BOOK REC: The Glass Republic (Skyscraper Throne II) by Tom Pollock: dark urban fantasy for Gaiman and Mieville fans

The Glass Republic (The Skyscraper Throne, #2)The Glass Republic by Tom Pollock

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The second in Pollock’s inventive urban fantasy series plays with two tropes, fusing them together. He mixes the magic/hidden London trope with the mirror world idea. The novel takes place after the events of THE CITY’S SON, mostly focusing on Parva (Pen) Khan, who was victimized by a living spirit of barbed wire, called the Wire Mistress. Pen’s face has been deformed by scars and she’s had to undergo extensive reconstructive surgery. She also suffers from a smidge of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. When she returns to her high school, she is subject of gossip which is exacerbated by the fact that she can’t very well tell everyone about the hidden/magic part of London of streetlamp spirits, living statues and garbage goddesses. On top of that, Pen is responsible for the firing of a popular teacher who propositioned her. Pen’s only real friend is her mirror-sister, who lives behind the glass, in London-Under-Glass.

When Pen’s mirror-sister goes missing, she goes to the Glass Republic to figure out the mystery. The world there is ruled by a rigid caste system, with full-faced mirrostocrats lord over the half-faced populace. Pen’s mirror-sister is a member of the Mirrostocracy, due to a lottery that raises one member of the lower class into their ranks. That Parva Khan is known as the Face of the Lottery. Pen finds herself enmeshed in a complex political scandal involving slick senators and a revolutionary group called the Faceless.

The world building is spectacular. Pollock has a thing for urban decay, and he works it into magic system. It’s a little bit Neil Gaiman (Neverwhere) and a little bit China Mieville, particularly the Bas-Lag novels. Pen is also a great character, even more appealing than Beth in the first novel. Pen is vulnerable and strong in equal measure. She’s also a sexually-fluid hijab-wearing Muslim. (Representation matters!)

The only weak points are the scenes with Beth—the hero of the first novel. They felt a little building-blocky. But Pollock’s rusting, rotting imagery makes those scenes flow.

Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird Schedule

The Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird happens this Saturday (March 25, 2017) in Atlanta/Decatur. I will be moderating the following session:


11:55-12:40 PM
PANEL: Other Weird Tales: Unraveling Paradigms as the Protagonist Shifts Away from the Cis White Male
Weird fiction, like SF/F/H, has predominantly centered on CIS white male protagonists mostly written by CIS white male authors. One of the most dynamic aspects of the contemporary Weird Renaissance is that this is no longer true. Non-CIS-white-male writers are not only altering the concept of what the Weird is as a literary form but also pushing its boundaries and defying editorial and publishing expectations. How does the narrative shift when the protagonist is a woman, a person of color, LBGT and/or disabled? What are some examples of good contemporary, or older Weird tales with Other protagonists that exemplify these different qualities? What challenges have the authors on the panel personally faced in approaching the Weird from Other perspectives–cultural, gender, orientation, etc.? Finally, how are new writers, new perspectives and new audiences opening up the Weird and spec-lit in general to new markets, and conversely how are new markets (small press, self-publishing) facilitating exposure to different voices?
Moderator: Craig Laurance Gidney
Panelists: Mike Allen, Gerald L. Coleman, Valjeanne Jeffers, Damien Angelica Walters

I will also be doing a reading at 1:50pm

And there is a Mass Signing at 5.15pm


Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff: The horrors of James Corvid(nee Jim Crow).

Lovecraft CountryLovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Werewolves don’t scare me. Neither do the walking dead (zombies), Voldemort, body-snatchers, Chuckie, Jason or Freddie.

People who have lost or buried or under-developed their empathy. Who see black and brown and female and trans bodies as things to be used, or scorned or destroyed. Those are the true monsters.

Reading Matt Ruff’s Lovecraft Country isn’t just a look at the bigotry of the past. Jim Crow isn’t dead. He just got a new suit, had a makeover. Now he wears thousand-dollar suits, has a chic hair cut, and calls himself James Corvid.

Ruff’s novel is loosely structured as a linked short story collection. It follows the Turners, a black middle class family in Chicago and their dealings with a white male sorcerer who wants to control an occult empire. Secret societies, inter-dimensional travel, eidolons, cosmic horrors, possessed dolls and body-thievery all appear in these tales, intertwined with the mundane horrors of life under the heel of racism.

Ruff does imbue the narrative with a sense of wonder. The appearance of Lovecraftian menagerie didn’t terrify me. It was thrilling and exciting and magical. But the big bad, Caleb Braithwaite, he was horrifying. He was a literal personification of Jim Crow–or, rather, James Corvid. Braithwaite, like Corvid, is outwardly handsome and charming. But he is ruthlessly determined to uphold his (white) (male) superiority, and uses (black) as pawns in his narcissistic game. He is the monster.

Like The Ballad of Black Tom (LaValle), LC directly challenges the undercurrent of white supremacy that undergrids H.P.’s fiction.