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Seven Cities of Gold

4.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: PS Publishing; Limited signed ed edition (June 1, 2010)
  • ISBN-10: 1848630840
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848630840
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Format: Hardcover
The good: a smoothly written alternate history. You can tell Moles has done his homework, on Pure Land Buddhism, medieval Christianity, and Moorish Spain, and even better, he presents just enough information to ground the reader without bogging down the story. The world is distinctive in its mix of technologies, combining plastics, blunderbusses, and ignorance of atomic weapons.

The bad: protagonist Nakada is generally unlikable. Some of this may be poor choices by Moles--e.g., we see Nakada's heroin addiction before we get any sense of personal demons that might justify it--but she also is presented as abandoning her husband and son. Her actions in the river village sealed my dislike for her (more below).

The Espirito Santo event is also fundamentally unbelievable. The nearest analogy would be, in our world, atomic weapons being invented by North Vietnam and used to destroy Saigon.

The thought-provoking: as I listened deeper into the audiobook version, I grew more convinced that Moles is a closeted reactionary. ("Closeted" because his personal website has standard left-liberal SFWAn goodthink posts, e.g. sexual harrassment is bad and Theodore Beale is a racist).

Some aspects of the story seem very bog-standard progressive, i.e., Japan's only international presence is a Relief Ministry staffed on sex-egalitarian lines. (In our world, it took getting multiple cities destroyed by incendiaries and atomic bombs, and cultural reengineering by Americans with Ivy League Ph.D.s, to create a Japan that would do what Moles' Japan does).

But against this goodthink political correctness, flashes of reaction come through.
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Format: Hardcover
Seven Cities of Gold is a fascinating and well written alternate history novella.

Seven Cities of Gold is one of the best alternate history stories I've read during the last couple of years. I usually try to avoid alternate history, because I haven't been impressed with certain books, so it was nice to read a good and complex story for a change. To be honest, PS Publishing's alternate history novellas have made a big impression on me (Beth Bernobich's Ars Memoriae was a great novella and now David Moles' Seven Cities of Gold is another excellent novella).

David Moles shows an interesting vision of a different kind of world in his novella. The world is a bit similar to our world, but different, because certain things didn't happen in our world. The story begins when Chië Nakada is told to put an end to the delusions of Clara Dos Orsos, who is believed to control Antilian insurgents. In my opinion this is a good beginning, because it makes you want to keep on reading. Then, gradually, the story becomes even more intriguing and complex.

The main character, Chië Nakada, is an interesting character, because she's a Doctor-Lieutenant and an opium addict. The short extracts from her pillow book reveal her feelings to the reader and make her a real person.

If you're interested in alternate history, you'll probably like Seven Cities of Gold very much. It's a fascinating alternate history story, because David Moles' prose is good and the story is genuinely fascinating.
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