Tom Doherty Associates: 2/11/2014
Hardcover, 400 pages
Welcome to the City Unspoken, where Gods and Mortals come to die.Contrary to popular wisdom, death is not the end, nor is it a passage to some transcendent afterlife. Those who die merely awake as themselves on one of a million worlds, where they are fated to live until they die again, and wake up somewhere new. All are born only once, but die many times . . . until they come at last to the City Unspoken, where the gateway to True Death can be found.Wayfarers and pilgrims are drawn to the City, which is home to murderous aristocrats, disguised gods and goddesses, a sadistic faerie princess, immortal prostitutes and queens, a captive angel, gangs of feral Death Boys and Charnel Girls . . . and one very confused New Yorker.Late of Manhattan, Cooper finds himself in a City that is not what it once was. The gateway to True Death is failing, so that the City is becoming overrun by the Dying, who clot its byzantine streets and alleys . . . and a spreading madness threatens to engulf the entire metaverse.
The Waking Engine by David Edison is recommended for fans of China Miéville New Crobunza series.
What is death? Cooper wakes up to find himself in the City Unspoken, the place where people truly come to die. He is shocked to discover that death isn't final. When you die you move on and awaken someplace else, another world, another city. He's told upon awakening, "When we die, we don’t cease to exist or turn into shimmering motes of ectoplasm or purple angels or anything else you may have been brought up to believe. We just . . . go on living. Someplace else." So... you live and die, then wake somewhere new. You live more, die again, then wake once more in another place. You can return to life older, younger or the same age, but you will return and you will be the same person.
While Cooper is trying to wrap his head around this fact that reincarnation is real, he also learns that he is unusual for two reasons. First he has come to The City Unspoken right after his first death. Most people arrive at the City Unspoken when it is their true time to die. The gateway to death is here. Second, Cooper has a belly button. He may be the only person who was dead who has one. The belly button is a scare, and scares are erased when you start your new life.
Clearly, something is not working as it should and that something may be the gateway to Death.
I was anxious to read The Waking Engine because it is described as being part of the new weird steampunk-influenced writing style, akin to that of China Miéville. Edison's writing did remind me of Miéville's fictional New Crobuzon in many ways. I thought the writing was excellent. Any issues I had were more with the plot and what felt like excessive additions to the narrative. In the end I thought the plot could have used a bit more consolidation of main themes and a few less tangents off into exploration of the city and its inhabitants. This may be a good example why Miéville wrote several books featuring New Crobuzon because the story was too big and lavish for one book.
Make a note that this does contain adult themes, content, and graphic violence that did become a bit too much for me.
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Tom Doherty Associates via Netgalley for review purposes.