Hannu Rajaniemi (The Causal Angel) rewrites 20th-century history in a wildly inventive sci-fi/fantasy hybrid filled with action and espionage.
Rajaniemi's 1938 looks familiar at first glance. Great Britain's Secret Intelligence Service tries to get the drop on the Soviet Union's NKVD as Europe lurches toward war. However, in this timeline, the British Empire has discovered and colonized the afterlife with a sprawling city called Summerland. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union is governed by a manmade god called the Presence, and aetheric energy--souls--powers the weapons of war.
Rachel White of SIS's Counter-Subversion Unit has spent 20 years fighting tooth and claw for her career. When a Russian defector trusts her with the name Peter Bloom, a dead British agent turned Soviet mole, Rachel's superior blows off the information as a ploy to make the SIS look foolish.
Certain that her source told the truth, Rachel sees no option other than to pursue the mole on her own. Meanwhile, Peter Bloom himself cultivates sources among the Spanish Republic's forces, gathering intelligence on an ambitious new player who goes by the name Stalin. Rachel and Peter's game of cat and mouse tests them both, but pales in comparison to the devastating truth about the afterlife that awaits their discovery.
With boundless imagination, Rajaniemi invents a mortal realm with a steampunk flair and an afterlife in which every brick of a city is built from souls. Sci-fi and fantasy readers will love exploring Summerland, and its capable, determined female lead steals the show. This standalone begs for a sequel continuing Rachel's adventures and deepening the lore of Rajaniemi's afterlife. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads