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Monday, March 9, 2015

“The Buried Life” by Carrie Patel (Reviewed by Casey Blair)

Order “The Buried LifeHERE
Read An Excerpt HERE

Carrie Patel's The Buried Life is out now from Angry Robot, and it is, in a word, excellent.

The story takes place sometime in the future, after a mysterious catastrophe has driven what remains of humanity underground. That event, however, was generations ago: while this is technically a post-apocalyptic setting, humanity has had generations to recover and develop new cities and societies. At the heart, though, there is a mystery: what happened to the ancient humans? This is a world where knowledge of history is a mark of power, and it's tightly regulated. When a historian turns up dead, this sets off a spiral of events that threatens the fabric of modern civilization.

Before reading this, I would have said I was bored to death not just of post-apocalyptic settings, but also of police procedural plotting in fantasy, and I would have been wrong. Patel does a lot of subversion, so subtly it can go totally unnoticed—but just when I was worried we were falling into a tired trope, she surprised me and deepened the story with that expectation.

We have two protagonists: one highly capable police officer, Liesl Malone, and a laundress with a penchant for stories, Jane Lin. In some ways, Inspector Malone resembles the sort of hard-boiled, dogged detective we've seen in so many stories before, but I was relieved she doesn't share their typical angst and disillusionment. Realistic? Sure. But she believes in what she's doing, and she is absolutely relentless. Jane is practical, conscientious, and more observant than is quite healthy; and, as the story progresses, she has more of a taste and knack for handling danger than she'd ever expected.

Their motivations in the story are very different, but they are both clever (and believably so, in the contexts this manifests) and competent at their jobs. I have a deep and abiding love for competent and intelligent characters, so I would have forgiven the story a lot simply for possessing such compelling characters. Happily, I didn't need to forgive it anything: this story is strong all the way through.

What struck me right from the start is that the writing is incredibly efficient. This is one of the fastest paced books I've read in a long time. Patel wastes no time with excessive description or extraneous scenes, but still manages to convey a full sense of the world and its underlying implications. The stakes are always clear, transitioning effortlessly from scene to scene, and I found the story impossible to put down. Fans of fast-paced narratives (for instance, most of Brandon Sanderson's work) should definitely give this one a look. The ending is perfectly set up, but only in retrospect: I didn't see it coming, and the world is left completely upturned.

In short, The Buried Life is a fantastic start to Carrie Patel's new series, and this one is going straight onto my “Buy Sequel Immediately Upon Release” list. Fortunately, I don't have long to wait: the sequel Cities and Thrones will be out this July.

1 comments:

ediFanoB said...

I received a copy of "The Buried Life" recently.
Your helpful review is the reason to move up the book in my to read list.

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