This one is at A Dribble Of Ink. It’s a fair review, engages with the book splendidly, and tries to put in some context regarding the New Weird. Also, he got a lot of what I was doing, about the prose and the clash of aesthetics, which for any writer is highly rewarding.
There are touches of Epic Fantasy (cross country travelogues, complete with aloof, drunken swordsmen and tangential encounters with ravenous tribes) and Urban Fantasy (with a few battle scenes that would make the film version of Children of Men jealous), dusty old detective novels (with noirish undertones galore), but most interesting are the ties, intentional or not, to Cyberpunk and near-future Science Fiction. Among the new characters introduced is Malum, a gang leader and Vampyre, who reveals the seedy underbelly of Villiren. His story arc, full of gang politics, cigarettes, smuggling and whores, a constant reminder that this is a tale told not in the past, on some fantastical other world, but in a far future of our own. This isn’t your grandma’s Fantasy…
With the release of Nights of Villjamur, Newton’s prose was divisive for its loose, stream-of-conciousness style. People either loved it or hated it. Strikingly, especially to those expecting a Fantasy novel (as it’s generally marketed as), the prose is very contemporary, a seemingly intentional move on Newton’s part to, again, solidify the fact that this tale is being told on a future version of our world, far removed from contemporary times, but with echoes of our language and culture still intact. This anachronistic language fits in the Cyberpunk-esque Villiren much better than it did in the Medieval-esque Villjamur, especially when dealing with the locals; it’s like comparing the expectations when a Scottish farmer opens his mouth to a SoCal teenager. Newton is a better writer in City of Ruin, but it will likely do little to change the minds of those who were put off by the prose in Nights of Villjamur.
It’s clear, also, that Newton has things to say. Like his inspiration China Mieville, Newton fills his novel with political and social commentary, reflecting on the state of our world, our culture and our cities through the destruction of those in his novel. Beyond the parallels between Villiren and Los Angeles (with a bit of London thrown in, I expect), Newton explores racism, sexuality and prejudice, though never hits you over the head with his philosophies. If there’s one are where Newton improved immensely, it’s this. Unlike Nights of Villjamur, much of the commentary and philosophy evolves naturally from the plot, rather than being revealed by blatant internal monolgues by the characters.
So this New Weird thing, then. Despite me saying it’s gone, I’ve found that it has been gaining clarity over the years. Not that I’m any closer to understanding it myself, of course.