Mark Lawrence's Reviews > The Grand Dark

The Grand Dark by Richard Kadrey
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So, this is sci-fi set in an alternate Germanic state - the feel of it is "between the wars" as it is literally between wars, and also as much of the vibe feels like the 1930s. The technology is a strange mix of 1930s - telephones are rare, photography is clunky, lighting is primitive - and 2100s - intelligent automata, bioengineered life forms, plasma guns. It's an interesting mix though the many fascinating issues with artificial intelligence and created life are not addressed/explored.

The story is told entirely through the eyes of a young bicycle courier who has a job despite the prevalence of robotic taxi drivers and delivery-bots. His extensive knowledge of the bomb-damaged city means his services are in demand. His focus is on his girlfriend who's an actress at The Grand Dark, a theatre.

For the great majority of the book the story unfolds rather slowly with a lot of time spent with Largo & Remy taking drugs, having sex, going to parties, taking drugs, acting, taking drugs, cycling around the city, and taking drugs. The slow-drip world building is intriguing and the interspersed excerpts from newspaper articles and books about the city and its people broaden the scope.

The prose is strong. Kadrey is an accomplished writer with a literary leaning and he captures the moods and the characters well. The characters are perhaps a weak link. Largo is a drifter who is largely only interested in Remy and his morphine. Remy is an airhead. So it's harder to be excited about what happens to them - but over time I did find my attachment to them strengthening.

There's a slowly building mystery at work in the book and towards the end I had a definite desire to find out what the hell was going on. I found myself speculating during the day, and when I lost the book I had to contact the publisher to get a PDF because I needed to know how it ended (which is a good sign!). Of course as soon as I'd got the replacement file I found the book.

Largo continues to be carried on the currents, though when Remy is in jeopardy he does step up to take action and things take a violent turn. Even then though, his plans are pretty rubbish, particularly when on the strength of almost no evidence he decides to visit a whole other country to look for her.

The final few chapters are full of tension, excitement, and revelations, and I enjoyed them quite a bit.

The book ends with the story reaching for a second book but enough of the plot resolved for me to feel I'd had closure.

So, all in all, a well-written book that rewards persistence, but perhaps not for those looking for high tempo excitement out of the gate, or particularly charismatic characters.



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Reading Progress

August 8, 2019 – Started Reading
August 8, 2019 – Shelved
August 17, 2019 –
page 44
10.19% "A rather slow start. It's set in a Eastern-European-esque city with mostly 1930s technology plus robots. The main character is a bicycle courier and we follow him through his day."
August 22, 2019 –
page 101
23.38% "The story's unfolding rather slowly - not sure where it's heading yet - but I've met some interesting characters.

The main character seems to be developing a heavy drug habit before my very eyes.

Feels like a fairly "grownup" book. Not because of the sex and drugs, but the slow pace and focus on character. Reading on, hoping it will really hook me."
August 22, 2019 –
page 101
23.38% "The story's unfolding rather slowly - not sure where it's heading yet - but I've met some interesting characters.

The main character seems to be developing a heavy drug habit before my very eyes.

Feels like a fairly "grownup" book. Not because of the sex and drugs, but the slow pace and focus on character. Reading on, hoping it will really hook me."
September 15, 2019 –
page 380
87.96% "It's taken a while but things are now quite exciting...

AND I'VE LOST MY COPY :o

So annoying."
September 17, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-5 of 5 (5 new)

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message 1: by Matthew (new) - added it

Matthew Bryan Oh I'm glad to see you review this. I just started is and I'm really looking forward to getting into it. The second I read the synopsis I was excited because I really love this vibe/atmosphere. It reminds me a lot of the very underrated book The Gutter Prayer.

Random question but have you read The Ember Blade by Chris Wooding? I've read it months ago now and it's so underrated I've been getting lots of people to read it as it's one of the tightest written books I've read it a while. It has some of the best characterization I've read in ages as he's improved a ton since his earlier books. It's a super classic vibe but it's totally modern and refreshing. You should check out its reviews and see if you want to pick it up :)


Mark Lawrence Matthew wrote: "Oh I'm glad to see you review this. I just started is and I'm really looking forward to getting into it. The second I read the synopsis I was excited because I really love this vibe/atmosphere. It ..."

I've not read that, no. I'll add it to my tbr.


message 3: by Ellen (new) - added it

Ellen Unique world building is such a huge part of books for me and this one has always seemed to tick that box, though I'm concerned that the plot doesn't justify a read. Would it be worth picking up on that basis, do you think?


Mark Lawrence Ellen wrote: "Unique world building is such a huge part of books for me and this one has always seemed to tick that box, though I'm concerned that the plot doesn't justify a read. Would it be worth picking up on..."

It's hard to say. Maybe start with the sample on Amazon (i.e. the first ten pages or so).


message 5: by LostKnight (new) - added it

LostKnight Great review.


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