About Adam

Adam Roberts is the author of a growing number of science fiction novels, short stories, essays and other writings. This site contains not just his blog, but everything you could ever want to know about everything Adam has ever published. And more...

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Published By:
Gollancz, UK [2006] / Pyr, US [2007]
£18.99 Hb / £10.99 TPb / £6.99 Pb / $15.00 TPb
0575075872 / 0575076313 / 0575078170 / 1591025389
978-0575075870 / 978-0575076310 / 978-0575078178 / 978-1591025382
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From Booklist -

Gradisil is an epic, generation-spanning tale of migration to space, nation building, and terrifying politics, beginning not too long from now, when new technology changes the possibilities of space travel forever. If sufficiently wealthy and motivated, one can adapt a jet to catch magnetic currents and fly into orbit, in which there's plenty of space - the Uplands - to set up a habitation pod."Klara Gyeroffy and her father are among the first who do. During Klara's life, and then her daughter Gradisil's, the politics of the Uplands becomes more and more complicated. The Americans and the EU are both angling to control space and warring between themselves, while Uplanders have a certain interest in retaining the liberties they sought when they moved up in the first place. Gradisil is a major political force in the Uplands, and her influence is key to Uplands independence. In the final generation depicted, Gradisil's sons are consumed by the knowledge that their father betrayed her to the Americans and indirectly caused her death. They, like their grandmother, swear revenge.


"Gradisil operates on multiple levels and… its pleasures lie not just in its densely plotted particulars but also in its unconventional, playful construction... Roberts keeps those [over 400] pages turning and richly characterizes his generations-spanning dramatis personae." Los Angeles Times

"I have read few novels as challenging, literate, and invigorating as this one. Gradisil is like the water of life, and anyone captivated by the desire to get into space, or convinced that individual liberty goes hand in hand with our future, should find visionary solace in this excellent book... the pull of the story itself is nearly irresistible." - Prometheus Newsletter of the Libertarian Futurist Society

"[S]hould be at the top of the reading list for anyone who likes their science fiction sprinkled liberally with realistic science and technology." - (4/5 stars)

"Modeled after Aeschylus's Oresteia trilogy of Greek tragedies, it's a multi-generational saga of man's colonization of the high frontier of low-earth-orbit. It's epic SF in the vein of Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy or Allen Steele's Coyote trilogy, although it feels like it could have been written in the days of Heinlein.

And perhaps most profoundly, it's a story about two Americas....Gradisil is written as if there hasn't been a dozen books and hundreds of shorts out each year since the '50s about this subject.... but therein lies the genius....It reads like watching a wide-eyed child looking up at the sky, after you've sneered at the stars in contempt for so long." - Ain't It Cool News

"[A] picture of a possible future for at least a segment of Earth's population that is both chillingly possible and dryly tongue-in-cheek. Fans of sf sagas will appreciate the attention to detail and engaging characters." - Library Journal

"Roberts supplies convincing details to make such a life seem almost within our grasp - his characters are flawed, cranky and driven. At times this is reminiscent of the best of Robert Heinlein - although Heinlein would not have approved of Roberts's depiction of the American military mind." - Lisa Tuttle, The Times

"Roberts is a powerful writer who can get to the emotional core of his characters... Gradisil is [his] first novel to be published in the US. Victor Gollancz, the class-act British imprint brought us this writer years ago. Now, we’re getting the chance to read Roberts' work from a US publisher, not surprisingly, Pyr. Whatever version of this novel you lay your hands on, be prepared to escape - to reality.” - The Agony Column

"The politics are convincing, the depiction of a near-future world where war is only declared once the planners know victory is assured is a credible development of the present, and the notions of a legal system that institutionalizes war, and that the practicalities of winning the war once victory is declared are the problematic thing, are fine present-into-future SF. Oh, and the digs at Dick Cheney are biting and funny.

"On the hard SF/mythic side, Roberts’s use of Scandinavian legend as an allegory to the magnetic boost technologies he uses to put planes into orbit has the smack of an SF trope that’ll become a universal cliché in a few years." - Starburst

"Against the backdrop of Gradisil's nation-building odyssey, Roberts impressively explores a variety of themes. It all adds up to proof, if any were really needed, that Roberts belongs in the front rank of hard SF writers.” - SFX

"Never one to take a predictable line, Adam Roberts sticks the boot into rockets while singing the praises of DIY anarchism in Gradisil. Inevitably, pioneering innocence gets tied up with political imperatives, a story that Roberts deftly keeps moving beside a generational revenge tragedy." - Daily Telegraph

"Adam Roberts captures the attention and imagination of cerebral science fiction fans with his tale of a nation in the sky formed from courage and conviction not continual conquest." - Alternative Worlds (Harriet Klausner’s review site)

"[A] complicated mixture of hard SF satire, political thriller, and family saga, told in a post-modern mélange of traditional narrative, memoir, and excerpts of speeches and the like... With its recursive references to hard SF and hard SF authors, Gradisil makes a strong commentary on the kind of technology we could have if we would only, as a society, focus more on ideas.

"It also indicts our Western society for what we have become... The intricacies of the plot, the richness of character development, and the intriguing scientific extrapolation... It is not surprising that it has been shortlisted for the 2007 Arthur C. Clarke award for best new novel.” -

Adam Says:

With Gradisil I wanted to find a way in which ordinary people could start to colonise space under their own steam. Up until now, after all, getting into orbit has been so ruinously expensive that only national governments (and latterly very wealthy corporations) have been able to manage it. You can't extrapolate colonisation from that premise: it'd be as if getting across the Atlantic to America in the 19th century had cost so much that only European Governments and the Rothschilds could afford to send settlers - and they'd be a select group of ex-military team-thinkers who'd execute government orders and then sail home after a couple of months. Under those circumstances there would never have been an America.

The problem is that rockets are expensive. No way round that. So I needed a plausible means of getting into orbit that didn't involve rockets. I imagined a technology you could fit to any regular jet-plane or private flier that used resistance to the Earth's magnetic field to 'fly' into orbit. When I ran the idea past Stephen Baxter he did not say that it was not without the possibility of never working in real life. At all. I took this to be a ringing endorsement.

From that premise the whole story grew like a wide-arching tree. The capacious spaces of Earth orbit, known to its inhabitants as 'the uplands', fill up over several decades with pioneers, idealists, criminals on the run and various sorts. This new country is out of the jurisdiction of ground-based nations. Naturally the world superpower of the end of the 21st century (America, in this novel) wants to change that; to bring this new population within their sphere of influence; to tax them. Naturally war follows.

The novel is based around three generations of one family, whose destiny is caught up with the rapidly expanding population of the uplands; and who are involved in the War of Independence that ensues. I wanted to write a set of interlocking stories in around the metaphor of the 'tree': family trees; the 'world tree' Yggdrasil (the lines of magnetic force flowing from the Earth's poles, like a willow) from a garbled version of which the book gets its title; the way great oaks can grow from small seeds; and perhaps most of all: what happens to trees in the largest of storms - do they sway, or do they break? You'll have to read the novel to find out what happens to my fledging republic...

An Extract:
from Part 3, Chapter 1. Hope flies into space.

The clouds have dressed themselves as blak as dominatrices and are applyi? their whiplash lightni? to the compliant naked baks of the hills. The humped horizon moans and grumbles its shameful pleasure. But is this weather to fly in? Safe? I don't think this is weather to fly in. Breathe that: you know wat that is? Ozone, it's the stink of static. That cool breeze blowi? in from the stormfront, washi? over this whole airfield. See that frizzy border between the lower line of the clouds and the ground?—that's rain, hard as the fiercest douche-setti?, falli? over kilometres and kilometres of land simultaneously. That's hurryi? through the sky towards us.'We'll be up above that in no time,' says the pilot. And Hope nods, smiles, bustles up the stairway into the plane. His smile says I trust you, but his heart says this is it, this is where I die, struk by lightni?, broken by the big wind, snapped from the plane like a pistachio from its shell to tumble to extinction. Worry sinks, a nauseous pebble through the gloopy fluid of his guts. His eyes itch, but he knows from experience not to rub them, for that makes them much worse. He doesn't want to die, but the accumulative pressure of this morbid inevitability is growi? with every single day he stays alive, every single minute. This intense sensitivity to the prospect of his own mortality, the constant tikle on the skin of his soul, has become much more pronounced since he became a parent. To die now is not only to collapse his own consciousness to nothing, it is to deprive his kids of a father, his wife of a husband. And now he is goi? to trust himself to this flimsy winged tube as its pilot tosses it into the maelstrom, and then—who knows how battered and leaky afterwards—engage its Elem and ratchet it up into vacuum, where it can explode, or depressurise and choke them all, or perhaps simply lose power and drift into a burn-up trajectory. He is aware of a clamminess under his armpits, and he moves his arms, slowly but unmistakeably chiken-like, to try and dissipate it. He is at the top of the stairs. He duks through the oval door to enter the plane.

There are a dozen other people on board, all already settled in their seats. Hope stows his bag in his compartment and straps himself in; but the pilot, eager to run on before the crashi? aerial wave of that stormfront, has already started the plane, they are already rolli? forward. They're moving along the runway.

Through the window the air is purple. The grass beside the concrete strip is wriggli? and shiveri?, each individual stem fighti? its tether to try and get away, to fly off, before the crashi? roll of the storm descends. Hope peers anxiously out of his little porthole: the curvi? roof of the terminal, the hanger beyond, a single plane sitti? forlorn in the open air, the scrub land darkeni? as the clouds progressively roof the whole area over. It seems, somehow, intensely sad. Hope shuts his eyes; he uses his fingers to do this, to weigh the eyelids down, his thumnails standi? in for the coins of the corpse with which the ferryman must be paid.

'Horosho, OK, gentlemen and ladies,' announces the ferryman (pilot I mean) over the speakers. 'This is your Konduktor speaki?. We'll soon be—' there's a lurch, a hiccough, and the grindi? noise of wheels-over-concrete is blotted into the sensation of frictionless onward motion '—oy-oop there we go, in the air now. We'll be runni? on a little to avoid those nubarrones, the—pardon me whilst I search for the English word, the, in other words—those thunderous-clouds, behind us. Then we'll swoop round. Once we're over the weather and we engage elem we'll be in space in less than a half of an hour. Settle down enjoy the flight.'

Hope tries his meditative mantra to try and calm his poor little fish-on-the-riverbank heart. He repeats, silently to himself, his personal mantric phrase. Repeats it, re-repeats it. I can't tell you wat his phrase was, I'm afraid; it's an intimate secret, one he has told neither his wife nor any of his four children. There's little point in you knowi?, either. It is ineffectual, it does not calm him. It almost never does. He opens his eyes again, and hazards a look into the desperately threateni? sky. The ground is barely visible; the light has darkened and thikened, taken on the colour of chocolat-au-lait, scrubbed across with shreds of cloud that whip past the window. There's a camera-bulb flash of lightni? that dips the porthole, momently, in white, but that only makes the darkness, which immediately reasserts itself, seem darker. Hope cranes his nek to see whether he can see behind the plane to the lightni?, forked or sheet, but the perspective is not right.

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