Those Above, by Daniel Polansky – a look back
By Oliver Johnson
Posted on February 25, 2015 in Books with tags Daniel Polansky, Fantasy
On the outside, Daniel Polansky is a fun-loving, carefree, sofa-surfing, globetrotting adventurer without a care in the world. Words pour from his MacBook effortlessly, the brilliant Low Town trilogy surely sprang from his brain onto the page without mediation of conscious thought… Well, that’s the insouciant outside. He has spoken wittily and incisively about the reality of a writer’s life: on inspiration in these pages, and the writing urge on his own blog. Obsession, angst, frustration, epiphany – they’re all here in these trenchant and funny insights into the craft from a writer whose work just gets better and whose every word I read as much as a fan as an editor. The sheer diversity of his work is shown in his forthcoming novella ‘The Builders’ on Tor.com (‘a post-apocalyptic reimagining of The Wind in the Willows’) and A City Dreaming, currently only in MS (a mind-bending urban fantasy that is like The Dresden Files on drugs).
Most immediately, and the end of this thread, the 26th February marks the publication of Daniel’s vast, compelling, bravura Those Above. Yesterday I was looking through Daniel’s own book-map, marking the scenes by seasons, characters and action in obsessive, almost storyboard detail. It is a document of astounding detail and one to which we referred often in the editorial process — without it my input would have been akin to pulling out bricks in load-bearing walls in a World Heritage building… with inevitable, disastrous consequences. The book-map shows planning is much part of an author’s craft as innate brilliance.
So Hodder and the Hodderscape team are proud to present this, the first in a two-part epic fantasy called ‘The Empty Throne’. It has been likened to The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire crossed with ‘Tolkien Elves crossed with D&D Deva crossed with The Capitol’. Told from multiple perspectives Daniel inserts the reader into four very different brains. One, the street gang urchin, Thistle, has a voice that’s a little Warden-like, familiar from the Low Town books. The other three: the grizzled General Bas, the scheming Eudokia, a wonderful fantasy variant on Livia from I Claudius, and the servant of the exalted Those Above, Allium, show a winning deftness of characterisation. And then there’s the gorgeously evoked, almost baroque world of these glittering beings who have enslaved humanity.
Those Above is an enthralling, immersive read and when complete in a year’s time, The Empty Throne will mark one of the most remarkably ambitious epic fantasies of recent years.