I have no earthly idea of what to compare this novel to, apart from China Miéville’s New Crobuzon books. There’s something akin in the worldbuilding, in the weirdnesses. But where other people are comparing this to an acid trip and whatever, well, I’ve never taken drugs in my life and even feverish dreams aren’t this bizarre but at the same time carefully drawn.
I wasn’t particularly engaged by the first third of the story, but I loved the second part. The world created was so different from almost anything I know of, and yet still Di Filippo managed to create characters and stakes that you could care about.
The last part was… almost an anticlimax. It was still weird, but I didn’t care so much for it, and despite covering more time/space, it paled compared to the second part. I don’t know how I wanted the story to end, but perhaps I wanted it to surprise me again — and this didn’t, somehow. It seemed almost half-hearted, really, like the important part of the story was the central part and the rest, eh.
Despite all that, it’s not difficult to read at all, and is straight-forward to follow. It’s the ideas that are bizarre, not the execution. Still, if you prefer a good solid novel that goes from A to B — more Neil Gaiman than China Miéville — then it probably won’t be for you. On the other hand, I’d have said that before reading this, and it got under my skin.