Jaine Blackman loses all sense of time in an epic new novel which merges three worlds

Arcadia, the latest novel by Iain Pears is extremely clever but, better than that, immensely entertaining.

Three worlds interlock in this multi-layered story of history and time, as Pears almost seamlessly merges genres of fantasy, sci-fi, spy thriller, romance and more.

The action begins, in the print version at least, when a teenager from 1960s Oxford stumbles in to Anterwold, a sun-drenched land of storytellers, prophesies and ritual via a customised garden pergola in the basement of Professor Henry Lytten’s home.

As she travels between them, in the novel’s third world – a bleak over-populated place where emotions are drug-induced and happiness and youth come in pill form – a renegade scientist sets off a chain of events which could have devastating effects for all creation.

As well as posing interesting questions and moral dilemmas, there’s also a great deal of humour in the book by the Oxford resident and best-selling author of An Instance Of The Fingerpost.

Of course, when reading of other worlds and fantastical happenings there needs to be a certain suspension of disbelief but there’s a logic to what happens.

The characters are well-drawn enough for you to care about what happens to them and the action moves at a cracking pace.

There’s a lot going on but for those who can’t get enough of a good thing, there’s also a groundbreaking app for Arcadia which allows the reader to start and traverse the book from a variety of points and have the story told from different characters’ viewpoints – which adds an extra 60,000 to 70,000 words.

Perfectly apt for a book which shows how events can differ but time has a way of adjusting to certain fixed points.

Arcadia by Iain Pears, Faber & Faber, £18.99 hardback; £2.99 app Iain Pears will be at Blackwell’s Bookshop on Wednesday at 7pm to talk about the book. Tickets £3.