Review: A CITY DREAMING by Daniel Polansky (Regan Arts/Hodder)

PolanskyD-ACityDreamingUSA marvellous, gonzo urban fantasy

M is an ageless drifter with a sharp tongue, few scruples, and the ability to bend reality to his will, ever so slightly. He’s come back to New York City after a long absence, and though he’d much rather spend his days drinking artisanal beer in his favorite local bar, his old friends — and his enemies — have other plans for him. One night M might find himself squaring off against the pirates who cruise the Gowanus Canal; another night sees him at a fashionable uptown charity auction where the waitstaff are all zombies. A subway ride through the inner circles of hell? In M’s world, that’s practically a pleasant diversion.

Before too long, M realizes he’s landed in the middle of a power struggle between Celise, the elegant White Queen of Manhattan, and Abilene, Brooklyn’s hip, free-spirited Red Queen, a rivalry that threatens to make New York go the way of Atlantis. To stop it, M will have to call in every favor, waste every charm, and blow every spell he’s ever acquired—he might even have to get out of bed before noon.

Enter a world of Wall Street wolves, slumming scenesters, desperate artists, drug-induced divinities, pocket steampunk universes, and demonic coffee shops. M’s New York, the infinite nexus of the universe, really is a city that never sleeps — but is always dreaming.

This is a very different kind of fantasy to Daniel Polansky’s debut Low Town series. For one thing, it’s set in New York. Only, it is certainly not the New York you are likely to know. A City Dreaming is wonderfully weird and extremely inventive. I very much enjoyed this. Continue reading

Upcoming: A CITY DREAMING by Daniel Polansky (Hodder/Regan Arts)

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Well, this is certainly one of my most-anticipated novels of the year! I loved Daniel Polansky’s Low Town trilogy, and A City Dreaming looks equally fantastic. Here’s the synopsis:

M is an ageless drifter with a sharp tongue, few scruples, and the ability to bend reality to his will, ever so slightly. He’s come back to New York City after a long absence, and though he’d much rather spend his days drinking artisanal beer in his favorite local bar, his old friends — and his enemies — have other plans for him. One night M might find himself squaring off against the pirates who cruise the Gowanus Canal; another night sees him at a fashionable uptown charity auction where the waitstaff are all zombies. A subway ride through the inner circles of hell? In M’s world, that’s practically a pleasant diversion.

Before too long, M realizes he’s landed in the middle of a power struggle between Celise, the elegant White Queen of Manhattan, and Abilene, Brooklyn’s hip, free-spirited Red Queen, a rivalry that threatens to make New York go the way of Atlantis. To stop it, M will have to call in every favor, waste every charm, and blow every spell he’s ever acquired—he might even have to get out of bed before noon.

Enter a world of Wall Street wolves, slumming scenesters, desperate artists, drug-induced divinities, pocket steampunk universes, and demonic coffee shops. M’s New York, the infinite nexus of the universe, really is a city that never sleeps — but is always dreaming.

A City Dreaming is due to be published in October by Hodder (UK) and Regan Arts (US).

Quick Review: DEPTH by Lev A.C. Rosen (Titan/Regan Arts)

RosenLAC-DepthUSMurder and conspiracy in flooded future New York City

Depth combines hardboiled mystery and dystopian science fiction in a future where the rising ocean levels have left New York twenty-one stories under water and cut off from the rest of the United States. But the city survives, and Simone Pierce is one of its best private investigators. Her latest case, running surveillance on a potentially unfaithful husband, was supposed to be easy. Then her target is murdered, and the search for his killer points Simone towards a secret from the past that can’t possibly be real—but that won’t stop the city’s most powerful men and women from trying to acquire it for themselves, with Simone caught in the middle.

Without a doubt, my favourite thing about the novel is the setting — a partially submerged New York City, cut off from the (now-fundamentalist-Christian) mainland. The first 21 storeys are underwater, only tower blocks and sky-scrapers inhabitable — each stitched together by bridges of varying quality and safety. Rosen doesn’t give us too much about the city, but it is unquestionably a character in itself. Every scene offers a new description and development, letting readers know how the city has changed over the decades since the oceans rose, and the methods used by New Yorkers to adapt. The fundamentalist swing of the mainland was amusing to read, even though it’s mainly just offered in passing as a contrast to New York.

The story itself was pretty straight-forward, and I appreciated the fact that Rosen wove it into this world. It wasn’t the best PI/detective story I’ve ever read, and I’m sad to say I wasn’t fully gripped throughout — I ended up far more interested in visualizing the city, rather than following the case. There were moments of excellence (in particular, a handful of turns of phrase that were fantastic).

This was a pretty interesting novel and a quick read. While a bit slow, and not as gripping as I had hoped, it’s still a good introduction to this post-apocalyptic New York City. I would certainly read more novels in this setting.

*

Depth is published in the UK by Titan Books and in the US by Regan Arts.

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New Books (June-July)

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Featuring: John Joseph Adams, Andy Abramowitz, Edgar Cantero, Joshua Cohen, Bennett R. Coles, Ctein, Dennis Dunaway, Matthew Dunn, Vaughn Entwhistle, Michael R. Fletcher, Teresa Frohock, Caseen Gaines, John Gilstrap, Ed Greenwood, Janet Groth, Paul Kane, Marshall Ryan Maresca, John Niven, Tom Pollock, Ronda Rousey, John Sandford, Charles Stross, Neely Tucker, Jon Wallace, Fran Wilde, Daniel H. Wilson Continue reading