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Updraft (Bone Universe, #1)
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Updraft > UD: Finished: World Building

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Adam Gutschenritter (heregrim) | 107 comments Fantastic world building and a world I very much want to visit again. The story was not my favorite, although for no real specific reason, though none of the main characters besides the skymouths were all that consuming. I am still driven to see why the world is the way it is and what future secrets this not fully fleshed out world has in store.

Edit: I have since read the short story from Beneath Ceaseless Skies: Bent the Wing, Dark the Cloud and loved those characters from Viit. The world itself is still what keeps me loving this series, but here I found myself more interested in what happens to the characters and less stunned by the setting.


terpkristin | 4118 comments Can you please add "UD:" to the front of this so that I and others can tell what it is?

I haven't finished but I agree, so far, I'm digging the world-building.


message 3: by Rick (new)

Rick | 2775 comments "... none of the main characters besides the skymouths were all that consuming..."


/groan... :)


Lindsay | 593 comments I love the world-building, but I also have problems with it.

I think the concept of a civilization living in the bone towers is great. The bone towers, the cloud bank, the Skymouths and the details in how these people live from day to day; it's all just brilliantly imaginative.

I also think there's a palpable sense of it being a scarcity society that's also really well done. However, it's this that I think is the downfall.

(spoilers for the Spire justice system)

(view spoiler)


AndrewP (andrewca) | 2449 comments For me the world building was just okay. Good ideas but poorly thought out and executed.
For Example
(view spoiler)


message 6: by Alan (new)

Alan | 534 comments Lindsay wrote: "I love the world-building, but I also have problems with it.

... I also think there's a palpable sense of it being a scarcity society that's also really well done. However, it's this that I think is the downfall...."


(view spoiler)


Alex | 30 comments I'm also fascinated by this world. What caused The Rise, what's below the clouds, so many questions I hope will be answered in the future.

But what bugs me a little is that I can't get a good sense of the scale of the community. How many people are living in these towers or on a level?
On one hand there seem to be not so many people, the spire has 15 or 16 level above the clouds. But there is a mention of markets and a functioning economy with different trades etc. But with the amount of people that seem to be living in the city I don't think a fully functioning community is really possible.

Is my sense of scale off or do others have the same?


Adam Gutschenritter (heregrim) | 107 comments Alex wrote: "On one hand there seem to be not so many people, the spire has 15 or 16 level above the clouds. But there is a mention of markets and a functioning economy with different trades etc. But with the amount of people that seem to be living in the city I don't think a fully functioning community is really possible.

Is my sense of scale off or do others have the same?"


No I had the same feeling, but I think the problem is perspective. We are only introduced to those that the main character had access to. That being said I felt that the Singers tower was very empty despite being told it wasn't and for the society being over populated I feel that we only dealt with the top 1% of the society and as such the problems were hinted at and not explored. I got the feeling of 1st world problems a lot.


Colin Forbes (colinforbes) | 473 comments Another reason that scale is confusing - the towers seem somewhat distant from each other initially, yet they're actually close enough that they can string a bridge from one to its neighbour?


message 10: by Lara (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lara | 24 comments I've enjoyed the book, but also had issues with the world building. At the beginning I thought that there were a number of different cities as Kirit's mother has to go on a trip for several days to reach the other towers for trading. But then it seems like there is only one Spire, so are there just different quadrants of the same city? And the towers must be far enough apart that the Spire is hard to see from a tower that isn't on the fringe.

I also wonder about below the clouds and the history. However, along with the trading issue, how do they carry enough tea, honey, messages, and packages to trade with an entire tower or several towers? You would need a caravan of carriers, but it seemed like Kirit's mother only had guards. None of them were picking up the goods to carry for trading. That just didn't work for me, even in the first chapter.


message 11: by Phil (new) - rated it 4 stars

Phil | 1136 comments As far as trading goods, maybe the traders like Kirit's mother just arrange the transaction then most of the actual transfer of goods takes place via the bridges. Maybe that's why it's such a big deal when a tower gains or loses a bridge.
They do show as well that many flyers can join to carry big loads in nets.


message 12: by Lara (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lara | 24 comments Phil wrote: "As far as trading goods, maybe the traders like Kirit's mother just arrange the transaction then most of the actual transfer of goods takes place via the bridges. Maybe that's why it's such a big d..."

That's possible, except I don't think their tower has a bridge. Also, a lot of people asked her mother to carry items with her for this trip, so the panniers must be fairly expansive. And she made a big deal about needing to send their tea or they'd lose a trading partner. Tea isn't heavy, but it is bulky. Honey is both.

Hmm, what do you think they store the honey in? They don't have much metal, and I would expect glass would be a commodity as well since they don't have a supply of sand near by.


message 13: by Tassie Dave, S&L Historian (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tassie Dave | 3493 comments Mod
Lara wrote: "Hmm, what do you think they store the honey in?."

They store wine and water in animal skins and bladders. They would work for honey as well.


Lindsay | 593 comments I think they make extensive use of spider silk as well, and I imagine there's a way to waterproof that stuff as needed.

I heard an interview with the author and she said the (large) spiders and their silk are a big part of the next book.


AndrewP (andrewca) | 2449 comments Does anyone else feel that this felt more like a draft than a finished novel? Lot's of good ideas but most of them were never really explained or fleshed out.


Lindsay | 593 comments I thought the first third or so was tight and well done. I think the wheels fell off a bit with the Spire though.

Part of this is world-building though. It all just got harder to swallow when you learn more about the Spire and its people.


message 17: by Alan (new)

Alan | 534 comments Lindsay wrote: "I thought the first third or so was tight and well done. I think the wheels fell off a bit with the Spire though.

Part of this is world-building though. It all just got harder to swallow when you learn more about the Spire and its people."


I agree and I think it's because it's hard to quite believe a government and legal system based on fighting to the death in matches influenced by bribing/politicking with the people who have lost the status/ability to fly as Singers. That said, I've read plenty of fantasy novels with dumber laws without blinking so I think it's a tribute to the tight construction of the book that the Spire feels "off."


Paulo Limp (paulolimp) | 164 comments AndrewP wrote: Does anyone else feel that this felt more like a draft than a finished novel? Lot's of good ideas but most of them were never really explained or fleshed out.

I do have the same feeling sometimes. There are some great ideas here, but they don't seem to be well developed. One thing is keeping a few mysteries to maintain the audience hooked, but here there are too many concepts that don't tie in together well enough.


Joanna Chaplin | 1175 comments Alan wrote: "Lindsay wrote: "I thought the first third or so was tight and well done. I think the wheels fell off a bit with the Spire though.

Part of this is world-building though. It all just got harder to ..."


Yeah, the biggest thing I had trouble with is balancing the idea that there had been so many generations that they had forgotten what the ground was like with how the society seemed structured. At first it seems very 1984 in a lot of ways, or maybe Brave New World. But the more you learn about how it all truly works, the more long-term unsustainable it feels, and so I'm really quite curious to know how they got to this point.

Speculation about what we know and don't know by the end regarding world-building. (view spoiler)


message 20: by Lara (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lara | 24 comments @Joanna, from what I could tell they fled the ground due to their own wars and destruction. So, that would support the idea that the clouds below aren't really clouds but some type of noxious smog.


Joanna Chaplin | 1175 comments Lara wrote: "@Joanna, from what I could tell they fled the ground due to their own wars and destruction. So, that would support the idea that the clouds below aren't really clouds but some type of noxious smog."

Ooo, I like the potential of that explanation. Noxious smog explains how they still get rain despite being "above the clouds", but also explains the "higher is safer" common wisdom.


message 22: by Lara (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lara | 24 comments Joanna wrote: "Ooo, I like the potential of that explanation. Noxious smog explains how they still get rain despite being "above the clouds", but also explains the "higher is safer" common wisdom. "

Someone mentioned in on one of the other threads when the issue of living above the clouds yet drinking rainwater came up. I thought it made sense too. However, there is nothing specific in the book to tell us this is the case.


Joe Informatico (joeinformatico) | 888 comments AndrewP wrote: "Does anyone else feel that this felt more like a draft than a finished novel? Lot's of good ideas but most of them were never really explained or fleshed out."

Now that you mention it, yeah. The setting is unique and interesting. Unlike some other recent SF&F I've read I never felt like the pacing bogged down. The story structure is well constructed--nothing is used in the resolution that wasn't set up well in advance.

It's just that most of the key moments don't feel earned. I didn't feel invested in this society enough to care about its fate or its internal machinations; same with most of the characters. I think it needed another pass or two to make this setting feel more lived in, to make some of the character relationships deeper.


Colin Forbes (colinforbes) | 473 comments Joe wrote: "I never felt like the pacing bogged down."

Quite the opposite. I felt that parts of the book sped along at rocket pace. The whole section between (view spoiler) was so rapid that nothing actually seemed hard about it. Insert Rocky Balboa training montage here!


Andrew Knighton | 158 comments I loved the world building. It was so unusual that I was willing to just go with it for the sense of wonder, as with some of Chine Mieville's work, and pushed the issue of scale to a corner of my mind so it wouldn't keep bothering me. Details like recording laws and other information on chips of bone added to the sense of a world really unlike our own. The strings of laws reminded me of quipu, the strings used for record keeping by the Incas.

Looking back on the book, and on comments people have made here, the society of the spires doesn't seem sustainable, but I wonder if that's deliberate. We look at it and go "it couldn't work because of the population" or "it couldn't work because of the legal system" or one that just occurred to me "won't the levels be getting smaller as the spires grow to narrower heights, so space is shrinking, so how does everyone fit in?" Those are problems that would prevent a society like this remaining stable, but then societies aren't stable over the long term. They change and develop. Sometimes they reach crisis points, yet to the people living up to those moments things just look normal. I think that's what's happening here - a society that's fundamentally about to break, as its evolving environment and social norms reach an unsustainable point, but where that's not visible from the inside.


Trike | 8172 comments I didn't care for the world building at all.

I suppose if you've never read the real masters of this sort of thing it might be intriguing, but it pales in comparison to the likes of Varley or Farmer.

I mentioned in another thread (and I see it echoed here) that I never got a real sense for how big the city was. It seems really tiny, but she mentions that some towers are far away. It feels more like a high school than a city.


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