A young physicist is dispatched to a remote Scottish estate to secretly decipher the fragments of a manuscript that may hold the key to restoring the solar storm ravaged 21st century. Once there he finds whispers of a reincarnated wizard, strange forces linked to an eerie laboratory said to be a gate to the Otherworld, and a girl. A classic science fiction novel of adventure and romance.
The story is set thirty-six years after the first of a series of powerful solar storms destroys the world's electrical grid – shorting out computers, and making radio, TV and mobile phones impossible. Within hours the world was thrust back into the 19th century. Those who survived the ensuing chaos gradually adopted to this new reality. This story takes place in an England and Scotland that have adopted to this new world using an eclectic mix of old and new technology. Steam engines pull carriages over lines once used by high speed trains. Electricity is generated locally using solar panels and windmills. The streets are filled with bicycles dodging horse drawn drays and pedestrians dressed like Victorians to protect their skin from the greatly increased ultraviolet light reaching the ground due to the solar storms' disruption of the earth's upper atmosphere.
A Summer in Amber might be described as a "mirror image" steampunk novel. Instead of 21st century technology in a 19th century society, Edwardian technology had been adopted by a post-apocalyptic, late 21st century one, making for an out of the ordinary steampunk story. There are, for example, no zombies. Morlocks, yes, but no zombies, nor airships and air pirates. The story's steampunkness comes from a mix of Edwardian and 21st century technology and from its old-fashioned narrative style – a reflection of my fondness for the Scottish stories of John Buchan, and Compton Mackenzie. (And the 1959 movie remake of the 39 Steps starring Kenneth More.)
Along with adventure, romance plays its part as well in A Summer in Amber. The story has been described in one review as a "Regency romance". I'm not sure what constitutes a Regency romance, but falling in love with a rather fey girl is certainly part of what makes this summer in the highlands so unforgettable for Sandy Say – a summer he hopes to keep forever preserved in the amber of memory.