Senlin Ascends

Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft

Towel of Babel, of all Biblical stories, has always appealed to me. Maybe it’s the supposed link to languages, or maybe I just like skyscrapers. This book takes place at the tower, where each level is a ringdom with its own theme and cast of characters.

1) “‘What are you, an engineer? Who cares! It’s free beer.”

I liked the unique setting in each ringdom, almost like video game levels. The final boss of the Basement was a beer merry-go-round.

2) “The ringdoms of the Tower share only two things in common: the shape of their outermost walls, which are roughly circular, and the price of beef, which is outrageous. The rest is novel.”

Every chapter begins with an excerpt from Everyman’s Guide to the Tower of Babel (and later on, Senlin’s own journal). This was a brilliant way to introduce context, intentionally misleading or not.

3) “She looked like an overfrosted cake.”

How does one look like an overfrosted cake? That said, frosting should be eliminated or kept to a bare minimum.

4) “Ever since childhood, he had been fond of kites. He liked their serenity. A kite might tug, and dive, and lunge about, but it never panicked, not even if an unexpected gust snapped the line. The person flying the kite might panic, but the kite never did.”

I haven’t flown a kite in … 15 years.

5) “‘In real life, nothing happens quickly. Everything just erodes. And it’s confusing and frustrating and dull. God, can it be dull.'” – Edith

When I watch the news or even Youtube videos, sometimes I wonder why nothing seems to happen in my life. What’s worth of daily Vines?

6) “‘The Tower is only as tall as the man that climbs it.'” – Tarrou

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

7) “Wholesomeness is less a positive force than the resistance of a negative quality.”

Suddenly I realized I didn’t know the definition of wholesome.

8) “‘Often the most difficult part of painting someone is convincing them that they look like their portrait.'” – Ogier

You look like your portrait. You sound like your recording. You smell like ?

9) “The oaf processed the line of women as if they were livestock in a market. He felt their necks for plague lumps, checked their arms for the telltale brand of the Parlor, and rubbed his grimy finger along their teeth.”

We’re slowly getting there.

10) “The crew doesn’t want to hear that the captain has doubts or that the captain’s plan is full of holes.”

Overly optimistic leaders might seem delusional, but the truth is that no one wants a pessimistic leader.

This book was a pleasant surprise. Indie books are somewhat risky, but the ratings were spot on in this case. I was most impressed by the world building, as I felt immersed in the Tower throughout. In the Q&A, I learned that the author was inspired by Invisible Cities. I think there’s a solid chance this series jumps on screen.

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