The Oversight: conspiracies, magic, and the end of the world

The clever blendings of history and imagination in Charlie Fletcher's new novel are satisfying enough to make resolution of its loose ends worth waiting for, writes Cory Doctorow

The Oversight, Charlie Fletcher's new novel, ships today. It's a dark and glinting book set in Victorian London, a fat and aggressively readable novel about a secret society -- the Oversight -- charged with the policing of all the magical and supranatural (yes, supranatural) elements of Britain. The Oversight are nearly extinguished, having collapsed in a great Disaster a generation before, and now they may be at their final moment.

Fletcher's alternate Britain is a perfectly creepy and mysterious place, where conspiracies nest within conspiracies and haints and grotesque monsters lurk in the hedgerows and the shadows and the gables, abetted by lunatic scientists, cruel witchfinders-turned-solicitors, circus showmen, and other romantic and sinister persons.

It's full of clever blendings of real history and imaginary embellishments, of artifacts that sound real but aren't and artifacts you'd swear were made up but turn out to be real. It's beautifully researched, and told in a kind of compelling and hypnotic poesie that I just lapped up.

In The Oversight, the world is on the verge of ending, though most people don't know it. The hordes of cruel, magical beings, pushed to the brink by burgeoning modernization, are ready to devour humanity and all its works. All it takes is for the greedy and ignorant normals out there to abet their work, and the Oversight will drop below its critical strength and vanish.

It's the first volume in a series and it has a very satisfyingly frustrating ratio of loose ends tied off to loose ends left flapping. I'll certainly be reading the next one.

The Oversight


Published 6:00 am Thu, May 8, 2014

About the Author

I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help (short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.

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