Readers familiar with Hannu Rajaniemi's dense, information-packed futures in novels like The Quantum Thief will be surprised ... While the conspiracies and plots unfold in classic spy-story fashion, the wildly inventive setting gives the novel a unique kind of freshness.
is a world where Spiritualism works—the whole nine yards, ectoplasm, spirit mediums and all ... Mr. Rajaniemi keeps pulling new ideas out of his hat, each one making you think, with a shudder, 'Of course—but who would have thought of that?' This stand-alone novel makes him the all-time great of unintended consequences as well. Summerland is a masterpiece, set to be a classic—but not by any means a comfortable one.
[A] tremendous amount of worldbuilding went into [Summerland] ... In a manner that’s sometimes frustrating, but ultimately wise, Rajaniemi refuses to hand-hold readers, who are dropped into this alternate history and expected to catch up and keep up with characters little interested in exposition. The inclusion of real historical figures and events grounds the narrative somewhat... Rajaniemi blends them in impressively weird ways, crafting a spy caper that will expand your mind even as it pummels it into submission.
Summerland is like a John le Carré thriller with a spiritualist twist ... Mixing different versions of early 20th century political history and employing bizarre technologies not immediately explained, Summerland does not warmly embrace the casual reader ... [Rajaniemi] starts the narrative at a gallop and expects readers to keep up. Those with patience enough to be confused for a time will likely find themselves eventually rewarded.
With boundless imagination, Rajaniemi invents a mortal realm with a steampunk flair ... Sci-fi and fantasy readers longing to immerse themselves in a fascinating new world will love exploring Summerland, and its capable, determined female lead steals the show. This standalone begs for a sequel.
The world of Summerland is both eerie and strange, yet here is given a logical explanation. It may sound a little far-fetched, but it feels like it works, as everything unusual is as a logical consequence of this unique set up, and this creates a sense of reality that is usually absent from such novels ... Summerland is a triumph – a very different novel from those in the Quantum Thief series, but as complex and as engaging as its predecessors. For those who want an intellectual thought-experiment combined with a Cold War sensibility, an espionage story with a fantastic rationale merged into it, then you will love it.
Following a dazzling science-fiction trilogy, Rajaniemi offers a sort of neo-steampunk spy story wherein the afterlife is real ... Rajaniemi’s name-dropping yarn bulges with both real-world and imaginary spies and SIS agents, politicians, and scientists, but the impressive and apposite details—there are ecto-equivalents of most computer functions—often seem designed to obscure intractable flaws in the framework ... A jaw-dropping, knowing, hyperintelligent yarn that, like the author's previous outings, would have benefitted from fewer smarts and more warmth.
Fans of Rajaniemi’s Jean le Flambeur hypertech SF series need not be concerned; he smoothly transitions to this magical dieselpunk tale (airships battle 'ectoflyers' in soul-powered flight suits) with all his technical skill in evidence.