my books news & reviews

City of Ruin: Punkadiddled

I rather like being Punkadiddled. It’s one of those genre privileges, up there with Thog’s Masterclass. The mighty Adam Roberts has reviewed City of Ruin [warning: contains spoilers], and has gone into some splendid detail. I love his thorough engagement with the text, even if it is not entirely complimentary; it’s reassuringly rigorous.

Now, this novel is better in many ways than the enjoyable though ragbaggy Nights: Newton is more in control of his voice here, more confident in what he’s doing. There’s some efficiently structured storytelling (maybe it takes a little too long getting-going; but once the main plots are in place it moves nicely along), with lots of gnarly, peculiar lifeforms and environments and some thumping set-pieces. I liked the Swiftian floating island especially. Still, the text is not wholly free of Teh Slapdash. I’d still describe Newton as a writer on his way somewhere interesting rather than someone who’s got there yet. Although, by the same token, he has a raw youthful energy that many more mature writers just can’t achieve, and he mixes his soursweet recipe of Fantasy, horror and noir nicely — uniquely, indeed. If you’re enjoying a bit of oral sex, the last thing you want is a vast, malign spider-creature crashing through your window and pouncing upon you. City of Ruin is that last thing you want.

Read the rest.

By Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.

7 replies on “City of Ruin: Punkadiddled”

An excellent review by Adam Roberts which, I think, has encouraged me to read your books! I’d sasy his reviews were pretty trustworthy!

Pedantry aside (and hey, he’s honest about that) I think, amongst other things, the part that I’d find most encouraging if I were in any way capable of writing a novel was the suggestion that “I’d still describe Newton as a writer on his way somewhere interesting rather than someone who’s got there yet.” Many years ago I read a collection of Arthur C. Clarke’s short stories where he recounted the story of how an eager fan had told him that they thought that Against the Fall of the Night was the best thing Clarke had ever written. Naturally he was a little miffed at the implication that he’d spend several decades going downhill…

Anyway, good show!

Thanks for stopping by, Richard. Indeed, very happy with the honest and engagement. It’s very pleasing from a creative point of view, even if it isn’t always engaging with positive comments.

Nice story – and yes, I concur. It would be a great disappointment to find that you were always living in the shadow of an earlier work for the rest of your life!

I think there is a lot one can learn from Roberts. He has a sharp critical insight and an understanding of the craft I would kill for.

However, he went down massively in my estimations when he did his series of ‘reviews’ on the Wheel of Time books. I’m no Jordan fan but found the reviews to be less pinpoint critical and more mockingly sneering. It’s a fine balance between the two and somewhat subjective but I found myself wondering “does he feel he be venomous because Jordan is dead and can’t answer back?” I hope it was just my misreading, but it’s really put me off what he has to say. Which is a shame as I genuinely think he has a lot to offer.

Regarding his reviews of the world of WoT, I have to say they’re simply invaluable.

I don’t think they’re sneering so much as they represent a man at the end of his tether when it comes to suffering 10,000+ pages of fools.

While I understand the series has its fans – and I even understand why, this doesn’t make the books any less monumentally awful for a certain sub-set of readers. I know, because I’m one of them.

Obviously you must take the humour along with the rough, savage beatings; but even if Jordan does some things right, he does so many so wrong and devotes page after page to the worst sort of nonsense. I can’t imagine suffering a continuous reread as Roberts does. I understand where he’s coming from however – but then I’m a bit sneery and nasty and unwilling to suffer foolishness (unless it’s my own foolishness) as the best of them (or worst) but it doesn’t mean that I’m entirely without something useful to say.

Even if it’s only useful to other sneery, mean-spirited curmudgeons.



There was one more thing I wanted to say about dead authors.

Personally, I think it’s far worse to attack living ones – for example, heaping scorn and vitriol on some young, just starting out fantasy writer who is not only alive to read your unkind words but might actually take it to heart. Not to mention his or her anxiety about how your bad review might impact their struggling bottom line.

The dead, well, the dead are beyond all such concerns. Dead giants among the industry, doubly so. Genre fans I fear, treat the deceased in the business far too gingerly. See Paul C. Smith’s lovely article about the sacred cows of fantasy literature for more on this topic than I care to get into just here. But the fact is that the dead are just as culpable as the living – and Jordan can hardly be described as an author who would have jumped personally into the breach or that he lacks faults – nor that he doesn’t have an army of dedicated followers who can do so quite sufficiently in his stead if they must.

As for the feelings of whomever is left holding the money bags – I mean the dignity of the late author’s estate – well, if they’re more injured by a case of light sneering on the internet than the fact that their loved one is now departed and mouldering in the grave, then they’ve already lost sight of the whole grieving process.

As for Roberts, much like my first example of a young, still breathing (and jobbing) author, I think you can demand more leeway in these things when you’ve already put your time in on the genre coal face and proved that you’re an intelligent, unstinting reviewer who whatever your opinion, you really engage with the work that you’re examining. Even if you savage it.

So in this case, I think Roberts is just speaking his mind about WoT, honestly, unwatered down, and being humourously frank. But then, Jordan, living or dead can take it – and Roberts, I think he’d earned it as well.

Just my take, and all in my opinion of course.


@Eric – I just wanted to say thank you for an excellent, intelligent response. I’m not sure if I agree with it all, and I think it’s spawning a blog post in the back of my mind, but that doesn’t make it any less well-thought-out or thought provoking.

One further note on Adam’s reviews of The Wheel Of Time: as in many of his reviews, good or bad, he quotes liberally from the text and merely draws our attention to various aspects of it. He allows the text itself to speak. It is the actual quotes from Jordan’s series that do the real damage, Adam does not really need to sneer. A particularly good example is this review of book 11 where some of the quotes really are laugh-out-loud funny.
Besides, the arts are about passion – and harsh reviews are one of life’s many guilty pleasures!

Comments are closed.