City of Ruin
Author – Mark Charan Newton
Publisher: Tor (UK)
Release Date: June 4, 2010
The New Weird. It’s that strange little literary movement that, according to Mark Charan Newton, is dead. And yet, he’s flying that mantle high, telling anyone who’ll listen that City of Ruin, the second volume of his Legends of the Red Sun series, has been let of its leash by virtue of a four book publishing deal; it’s going to be weirder, more true to Newton’s original vision of the sun-deprived Boreal Archipelago. Nights of Villjamur, Newton’s first novel (REVIEW), dabbled in the New Weird, but City of Ruin is meant as a love letter to two ailing genres (it’s also very much in the vein of Jack Vance’s Dying Earth novels and Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun), and promises to be the unrestrained novel Newton wanted to write in the first place (it’s not easy to sell giant spiders, floating spaceship islands and geriatric cultists to publishers, I guess.)
The New Weird movement is one I’ve only watched with vague disinterest from the sidelines. It just wasn’t for me. I’m too traditional, too happy to read novels I recognize. Why would I need weird for weirdness sake? At least, that’s what I thought. I was worried that the New Weird would take too much to wrap my head around, would be more trouble than it was worth. But, if City of Ruin is such an example of the genre then, well… the New Weird just isn’t as weird as the reputation that precedes it. Rather, it’s Fantasy with an open mind, Fantasy that steps away from Elves and Dragons and replaces them with smoking, male banshees and corpse golems. My early perceptions of New Weird were that I’d constantly be forced to reevaluate how I approached the place and setting of the novel, to push aside preconceptions and learn again how to listen to a story; but, really, in the end, a hulking, angry coin golem is just a fresh coat of paint on a troll, and a city-stomping cephalopod is just a dragon in disguise.