I certainly picked a good time to read this middle book in Clare O’Beara’s Dining Out series; January 2016, just after the horrendous Christmas and New Year floods in the UK. Here’s what we hope is not a prediction for us, from Clare’s vision of the not-so-distant future in her alternate earth. “Half of Somerset and Norfolk is under water, Lyme Regis cliffs falling into the sea, snow blocking roads in the Pennines. Cornwall, those sixty foot waves.”
In the universe where our two heroes—Myron and Donal—live, the exploration of the solar system has led to the discovery of inhabitants on all the other planets. Some of these have come to earth, as ambassadors and business entrepreneurs, but just as with immigrant peoples between countries in our Earth, some are being exploited, employed at low wages in the least desirable jobs, or working in slave-conditions out of sight of the general population.
Myron and Donal are journalists on a zine called London Eye, and although they are employed to report on the relatively uncontroversial issues of fine dining, wines and entertainment, they rove the streets of London like a couple of hard-bitten investigative journalists of film noir vintage. Except of course for the advanced technology they and everyone else in this convincingly possible future London make use of with such ease.
I used to live in the areas covered by the story, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Islington; and am wholly convinced by Clare’s evocation of the struggle that life has become (may really become?) for the increasingly poorer ordinary folk. But against this bleak background there is adventure and fun, with several plot-lines evolving through the story, and satisfying revelations at the end [no spoilers] thanks to our heroic duo weaving their way through streets, underground tunnels, computer programs, restaurants, and hit-tech offices in Docklands in their fight for the right and for justice. It’s the next 50 years’ equivalent of swashbuckling, and there are fireworks too!
Carefully researched and compellingly written, this is a book for fantasy/SF readers who like to identify with the good guys and see the baddies get their come-uppance. Thoroughly recommended.