The Smoke (2018)

Shortlisted for The Kitschies, 2019

The human race 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 a train journey back to Yorkshire and the town of your birth, where foundries and factories churn out the parts for gigantic spaceships. You’re done with the pretensions of the capital, its steel and glass, its incomprehensible architecture. You’re done with the people of the Bund, their easy superiority and unstoppable spread in the city of London and beyond. You’re done with Georgy Chernoy and his questionable defeat of death. You’re done with his daughter, Fel, and losing all the time. You’re done with love.

But soon enough you will find yourself in the Smoke again, drawn back to the life you thought you’d left behind.

You’re done with love. But love’s not done with you.

A novel about love, loss and loneliness in an incomprehensible world.
Gollancz, 2018

The Smoke: an interview

The Smoke went through the usual chaotic process of reinvention as I got more and more interested in why I wanted to do this project in the first place. And it can be best summed up by a WhatsApp message I sent to someone the other day as I came out of King’s Cross Station: IT’S THE FUTURE AND I DON’T UNDERSTAND…

Talking about The Smoke and others to Jonathan Thornton for Fantasy Hive, March 27 2018

The Smoke: some responses


Interzone

 


SFX

 


Daily Mail

Ings isn’t one of those SF writers who explains in great detail how his fictional world came to be. Rather, he drops a hint here, a tantalizing bit of dialogue there, and the resulting sense of uncertainty actually adds a layer of suspense to the story. His fictional world—an earth that followed a different historical path from our own—is beautifully constructed, with three different human subspecies, and around that world, he builds a wildly complex and decidedly surreal plot that concerns an alternate UK in which the primary narrator, an architect from Yorkshire, is drawn into a high-tech global crisis stemming from the fracturing of humanity into those three subspecies. Meanwhile, the narrator, often speaking in the second person, must deal with a range of realistically rendered domestic issues typical of mainstream fiction. In all, it’s a wonderfully imaginative story, the sort of thing Adam Roberts might write, or perhaps Christopher Priest: stories about history that didn’t happen but feels oddly like it did, and characters who are very different from us but at the same time very familiar. For those who don’t mind if their alternate worlds are liberally dosed with surrealism, this is likely to be a very special book.
David Pitt, Booklist

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.
Ian Mond

The Smoke is genre, and was published by a genre imprint, but it’s not a book that invites easy description. It does some things I don’t think I’ve seen genre novels do before, and it crashes together ideas that really shouldn’t work on their own, never mind side by side.
Ian Sales

Beautifully and evocatively written, The Smoke is a thrilling thought-experiment in social schisms, technology and the ethics of immortality.
Liz Jensen, author of The Ninth Life of Louis Drax

The Smoke is a stunning, clever and wildly original book: an exquisite sci fi fantasy and a lucid meditation on the nature of humanity and the mortal self. Simon Ings has confirmed his reputation as one of the most philosophically brilliant and imaginative writers around.
Joanna Kavenna, author of The Birth of Love

Astonishing, gripping, horrifying, redemptive, The Smoke sizzles with intelligence and heart.
Michael Blumlein

So many strong ideas here drift from hard sf extrapolation into alluring strangeness: a triumph of the weird.
Matthew de Abaitua, author of Self & I

A mindblowing exploration of a parallel present but also, at root, an exploration of love.
Will Ashon