Happy Weekend! I am pleased to present author Carrie Patel, whose debut book: The Buried Life presents a strange, Victorian/dystopian world. Civilization as we know it has been wiped out by some big catastrophic event. Cities are below ground. The wealthy and the elite control the knowledge, and they have all the power, but that is all about to change.......I have Carrie here guest posting on world building so without futher delay here is Carrie:
It can be tricky to nail worldbuilding in speculative fiction. Readers have wildly different preferences and expectations—some want to know every last detail about an imagined setting, from modes of transportation to the foods people eat for breakfast. Others want just enough to keep the story going.
Personally, I tend to waver somewhere in the middle. I enjoy reading about some of the more unique details of a world, but I prefer not to digress from the story too much. So, to strike a balance, I try to center my worldbuilding in the perspectives of my characters.
This isn’t an uncommon approach, and it’s part of the reason why “outsider” characters are so popular in science fiction and fantasy. When your perspective characters are new to the setting, it’s easier to justify their attention to the very elements that will be unfamiliar to readers, including technology, magic, and local customs.
In The Buried Life, the perspective characters aren’t new to the city of Recoletta, but they are outsiders to the elite class of society that they’re investigating. This allowed me to write about the city with the emotion and familiarity of someone who knows it all too well while still creating opportunities for worldbuilding.
Worldbuilding from a close third-person perspective also gives the writer a litmus test to see whether the character of the world—the society, the speculative elements, the location, and whatever else makes it unique—figures into the narrative. If a character’s reflections on Martian canyons, strict social structure, or dwindling food supplies come across as casual asides, then it’s a likely sign that these elements could be woven more tightly into the fabric of the story and the characters. That’s one of the most important elements of speculative fiction—making sure that you’re writing a story about a particular time and place rather than one that simply happens to occur somewhere new.
A huge thanks to Carrie for sharing her thoughts on world building. Here is my review:
The Buried Life (The Buried Life #1) by Carrie Patel
The gaslight and shadows of the underground city of Recoletta hide secrets and lies.When Inspector Liesl Malone investigates the murder of a renowned historian, she finds herself stonewalled by the all-powerful Directorate of Preservation – Ricoletta’s top-secret historical research facility.
When a second high-profile murder threatens the very fabric of city society, Malone and her rookie partner Rafe Sundar must tread carefully, lest they fall victim to not only the criminals they seek, but the government which purports to protect them.
Kindle Edition, 336 pages
Three and a half Stars: A book with great potential that falters with shaky world building.
Malone hurries through the darkened streets, her mind racing over what she has just encountered. A quiet, historian murdered in his own home while surrounded by valuable banned books. Who killed him and why? Meanwhile on the other side of town, an unassuming laundress frantically searches for a missing button amongst her washing. The small pearl button likely cost a fortune and could mean the end of her career. She heads to the market, hoping to procure a replacement, not knowing that her path will collide with two whitenails. Before long, Jane, the laundress, finds herself in the middle of the same murder investigation, and it is big and dangerous. So large, it could topple the entire city. Will Malone and Jane find the killer?
What I Liked:
- I am always up for something new and different, and I can say that The Buried Life delivered on that aspect. This is a complicated book that doesn't fit neatly into one category. It is a bit dystopian, steampunk and murder mystery with a definite hint of the Victorian Era. I liked the blend of genres and the interesting setting and concepts.
- Jane, the laundress, stole the show for me. I was immediately drawn to this resourceful and plucky gal. Jane is an orphan who through hard work and determination has made a name for herself doing laundry for the elite and wealthy citizens known as the whitenails. In her position, Jane sees and hears many things that are best kept quiet. Her discretion is what keeps her employed. Jane was such an admirable girl, I couldn't help but be drawn to her. I cheered her on as she plundered her way through a big society event and later as she was sucked into the dangerous murder investigation. Jane is an underdog type character, easy to like and fun to follow.
- Though the world building was a bit shaky, I did like the foundation. This book has a Victorian type feel to it, but it is actually set in the future in a large underground city called Recolletta. It is a civilization where the wealthy hold the cards and control everything, including what people read, while the poor, working class scrape by. Yet, there is more to it than that. It seems that Recolletta was formed after some type of apocalyptic event that destroyed the world as we know it. Many of the books and such recovered from our world are banned in this one as the people fear that they could lead to another fall. It is a dark and bleak world that is on the cusp of revolution. Where this book excels is in the atmospheric setting.
- The overall mystery is intriguing and solid. I enjoyed watching the two inspectors, Malone and her new partner, Sundar, use skill, logic and resourcefulness to continue their investigation even when they are thwarted at every turn. Sundar with his enthusiasm and gregariousness is a terrific addition to the team, and I couldn't help but enjoy his antics.
- There were some big twists toward the end that took the story in a new and unexpected direction. It certainly wasn't predictable.
And The Not So Much:
- For me, the biggest problem with this book was the lack of world building. You get the bare bones skeleton of this world, and I found I had so many questions. I wanted to know more about the destruction and how the people survived and rebuilt. Even the class stratification is a mystery. It seems you have the poor and the working class, but there has to be more to it than that. I had very little to go on as far as how the government worked and how the council came to be. Were the member elected? How did they get their positions? I also wanted to know so much more about why archaic information was banned from the general population. I am the type of reader that needs a strong foundation when going into a dystopian type book.
- The book is told through Jane's and Malone's view points. While I adored Jane and immediately connected with her, I didn't feel any type of emotion when it came to Malone. She seemed flat and uninteresting. Only when paired with Sundar did I warm up to her, but then again at the end, I found myself detaching and not liking her. It is hard to read a book when you don't feel any type of emotion toward one of the main characters, and that is what happened with Malone.
- There is the hint of a romance between Jane and Roman, who is this rogue, bad boy guy who refuses to fit into societal constraints. I struggled greatly with this fledging relationship because it felt like it came out of nowhere and there was no depth to it. I couldn't see why Jane would so quickly be drawn to this man, and I thought it just didn't work.
- The book builds to a dramatic conclusion and then ends on a cliffhanger note with a bunch of unanswered questions, which was frustrating considering this an adult book. I am not used to my adult reads coming to an end with little payout.
The Buried Life is a good read, worth checking out if you want something original, but be prepared for a cliffhanger ending.
"The Library became my haven---whenever I wanted to be alone, I was. And when I needed company.... all I had to do was open a book."
"Swirling in the room, she saw secrets. They sulked in the corners, glided across the floor, and they stood huddled in discreetly chattering groups."
"Secrets, hovering just out of reach and scattering like moths from a lantern."
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.
About the author:
Carrie Patel was born and raised in Houston, Texas. An avid traveller, she studied abroad in Granada, Spain and Buenos Aires, Argentina. She completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Texas A&M University and worked in transfer pricing at Ernst & Young for two years. She now works as a narrative designer at Obsidian Entertainment in Irvine, California, where the only season is Always Perfect.