Book Review: The Grand Dark by Richard Kadrey

The other week me and my lovely wife were browsing in our local Waterstones when I spotted the cover for this particular book.

grand dark

That looks interesting, I thought to myself. I read the back cover and then later at home downloaded the Kindle version. (Sorry Waterstones, but it was half the price).

Set in the fictional city of Lower Proszawa, the book features Largo, a cycle messenger and his exotic girlfriend Remy. The city is recovering from a war which all but destroyed the more affluent sister city of Higher Proszawa, and while the city’s inhabitants wait for the next war to begin they party, drink and take drugs. The book is post-apocalyptic set in a dystopian future, with steampunk themes, as well as having Orwellian and Kafkaesque undertones to go with Terry Gillian’s Brazil. With all that going, what’s not to like?

The first third of the book sets out the characters and their lives, as well as filling in their backstories, however the second third drags. I pushed through expecting the last third of the book to be exciting as all of the different threads are pulled together. This doesn’t happen. Largo goes off to visit the wastelands of Higher Proszawa, pointlessly, on a whim, using up favours and money that he doesn’t really have. He gets robbed, beaten up, shot at and shoots back. His friends go missing or are arrested. Unfortunately, overall, nothing really happens. The end is open ended with an obvious second book soon to come. Half of The Grand Dark could have been edited out without losing anything plot-wise.

I wanted to like this book, but by the end I was bored. I didn’t even object to how Largo managed to know the route across a minefield, despite seemingly never having crossed it before in his life. I won’t be reading the sequel, whenever it is released, and I very much doubt if I’ll read anything else by Richard Kadrey. I gave it 2 out of 5 on Goodreads.