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City of Last Chances (The Tyrant Philosophers)

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And so the demons power factories, and people who worked on farms a generation before now risk limbs in the demon-run mills instead. The greyish characters often shown in intentionally unflattering light, the ever-shifting POVs, the web of narrative threads and the lack of feel-good vibes in a weird oppressive city do make this book a tough cookie to enjoy at first, but the further and further I got in this story the more I found myself taken in by the narrative and that seeming ease with which Tchaikovsky weaves all these narrative strands together. Tchaikovsky seems more of a realist than an optimist here, although there is a bit of dark humor at times. A city of immigrants and occupiers and rich and poor and workers and feudal overlords and scholars and priests and gods and all manner of people in between.

This is a tale that explores how a city is never simply good or evil just in its own way alive; they carry their history with them always even when some want to eliminate it; that even when occupied there are those residents happy to profit as well as those willing to fight back and sometimes a change of leadership is just a new manager and a lot of what happened before will do so again. On the other hand, it’s also dense and difficult to get into, and I’m not sure if the effort to get through it is fully justified (deeply subjective). Ultimately though it continued throughout and there were more times than not when I felt my concentration wandering to the point where I just put the book down fairly often. But it requires an amount of work and faith on the reader's part to do so, and that cannot be ignored. Ilmar is starting to smoulder once again, and we follow several people as the powder keg starts to go off.City Of Last Chances sits very well within its fantasy lane, and although there is magic, mysticism and machinations to explore, Tchaikovsky elects instead to use these as a platform to deliver symbolic tales of rebellion and dissent, that celebrate the unexpected delights of collaboration without conformity. Well, Tchaikovsky fantasy is a real heavy duty fair and if you’re only familiar with his sci-fi then this is a great entry point into another side of his writing. Often a city can be a seen as an organic machine with all these elements working together imperfectly.

Those different cultures and beliefs also create a good foundation for the tension that underlies the whole novel beyond the obviously occupiers-occupied conflict as the various factions battle for power and long-standing mistrust of “the other” (of which there are many) rises up again and again. and all of whom are connected by threads of politics and obligation and camaraderie and rivalry and the shared experience of being in this city, at this time, under this regime. For example, Elder Race (2021) built a pseudo-medieval heroic fantasy world on an armature of science-fictional enabling devices, so that anything apparently magical was actually material technology – and yet the tale retained the flavor of fantasy (how­ever interrogated).S. Lewis from Tchaikovsky (Children of Memory) finds children’s television presenter Felix “Harry” Bodie having a tough time. The city of Ilmar may be not as strange and beautifully ugly as Miéville’s New Crobuzon, but it’s decidedly unpleasant in a oddly fascinating way. They are a chaotic spectre hovering on the edge of reason and of the city, and to understand them would be to strip them of their magic, their mystique. Eldritch Location: The Anchorwood definitely counts, being a Portal Crossroad World filled with bizarre armored fish-headed monsters who eat anyone who enters with a protective "passport". The city chafes under the heavy hand of the Palleseen occupation, the choke-hold of its criminal underworld, the boot of its factory owners, the weight of its wretched poor and the burden of its ancient curse.

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