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City of the Iron Fish

by Simon Ings

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771281,761 (3.27)1
Only a fool would ask what strange providence, amid an inferno of scorching heat and splintered rock, saw to the care of the cool, well-watered municipality which is the city of the Iron Fish. The seafaring traditions of the City, the tang of salt in the air, are sustained by powerful magic, and by the bizarre ceremony of the Iron Fish. But young Thomas Kemp is enraged by the City’s contradiction – and, like a fool, sets out in search of an answer to the conundrum. Turning his back on the City, Thomas strides towards the limits of reality armed only with curiosity. It may kill him. Worse, it may not be enough. Worst of all, his companion Blythe, who is as carefree as her name, might be the one to discover the meaning of the City’s isolation. In this riveting gothic adventure Simon Ings probes the very fabric of existence and tears it open … to reveal an amazing, sometimes horrifying, world within. Simon Ings goes into orbit as a science fiction masterDAILY MAIL Simon Ings is a bright light on an otherwise dim horizon…A rosy glow announcing the dawn of anew era of excitement in SFTHE NEW YORK REVIEW OF SCIENCE FICTION… (more)
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In the middle of a desert there's a city with a sense of the sea: there's a smell of the ocean and the city is full of sea gulls. Every twenty years a ritual of the iron fish must be performed to keep the city alive. The city is crumbling down and keeping up the necessary rituals when people just don't care is not that simple.

The city is an odd place, and the citizens aren't quite usual either, living in the middle of nowhere. The protagonist of the book is Tom, a history student with a passion for art like many of his fellow citizens. He ends up as a part of a love triangle, explores the limits of the worlds and just keeps on living, despite the odd things going on in the city.

City of the Iron Fish is an odd book. It doesn't seem to be very popular, which is a shame. Fans of new weird and curious cities would do themselves a favour by finding a copy. (Review based on the Finnish translation.)

(Original review at my review blog) ( )
1 vote msaari | Feb 24, 2008 |
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Epigraph
By words, this is it seems the idea, we are handed over to the tender mercies of the Past. That is that parasitic no-longer-with-us class of has-beens, he cleverly calls it. In other words the dead. --Wyndham Lewis, "The Apes of God"
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For my mother
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"Why must we feed the gulls?"
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Only a fool would ask what strange providence, amid an inferno of scorching heat and splintered rock, saw to the care of the cool, well-watered municipality which is the city of the Iron Fish. The seafaring traditions of the City, the tang of salt in the air, are sustained by powerful magic, and by the bizarre ceremony of the Iron Fish. But young Thomas Kemp is enraged by the City’s contradiction – and, like a fool, sets out in search of an answer to the conundrum. Turning his back on the City, Thomas strides towards the limits of reality armed only with curiosity. It may kill him. Worse, it may not be enough. Worst of all, his companion Blythe, who is as carefree as her name, might be the one to discover the meaning of the City’s isolation. In this riveting gothic adventure Simon Ings probes the very fabric of existence and tears it open … to reveal an amazing, sometimes horrifying, world within. Simon Ings goes into orbit as a science fiction masterDAILY MAIL Simon Ings is a bright light on an otherwise dim horizon…A rosy glow announcing the dawn of anew era of excitement in SFTHE NEW YORK REVIEW OF SCIENCE FICTION

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Citizens of a landlocked city celebrate the sea. There is the tang of salt in the air, and, though surrounded by desert, it is a well-watered municipality. Every 20 years, the ceremony of hanging and stuffing the Iron Fish magically alters the layout of the "bubble city" - but not its isolation.
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