A stand-alone spy novel set in an alternate 1938.

Publication year: 2018
Publication year in Finland: 2019
Publisher in Finland: Gummerus
Finnish translator: Tero Valkonen
Format: print
Page count: 320

Rachel White is one of the few women in British Empire’s Secret Intelligence Service. She and a male colleague are handling a man who has defected from Soviet Union to UK. But the ex-Soviet doesn’t tell anything and in the end, he kills himself just after he has whispered to Rachel the codename of a Soviet mole in UK afterlife, the Summerland. She’s sure he has told the truth, but her hidebound, chauvinistic superior won’t hear of it and demotes her to desk duty for allowing the defector to die without giving any useful information.

But Rachel is determined to dig out the mole. She just doesn’t know whom to trust. Her husband is a war veteran, but not a “normal” war but one where men ate each other’s’ souls and it has changed him permanently. He doesn’t work for the SIS and Rachel must keep secrets from him, which is slowly destroying their marriage. She has made a lot of sacrifices to get a career.

The other POV character is the mole, Peter Bloom, who is dead and now works for the Secret Service in the afterlife. Ironically, Peter hates lying and tries to keep to the truth as much as he can. Through the whole story, we see glimpses of his life, what made him, a middle-class young man to turn to his country’s enemies.

This is not a James Bond –type story. It’s more like a cat and mouse game with very high stakes. The plot isn’t a simple one.

The world has lots and lots of very interesting ideas. When live humans found a way to communicate with the dead souls, it changed the world. The souls who don’t have a Ticket simply fade away. So, most people only care about getting a Ticket, which allows them to flourish in the Summerland. Then, death isn’t the end and there’s no need to grieve. In fact, some people kill themselves after getting a Ticket.

I was a bit disappointed that people can’t get away from dreary work even in afterlife. It wasn’t explained what sort of jobs most do and why, but I think they’re paid with energy which keeps them from fading and able to visit living humans. And apparently, Queen Victoria is still the head of the Empire, even if she rules from the other side. There’s also some very interesting stuff on how religion can support this afterlife and who people are worried that the living will have to support an ever increasing crowd of dead.

The Soviets, on the other hand, have engineered a group mind, the Presence, which is trying to destroy Summerland.

This is marketed as science fiction, but personally I put it in fantasy. Even though some (if not most) of the ideas in the book are based on real, if old scientific ideas.