By Josiah Bancroft
This new edition of Senlin Ascends marks the major-press release of a book self-published several years ago that took off through word of mouth. A wider audience now gets to see what all the fuss has been about.
They should be impressed, as this is fantasy storytelling of a high order. The first volume of the Books of Babel, Senlin Ascends introduces readers to the giant structure that gives the series its name. An unworldly provincial schoolteacher named Thomas Senlin has brought his beautiful new wife Marya to the famous Tower of Babel for their honeymoon. Almost immediately, however, Marya goes missing, and Senlin is forced to climb the tower in pursuit.
The basic idea, which builds on various literary archetypes going back all the way to the Bible, is that each level of the tower is an entire city unto itself known as a “ringdom,” with its own unique political system and bizarre cultural practices. This gives the book an episodic flavour, with Senlin facing a series of trials that range from the comic to the terrifying as he rises.