Books

Book Review: Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft

Should I start with the prose? Or praise the story? Or how about mentioning the balance between intellectual literature and enchanting plotline?

I went in having no expectations, and maybe it is that which made me fall in love with the book, but I doubt that. This is a good book. It is a story about the Tower of Bable and Senlin’s ascend of it; everything you need to know is in the title. The book introduces us to this fantastic Tower, which feels like a dream or a promise of a better tomorrow, but it soon turns out to be not a case. As we move through the Tower with Thomas Senlin, we get to experience his horrifying realization that the place is not anything like the guide promised it to be (think along the line of Hitchhiker’s Guide to Galaxy here. Guide which we get to read in interludes.) And he has lost his wife, Marya, there. And if he struggles to cope, then how about her?

Weirdly, I would call this coming-of-age novel despite the main character being already an established man with a long history of being a headmaster. This teaching side of him comes out often enough, and it might sound boring, but it is a fantastic contrast to what he becomes as he moves through the Tower and understands what is needed of him to survive. Anyway, the best part of the book is the growth, or should we say change Senlin goes through? You can see as his naivety melts away, and this dry, serious man sees how the world is more complex and nastier than it should be. It is kind of heartbreaking to see he has to give up his entire world view. I can attest, giving up the foundation you have believed your whole life is a painful process. The world becomes a little bit nastier, but then again, you become a little bit freer.

The Tower felt like to me this class divide, which exists in our world. Where one side does dirty, dangerous jobs to provide heat, food, and raw materials to others with little or no return, and the other side lives in luxury, doing mindless things to keep themselves entertained, even hurting themselves to feel alive. Then there are those who live in between, doing their best to cope by being a good citizen or doing something on the sidelines, in hope of ascending or at least getting rich enough not having to care.

Altogether, I enjoyed the story, the characters, and the world-building. Excellent book!

Thank you for reading and have a great day!

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