Sunday, February 1, 2009

Review: A Year in the Linear City

The thing I enjoy most about reading Fantasy and Science Fiction is that there’s always something to read no matter what mood strikes you. Over the last month I’ve grown a bit tired of the doorstop size books I’ve been reading and decided a change of pace was needed. I purchased a slew of novellas I’ve been wanting to read from the great small press publisher PS Publishing based out of the U.K. With bated breathe I awaited their arrival. When they showed up at my door step I eagerly scanned the books. The first one I decided to read was Paul di Fillipo’s A Year in the Linear City.

This book was a breath of fresh air and reinvigorated my thirst for speculative fiction. Prior to reading this novella I was primarily reading nonfiction but thanks to di Filippo’s wonderful world building and character development I remembered quickly what I love about speculative fiction.

The premise of this book is what hooked me. The denizens of this moderately modern city, pulsing with music and commerce, seemingly of infinite length, yet only as broad as a wide avenue, flanked on one side by Heaven, on the other by Hell. Alright I can dig it. As I mentioned before di Filippo’s world building is second to none and is not as heavy handed as you see in many novel lengthy books. (I’m looking at you Recluce!) Within the 90 some odd pages of the novella the world takes shape and you enjoy all the wonderful intricacies that exist within the cityscape. The world is so huge and we get such a small glimpse of it that I can’t help but think of all fodder di Filippo has for more possible stories set in this world. The novella really conjures up memories of Riverworld for me as it just needs to be explored in more than one story.

Within this world which di Filippo created his characters have a field day living their lives. Its fun to see the characters interact with each other and explore the world around them while philosophizing about their existence most specifically their mortality which is constantly shoved in their faces by having Heaven and Hell on either side of them. The characters are all diversified with none of the cookie cutter characters found in many novel length books. (I’m looking at you Recluce!)

The last thing I’m going to mention about this book is that the pacing of the story is very odd. It’s tough for me to articulate, but something is just off about it and I mean that in a good way. It doesn’t stick to the usual narrative structure. Rather than one seamless story arc we’re given numerous minor subplots dealing with drug addiction, diplomacy and book deals.

Overall I can’t say enough good things about this novella. Its tight, focused, oddly paced and mostly importantly a great read.



  1. Looks like you'll be responsible for making me poorer too! However, I can't find the link to this particular book on the P.S. website. Is it sold out?

  2. Haha, good to know we're sending each other to the poor house.

    Yeah its been sold out for awhile. I actually picked up a copy of it off eBay for $40.00 a couple weeks back.

    There's a couple still listed on eBay. Lowest is at $39.99 plus $3 for shipping. I hate buying books off of eBay though. You never really know what you're going to get until it arrives.

    I was lucky enough to score a copy of Foundling (1st Edition, HC) though for $7.00 just a couple minutes ago so I'm stoked about that.

  3. Interesting you say that. eBay is probably where I buy a majority of books and I've seldom had a problem. The biggest problem I've encountered is people incorrectly saying that a book is a first printing because it says "first edition" on it. Then there's the time where I almost bought the first edition of a book first published in 1927 until I noticed that the cover in the screenshot said something like "winner of the such-and-such prize in 1950"(!).

    I hope you like "Foundling," it's absolutely fantastic in my opinion. Congrats on scoring it for a mere $7.