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Cage of Souls: Shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award 2020 Kindle Edition
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Humanity clings to life on a dying Earth in an epic, far-future science fiction novel from an award-winning author.
The sun is bloated, diseased, dying perhaps. Beneath its baneful light, Shadrapar, last of all cities, harbours fewer than 100,000 human souls. Built on the ruins of countless civilisations, Shadrapar is a museum, a midden, an asylum, a prison on a world that is ever more alien to humanity.
Bearing witness to the desperate struggle for existence between life old and new is Stefan Advani: rebel, outlaw, prisoner, survivor. This is his testament, an account of the journey that took him into the blazing desolation of the western deserts; that transported him east down the river and imprisoned him in the verdant hell of the jungle's darkest heart; that led him deep into the labyrinths and caverns of the underworld. He will meet with monsters, madman, mutants.
The question is, which one of them will inherit this Earth?
"Tchaikovsky's world-building here is breathtaking... Cage of Souls is a fascinating read and strong ecological tale." —Starburst Magazine
"Grotesque and beautiful all at once... A brilliant examination of extremes and the way in which humanity always finds a way to navigate them. Even when others are hell bent on self-destruction." —SciFiNow
"Once again Tchaikovsky astounds with his boundless imagination and versatility in his craft." —Worlds in Ink --This text refers to the paperback edition.
About the Author
- ASIN : B07DPRW17S
- Publisher : Head of Zeus (April 4, 2019)
- Publication date : April 4, 2019
- Language : English
- File size : 1865 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Sticky notes : On Kindle Scribe
- Print length : 646 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: #7,372 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Cage of Souls did not disappoint. Fantastic concepts, based in a very distant future Earth where civilsation has all but collapsed, a single city left whose poulation is obsessed with vanity, the latest fashion trends and politics while developments in science and technology have all but stalled (there are only a handful of "artificers" left who how to make or fix the simplest of machines).
I could not put this down. Highly recommended!
I had no real idea what to expect going into Cage of Souls, but I absolutely loved this little gem of a standalone story. It's intriguing and unpredictable, owing to various clever factors; Stefan is an unlikely protagonist, being a somewhat cowardly academic, but he writes a good dynamic yarn with a talent for baiting the reader with hints of future plot points that keep you firmly on the hook. The chronology of his account is non-linear and keeps you on your toes, and the starting premise of the novel itself is so doomed that it offers little in the way of obvious direction to begin with. Only as seemingly unrelated characters and events begin to slowly grow together do you start to get a sense of any greater plot arc - such that there is one. This is not the usual sprawling sci-fi epic, but a massive, awe-inspiring tale of impending apocalypse we can only glimpse through the narrow lens of Stefan's personal, intimate and frequently self-centred account.
That's not to say Tchaikovsky's world-building here isn't as rich and engrossing as ever. I first got into his work through the Shadows of the Apt and Echoes of the Fall series, and as much as he is lauded for his fantasy and his sci-fi, I don't feel he gets nearly enough acknowledgement for the eerie, disturbing existential horror elements he sometimes weaves into his tales. Cage of Souls is no exception, and there's better stuff here than many full-on horror novels I've read. Expect to be drawn in and utterly goosebumped by some seriously creepy apocalyptic sights and shenanigans.
The section about the Underworld had me especially glued to my kindle. I particularly love the frightening, almost Lovecraftian mysteries of both the forgotten past of fading humanity and the unknown inhuman future that get dangled in front of us, but are often not fully explained. Stefan brushes accidentally against many of the world-changing events in the book and sees some really fascinating end-of-the-world wonders, but as he is mostly an observer, he doesn't learn all the answers. The book is too cleverly written for this to ever be frustrating, and simply makes you marvel at the scale and depth of the world that must exist beyond our narrator's perception. Even though Stefan's own story is satisfyingly complete by the end, there are fascinating puzzle pieces left in his wake that I know I'll be musing over for a long, long time.
Thoroughly enjoyed it from the very first word, and would absolutely recommend giving it a read.
Adrian T is also a master of eclecticism; he shifts genre as easily as I shift pillows. He can write high concept space operas or sword and sorcery fantasy equally convincingly. Here, he writes in the mode of a Jules Verne or HG Wells, with a Dickensian sense of the grotesque and a Victorian sensibility. Other reviewers have noted the Papillon-style plot, the dying world backdrop and enormous number of characters and settings. I would add the unreliable anti-hero narrator and the observation that this is a world where no-one's hands are clean, yet everyone is to be pitied, because all hope is dead.
I'm 90% through the book, so I don't know yet how it all comes out, but I already sense this one is all about the journey, not the destination. And the journey is well worth the price of the ticket. 4 stars because it isn't moving me quite as much as some of his others, but this is still a very good read.
Tchaikovsky has a real talent for imagining and conveying fascinating and monstrous creatures. Throughout the book, mysterious beasts on land and water enter the narrative and the result is always compelling. Nevertheless, this is a frustrating read. Stefan’s character feels completely disconnected. He is at once an experienced criminal with a consistent history of violent behaviour as well as a coward who is useless in a fight. At one stage we understand he is an academic who went rogue, then later he appears to be a rogue who went academic. Too often he knows too much for the reader to empathise with him. In one scene, he somehow recognises a device for measuring starlight despite immediately expressing no interest or knowledge in the subject.
His fellow characters are largely stereotypes. The book’s women are little more than outlines to remind the reader that the men like boobs, while the other men have one-dimensional backgrounds. One is left feeling that they might have been assigned some of Stefan’s backstory, liberating him of the burdensome variety of narratives he supposedly carries with him while at the same time giving the supporting cast more depth.
The prison itself is supposed to be a hellish concentration camp but seems quite a jolly place for most of the narrative, and certainly not one characterised by the casual death and destruction we are led to expect. The world-building, while vivid, is strikingly random. New humanoid species, intelligent rats, time travel, and talking monsters from the depths all make an appearance, without the story ever taking them anywhere in particular.
The last few chapters of the book do introduce a suddenly compelling concept, but by then one feels so frustrated with a know-it-all narrator and a scattered narrative, that it falls rather flat. Personally, I was left thinking that Tchaikovsky should have focussed more on particular parts of the world and specific monsters, and allowed us a protagonist who was as fascinated with them as we would like to be.