- Buy this product and stream 90 days of Amazon Music Unlimited for free. E-mail after purchase. Conditions apply. Learn more
Senlin Ascends: Book One of the Books of Babel Paperback – 18 Jan 2018
|New from||Used from|
- Choose from over 13,000 locations across the UK
- Prime members get unlimited deliveries at no additional cost
- Find your preferred location and add it to your address book
- Dispatch to this address when you check out
Special offers and product promotions
Frequently bought together
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
It's rare to find a modern book that feels like a timeless classic. I'm wildly in love with this book (Pierce Brown, author of RED RISING)
Senlin Ascends is one of the best reads I've had in ages . . . I was dragged in and didn't escape until I'd finished . . . So many lines made me deeply jealous. Clever, literary, insightful lines that cut to the quick of the matter. The story is compelling. It unfolds and unfolds. Because the characters are excellently drawn, I cared very much about where it was all going. The imagination is unbound and intriguing . . . I hope it finds the audience it deserves (Mark Lawrence)
Wonderfully unique and superbly well written. I loved every page (Nicholas Eames, author of KINGS OF THE WYLD)
An extraordinary debut that is well worthy of the hype. A beautifully written, highly engaging page-turning masterpiece (FANTASY BOOK REVIEW)
Brilliant debut fantasy . . . this novel goes off like a firework and suggests even greater things in the author's future (PUBLISHERS WEEKLY)
Senlin Ascends crosses the everyday strangeness and lyrical prose of Borges and Gogol with all the action and adventure of high fantasy. I loved it, and grabbed the next one as soon as I turned the last page (Django Wexler)
An impressive display of imagination and humour . . . we have no reservations about recommending it (SCIFINOW)
A terrific, free-ranging fantasy that ranges from Kafkaesque horror to heist thriller . . . This book is bonkers, entertaining, clever and - quite possibly - unique (PORNOKITSCH)
Senlin Ascends was a fantastic read, and felt truly unique. I will most definitely be reading the rest of Bancroft's work (BOOKNEST)
What is remarkable about this novel, quite apart from its rich, allusive prose, is Bancroft's portrayal of Senlin, a good man in a desperate situation, and the way he changes in response to his experiences in his ascent (GUARDIAN)
'A beautifully written, highly engaging, page-turning masterpiece' Fantasy Book Review. Discover the extraordinary debut that has got everyone talkingSee all Product description
Customers who bought this item also bought
Read reviews that mention
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Senlin Ascends is the first novel in a trilogy called The Books of Babel, followed by Arm of the Sphinx (out now) and The Hod King (working title, due next year). This is fantasy, but not quite as you may know it. It's a steampunk romance with airships and sky-pirates. It's a character-focused slice of the New Weird. It's a Biblical allegory (...maybe?). It's a science fiction novel set inside a Big Dumb Object created by peoples unknown for scientific purposes (...perhaps?). It's a black comedy of manners, a dashing adventure, and a devastating deconstruction of people, places and tropes. It's what you'd get if China Mieville and Christopher Priest collaborated on a novel and both brought their A-game, and it was then adapted for film by Studio Ghibli. It's quite possibly the most striking debut work of speculative fiction published in the last decade.
Senlin Ascends is the story of a man who visits the Tower of Babel - which may or may not be "our" mythological tower - on honeymoon only to lose his wife. He ventures into the miles-wide, miles-tall tower in search of help, only to find most people indifferent to his plight and out to rob or enslave him. Initially he proceeds with optimism and reason, but as he suffers repeated setbacks he becomes more willing to manipulate and deceive people to achieve his ends. At key moments he realises the danger of what he is becoming and resolves to find his wife and escape before the tower batters him down from the man of integrity he used to be.
In the course of this first novel, Senlin only ascends the lower four (of over forty) ringdoms of the tower. Each ringdom is an impressive feat of worldbuilding, complete with its own rulers, function and cast of characters. The Basement is a place of squalour and robbery. The Parlour is a bizarre place where guests have to take part in insane plays for the amusement of its rulers. The Baths is a vast spa resort where deadly politics play out and Senlin is blackmailed into becoming an art robber. New Babel is a collection of docks and markets where people toil in labour. Each location is painted in rich detail, each fulfilling a function that Senlin tries to grasp (and, late in the novel, manages to do so in an intriguing moment of revelation about the tower's purpose) and each being compelling enough for entire novels to be set there.
What makes Senlin Ascends work so well is a combination of literary ambition - Bancroft's prose is evocative, exciting and occasionally beautiful - with a relentless pace. Chapters are short and punchy, Senlin's adventures rich and compelling, and Bancroft peppers the book with comic interludes, excerpts from quite ludicrously misleading tourist guides to the tower and, later on, Senlin's own journal about what is going on. A supporting cast of players is subtly put in place, ranging from the redoubtable painter Ogier to the fantastically violent warrior-woman Iren to Edith, a fellow lost traveller who inadvertently runs afoul of the tower's harsh and arbitrary justice system. There's also a genuinely unsettling and terrifying villain, of sorts, in the Red Hand, a literate and erudite enforcer with a tremendous capacity for violence. The supporting cast is small, but fantastically well-drawn.
The novel builds over the course of its reasonable, focused length (350 pages) to an action-packed climax which sets the scene wonderfully for Arm of the Sphinx.
In another universe, Senlin Ascends, which was originally published in 2013, would have already won the Campbell, Hugo, Nebula and Arthur C. Clarke Award. In this one, however, the author chose to not only self-publish it, but self-edit it as well. He did exactly the stuff that you're not supposed to do as a self-published writer and has done with tremendous skill, restraint and self-awareness. To date self-publishing has given us some very fine light adventure novels from the likes of Michael J. Sullivan and a reasonably strong epic fantasy from Anthony Ryan, but now it has given us SFF's first genuinely evocative work of self-published literature (that has broken through to mainstream attention, anyway). It may mark a serious turning-point in the field.
Senlin Ascends (*****) is available now in the UK and USA. The sequel, Arm of the Sphinx, is already available.
The story's setting of the Tower of Babel works very well. Don't expect a carefully researched historical fantasy or a Biblical fable though. For Bancroft, the setting is largely a device that allows the story to progress through different and clearly demarcated realms (there's a definite sequential thing going on here, though less so in book 2). He uses this as licence for a rampant and unembarrassed anachronism; that's something that usually sets my teeth on edge, but here it doesn't come across as lazy but as an utterly believable whimsy. think of the movies of Karel Zeman, say, or Terry Gilliam, or even studio Ghibli, and you might be thinking along the right lines. It's also very fun!
Flaws... Well, it uses a lot of steampunkery, which is a genre I've generally found a bit tiresome; the imagery works great here but is a bit tarnished by association (it might help, actually, if the anachronistically modern elements went more recent than C19th, but YMWV). A harsh critic might complain that the basic plot structures and character relationships are a bit familiar; again, this is likely going to be a matter of taste! Personally I'm a fan of good old storytelling archetypes, if used well, so this satisfies me. A similar thing goes for the language: Bancroft has a nice eloquent turn of phrase, but I can imagine some readers finding it a bit overblown at times.
Overall a bloody good read (along with its sequel, which is even better). Can't wait for more.