Pyr was nice enough to send me this book and its sequel about an age and a half ago and I then promptly fell into a bout of the mood reads and it bounced off a couple times.
Finally, the mood for this hit me! The audiobook mood, as it were. ^_^
But, all the same, many thanks to the author, and Pyr for the review copy!
In the dark streets of Corma exists a book that writes itself, a book that some would kill for…
Black market courier Rowena Downshire is just trying to pay her mother’s freedom from debtor’s prison when an urgent and unexpected delivery leads her face to face with a creature out of nightmares. Rowena escapes with her life, but the strange book she was ordered to deliver is stolen.
The Alchemist knows things few men have lived to tell about, and when Rowena shows up on his doorstep, frightened and empty-handed, he knows better than to turn her away. What he discovers leads him to ask for help from the last man he wants to see—the former mercenary, Anselm Meteron.
Across town, Reverend Phillip Chalmers awakes in a cell, bloodied and bruised, facing a creature twice his size. Translating the stolen book may be his only hope for survival; however, he soon realizes the book may be a fabled text written by the Creator Himself, tracking the nine human subjects of His Grand Experiment. In the wrong hands, it could mean the end of humanity.
Rowena and her companions become the target of conspirators who seek to use the book for their own ends. But how can this unlikely team be sure who the enemy is when they can barely trust each other? And what will happen when the book reveals a secret no human was meant to know?
This is quite a difficult book to describe, which is why I think I false-started it a couple times before eventually picking the audiobook up. Once I started that, I ended up listening to it in just about three sittings, I was that immersed. It’s sort-of-urban-fantasy, and kind-of-steampunk, and to me, felt quite new-weird-ish.
It takes place in the city of Corma, which is in many ways not unlike the city of New Crobuzon, if you’re familiar. It felt like a dirty, corrupt city, somewhere past the industrial revolution with trains and the like, but not very far past that point. There are three different races inhabiting the city, which are the Lanyani (a type of sentient tree), the Aigamuxa (a somewhat ogre-ish creature with its eyes on the soles of its feet), and humans (often corrupt, selfish creatures). In this world, religion and science are the same thing. God is seen as a scientist, and the ‘Grand Experiment’ that is life is just that – a science experiment.
The story follows a few characters, but we start with Rowena Downshire, a 13-year-old girl who works for the local black market dealer as a courier. She is bringing an urgent and unexpected delivery across the city when she is robbed and the book she was to deliver is stolen. A book that writes itself. The recipient of the delivery, a man known only as The Alchemist, takes in Rowena, and they join forces with the local rogue and retired mercenary Anselm Meteron, to get the book back before those who took it figure out what it is and how to use it.
The Reverend Doctor Phillip Chalmers is set to be the keynote speaker in a religious conference, but is kidnapped before that comes to pass. He awakes in a cell and is given a book that writes itself and told to translate it. As he studies it, the book seems more and more like the fabled notebook in which God tracks the nine subjects in His Grand Experiment. If the people who kidnapped him have their way, they could use the book to purposefully ‘fail’ that experiment, and end life as they know it.
I quite enjoyed my time with this one once I got into it. It’s quite dense at times, but I never had a problem following along even listening to the audio. There is plenty of action and intrigue along the way, as well as a few twists and turns that I didn’t predict in the slightest. I thought that it was well-paced, and it felt like no time at all was passing as I listened. The world that Townsend describes is not necessarily one that I would want to live in, but it was definitely entertaining to spend a few hours there in my brain. The intersection and combination of science and religion was really well thought out and well presented and I thought it was quite brilliant.
As for the audiobook, Alyssa Bresnahan did a great job with the narration, though I personally think that a British accent or narrator would have been slightly more fitting for the story itself (and this is 100% because the slang that Rowena uses often gave me the impression that she would sound like an East End gutter urchin). Either way, I had a good time with my 3 sittings. I got lots of work and crafting done, which is the best thing about audiobooks, really.
I had 4/5 stars of a good time with The Nine, and I think that I’ll start The Fall as soon as I’ve got some time. ^_^