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City of Angles by Stefan Gagne

a web novel series of living a life amidst the twisted yet familiar 

Buildings next to buildings, askew or aligned. Buildings sometimes intersecting buildings, for that matter. Walk down a hallway, end up in a ballroom, double glass doors to a subway station, third exit on the left goes to a dentist’s office. Probably wouldn’t want your cavities filled there, mind you.

There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it—we’ve got streets which lead to dead ends, roads which criss-cross and loop back around, highways which go nowhere. Literally nowhere, as in “anybody going down that road is not coming back.” This is not a good place to wander off unless you like wandering off forever . . . 

Nobody knows where the city came from. Nobody knows how we got here. Nobody knows why any of this is happening. But it’s happening. The city exists. We are here now. It’s growing every day, and bringing new people with it.

We live a life amidst the twisted yet familiar.

If we’re going to survive this, if we’re going to stay alive and thrive, we need to learn to live in the City of Angles.

Note: City of Angles contains some graphic violence and harsh language.

A complete novel

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Listed: Oct 30, 2016

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Solid wordbuilding, characters could be better.

By Bequail, author of The Scapegoats

Dec 27, 2016: First off it should be known that I’ve only read the first of three parts of this work, not including the first bonus stories, so this review will probably not be as thorough as the work deserves. I do intend to finish it however, just at a later time.

I’ve always been interested in stories in which the character is flung into new settings and has to adjust accordingly. Their learning of the world mirrors that of the reader, so there’s a lot of potential for interesting worldbuilding and the such without the excessive use of exposition infodumps.

For the most part, City of Angles does fine in that prospect. It’s centred primarily on what seems to be another version of Earth that had been mashed together with copy-and-pasted pieces of Earth Original, called the Sideways, where architecture and space have been twisted in an almost Escherian/Cubist way. It’s alien just enough to be intriguing. While the world is explored gradually and organically throughout the chapters, however, it’s in the characters that City of Angles at times fall flat.

The first character we’re introduced to is Dave, who presents an interesting twist on social anxiety and unwittingly finds himself in the Sideways. And while he has his moments, I hesitate to call Dave the protagonist when there are simply so many other characters that are far more interesting than him. He’s just very . . . meh, bland. Character perspectives are switched in and out with every chapter, sometimes in the middle of one. Characters will also sometimes make brief cameos or mentions in chapters other than their own, which helps the cohesion and intricacy of the story as readers explore both a broken city and a broken community.

However, while the character pool of City of Angles is wide, I would hesitate to call it deep. While each character is distinguished, I find that most tend to follow certain tried archetypes. The tech-savvy outcast, the teen rebel, the wise and mysterious old woman . . . I’m not saying that these archetypes are necessarily bad, it’s just that with the limited screen time some of these character have, not many of them are able to grow out of these cliche character roles. The handful that do don’t change in very drastic ways.

That is not to say that the characters aren’t given their individual times to shine. Each chapter is LONG, with the first chapter clocking out at nearly 17 000 words. (This is partly why I decided to review the first "book" first, seeing how long it would take me to finish the whole thing.) These chapters are loaded with backstory for each character, which can be sometimes awkward when sandwiched into dialogue, but ultimately aids to flesh out the character. It was just enough to leave me interested in the character by the last sentence, but not enough to really develop the character.

Something a little more minor, but still worth mentioning since this was an issue that stuck out to me: City of Angles has inconsistencies. My main gripe is how some characters don’t act in ways you would expect. For example, a young teen giving a marriage proposal to his friend who’s basically dying, when seconds ago they were just chased by an unknown threat in an unfamiliar and eerie place.

Another inconsistency, while more excusable, lies in the point of view the work is written in. A couple chapters are written in first person pov while the rest are written in third person pov. Though not catastrophic, there didn’t seem to be a reason for the pov to switch, and so I’m confused as to why the author would feel the need to do so.

I hope this doesn’t sound like I didn’t enjoy City of Angles. I did. I find its concept novel, and I can tell that there’s a lot more to the world than what meets the eye. I’m willing to think about this first part as a prologue of sorts; we’ve been introduced to the world, the characters, and the conflict. The narrative has been somewhat of a zigzag, as apt as that may be, with the unpredictable turns and twists it makes bouncing from one unanswered question to the next. Wherever the zigzagging path leads, it sure has a lot of potential.

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