'Keith Brooke's Genetopia is a biotech fever dream ... Masterfully written, this is a parable of difference that demands to be read, and read again.' —Stephen Baxter, Philip K Dick award-winning author of Evolution and Transcendent
(Most recent edition: April 2010; Newcon Press; cover by Dean Harkness.)
Frankie Finnegan, or Faraway Frankie as he is sometimes known, is a boy who retreats from the harsh struggles of day-to-day life into daydreaming, adept at turning the bullies' insults and cruelty into a joke so that he can laugh along.
To cope with the pressure, he turns inwards: he has a most vivid -- and sometimes disturbing -- imagination, and telling tall tales is one of his ways of coping. Everyone is accustomed to his flights of fancy, and his occasional lapses when he forgets the boundaries between his dream world and the real one. But then... as Frankie's humiliations mount up, more and more elements from his faraway fantasy world start to appear in the real one. Can he use his imaginary world to escape? Can he learn how to construct the world around him from his dreams, and so get some kind of control over his life?
But when power goes to your head, and your head is where the world comes from, that's a very dangerous mix.
The Guardian described it as "an accomplished coming-of-age story that balances the real and the surreal to great effect".
D Douglas Fratz at SF Site said, "Although ostensively a book for teen readers, Faraway Frankie is actually more likely to appeal to adult readers who remember what it felt like to be an uncomfortable teen, and can appreciate its subtleties and deliberate pacing... adult fantasy readers [should] obtain and read this special signed limited edition before it sells out. The Unlikely World of Faraway Frankie is one of the best short novels of childhood you will read this year."
Tony Ballantyne liked it too: "This is an elegant little gem of a book: unsettling, funny and exciting in equal measure ... by the seriously underrated Keith Brooke. Recommended."
Good Reads said: "This could have been an overly moralistic or schmaltzy piece of fiction, but Brooke grounds his fantasy in reality and makes the story pertinent to each and every one of us. The prose is intelligently descriptive throughout, with interesting twists and turns, short chapters which kept me turning the pages, and a told in a deceptively easy style... Highly recommended for those who enjoy intelligent fantasy. This is a very British book."
On his blog, Adam Roberts went on to say: "My contributor copies for this title arrived from Ian Whates' Newcon Press last week (I wrote the short introduction). It's an excellent novel too; certainly one of the very best things this talented author has yet done. If you know what's good for you, you'll want to buy a copy, although the title's amazon page says 'Temporarily out of stock'. I hope because they've sold out, but probably it's because they won't order any in until people start buying it ... so what are you waiting for?"
"Some writers write exclusively for adults; some exclusively for children; but the most enduring works of literature - from Robinson Crusoe to Le Guin's Earthsea, from Pilgrim's Progress to Tolkien, from Alice in Wonderland to Harry Potter - are loved by children and adults alike. This, I'd say, is the hardest writerly discipline of all to master: to write a book that surpasses the tendency to categorise literature into 'young adult' and 'old adult' categories. Keith Brooke's The Unlikely World of Faraway Frankie is a masterclass in how to transcend those sorts of labels. It is wiser about youth and imagination than most other novels published today; and everybody, of whatever age, should read it...
"The Unlikely World of Faraway Frankie is not only a marvelously compelling exploration of a fantastical world, but a meditation upon the nature of fiction itself...
"It is (and I handle this Hollywood cliché with tongs, although it is appropriate here) the journey Frankie travels that makes this short novel one of the best things Brooke has ever written."