Justina Robson - Living Next Door to the God of Love

Book Review by David Glover | 15 Feb 2006
In a multi-dimensional future, the fate of human kind and the universe is up for grabs in a showdown between the schismatic, shape-changing Jalaeka and the omniscient over-arching power of Unity and its agent, the body-snatching Theo. Featuring a host of fabulous characters, from Angels and Valkyries to were-wolves and superheroes, Justina Robson's 'Living Next Door to the God of Love' strongly echoes Milton's 'Paradise Lost' in both its concept and thematic execution.

The eponymous 'God of Love', Jalaeka, a "twelve-foot tall hermaphrodite with demon tails" brings Milton's Satan to mind. However, whilst Jalaeka is as compelling and attractive as Milton's Lucifer, there is a curious inversion; Jalaeka is the embodiment of compassion and love, up against the impersonal and detached power of Unity. Robson's Adam and Eve are Francine and Greg, who are compelled by the love they feel for Jalaeka to aid and abet his ongoing struggle against Unity.

The level of inventiveness and complexity in the technological and theoretical concepts (Unity, the Sidebar creations, the Engines, the genetic tailoring of human beings) is intriguing and is matched by the complexity of the characters and their motives. Equally engaging are the disparate cultural references littered throughout the book, from the the superheroes of the DC and Marvel universes, to the life and works of the Bront" sisters, to the KLF and the "Justified Ancients of Mu Mu".

The end product is an intellectually challenging, emotionally rewarding, occasionally confusing re-imagination of Milton's classic, which is somewhat let down by a low-key finale.
Living Next Door to the God of Love' is published by Macmillan. Out now (Cover Price £17.99).