Alexander Páez, of the wonderful blog Donde Acaba El Infinito, has been so kind as to let us publish the English translation of his review of The Buried Life, a novel by Carrie Patel that Angry Robot will be publishing this summer. We thank Álex for this opportunity and we wish you enjoy the review.
A good mix of styles is something that I really like to read. I believe that stepping out from our comfort zone is gratifying both for readers and writers and always a blow of fresh air. Lately, I’m being lucky, reading lots of books that push the genre further or contribute with details of others genres, using them and creating a different and original product.
The Buried Life is more or less that. At first, it appears to be a Steampunk novel (because of the initial setting); later, it becomes post-apocalyptic, because of a cataclysm annihilating the place. The novel also has details from urban fantasy, so we are reading a history full of shades.
Carrie Patel has created the Recoletta city and she show us around by the hand of two main characters: a detective called Liesl Malone and Jane, the laundress. Malone is a hard-boiled detective and she wears black clothes. Not a cliché at all (Salander). And Jane who is all the opposite: kind, with lots of friends, hardworking and honest. Malone has to investigate the murders in the city of some members of the Council. Like it usually happens in noir and crime fiction, the main detective will investigate in a self-reliant way.
Recoletta is a city dominated by the Council, that rules over every entity like factories or local authorities. The Council, of course, controls the capacity of accessing information.
When I was speaking of Steampunk I was talking about some very typical details inside this genre. Society has gone back to a level of technology similar to the one in the Victorian age. There are trains and a subway, but there are no cars - people still use carriages. The fashion and society are also built in a way that reminds of that Steampunk that we all have in mind when we think about its usual definition.
Is it that difficult to leave the clichés of Steampunk aside? Later, the novel will follow other paths (something more post-apocalyptic), but I can’t stop thinking about the little of Steampunk that this boos has: it’s the most common and simple. As though you need to put ghosts in cemeteries in a ghost story or a hero that kills dragons in a fantasy story. I believe that Steampunk can contribute a lot and it’s really versatile, but it seems that so far, few writers dare to play and experiment with it.
Anyway, there is a problem in the novel and it’s that we don’t figure out where we are. We don’t know if it’s a new and alternative world, if it fits in our own planet or if it’s a future version of it. At the end of the novel we will have more details about this question, but I think it would be positive for the reading experience if this data was given before, because it doesn’t do the same effect when showing up so late in the story.
I don’t have many reading obsessions, but one of them is really important and it’s the consistency of the story. I can’t handle stories that ask for suspension of disbelief because I only believe in what I read. If it wasn’t suggested, named or told, and it suddenly appears, for me that’s a bad resource. In The Buried Life there are a couple of scenes just like that, and I suppose they exist just to show how cool detective Malone can be.
In addition to this, the information is given easily and without stressing the reader too much. It’s almost impossible to get lost while reading because we have reminders all along the novel. I would have liked that mysteries were exactly that: mysteries. But, as a reader, I didn’t feel challenged by the author. Not so many things kept me reading the novel, and one of them was the desire to know what happened with that Cataclysm and why it left the civilization in that condition.
The writing is really good. It does have quality and, even though the plot is not the strongest point, I think the descriptions and the way the author writes are surprisingly good. If I’m not mistaken, this is her first novel and it is the beginning of a saga. Patel shows talent for telling stories. Even though the plot and its development are not especially remarkable, the way of telling it is promising and entertaining. For those reasons why I’m going to keep on reading the rest of the saga; an author can evolve a lot between one book and the next.
The illustrations of the novel are really astonishing. I think that the cover is gorgeous and it ’is really attractive. But that is usually the case with all Angry Robot book covers.
The Buried Life is a novel that initiates a promising saga. If the readers get over the 50% of the novel, they will find that the story becomes more and more addictive and they will need to read the next novel. Personally, I hope the next one to have more quality than this one, even though I don’t think it is a bad book, just full of clichés. It is not an original story, but it is entertaining and well written.