at Ogre’s Grave

It was estimated that ogres had numbered in the billions when their civilisation had met its end, and they appeared to have colonised every corner of the world. Giants who had ravaged and despoiled the Mother’s land and seas, leaving traces of huge mines and quarries where they had ripped minerals and metals from Her skin. Historiographers reckoned that their civilisation had been destroyed by fires, floods and rising sea levels, and the final spasm of a global struggle in which firestorms had melted metal, fused brick and stone and stamped curious glassy craters that could still be traced in the ruins of their great cities, and deposited the Burn Line’s layer of ash. Excavating and processing glass and brick and metal provided steady work for thousands of labourers, and along the shore and on every island prospectors searched for fossil artefacts, dreaming of finding something that the Sweetwater Collective could reverse engineer into a useful gadget or use to develop an entirely new kind of techne, and make them wildly rich.

Paul McAuley, Beyond the Burn Line, p174

I’ve been greatly enjoying McAuley’s Beyond the Burn Line, which spends its first half managing to hold in tension both a sort of pastoral future-history, looking back on the above-hinted end of the Anthropocene from many thousands of years distance, and some very late-C20th dawning-of-the-New-Age signs-and-portents social dynamics… and then you hit the middle of the book, and BAM, a very sudden but fully earned reveal gives way to a second half that’s doing something quite different with the same setting. A very hard transition to handle, and somehow McAuley handles it almost by fiat: very daring, but also full of aplomb. Bravo.

So it’s almost like a duology of shorter novels set in the same world and shipped in one volume… and on that basis I won’t say much more now. How will the back half balance out that front? I’m as much in love with the architecture as the interiors, if you see what I mean.




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