Glass Town by Steven Savile
Published by Thomas Dunne Books on December 5, 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction, Thriller
Length: 336 pages Source: PageHabit
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In 1926, two brothers both loved Eleanor Raines, a promising young actress from the East End of London. But, along with Seth Lockwood, she disappeared, never to be seen again. Isaiah, Seth’s younger brother, refused to accept that she was just gone.
It has been seventy years since and the brothers are long dead. But now their dark, twisted secret, threatens to tear the city apart. Seth made a bargain with Damiola, an illusionist, to make a life size version of his most famous trick, and hide away part of London to act as a prison out of sync with our time, where one year passes as one hundred. That illusion is Glass Town. And now its walls are failing.
Josh Raines inherits a mystery from his grandfather – a mystery about a young woman beloved by his great-grandfather and his great-great-uncle. Eleanor Raines disappeared off the set of Hitchcock’s unfinished Number 13 and was never seen again. So what happened to Eleanor? Something is rotten in the Rothery, and Joshua can’t help but to be swept up in it all.
Glass Town had its up and downs. There were parts of it that absolutely drew me in. Some of the fantastical elements reminded me of something out of that SyFy show from a while back, Warehouse 13, while other parts reminded me of Night Film. The fantastical elements here were wicked cool, though this is definitely an adult book. Savile wasn’t subtle when his succubus murdered someone with a blowjob. But the Reels and the Negatives and Glass Town itself… I wanted to see more of that!
The fantasy is the mystery here, and I’d say this is first a mystery novel and second magical realism. Joshua’s hunt for the truth often feels like a wold goose chase, and our hero spends a lot of time trying to get people to believe him. The villain, Seth Lockwood, has a lot of people quavering in front of him, but his demeanor doesn’t impress. For all he knew how to do, there was really no explanation how he and Damiola pulled it off. The reader is expected to believe, literally, that it is smoke and mirrors. I don’t mind a little suspension of disbelief, but this is the pattern of the whole novel. There are a lot of loose threads getting tangled together in a knot.
I think a lot of the reason Glass Town is all over the place lies in the number of narrators. Throughout the novel, you get chapters in at least seven POVs. Savile seems to be trying to give each character their own life, and all in a ~350 page book. It’s too little space for such depth, and a lot of things are skirted over. I think that is the POVs had been limited to the hero and the villain, this would have been a deeper novel. As it it, characters blend together. The emotional scenes lie flat and the world building isn’t as present as it could be. The two cops – Julie and Taff – could have been eliminated altogether and it wouldn’t’ve hurt the story a bit.
All in all, I bounced back and forth with Glass Towns. Some parts of it were wicked fascinating. Others were a chore. Fans of contemporary adult mystery with a pinch of fantasy will most likely enjoy this one. People coming in looking for fantasy will be ruthlessly teased and let down.
Glass Towns will be donated.
When all is said and done, I won’t be reading this book again. I actually appreciated a lot of what Steven Savile was trying to do here in building this world of fantasy and crime and obsession… but I think that Marisha Pessl did the same thing in Night Film, and she did it better.
There were moments in reading when I paused and thought, “Hey, this is actually wicked cool. Maybe I will keep it for a reread!”. Then I’d stumble into pages upon pages of tedious introspection and be convinced that for me, the balance was off and it wasn’t going to be worth it. It’s not a bad book, just a little chaotic and slow. I think someone else will appreciate it.