Jo Walton’s My Real Children is a lot like her Among Others, in that it takes place largely in the 20th century; but here, instead of making the world into a fantasy setting, Walton makes it into an SF one.
Specifically, an alternate history—or rather, two of them. The book follows a protagonist from girlhood through two versions of her life, in which not only her own life but the world itself go in different directions. It’s a relatively low-key narrative, focused on a personal story rather than big SF ideas, but that works for me. Walton’s an excellent writer with a fine eye for characters; and seeing how one early decision can totally change the shape of one’s life in unpredictable cascading ways is a fascinating conceit.
If I have a criticism, it’s that the book is maybe a bit too obviously Waltonian. When characters talk about, for instance, how great the NHS is, it’s hard not to hear the author’s voice when you’ve previously read her talking about how great the NHS is. In Among Others, that was part of the quasi-autobiographical nature of the thing, but here it feels a bit more intrusive. I don’t know that there’s really any way around that in a book of this sort, though; it might be that if I read more authors’ blogs, I’d encounter this sort of thing more often.
But I’d put that in the “minor flaw” category. Overall, this is a well-written, deeply affecting (if you can emerge from it with dry eyes, you are more stoic than I am) book. Recommended to anyone looking for a small-scale, personal story.