They're supposedly attracted by innocence and/or powerful sorcery.
  • Our Elves Are Different: They're tall, with ears reaching the top of their heads. Their eyes are usually light-colored, and elves may change color, depending.
  • Our Fairies Are Different: The most powerful beings, aetherically. And The Trickster, of course. Deal-makers.
  • Our Wormholes Are Different: Portals between realms function on these rules. Unless you want to get to Faery. Then go find a Kindly One.
  • The Rock Star: Zal is an elf rock star, though one of the points he likes to make is that he does not limit himself to rock music, because every genre can be good. Incidentally, becoming a rock star is all part of his plan to make "a lot of people free," as Malachi puts it. It's weird, but it works.
  • Sarcasm Failure: Lila's sister, Max, gets a brief one when she sees Lila in all her Cyborg glory for the first time.
  • That Man Is Dead: Lila says this. Jury's out as to whether this is true, or just her accepting who she was in the first place.
  • They Do: Lila and Zal, and, to a certain extent, Lila and Teazle.
  • Time Skip: Normally, where we come back to find that Lila has spent a lot of time in Demonia and married two people, and literally, where Lila skips forward fifty years.
  • Title Drop: Keeping It Real and Selling Out both get one in Selling Out, and the series gets one in Chasing the Dragon.
  • Undisclosed Funds: Any time money is mentioned.
  • The Unfettered: Zal shoots for this. As do many demons. His music can apparently cause others to become this after a while
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Fey, demons, Lila.