The Etched City by K.J. Bishop
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Etched City is the story of gunslinger Gwynn and doctor Raule. Together, they flee the wasteland of the Copper Country and make their way to the city of Ashamoil. Raule starts treating the poor of Ashamoil, occasionally delivering crocodilian babies, while Gwynn gets a job as a guard for a slave trader and has a heated affair with an artist.
The Etched City is definitely atmosphere over action but when the action comes, it's hard and fast. Bishop knows how to build tension as well as create a realized fantasy city. While Ashamoil isn't as detailed as New Crobuzon or Ambergris, it's still great. The style is a mannerly kind of new weird.
Amazon recommended this one, based on my ratings for The Dark Tower series and Perdido Street Station. It did not disappoint. My only complaint was that it could have been much longer.
Observations from the July 2012 re-read:
1. Bishop makes the desert of the Copper Country interesting, giving it aspects of Australian and Middle Eastern desert culture while still making it feel like a Western.
2. Gwynn has a lot more dimension than I remember. He's a deadly mercenary of dubious morality but also kind of a dandy. I'd forgotten he played the piano.
3. Raule is tough!
4. BIshop's writing has a kind of poetry to it in places. Her use of similes and metaphors was something I'd totally forgotten about since my initial read.
5. Yeah, Beth's a little batshit
6. Deformed reptilian babies are creepy
7. Gwynn doing some huffing and then riding around looking for Beth while having a conversation with his horse reminds me of the shroom scene from Young Guns.
8. The gunfight on Memorial Bridge between the Society of the Horn Fan and the tax collectors is right up there with the OK Corral scene in Tombstone.
9. Gwynn having to kill Marriot was a powerful scene.
10. The man with a lotus flower growing out of his navel
11. Hart and his magical axe are pretty impressive.
12. While it looks simply like an odd fantasy story, it's really a story of love and obsession.
13. The twists at the end were well done and not expected.
In conclusion, this book is just as good the second time. I'm ready for K.J. Bishop to write another novel.
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