There are many bad things that can happen on one’s honeymoon, but probably the worst thing that can happen is to lose one’s spouse within an hour of arriving at one’s destination. Even though he is armed with a guidebook and years of reading, this is precisely what happens to Thomas Senlin when he and his wife arrive at the Tower of Babel in Josiah Bancroft’s Senlin Ascends. After Marya Senlin goes missing in the market on their way to their accommodations, Thomas vows to find her no matter how long it takes or what he has to do.
Based on the biblical Tower of Babel, the Tower in Senlin’s world never came down. As far as anyone knows, there are still people building new layers. The guidebooks all say that there is no experience like the Tower anywhere else in the world. It’s the perfect place to honeymoon. Unfortunately for the Senlins, their probably begin almost as soon as they arrive. There are so many people at the base of the tower that they have to force their way through a free form mob. Then they get separated at the market. Then Thomas gets robbed by a man he thinks might help him. Then he has to figure out what happened to Marya and follow her trail. Once he works out where she might have gone, Thomas has to make his way through the bizarre customs and governments of the different layers of the Tower to get to her.
Senlin Ascends riffs on Victorian travelogues and adventure stories (Thomas himself is a bit Victorian), with a dash of Pilgrim’s Progress. Because the Tower of Babel is at the heart of this book, it’s hard not to read parts of this book allegorically. Thomas not only travels upward but he becomes a better man. But, unlike Bunyan’s hero, Thomas becomes less naive and more ruthless on his path. As the novel progresses, the adventure takes over. By the end, Senlin Ascends is a rip-roaring yarn with sky pirates, conspiracies, and unstoppable assassins.
The only thing I’ll say about the end of this book is that it ends on a cliffhanger, which I hate. The good news is that the next book in the series, The Arm of the Sphinx, will be published shortly after Senlin Ascends. I just have to know if Thomas will be reunited with Marya—and what happened to her after Thomas lost her trail. Other than the cliffhanger issue, I really enjoyed this book. It’s highly original even with all the riffing, and Thomas’ journey and growth as a character is brilliantly handled. This book is just so damned much fun!
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration. It will be released 16 January 2018.