Adam Roberts 2015. The Real Town Murders. Gollancz SF: London. 358 pp.

Ostensibly a murder mystery set in a future London, really this is an opportunity for Adam Roberts to air some ideas about a dystopic near future where government departments war against each other for a more complete control of society. An easy target given that the present is already enough of a dystopia. Along the way there are various mildly witty allusions, and puns on future uses of words, historical events and the like. To get a feel for the flavour: this is a future where where great figures in British history have their visages carved into the chalk cliffs of Dover, where the internet has become a convincing “Second Life” virtual environment much more desirable than the “Real”. In the impoverished Real, the Vauxhall Astra (if you can find one) is a classic car and faster than anything else on the road.

I’ve read reviewers who claim each Adam Roberts novel is different, but having read two there are common elements: his ideas, admittedly original and adventurous, are nevertheless thinly painted, as are his characters. They thus remain unconvincing vehicles on which to hang a story that drags the reader into a new world-view and uses it to fully explore those ideas in the way that the best SF should – cf. Iain M. Banks or Greg Egan, for a couple of examples.

For me, two Adam Roberts novels will probably suffice.