Joel's Reviews > Those Above

Those Above by Daniel Polansky
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Jan 29, 2015

really liked it
bookshelves: hard-copy

I continue to find myself in the midst of a love/hate relationship with one Daniel Polansky. I don't have a problem with him, but my beef is that it just feels like he can't quite live up to his own potential. All three of the books in his first trilogy had long stretches of absolute brilliance, things that made me so damn happy to read. His prose is spectacular, his dialogue is witty and engaging, and his level of snarkiness and wit are through the roof. However, there seems to always be a lack of focus, and Those Above is no different.

In the book, Daniel has created a very interesting geographical area, focusing on a few characters from two different geographical areas - the Roost, and The Commonwealth. It follows Bas, a gruff, jaded hero of war whose reputation for battle precedes itself, and who finds himself promoted to military leader. In the same area, Eudokia is followed, essentially a figurehead who has spent the better part of three decades building and plotting her plan for war. In the Roost, a young steet urchin in the lowest rung of their society finds himself tied in with a group of organized thugs, but quickly finds that his ambitions might not lead to quite what he'd always hoped they'd lead to. And then Calla, who lives in the highest rung of the Roost, who is the assistant to the Aubade, one of the godlike creatures who rule the citystate.

The creativity is fantastic, and the worldbuilding - while limited to a small area - is really great. The godlike creatures have unique characteristics, and I can only picture them as being similar to the weird natives in Avatar, except more humanlike? They are arrogant and self-righteous, but with reason, as the people of the land have exalted them as gods, and their superior lifespan, intelligence and physical attributes have done nothing to dispel their position.

Bas started out as my favorite POV of the bunch - Polansky writes the gruff military type very well, as seen with Warden in Low Town. However, as the book went on, I found myself less engaged in his story, and much more in that of Eudokia, with her political maneuverings, subterfuge, and intelligent plotting.

But, as with the Low Town books, I was left feeling a bit unfulfilled. I loved the world, the war building, the characters...but it just felt a bit anemic. The book was fairly short, and I felt it could have benefited from a couple hundred more pages - even if he is planning on hitting all of the storylines in full stride in the second novel, he could have filled in so much more in this book. So much is left undone and unsaid, and it felt like certain parts were skimmed over in order to not get too deep into their story before ending the book.

In summary - great prose, great worldbuilding, great dialogue and action sequences, slightly disappointing lack of fulfillment that left the book a bit short of it's potential. Still very enjoyable, and I'll still say that Polansky probably ranks among my favorite writers.
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Reading Progress

January 29, 2015 – Shelved
January 29, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read
March 5, 2015 – Started Reading
March 5, 2015 – Shelved as: hard-copy
March 5, 2015 –
page 25
6.01% "Already totally hooked. Polansky could write about the various shades of paint and I would read it and love it."
April 5, 2015 –
page 50
12.02% "Making extremely slow process due to free time, however the book is great so far."
April 9, 2015 –
page 90
21.63% "Finally making some progress. Introduced the...bird...people? I'm still not sure. Interesting concepts, fabulous writing. Interested to see how this develops."
April 14, 2015 –
page 125
30.05%
April 20, 2015 –
page 200
48.08%
April 30, 2015 –
page 375
90.14% "Almost done, just not quite enough time on my flight to finish."
April 30, 2015 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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message 1: by Tabitha (new) - added it

Tabitha I absolutely need this book in my life


Joel Here's a (vulgar) quote that explains why this book needs to be in anyone who enjoys dark humor's life:
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Thistle was sitting alone on his steps, the rest of the crew having absented themselves for the afternoon. Rat and Treble were down at the docks watching the ships unload, Felspar was at the straits, continuing his ceaseless quest for upslope pussy. Thistle had see almost as many cargo ships as he had apathetic girls, wasn't interested in making the walk to catch a glimpse of either. The sun was warm on his skin, and the red brick he sat on warm against his arse. He was debating whether or not to roll a smoke.

He only had enough tobacco left for one good cigarette or two weak ones, wanted to save something for after dinner. Would one half-cigarette be enough, Thistle wondered? His future self was an avaricious motherfucker, like his predecessor.
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message 3: by Tabitha (new) - added it

Tabitha Lol yes! Bah looks like I need to order from book depository


Joel That's the downside - I think I paid $35 total to have this badboy sent to me from the UK.


message 5: by Tabitha (new) - added it

Tabitha Bah exactly. I'll wait a bit more and hope for a U.S. Release. I have a ton of review books to get to anyhow. If I get caught up then I'll treat myself lol


Joel I believe Daniel said there would not be a US release of it. I'm guessing it'll be a deal like the final two books of his trilogy, where like 2 years after they come out the ebook is released.


message 7: by Tabitha (new) - added it

Tabitha Ouch. Well overseas shipping it is then!


Joel It was free shipping at least!


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