Vintage Treasures: Fairyland by Paul J. McAuley

Vintage Treasures: Fairyland by Paul J. McAuley

Fairyland by Paul J. McAuley. Cover by Bruce Jensen

Paul J. McAuley was one of our earliest contributors, with a book review column in the very first issue of Black Gate magazine. His writing career was taking off at the same time — his debut novel Four Hundred Billion Stars won the Philip K. Dick Award in 1988, and Kirkus Reviews raved about his 1995 novel Red Dust, calling it “An extraordinary saga… Superb.”

But his breakout book was Fairyland, an early nanotech novel set in a ruined Europe where bioengineered dolls are used as disposable slaves. It won both the Arthur C. Clarke Award and John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best SF Novel, and was eventually reissued as part of Gollancz’s SF Masterworks series. In his SF Site review Matthew Cheney wrote:

Fairyland was first published in 1995; it dazzles still. Though some of the props of its future have been churned into clichés by many subsequent novels and movies, few of those props have gathered dust in the intervening years… even more remarkable is that, at least for its first two thirds, the novel succeeds as much on the strengths of its structure, characters, and themes as it does on its whizz-bangs and gosh-wows…

The basic plot is a simple thriller-quest: a man goes in search of a woman who bewitched him with something he considers love (though it might be the residual effect of being sprayed with nanobots)… Along the way, McAuley gives us a vision of EuroDisney that is as disturbing as the visions of its American counterparts in Stanley Elkin’s The Magic Kingdom and Carl Hiaasen’s Native Tongue. The chapters set here are among the most compelling and vivid in the book, a posthuman primordial ooze fueled by excesses of capital and biology in the ruins of a labyrinth built by corporate “Imagineers”….

It is a story propelled at its best moments by ideas, and yet it doesn’t neglect to present characters who are, more often than not, individual and unpredictable, and so it helps break down the supposed barriers between the novel of ideas and the novel of psychology in the same way that it breaks down the more intractable barriers between hard science fiction and high fantasy.

Fairyland was published in the UK by Gollancz in 1995, and reprinted in mass market paperback in the US by Avon in July 1997. The Avon paperback is 420 pages, priced at $5.99. The cover is by Bruce Jensen.

See all our recent Vintage Treasures here.

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