With its three parts entitled “Paradiso”, “Purgatorio” and “Inferno” — inverting the order of The Divine Comedy — the narrative circles around a large cast of characters. Principal among them is Elimisha, an Archive Runner who discovers access to the internet after getting trapped in a bomb shelter. (Someone in confinement finding solace and connection via the online world? We can all relate to that right now.) Miller has previously written droll contemporary thrillers such as 2013’s Norwegian by Night, and his first foray into SF is a similarly smart and thought-provoking piece of work.
Its post-apocalyptic terrain resembles medieval Europe, with a city state called the Commonwealth, monastic libraries, roaming bandits and warriors on horseback; but there are surviving traces of “Ancient” (ie our) learning and technology, which archivists are trying to resurrect. As the Commonwealth comes under siege, one leader is reinventing person-to-person radio, and a teenage archive runner has discovered the internet after falling, Alice-like, down a deep hole. While Miller’s plotting can be fitful, his world-building is enthralling; hundreds of tiny details enchant as he renders our civilisation strange by showing it through retrospective eyes.
On her 10th mission to deliver old tech to a Commonwealth archive, Elimisha is pursued by Keepers and takes refuge deep underground, where she stumbles across a cache of Gone World tech, a Pandora’s box whose opening will have far-reaching repercussions. Radio Life is a complex mosaic novel filtered through the viewpoints of a large cast that builds a convincing picture of a future world riven by opposing ideologies.