*I received an ecopy of this book via NetGalley & Edelweiss. This has not influenced my review.*
This was one of those books that had a low thrum of tension throughout the whole thing, that feeling that things were weird and wrong even though you didn’t yet know what. But since I didn’t really know what the plot was working toward, I didn’t have this sense of things building, and the book felt slow for about the first 2/3. The beginning of the book also seemed to be more world-building and descriptions of settings than plot, and the articles and things that were between chapters sometimes only slowed the pace more. That being said, once things did really start building and take off around the last third, they got pretty twisty and complex.
Largo’s characterization was really well done though. He was so flawed, yet also a character I sympathized with. He had dreams, but he just kind of settled with his life as it was. He had a pretty dead-end job and a crappy apartment, and he spent most of his free time and money on drugs, including one called morphia that he was addicted to. Largo didn’t always make great decisions in life, but he had a good heart. He cared about others. He wasn’t as judgmental as many people around him were. And when he came across an opportunity to better himself and maybe one day achieve his dreams, he jumped on it. He also realized some things about himself and changed throughout the story. The supporting characters felt believable too, even if they weren’t explored as much. This book also did a great job showing how situations and lives and people can spiral down or out of control.
I’m not sure if this is considered sci-fi or fantasy or some combo of the two. Personally I’d say it’s kind of dystopian. It’s got robotic technology and government conspiracies and plague and strange creatures made with eugenics all set in a darkly decadent and vice-ridden city.
I struggled with what rating to give this book because it wasn’t a bad book, but it still wasn’t quite right for me. I struggled with all the description and with not knowing where the plot was going, but the characterization of the main character was strong and there was a lot of complexity put into the story, and I think some readers will really enjoy this!
Anyone who likes flawed characters, detailed world-building, lots of mystery and tension, and a slow-building plot.
From the bestselling author of the Sandman Slim series, a lush, dark, stand-alone fantasy built off the insurgent tradition of China Mieville and M. John Harrison—a subversive tale that immerses us in a world where the extremes of bleakness and beauty exist together in dangerous harmony in a city on the edge of civility and chaos.
The Great War is over. The city of Lower Proszawa celebrates the peace with a decadence and carefree spirit as intense as the war’s horrifying despair. But this newfound hedonism—drugs and sex and endless parties—distracts from strange realities of everyday life: Intelligent automata taking jobs. Genetically engineered creatures that serve as pets and beasts of war. A theater where gruesome murders happen twice a day. And a new plague that even the ceaseless euphoria can’t mask.
Unlike others who live strictly for fun, Largo is an addict with ambitions. A bike messenger who grew up in the slums, he knows the city’s streets and its secrets intimately. His life seems set. He has a beautiful girlfriend, drugs, a chance at a promotion—and maybe, an opportunity for complete transformation: a contact among the elite who will set him on the course to lift himself up out of the streets.
But dreams can be a dangerous thing in a city whose mood is turning dark and inward. Others have a vision of life very different from Largo’s, and they will use any methods to secure control. And in behind it all, beyond the frivolity and chaos, the threat of new war always looms.