A missing eye.
A broken wing.
A stolen country.
The last job didn’t end well.
Years go by, and scars fade, but memories only fester. For the animals of the Captain’s company, survival has meant keeping a low profile, building a new life, and trying to forget the war they lost. But now the Captain’s whiskers are twitching at the idea of evening the score.
This is a brilliant novella. Polansky’s Low Town novels are among my favourites, of any genre, and so I was very interested to see what the author came up with in this novella. I’m happy to report that it includes gripping prose, fascinating characters and excellently-paced storytelling. I really enjoyed this. A must-read of the year.
The premise for this novella is pretty interesting: imagine if some of the characters from Brian Jacques’s Redwall series took part in a revenge plot, complete with death and destruction, a long-ago war over a throne, and some gallows humour for good measure. The story begins with the gathering of (anti-)heroes, as the Captain brings together his former comrades — an eclectic bunch, to be sure: a sharp-shooter opossum, a heavy-weapons expert badger, a quick-draw salamander, etc. All of the characters are pretty fun in their way (blackly humourous, anyway); all of them are surprisingly well-rounded and complete, given the slim length of the story. Polansky packs in a lot of story, too — he gives us just enough to become quickly situated, without info-dumping, at the same time as leaving plenty to the reader’s imagination. With a couple of switcheroos over the course of the story, this is a very well constructed novella.
I’ve seen quite a few people describe this as Jacques-meets-Tarantino, and it’s certainly easy to see that. I would add, though, that it’s distinctly a Polansky piece, too — there’s just something about the way he writes that is so gripping. His characters are fantastic, his plotting streamlined and smooth. I was hooked from start to tragic finish.
If you’ve never tried Polansky’s work, then this is a great place to start. Then I would highly recommend you pick up Straight Razor Cure and Those Above. If you are familiar with the author’s work already, then you really should have pre-ordered this ages ago. It’s fantastic, and very highly recommended.
If the other novellas published by Tor.com are as good as this, I see a very bright future for the publisher.
The Builders is published by Tor.com on November 3rd, 2015.