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The Etched City Paperback – Nov 23 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Spectra (Nov. 23 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553382918
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553382914
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2.2 x 21 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 272 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #316,907 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

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.

Review

"'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.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Robert Beveridge on June 7 2004
Format: Paperback
K. J. Bishop, The Etched City (Prime, 2003)
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.
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By A Customer on Dec 25 2003
Format: Paperback
This book is just brilliant from start to finish. It is totally different to what we think of as being fantasy. It's refreshing, new, exciting and deep - if you want an actioned paced yarn full of two dimensional characters who race through their scenes then stay away from this book. But if you want wonderful action scenes that actually work to reveal more about the characters' lives and you want some slow moody intriguing pieces that always lead you to wanting to know more, then you should buy this book. The character that got me was Gwynn, right from the start. He's the bad man, he does bad things, yet there is something noble about him at the same time - perhaps the angel of death, or like Shiva dancing, an almost godlike figure, understanding that creation and destruction go hand in hand - a character that you despise and respect at the same time. He might also be the anti-Buddha in some odd way, understanding the nature of life and choosing to embrace it with all its faults, rather than rejecting it for a life of retreat.
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.
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Format: Paperback
Two drifters: a battlefield physician and an introspective gunslinger, are pursued from the deserts of the Copper Country to Ashamoil, ancient city of freaks, art and crime. That's the first three chapters, after which the story begins to explore many different paths. In those first chapters Bishop assembles an oddly old-west atmosphere (her protagonists bear six-shooters and shotguns), a compelling feel soon replaced by the cityscape of Ashamoil. There is beautiful and ambiguous writing throughout, and a perpetual sense that everywhere is hidden deeper meaning. The city is rife with symbols and enigmatic denizens. The dark gunfighter Gwynn, who is the book's main subject, involves himself in a wide range of activities with a cast of diverse characters, including protracted discussions on the nature of Salvation, a love affair with a questionably human woman, and fulfilling his duties as crime-lord heavy. Though all interesting, the various plot lines seemed, at times, to clamor for center stage while suffering from lack of attention. Bishop is a powerful wordsmith, and I look forward to her next work.
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Format: Paperback
What a fine book this is! While the world between these pages has been --justly-- compared with M. John Harrison's Viriconium and China Mieville's New Crobuzon, the world of Ashamoil and its environs is uniquely Bishop's own. Bishop's world is every bit as fleshed out as either of the formers', and there's plenty of action and plot to move things along. Ashamoil is not a pretty place, and I found myself immersed in the decadence and savagery of the place.
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.
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