A heady mix of political theory and existentialism set to the backdrop of revolution in a magical city, Unwrapped Sky would be hard to imagine in a world before China Miéville.
However, this debut novel from Australian author Rjurik Davidson can go toe-to-toe with Perdido Street Station and Iron Council as an imaginative, immersive read with a point to make.
The city of Caeli-Amur is populated with many creatures of Greek myth, but the minotaurs, sirens and mermen jostle alongside the new trams and factories that are springing up. However, industrialisation is benefiting only the wealthy few that run the Great Houses and workers are threatening to going on strike.
With the whiff of civil unrest in the air, the Great Houses – and the supernatural forces that rule them – take action to stamp out seditionists.
Unwrapped Sky is told from three different perspectives: Kata, a assassin for hire; Boris Autec, an anxious bureaucrat; and the idealistic revolutionary Maximilian.
Each has their own agenda, and you’re kept guessing as to who will succeed and whether the city will be transformed for better or worse.
The metaphor of magic as political power starts to chafe when the rebels plan to form a band of ‘liberation- thaumaturges.’ However, for a book so heavily focused on the haves and have-nots in society, the characters avoid stereotype and are richly drawn, with heroes that betray friends and villains that mourn lost loves.
The denouncement left us feeling like the wide-eyed Star-Child in 2001: A Space Odyssey as it unifies themes of rebellion, change and the structure of the universe. That being said, it subverts the idea of a cosmic Messiah figure saving the day, by keeping the emphasis on people power.