London in Black is available to buy at the TCF Bookshop, where sales support independent book shops and this podcast.
Science Fiction and crime fiction make extremely potent mix, best exemplified in China Mieville’s The City and The City. The combination of working out what has happened in the crime, and also unravelling world building to understand the culture and history of a future or different universe, means that a readers synapses will be firing more than normal, and the satisfaction of finding the solution to the crime, while understanding the implications of the sometimes extremely unusual context means the dopamine hit at the end is higher.
The latest offering in these blended genres is London in Black by Jack Lutz. We find ourselves in the near future, 2029. So close that we could expect the London of the title to closely resemble the one we know today. However, while the landmarks and street names are the same, there is one large difference, London and the whole of the UK, had recently undergone a series of biochemical terrorist attacks, releasing a nerve gas which kills those who are susceptible in terribly gruesome ways.
Our protagonist, Lucy, is understandably suffering from PTSD, and almost all of the people we meet have lost someone and are grieving, while trying to rebuild their lives and sense of normality. A shared national trauma and grief isn’t the only difference in this future, as religious and political groups have formed out of the chaos, and when a scientist who may have an anti-dote for those who are vulnerable to the nerve gas is found murdered, there are many who may have killed for the highly profitable information.
It is impossible to not see the parallels with the two years of pandemic we have just lived through, the early fear, the stockpiling, the profiteering, and extreme divisions it highlighted, rich vs poor, science vs religion, the fall out of which we are yet to fully experience. It is these parallels which makes London in Black feel so immediate, and vital, yet the difference between terrorist attack and natural pandemic, allows us to distance our own recent experiences rendering it a more comfortable read than a direct lockdown or pandemic novel may give us right now.
One of the problems in the art of world building can often be too much exposition, but Lutz wisely takes a back seat and lets us explore his world as we wish, all the while weaving past, present and future together in a way that, thanks to the past few years, appears far more realistic than it may have felt in the 20-teens.
Keep your ears peeled on the podcast for an interview with author Jack Lutz.