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.
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.
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.
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.