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Humorless and drug addicted, physiognomist Cley is ordered by the Master of the Well-Built City to investigate a theft in a remote mining town. Well-versed in serving justice, arrogant Cley sets out to determine the identity of the thief using the pseudo-science of judging people by their features, but becomes distracted from his task by a beautiful girl from town. When the young-but-wise woman rejects him, he looses faith in his abilities, and in a drug-induced frenzy he remakes her features. The subsequent horror of what he has done, what he represents, and the shallow life he leads forces him to seek atonement and true justice, risking the Masters wrath, which may entail death by head explosion.
World Fantasy Award, Best Novel, 1998
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Stephanie on 02-04-18
stomach-churning and beautiful
There is never a dull moment in this characters personal narrative. It's unlike anything I've ever read/heard. The narrator does a fantastic job with the read and is great at each characters separate voice.
It's really hard to compare it to anything else. It's got characters you'll love to hate and some gruesomeness. I wasn't sure at first but easy to see why it won the Nebula and World Fantasy Awards.
By Mackenzie S. Kooiker on 10-11-17
Recommended for China Mieville fans
A very good piece of surrealist fiction in the same vein as China Mieville's Bas-Lag series-weird and surreal, with vivid characters (likeable and hateable, and all the in-between) and the same sort of atmosphere but with a Victorian gothic underpinning instead of a steampunk sci-fi basis.
The narrator is excellent, bringing just the right level of cringy loathability to his narration by Clay without turning him into a caricature, and using subtle but significant voices and accents to differentiate speakers without becoming annoying or farcical.