The Angry Robot Books review program has given me access to a good number of interesting titles and has introduced me to many different authors. My latest read is The Buried Life, a new spin on telling a story in a post-apocalyptic future without really focusing on the post-apocalyptic part of things. Thus it leaves that as part of the setting and not part of the core story.
It's always tricky to get into a new series, even more a new author. But since I committed to reviewing books as a regular part of this blog, I've learned to be patient in order to allow the book time to reveal its story and go where it needs to go. Sometimes it pays off. Sometimes it doesn't.
But that's the whole point of reading, right?
Synopsis: The Buried Life is a science fiction/fantasy book written by Carrie Patel. I received a free review copy of this book through NetGalley as part of the Angry Robot Army review program in exchange for my honest opinion of the book.
In some far off future, people now live in mostly underground cities such as Recoletta. Things resemble something like the Victorian times in terms atmosphere and relative technology. The city is ruled by the Council but life seems well enough in this weird world. No one talks about things having been lost - it seems people simply aren't all that aware of things. Plus things like books are highly controlled materials and only certain titles have been released to the public.
The story is told from the perspectives of two characters. First there's Inspector Malone who is looking into the murder of a historian working for the Council. She's been coupled with a new partner for this case but she's determined to see things through. Then there's a young laundry woman whose life is mundane enough. But given her high profile customers she ends up meeting the wrong people that pull her into the larger conspiracy afoot.
What I liked: Patel clearly has a big vision in mind for this underground future and there are all these little quirks that add color to the story. The notion that a police force will only work on cases based on contracts issued by the Council or the whole thing about books being highly controlled and regulated says a lot about the larger world at work. The world-building may not be the best, but the little tidbits all throughout make for great teasers of a larger world.
Our two protagonists are also quite interesting, but Jane the laundry woman definitely got a bit more love than Malone. They get pretty much equal "screen time" in the series but you can feel it in the writing that there was a serious desire to make Jane work. And for the most part she does as she's quite the clever young woman with the right kind of curiosity and drive to push a story forward.
What Could Have Been Better: The book really does feel like the first part of a trilogy in the sense that it's more about setting the stage more than telling its own story. I can understand how it might have worked out as an outline to cover so and so points in this book versus the others, but the resulting pace of things just felt a little slow with a quick dash at the end to cover group and setup the story for the next book.
To be fair, a detective style mystery takes time to develop and it's hard to do that and accomplish world-building. But given that, the pace of unraveling the mystery suffered a bit from cutting back and forth to Jane's side story plus the occasional efforts to attempt to explain why things are the way they are. But in time things devolve into a collection of names of nobles and hasty efforts to develop characters in time for the big finish at the end.
TL;DR: The Buried Life is a little rough on its own but it can serve a greater purpose in the larger trilogy of books. It's a bit of a slugfest to get through but hopefully things will make more sense in the later books.Thus the novel gets a good 3 high profile murders out of a possible 5.