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Next-Door to a Sequel

Last night I finished Living Next-Door to the God of Love, by Justina Robson. I enjoyed much of it, but found it kind of frustrating and annoying, in ways that were hard to define. The main one, though, was that some things were insufficiently explained.

Now, as SF readers we are used to jumping into new worlds, not quite knowing what’s going on, and picking it up as we go along. Indeed, that’s part of the toolkit for reading it (SF reading protocols at Tor.com).

But here, there was something just not quite right, I felt. It was as if there was too much understanding assumed. Had the writer spent too long with her world, I wondered? So long that she could no longer tell what the reader would and wouldn’t know, since she knew it so intimately?

When I finished it I went looking for reviews, to see whether others had the same feeling as me. And what I found proved that, in a sense, I was right about her assuming too much knowledge.

It turns out the book is a sequel.

Oh yes. It’s the sequel to her previous book, Natural History.

Which is fine. But nowhere on the book itself does it tell you that. Nowhere. I’ve checked again and again: it’s not in the blurb, it’s not on the title page, it’s not in the front matter.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I would have liked to have known this little detail before I started reading. Sure, you can pick things up as you go along; and now that I know it, I realise that she gave us the necessary backstory very well. But really, Pan MacMillan: next time, let us know, OK?

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