The Etched City Paperback – Nov 23 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Combine equal parts of Stephen King's Dark Tower series and China Mieville's Perdido Street Station, throw in a dash of Aubrey Beardsley and J.K. Huysmans, and you'll get some idea of this disturbing, decadent first novel from Australian author Bishop. Through the devastated landscape of the Copper Country, where their side has been defeated in a war, two powerfully drawn protagonists flee the victorious Army of Heroes: Gwynn, a former mercenary, a dandy, an atheist and, eventually, the lieutenant of a wealthy slave dealer, but also a man not totally without honor; and Raule, a physician who once served in Gwynn's mercenary troop and has chosen to devote the rest of her life to caring for the poor, though she also likes to collect deformed fetuses simply because they fascinate her. Later, they make new lives for themselves in the fabulous, horrific and corrupt city of Ashamoil, where beautiful artists occasionally turn into sphinxes, babies are born half crocodile, flowers spring from freshly dead corpses and drunken priests work useless miracles. Characters love to discuss theology, aesthetics and ethics, and they're prone to obsessive love affairs with inappropriate partners. They're also capable of committing cold-blooded and gruesome murder with little or no remorse. Despite the rather mannered language, this grim tale should strongly appeal to aficionados of literate dark fantasy.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
"'Scenes among the most mystifying and astonishing I have found in a fantasy' Michael Moorcock, Guardian; 'Surpassing skill and vigour' Time Out; 'A brilliant first novel' Locus" --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
Aussie author Bishop turns in her first novel, and what a first novel it is. The language in The Etched City demands to be savored, lingered over. It is beautiful to the point of astonishment. This is, basically, the fastest way to get a top review from me.
The problem being that when held up against such masterpieces of perfect prose as Walker's The Secret Service, Mieville's Perdido Street Station (to which The Etched City is oft-compared), or McCarthy's Blood Meridian, The Etched City suffers in one respect: pace. The first half of the book, give or take, is told at a leisurely pace, to be kind. (It took me over three months to make it to the last half of the book.) Bishop takes her protagonists, the gunslinger Gwynn (who bears a striking resemblance to a more cynical, lighter-hearted Elric of Melnibone) and the doctor Raule, through a few episodes in another land before getting to the city at the heart of the book, Ashamoil. Once in Ashamoil, Bishop takes her time setting up character, setting, and theme before actually getting down to plot. A few subplots are begun, a few episodes spun out (and The Etched City is very much an episodic novel, contributing somewhat to its overall sense of languor), but the biggest ball doesn't get rolling until almost two hundred pages in. If you love language, though, it is doubtful you will care; the book can be put down and picked up at various times allowing the reader to go on to more pressing matters and return at leisure.
Perhaps the oddest thing about the novel is that Raule, with whom the book begins, ends up being such a minor character in the general scheme of things.Read more ›
The prose is excellent and dances across the page. Heavy ideas like those mentioned above are skilfully woven into a plot which turns at every corner. This is story full of mystery and imagination and just bursts with the vibrancy of life. There are no easy answers, but it's an exhilarating journey into another world.
The author doesn't take the easy path of painting her characters in manichean black-and-white. Gwynn and Raule --the antiheroes and main characters of the story-- are very human in that they are both bad and good, and thus neither completely likeable nor unlikeable. As their paths cross and diverge, and as they confront their respective moral dilemmas, we come to see something of ourselves. In this aspect, she outdoes both Harrison and Mieville.
Should mention that it's written such that you may read it quickly, or linger over it for maximum effect. I chose the latter.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Etched City and plan to return to Ashamoil again soon. Books like this keep me excited about "what's to come" in fiction.
Most recent customer reviews
The Etched City is a complete surprise from a relatively unknown author, K.J. Bishop.
Fans of Tanith Lee's Paradys series will feel instantly at home in the enigmatically... Read more
Bishop is a master of creating strong characters who do not fit easily into normal roles. Gwynn, for instance, who is the main character of The Etched City, is vile and... Read morePublished on April 3 2004 by Christopher Torgersen
This isn't just one of the best first novels that I've read this year, it's also one of the best novels. Read morePublished on Feb. 27 2004 by Kelly Link
I suppose this is not your average fantasy, but it's not much of a novel either. It fairly defies you not to like it, to stand up to it as it were, as if a certain masochistic... Read morePublished on Feb. 18 2004
What a surreal world Bishop has created and what a breath of fresh air for fantasy writing! Unlike many offerings in the genre this story is driven by the characters and the... Read morePublished on May 29 2003 by Felicity Jones
This is definitely something new. It's not about dragons. It's not about a beautiful heroine or a stunning hero. Read morePublished on May 15 2003 by W. D LaRue
The maturity of the writing in this book is not what you'd expect from a first-time novelist. I was completely enamoured by the world Bishop created for her characters Gwynn and... Read morePublished on May 7 2003 by John Klima
Bishop has written an accomplished and brave first novel that doesn't pull punches. The novel gets stranger--and more strangely beautiful--as it progresses, until the reader is... Read morePublished on Feb. 22 2003 by A Reader from Florida