Pros: Incredibly engrossing!
Cons: A little slow at first
Rating: 5 out of 5
Richard Kadrey’s The Grand Dark introduces us to Largo Moorden, a bike courier in the post-war city of Lower Proszawa. He and his girlfriend Remy, an actress, are morphia addicts. When Largo gets promoted to chief courier, his life takes a turn for the bizarre. He also manages to catch the eye of a police officer who becomes determined to find an excuse to take him away. The filthy, soot-clogged city is in the throes of post-war chaos, and rumor has it there’s another war coming. The government is dark and controlling, and those who oppose it disappear never to be seen again. Or worse–they come back again with changed personalities, suddenly nice and accommodating. Largo has always avoided politics, but soon he’ll be forced to take a side–and no matter what side he chooses, he’ll be putting people he cares about, as well as himself, in danger.
The story starts out a bit slowly, focusing primarily on Largo working his route and delivering packages. I was beginning to think I’d picked out a book that just wasn’t for me. However, the story became so utterly engrossing as it went along that, despite not being quite what I expected or normally read, I was totally swept up in its pages.
The setting is fascinating. Everything is sooty and dirty. Automatons called Maras are taking over people’s jobs. Odd creatures called chimera are biologically engineered. Pretty much everyone is doing drugs in an effort to not fall into despair, and the city is suffering under the results of the last war. The plays that Remy stars in are lurid affairs of sex and murder.
I would have liked to see Remy have a little more agency in a certain set of events. There are also one or two small loose threads at the end of the story. But I really don’t have any complaints. This is an all-too-vivid story that comes to life brilliantly on the page. I had a great deal of difficulty putting this book down!