February 18, 2019, 05:14:24 AM

Author Topic: Senlin Ascends (spoilers)  (Read 241 times)

Offline Eclipse

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Senlin Ascends (spoilers)
« on: May 05, 2018, 04:41:25 PM »
The difficulty with describing something that is truly imaginative is that there are fewer points of reference. I can't say Senlin Ascends is like this or that, because it isn't. But I'll give one indicator.

The central character goes to a Tower of Babel. It's not the biblical one and that core concept put me off at first. He overcame that hesitancy with superb prose. The plot is simplicity itself: the main character, newly married, loses his wife in a crowd and now searches for her.

The inventiveness comes with the various levels of the Tower. We begin outside, in a vast marketplace. Then we move into a basement-like space at the base, and it has a completely different look. Eventually the character makes it up a floor. That floor is radically different. Each floor is so new, and so fully realized, each could easily justify a book in any other author's hands. And just when you think ah, that's the game, you find out there are certain threads that extend across the floors. There's logic and structure encompassing all of this.

It's steam punkish without being steampunk (feels more Edwardian than Victorian), is fantastical without being magic driven (there may or may not be magic), is a mystery story without detectives, and an adventure story whose lead is decidedly not adventurous.

I've been trying to think of other titles that have excited me enough that I told friends and family, you must read this. These are not necessarily new, just titles I've read in the past decade or so that had that effect.
Daemon by Daniel Suarez
The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle
True Grit by Charles Portis
Devil In a Blue Dress by Walter Moseley

The first two are both immensely creative. All four are remarkably well written

I've seen some people complaining that Senlin Ascends took a long time to get going. I think they were reading a different story to me. Yes, maybe it takes a while for the action to ramp up, but the story is about Senlin becoming a different kind of person. The "slow" part is half the story.

I found the first part okay and the third part excellent but I thought the second part the bathes a hard slog to get through I did think of putting the book down at that stage, I thought the art heist underwhelming. But finally I was rewarded with the third act of Senlin no longer being meek but calculating, I really liked how Senlin character changed through the book and his still mostly a good guy.

If it bores the reader, it's too much.

Unfortunately, what bores the reader is highly dependent on the individual reader.
This, and you only have to look at Bancroft's Senlin ascends: so much praise, yet for me it had a ton-load of description and not enough characters, which made me not like it as much.
(note that it's description within the story, not necessarily pages of text describing stuff, that's even worse for me)

I got used to the over description and quite liked it but can see it's not for everyone.

I read Senlin Ascends until an airship appeared, then I stopped. Airships are a dealbreaker for me.

It's possible we've had this conversation before. Or, more extraordinary, you're the second person to say the same thing. In any case, my reply the first time was to express total bewilderment at the fact that the presence of a mode of transport could make someone close a book.

In fact I blogged about it:


"Consider it again. Literally, if there is an airship in it ... I'm out. The presence of a mode of transportation seals the deal. Forget how compelling the story is, how vital the characters, how powerful the prose. How you might need to put the book down and breathe away the excess emotion. Nope, it has hot air in a bag. I'm out..."

I don't think the airships really played that big a role in the story myself.

Well after reading Senlin Ascends I couldn't make my mind up for 3 or 4 stars, really liked Senlin but I did struggle with how Voleta was portrayed as it felt like a lark to her that she was captured in a brothel and didn't seem that bothered by it and the baths section just went on a bit too long for me and like I said earlier I thought the art heist was underwhelming to me. I wasn't that keen on the the Parlor level either

Then things start  to happen in the third act (New Babel) this completely saved the book for me , we see previous characters return I especially liked Edith with her new arm.

Also liked Iren battle with the Red hand involving chrom (Red hand what a strange person) and Senlin becoming a captain.

I think I've talked myself into reading the next novel, can't say it's a favourite for me but it's done enough for me to carry on with the story due to the third act.

I'm going for three and a half stars  ;D

« Last Edit: May 05, 2018, 04:44:12 PM by Eclipse »
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