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The Smoke

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  73 ratings  ·  19 reviews
Simon Ings' The Smoke is about love, loss and loneliness in an incomprehensible world.

Humanity has been split into three different species. Mutual incomprehension has fractured the globe. As humans race to be the first of their kind to reach the stars, another Great War looms.

For you that means returning to Yorkshire and the town of your birth, where factories churn out th
Paperback, 300 pages
Published May 17th 2018 by Gollancz
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3.81  · 
Rating details
 ·  73 ratings  ·  19 reviews

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Feb 17, 2019 rated it liked it
This is literary science fiction. It’s an alt-history set in a 1950s Britain with biotech and atomic rockets. Tangled family relations played a large part of the story. A tech-inspired species split has occurred to host the story’s British class-theme, although I thought the novel to be more Darwinist than class-related. This book was well written and complex. It wasn’t an easy read, and won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

This book was a slim 300-pages, although it felt longer than that.

I used to re
Feb 24, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Review originally posted at Thoughts Stained With Ink:

*Copy received from Titan Books in exchange for honest review**

I never like writing negative reviews, friends.

But, here we go.

After I read the blurb for this and saw the gorgeous, ominous cover, I was really stoked when Titan asked if I’d like to review a copy! I was really hoping it would be in the second person and “you” are in this sort of apocalyptic type world where you’re just trying to escape from love–yet somehow, it keeps drawing you
Ian Mond
Apr 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
In The Smoke, Simon Ings takes familiar science fiction ingredients – alternate history, immortality, genetic manipulation/mutation, space exploration and body swapping – and bakes a magnificent, albeit utterly insane, cake. If you were pitching this novel to a Hollywood executive… well you wouldn’t… but if you were you’d say it’s set in an alternate history where the Second World War never happened, and Yiddish socialists took over the world. That’s without mentioning the truly weird stuff, a t ...more
Ella (The Story Collector)
To be totally honest, this book had me pretty confused. I don’t really know what happened or why, or even when the book is meant to be set. Just about the only things I understood were the location and who the main characters were (although I still don’t fully understand what the Bundists are). Because of that, writing my own synopsis is kind of impossible.

Some sections of this book are written in the second person, which is unusual and I really liked it. However, I think this contributed in a b
Steve Gillway
Aug 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Ballardian type tale told with a more emotional edge. I found the concoction of time and culture both comforting, the northern coal fire, pub etc, and beguiling, the secretive cult(with racist overtones) and different human forms etc. This book leaves you thinking and it will take some time to digest fully.
Mar 09, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
A novel that has so much going for it: excellent writing (some dazzling use of second-person, mimicking the bewilderment of the protagonist in his alternative version of Britain), frank engagement with class, race, and family, and ideas that don’t go where you naively would expect them to go, and poetic plot development (use of the Aeneid is spot on). It is a science fiction novel that is a worthy scion of Brave New World, though not with the same clarity or emotional impact. It was mostly the r ...more
Christina Scholz
Jan 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
That was... definitely different. Ings' style is enjoyable to read, and/but his books are always devastating to some degree (and, Z and I agree, so far have never really been books that we feel like re-reading). My favourite things in this one were the best shift in narrative perspective I've ever come across (right as you turn from page 63 to page 64) and a long passage that reminded me of M. John Harrison's alien event site in the Empty Space trilogy (p. 145/146). I also really liked the final ...more
Jan 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
When I saw Simon Ings’s latest, The Smoke, was available, I thought it the perfect book to get me back into reviewing books for Interzone after a 2-year hisatus. I’m not going to say too much about the novel here – you’ll have to buy the copy of Interzone for that – but I’ll admit I’m not really sure what to make of it. It’s either bloody brilliant, or merely very good. It does so many things I’ve not seen a category sf novel do before, and it does them very effectively. I really liked Ings’s Wo ...more
Jack Deighton
Feb 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
We start on a space vehicle on which the brother of protagonist Stuart Lanyon is about to take off from Woomera – powered by successive explosions of atom bombs underneath it blasting it into space. This is something of a distraction however, though a signifier of an altered history where Yellowstone erupted in 1874, immolating North America, and a Great War was ended in 1916 after the atomic bombing of Berlin.

The main meat of the story is the ramifications of the discovery of the Gurwitsch ray
Rhiannon Mills
Mar 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Quick FYI before we begin this review...

You know when you're a kid and you're minding your own business, just sitting down somewhere behaving, and then out of nowhere your older sibling comes along and sideswipes your entire head with a giant, heavy, feather pillow, knocking you into the floor? And before you even knew what happened, they just keep hitting you with the pillow? That's what this book will do to you if you're not carefully paying attention. 

To be completely honest, there is a lot g
Jan 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: titan
I read a lot of novels and it is perishing rare for me to feel genuinely intimidated by the intellect of an author but here we are! Simon Ings' terrifying intelligence is palpable throughout the pages of The Smoke, with my only quibble being why London is called such, as the text doesn't seem to offer any explanation. Is this a British thing that has eluded me as a foreigner, albeit an Anglophile?

Anyway, a bright if otherwise ordinary young man named Stu breaks up with his girlfriend, Fel, the
Vuk Trifkovic
Mar 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Hard to figure out the book. There are passages where it looks like yet another retelling of a very insular, British, class-obsessed story. There are passages which are just too "spot on" and too obvious. Yet, there are wonderfully weird twists that give it another dimension. Will make sure to read "Wolves" for sure...
Chris Edwards
Mar 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Can be a confusing narrative to follow, dark and depressing at times, but also like going on a hallucinogenic experience. Relevant to current and future politics. Worth the time and effort.
Nov 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-mys
That gif of Krusty saying "what the hell was that" but he's grinning instead of frowning.
Mar 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
i really loved this book... the UFO TV show references, the bigger themes, and I really loved the plastic model kit scene. So much about this book appealed to me.
Review based on a finished copy provided by the publisher.
Mary Jarwood
Feb 21, 2018 rated it liked it
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Stuart has arrived back to his hometown in Yorkshire after a break up with his long term girlfriend Fel. After months of stagnating he makes his way back into London to clear out the apartment that they shared together. What follows is a personal journey looking into why their relationship failed and how the different factions of humans try to live harmoniously on the Earth.
It’s set in an alternate future/reality w
Ron Henry
Nov 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Weird, compelling, a bit heartbreaking. Post-human, post-apocalyptic romance alt-history slipstream. A fascinating read; would probably merit a re-read to fully appreciate.
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Sep 16, 2018
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Mark Annabel
rated it it was ok
Apr 17, 2018
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Jun 25, 2018
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Jun 16, 2018
Gary Budden
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Sep 19, 2017
Amanda Howell
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May 29, 2018
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Dec 14, 2018
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Jan 31, 2019
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Jun 15, 2018
Daniel Carpenter
rated it it was amazing
Feb 14, 2019
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Jan 02, 2019
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I began by writing science fiction stories, novels and films, before widening my brief to explore perception (The Eye: A Natural History), 20th-century radical politics (The Weight of Numbers), the shipping system (Dead Water) and augmented reality (Wolves). A spot of mid-career ghost-writing once had me being rescued from a tree by Ben (of Ben & Jerry's) in the middle of a hurricane. Back hom ...more
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