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Something rather interesting is happening in British young adult fiction.

Since the mid-1980s there's been a resurgence in British sf talent, largely led by the magazine Interzone. These newly established writers include Paul McAuley, Stephen Baxter, Ian MacLeod, Eric Brown, Ian McDonald, Nichola Griffith ... the list goes on and on. And now some of these writers are moving into young adult fiction.

In 1997, Orion announced a new series of young adult novels to be published under their Dolphin paperback imprint (and already a further series has been commissioned). Editor Simon Spanton gathered together six authors and between them they developed the shared scenario of The Web. Of the authors listed below, only Stephen Bowkett had an established track record in children's fiction (although admittedly Eric Brown's first publication was a children's play); at least one -- Stephen Baxter -- has gone on to sell further young adult novels. All are leading lights in the new generation of sf and fantasy writers. Of course, the aim of the series is to sell books to 10-14 year-olds, but the choice of authors makes the project an intriguing phenomenon for all those readers who have encountered these writers through their adult fiction.

Although infinity plus is primarily concerned with adult fiction, we've reviewed all six Web novels here due to the authors involved -- four are infinity plus contributors, after all. So do the books have any appeal beyond the target audience? Read the reviews to find out more.

The year is 2027. There's a black US president, a black pope, a US-EU-China moonbase. The Internet has evolved into the Web, a virtual reality communications network that spans the globe. The children of the world are the ones most comfortable with the Web, and the ones who get most fun from it. There is, though, increasing unease that the Web is too ubiquitous, too easy...

The books in the first series are:

  • Gulliverzone (July 1997) by Stephen Baxter, author of The Time Ships, Voyage and others.
  • Dreamcastle (July 1997) by Stephen Bowkett, author of Frontiersville High, Panic Station and others.
  • Untouchable (October 1997) by Eric Brown, author of Engineman, Blue Shifting and others.
  • Spiderbite (October 1997) by Graham Joyce, author of Dreamside, Dark Sister and others.
  • Lightstorm (February 1998) by Peter F Hamilton, author of Mindstar Rising, The Reality Dysfunction and others.
  • Sorceress (February 1998) by Maggie Furey, author of Aurian, Dhiammara and others.
And read Keith Brooke's review of the second series, The Web 2028, by Stephen Baxter, Ken MacLeod, James Lovegrove, Maggie Furey, Pat Cadigan and Eric Brown.

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© Keith Brooke 5 October 1997