The Etched City by KJ Bishop

February 11, 2009 at 12:08 am | Posted in 3 stars, Book Reviews, Fantasy | 1 Comment

This dark fantasy is set in an urban underworld infused with strange magic and populated by criminals, grotesques, and the miserable poor. If this sounds like Perdido Street Station, that’s because the setting does indeed feel more than a little similar. But where Perdido married its freak show environment with something of a swashbuckling plot, Etched City is focused more on characters, so the result is a very different kind of book. It’s not a long book by modern standards and the pace is sedate, especially in the long opening section set not in the city but in a desert strewn with the refuse of previous civilizations.

All of it adds up to what I think of as typical for modern literary SF: a well-written, thought-provoking novel that nevertheless falls short of epiphany.  The atmosphere is so morose throughout that the whole thing seems somewhat unnecessarily depressing.  If you like the literary side of the genre the book is certainly well-written enough to recommend, and a cursory survey of the usual suspects indicates most people seemed to like this book a lot more than I did.


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