(1968- ) UK author who began to publish work of genre interest with "Trésor" for The Third Alternative for Summer 1994 as by Justina L A Robson, and who made considerable impact with her first novel, Silver Screen (1999), set in a realistically conceived – but not particularly Dystopian – Near Future England, where a team of human scientists and operatives must mediate between AIs, who are agitating for something like civil rights, and the bureaucratic resistance of the government. Her second novel, Mappa Mundi (2001), occupies not dissimilar territory, though in this case a Technothriller plot focuses on the transformation of human mental processes through Nanotechnology; the influence of an American secret service devoted to the cultivation of political Paranoia seemed moderately implausible early in 2001. Glorious Angels (2015), set in a world where women are the natural rulers (see Women in SF), Equipoisally mixes sf and fantasy and some family-romance elements in an intricate description of the shaking apart of this culture from inner and Alien threats, along with destabilizing revelations from the deep past. The Switch (2017), Equipoisally introduces Magic into a planet constructed as a restrictive Utopia, generating some very competently-conveyed action-oriented chaos.
Robson's first series, the Natural History sequence, comprising Natural History (2003) and Living Next-Door to the God of Love (2005), is set a millennium hence, after humanity – as a consequence of multifarious demands upon living organisms if space is to be exploited – has bifurcated into the Unevolved who dominate Earth and claim in orthodox Future History fashion (see Imperialism) to rule all outlying regions, and the Posthuman Forged, who through Genetic Engineering and other Technologies have ramified into myriad sentient forms including Hive Minds, some even being translated into semi-autonomous Mecha; Space Opera superscience soon complicates the picture, as a sentient interstellar probe suddenly acquires the ability to cross the galaxy in an instant. The second volume focuses on the dilemmas presented by the "Stuff" that enables instant rapport with the galaxy as a whole, and with the dangers of a Transcendence, a Singularity that may leave even Posthumans estranged from their roots. The second volume expands ambitiously, though at times recklessly, from this complex base. The godlike Stuff can itself calve gods or godlings (like most human-based gods) who may inhabit Pocket Universes or Virtual Realities (one of the latter being a version of New York inhabited by Superheroes), while all the time an Eschatological momentum builds inexorably to an impressive but kitchen-sink conclusion.
After Natural History, Robson settled into the arousing but less ambitious Quantum Gravity sequence – comprising Keeping It Real (2006), Selling Out (2007), Going Under (2008), Chasing the Dragon (2009) and Down to the Bone (2011) – featuring a Cyborg government operative taxed with maintaining proper distinctions and undertaking more or less diplomatic missions among a cluster of Parallel Worlds including Fantasy realms (see Science and Sorcery). A Hard SF premise – that these worlds have been jostled together by a quantum event or explosion – is not examined closely. Compared to the occasionally contorted metaphysics of Natural History, this sequence reads as something of a deliberate romp; but in no way suggests a lessening of Robson's powers. She is an author of very considerable ingenuity and verve, with a great deal of imaginative muscle to flex. [JC]
see also: Physics; Upload.
Justina Louise Alice Robson
born Leeds, West Yorkshire: 11 June 1968
collections and stories
- Erie Lackawanna Song (Birmingham, England: Birmingham Science Fiction Group, 2009) [story: pb/David A Hardy]
- Heliotrope (Greenwood, West Australia: Ticonderoga Publications, 2011) [coll: hb/Russell B Farr]
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