The Sightless City by Noah Lemelson
Adult, Dark Fantasy/Sci-Fi, Dieselpunk
My thanks go to Tiny Fox Press for sending me an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
It’s peacetime in the city of Huile where Marcel Talwar is working as a private investigator after he sacrificed his leg and his lover in the battle that won them their freedom. Life lacks excitement but it’s relatively peaceful until information comes to light that suggests someone close to him is using him as a pawn in a game that could endanger everything himself and his squad sacrificed so much for.
It’s hard to even decide where to begin with this book that is so epic in scope. When you begin reading this story you are immediately immersed into a fully formed world that has it’s own religions, calendar, species, slang, and even its own scientific rules and beliefs. It’s also incredibly hard to picture this world in your head as a lot of the settings and surroundings are things unfamiliar to us- which really speaks to the imagination and cleverness of the author. The entire time I was reading this story I was thinking how amazing it would be to see an artists rendition of everything described. Because this is such a unique world that you are basically just dropped into with very little introduction it can feel a bit overwhelming trying to familiarize with all the elements of the setting. I admittedly struggled a bit attempting to understand and envision Huile and it’s surroundings.
The tone of The Sightless City is quite dark- living in this world is no picnic. It’s heavy on the political side and war has decimated everything- the result is a community of people and beings struggling to rebuild and acclimate to a life of peace after a long period of hardship. The governing body is made up of men that played various parts in the war, including Lazarus Roache, the oil tycoon who runs the sangleum refineries that produce the product that everything in their world runs on. Unfortunately this chemical causes many severe side effects including mutations and is quite dangerous. Marcel receives information that leads him to believe everything is not what it seems in that department and from there the reader is led into a deep, dark abyss.
There is lot going on in this book and religion plays a large part of it. There are warring beliefs that are prominent in the storyline but neither of them are explained in great detail. I only ever had a very loose grasp on the specifics but I think it is, in part, meant to be that way. Based on how the book ended I believe we will gain a greater understanding of the religion and the god one side worships in the next book; the revelation of said details playing a substantial part in the plot.
I realize that the elements of this story that I’ve shared are quite vague but these details are in and of themselves important to the plot and saying too much about any portion of this book veers too close to spoiler territory. I read this without reading the synopsis because the advanced copy does not offer one and in doing so everything that happened was a surprise to me; I think it was a good choice to learn everything organically. This book is also hard to categorize- it has elements of dark fantasy, sci-fi, dieselpunk, steampunk, post-apocalyptic dystopian, with a dash of noir style mystery. The Sightless City is genuinely a book in a category all its own.
This story starts out somewhat slow and can seem quite dense at times but it’s also extremely well-written; Lemelson knows how to expertly build up to huge reveals while keeping the reader anxiously at the edge of their seat. If you like very intricate fantasy worlds with heavy political and religious leanings this book was written just for you. There is not one iota of romance or fluff of any kind anywhere to be found here- this is a very dark and gritty world that is totally worth the read. I’m very eager to see where book two will take us!
Please enjoy an interview with the author, Noah Lemelson, here.
About the Author
Noah Lemelson is a short story writer and novelist who lives in LA with his wife and cat. Lover of Science Fiction, Fantasy, New Weird, and Punk. He received his BA in Biology from the University of Chicago in 2014 and received his MFA in Creative Writing from the California Institute of the Arts in 2020. He has several short stories published in both print and online magazines, such as Allegory, Space Squid and the Outsider’s Within Horror Anthology.
Follow Noah Lemelson on Social Media:
Facebook: @Noah Lemelson | Instagram: @EruditeGoblin