.A mindfucking mindfuck of all mindfucks. A great, big, sprawling book, and yet one which can have a curious sense of claustrophobia at times.
That’s because nearly all the action takes place on the floating city of Armada. It’s a big floating city, but it is, nonetheless, essentially a big ship, in the middle of a great ocean, and there’s nowhere for the characters to go.
What they do while stuck there, is where the fun lies.
While I was reading this, my beloved got our son a copy of China’s first book “for younger readers”, Un Lun Dun. He finished it over a long weekend’s trip to Cornwall, and I read the review of it in that Saturday’s Guardian (yes, we buy our kids books in their week of release, why do you ask? Like much of the country, we did the same in July (though to be fair, that wasn’t just for the kids.))
The review ended with a statement of the old canard about SF&F having no characters, “and that’s why some readers like them”, to paraphrase. And while that’s kind of insulting (and not even true for Un Lun Dun), there is some truth in it. But then, that’s not what we’re here for: you don’t come to a book like this to read about the inner turmoil of a North London writer (I can get that by not reading. OK, East rather than North, and would-be, but still.) You read books like this to take you somewhere else; to experience something other; to see something you can’t see down your street.
And you certainly get your money’s worth with this one.