- Series: The Books of Babel (Book 1)
- Paperback: 448 pages
- Publisher: Orbit (January 16, 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0316517917
- ISBN-13: 978-0316517911
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.4 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 234 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #19,216 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Senlin Ascends (The Books of Babel) Paperback – January 16, 2018
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"It's rare to find a modern book that feels like a timeless classic. I'm wildly in love with this book."―Pierce Brown, author of Red Rising and Iron Gold
"Senlin Ascends is one of the best reads I've had in ages . . . I was dragged in and didn't escape until I'd finished two or three days later."―Mark Lawrence, author of Prince of Thorns
"Senlin is a man worth rooting for, and his strengthening resolve and character is as marvelous and sprawling as the tower he climbs."―The Washington Post
"What is remarkable about this novel, quite apart from its rich, allusive prose, is Bancroft's portrayal of Senlin, a good man in a desperate situation, and the way he changes in response to his experiences in his ascent."―The Guardian
"Senlin Ascends crosses the everyday strangeness and lyrical prose of Borges and Gogol with all the action and adventure of high fantasy. I loved it, and grabbed the next one as soon as I turned the last page."―Django Wexler, author of The Thousand Names
"With deceptive simplicity Bancroft brings this gothic place and its denizens to a colourful life...I loved it!"―Adrian Selby, author of Snakewood
"Senlin Ascends is an adventure rife with character, voice and beauty-a well-polished knife drawn out slowly."―Sam Sykes, author of The City Stained Red
"Senlin Ascends is a unique masterpiece. A brilliant debut. Highly recommended!"―Michael R. Fletcher, author of Beyond Redemption
"Ticks along with the tight precision and artistry of a well-wound watch."―Kirkus
"This is fantasy storytelling of a high order."―The Toronto Star
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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.
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.
It is the story of a man who must climb the Tower of Babel in order to find his wife but it is also so much more than that. Tom Senlin is our reluctant protagonist and begins his journey as a nervous wreck, completely bound by the customs and niceties of his small town life as a headmaster not remotely realising he has stepped into what might as well be another plane of existence. His precious guidebook is darkly inaccurate and he must discover for himself that the rules of the Tower are different. Like the Nigerian email scammer who sees his mark as deserving and there for the taking with little to no conscience or connection to the victim so does the Tower chew up and spit out the clueless tourists who mistake her for a simple holiday destination. Senlin and his wife are two such unsuspecting folks and when the two part ways for a spot of shopping and Senlin starts seeing subtle warnings signs like couples tied together by rope, a sense of dread begins to build.
His immediate quest is to get to the third floor where their hotel is, but this seems an ocean away when he discovers what he must contend with to simply gain entrance to the basement. Along with Senlin the reader really starts his or her own journey here as well. Little details ensure the absolute awesomeness of the size of the Tower is ever present and it is easy to feel as overwhelmed as Tom himself when trying to imagine the scale the book is working with. Personally I can’t wait to see just how high this thing goes.
Bancroft’s prose is beautiful, haunting and poetic. Here are a couple of favourites pieces.
On finding that one.
“You’ve made it impossible for me to read a book in peace. When you’re not here, I just gaze at the words until they tumble off the page into a puddle in my lap. Instead of reading, I sit there and review the hours of the day I spent in your company and I am more charmed by that story than anything the author has scribbled down. I have never been lonely in my life but you have made me lonely. When you are gone, I am a moping ruin. I thought I understood the world fairly well/ But you have made it all mysterious again”.
On the Tower
“He looked at Senlin with his one good eye that was the color of dead grass and said, “My arm was branded. I was taken into the wall where the hods are. Tom, there are places in the dark of the Tower, places I hope you never see, where men and women are put in pens like cattle. The bones are pounded to dust and become part of the road”
I really couldn’t recommend Senlin Ascends highly enough. This is an absolute ten, a magnificent book for all readers and a real gift to the fantasy community.