- Series: The Books of Babel
- Paperback: 370 pages
- Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (February 27, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1482590956
- ISBN-13: 978-1482590951
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 200 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #921,005 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Senlin Ascends (The Books of Babel) (Volume 1) Paperback – February 27, 2013
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"A great fantasy!" - Portland Book Review
"Bancroft succeeds amazingly in creating a baffling world that offers little tenderness or hope, but in which pursuit of instinct and love, dedication, and shared sacrifice can overcome barriers. If he sustains the tone of quirky menace in his planned sequel, the reader will find much to applaud." - Publishers Weekly
"Senlin Ascends starts off with a bang, and it never slows down. With its breathtaking pace, this book will appeal to a wide variety of readers." - The San Francisco Book Review
"Senlin Ascends is a marvelous accomplishment." - IndieReader
About the Author
Josiah Bancroft’s poetry has appeared in dozens of magazines and journals, such as: the Cimarron Review, the Cincinnati Review, Gulf Coast, the Pinch, Natural Bridge, Rattle, Passages North, Slice Magazine, The American Literary Review, Third Coast, and Bomb Magazine: Word Choice. He resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
More examples of his work, including updates on upcoming installments in the Books of Babel series, can be found at www.thebooksofbabel.com
Top customer reviews
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✓ Fast paced action
✓ Character development
✓ Adventure, plots and deaths
✓ The unmasking of dark human nature
✓ Wonderful, colorful yet very realistic characters
Now I want to talk about that last bit. This book has so many characters you’ll love! Colorful, real-people characters. Starting with Thomas Senlin, the main one, who undergoes a complete transformation and shows the best character development in the book, going further on with Edith, a woman Senlin meets in the Tower, turning from a petticoated country bumpkin into a strong independent lady, onto Tarrou, a man defeated by his demons and his own smallness, enslaved in body but suddenly freed in the soul, up to probably one of my favorite ones – Iren, the illiterate amazon hulk, finding her belief in herself and her own mind through Senlin’s doing. All of this not just because Thomas is looking for his lost wife – it’s because he is looking for fairness, not even justice – but rather meaning and justification that this is not the only thing life, the world and humanity can be. Because life in the Tower, said to be a hallowed and elevated paradise to the simple person, indeed is just a big, dark and treacherous lie, a trap meant to bring the naive and the innocent in, only to be eaten by the machine.
And let’s not forget Senlin’s love for his wife. We start off thinking the same as every other person in his home village thinks – their ‘love’ is a lie. It was convenient. Or maybe it hides some cheesy secret. Surely there can’t be anything between these two people, this shadow of a man and a beautiful, wonderful and playful girl, quite a bit younger than him. But as the story unfolds, we are taught that what we see is not always everything. That love is a mystery, often only for two people to understand. That if a person doesn’t talk much, it doesn’t mean they don’t feel much. Thomas builds a monument to their love story by remembering it. And it’s a touching story. You will not remain cold.
This is for you, if you like adventure. Also, if you don’t fear glancing at the real world – a really dark world. But brace yourself, because the first half of this book is really dark. People who ponder the real nature of the world order will also like this book. And quite simply if you just like books with good emotional development and great character building – you will love this. It’s a great book. A very strong one. And I can’t wait to read the sequel.
One of Bancroft's neatest tricks, expressed in many facets of the novel, is to square devices and tropes that feel elevated and literary and arch with a low-key, naturalistic feel to the world. Its interactions pulse with Kafka's nightmare-haze of implacable social forces operating in intimate confines but also at such a distance from the place their logic was devised that it's entirely inscrutable. And its compartmentalized and colorfully unique floors are identical to the architectural manifestations of class hierarchy in Snowpiercer. But where Snowpiercer feels bound by the weighty Symbolism of its metaphor for its own sake, the societies of the Tower feel like their corruption and inequality are organic products of people growing a society on this mysterious Big Dumb Object, dealing with its material constraints but not playacting to make it fit some contrived political narrative.
Senlin himself balances the literary trope of the bookish, naive schoolteacher with the growing demands of the world with astonishing grace. The Tower betrays his idealistic notions, but he doesn't get melodramatic and bitter. He becomes seasoned and resolute, meeting the challenges of the Tower with intellect and character. Marya, his wife, is an even more charming and vivacious character, and it's a shame she's fridged for so much of the book. Their courtship is extremely sweet.
The steampunk stuff is marginal; there are some neat ideas, like the function of the tower itself, and the repair spiders, but most of it is boilerplate, but not intrusive. The worldbuilding is really fairly understated despite its grandiosity, and most of it is social rather than in creatures and gadgetry.
It trundles along at this delightful pace that is somehow simultaneously languid and rollicking. It introduces an endearingly irritating (at least at first) protagonist and then transforms him, believably, into a wiser, freer version of himself. Senlin is still Senlin at the end, and yet, also, decidedly not; this is, I think, a rare achievement. It is clever and witty, but also serious. It is, much like the Tower we come to learn about, a piece of machinery. The surface is elegant, beautiful, and compelling. Underneath, things run like clockwork, and the precision and care that went into crafting it is obvious without being obtrusive. And it contains what is perhaps the most charming, accurate description of Spring I have ever read.
I shall reproduce it here for your pleasure:
"Spring is gray and miserable and rainy for three or four weeks while the snow melts. The ditches turn into creeks and everything you own is clammy as a frog belly. Then one morning, you walk outside and the sun is out and the clover has grown over the ditches and the trees are pointed with leaves, like ten thousand green arrowheads, and the air smells like..." and here he had to fumble for a phrase, "like a roomful of stately ladies and one wet dog."
There are other equally delectable sentences and phrases scattered throughout.
In short, it is enough to say that, while I can see how this book might not be everyone's cup of tea, I found it tremendously entertaining and enjoyable.
Most recent customer reviews
I just finished it and have ordered the second
An absolute delight in my opinion.Read more