SFF World review of Unwrapped Sky
Review of Unwrapped Sky went up on SFFworld, which you can read here. Here’s how it opens:
I thought long and hard about whether I should make a comparison between Australian author Rjurik Davidson’s debut novel, Unwrapped Sky, and the Bas-Lag novels of China Mièville. It seems a reductive approach to reviewing this book, which is certainly the product of a fertile and ambitious imagination of all of its own. However, undeniably the many pleasures of Unwrapped Sky are reminiscent of those earlier Bas-Lag books. The lavishly constructed city setting patched together from a variety of technological and mythological elements; the wilful subversion of the tropes of epic fantasy; and the book’s conversation with the politics of revolution; all this makes the comparison hard to resist.
New Weird seems to be last season’s fashion in the world of speculative fiction (perhaps supplanted by Grimdark as the in vogue thing (and I suspect an interesting essay could be written on the relationship between the two “movements”)). However, Unwrapped Sky is a debut novel that spent almost a decade in gestation, with roots in a time period when the term was perhaps more relevant to the conversation in the field. The novel is set in the same fantastical milieu as several of Davidson’s earlier short stories (collected in The Library of Forgotten Things put out by PS Publishing in 2010). The first of these stories dates back to 2005, and that piece, titled ‘The Passing of the Minotaurs’, forms a large part of the opening chapters of this 2014 novel.
Those who have had the pleasure of reading the preceding short stories will be familiar the city of Caeli-Amur, where the entire plot of this novel takes place. Like New Crobuzon, this setting is intentionally anachronistic, with classical references butting up against elements from the post-industrial revolution era.