Fairyland – Paul J McAuley (1995)
‘In the twenty-first century Europe is divided between the First World bourgeoisie, made rich by nanotechnology and the cheap slave labour of genetically engineered Dolls, and the Fourth World of refugees and the homeless, displaced by war and economic turbulence.
Alex Sharkey is trying to make his mark as a designer of psychoactive viruses in London whilst staying one step ahead of the police and Triad gangs. He finds an unlikely ally in a scary-smart but dangerous child named Milena, but his troubles really begin when he unwittingly helps Milena quicken intelligence in a Doll.
It is the first of the fairies.
Milena wants to escape forever to her own private Fairyland, but some of the Folk she has created have other ideas about where her destiny lies…’
Blurb from the 2009 Gollancz paperback edition.
Somewhat Michael Swanwick-ish in style, McAuley takes us on a real trip through a near future Europe. Alex, a slightly stereotyped fat geek, designs and deals in hallucinatory viruses and is seriously in debt to Billy Rock, the local villain. Billy has a job for Alex, and it includes a young prodigy called Milena.
In this world, genetically engineered humanoids called Dolls are manufactured to be used as cheap labour and fashionable pets.. Rock has subverted this to create fighting dolls in a venture called The Killing Fields.
Rock wants Alex and Milena to work together to change the Dolls’ DNA so that he will be able to breed them. Milena, however, has other ideas and uses the research to raise a Doll’s intelligence to sapience, and creates the first of The Fairies.
The narrative jumps forward to where Alex is travelling Europe, searching for Milena. Disneyworld is controlled by fairies and reality itself is being subverted by virus attacks which can change one’s moods, beliefs or memories. Alex herself believes that Milena has infected him with some viral love potion which has caused him to follow her across Europe.
In the meantime Milena, herself originally a product of company research has become The Fairy Queen, an amoral monarch whose subjects have been killing young girls for their ovaries in order to raise changelings among themselves or, as Milena explains, harvesting the ovaries of their own experiments which they planted among humans.
McAuley’s attempt to turn myth into reality works remarkably well. Our original Celtic stories of The Fair Folk show them to be wilful, amoral and often cruel and illogical creatures who would trap people in time or replace their babies with fairy babies (another concept used in this novel)
There are no doubt other parallels which will be more obvious to others.