What I Like About Robert Bennett's CITY OF STAIRS and CITY OF BLADES

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 3.618% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

So most of these crumbled civilizations are real shitholes, right?  Years ago, there were Great Empires and everything’s gone to shit since then and there’s a bunch of farmers eking out an existence in the ruins.
Well, in Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Stairs and City of Blades, those ancient civilizations exist.  Except the today-civilizations are pretty much us, a hundred or so years ago.  There are scientists who study things, and politicians who are frighteningly smart at taking advantage of situations, and nations who are fully rebuilt and functional.  You wouldn’t mind living in his cities.  They’re troubled, but they’re on the move.
The problem is that the Great Empires were founded by Divinities – literal Gods, who warped the flow of physics and created the impossible.  One of the reasons the current nation-states are building their way out is because once the Gods died, the laws their cities ran on also vanished, and so they collapsed or sank into the sea or disintegrated in an event called The Blink.
And in both books – no real spoilers here – the heroes run across remnants of the Divine.  (Usually because, like Scooby Doo investigating a haunted amusement park, the scientists of the day just can’t stop hunting for shit that does literal magic.)  And when the heroes find the Divine, they have all the technology that people in the early twentieth century would have access to, they have all the cleverness that you or I would have, they are smart and insightful and clever…
And the echo of a Divinity is enough to almost destroy them, even with all of modern civilization backing them.
And I like that. I like that the past civilization is, effectively, science-fiction – and it’s not that humans are dumb or degraded, we’re still really clever, it’s that the Divinities were actually that terrifying in their heyday. And given that the Divinities were insane, you really don’t want ’em back.
They’re good books.  You should check ’em out.
 

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