In the last few years we've seen both statements proved many times over. Self-publishing and e-books have increased the number of titles being released each year from hundreds of thousands to many millions. It's a tidal wave of tat with just a few treasures in among the deluge, and those swept by so fast you could blink and miss them.
All the more reason, then, to rejoice when a writer of proven talent comes out with a new novel. And that's especially so when the novel is that writer's masterpiece, the one they've been honing for years, the work into which they've poured a lifetime of experience, craft and imagination.
Such a book is John Whitbourn's Babylondon. (Babylon and London, that is, as I'm sure you already realized.) How can I describe it in a way that will do justice to such a unique story? Imagine yourself in London in the summer of 1780. An angry rabble, enraged by laws intended to reduce discrimination, descend on the capital in an orgy of violence. A week of destruction and violence follow. These are the Gordon Riots. As one bystander put it as he watched public buildings go up in flames:
‘London offered on every side the picture of a city sacked and abandoned to a ferocious enemy.’Yet this is unlike any modern populist howl of prejudice. Behind the scenes, malevolent forces are at work, exploiting the ignorant minds of the mob to bring about an infernal doom even more calamitous than a no-deal Brexit. From elsewhere in the multiverse comes a supernaturally competent, stylish and deliciously eccentric agent known as the Cavaliere. Imagine a refined, swordstick-wielding incarnation of the Doctor impeccably dressed for the century of lights, perhaps played by Tim Roth...
...with a touch of Marius Goring's performance as Conductor 71 in A Matter of Life and Death...
The Cavaliere soon gets himself an able companion to serve as his guide to this era, by the simple expedient of acquiring an orphan from the Foundling Hospital. (Since I'm doing the casting, Kate could be played by the young Billie Piper -- or Chloë Grace Moretz if she's up for attempting a Cockney accent.) Our two heroes will need all their wits and wiles, though, because ranged against them are a whole hierarchy of lethally adept opponents from this world and the planes beyond -- some of them armed with quantum weapons that even the Cavaliere has no defence against. ("This stuff shouldn't be here at all," warns the shadowy Guardsman as he equips his locally recruited minions.) And all this against the bloody backdrop of the riots as London is torn apart.
If I haven't piqued your interest by now then that's entirely my fault, because Babylondon is a modern classic that should appeal to every connoisseur of historical SF, multiverse adventure, and parallel worlds. John Whitbourn has been working on this novel since the late '90s and he's brought it to the quintessence of perfection. Grab your periwig and your poignard, and allons-y.