The Scalding Rooms

April 18, 2008

The Scalding Rooms, by Conrad Williams

The Scalding Rooms, by Conrad Williams.

 

Excellent, this. A short novel set in a decaying semi-dystopian world where the poor fight amongst each other to rifle the pockets of hanged execution victims as their bodies rot and tumble from rusting bridge spans, where a vast and collapsing abattoir creates a new, grisly form of life as well as takes it, where gang warfare and hits are just another way of making ends meet. It’s the story of Junko Cane, an abattoir worker in the hideous, run-down Eyes abattoir, battling to live and provide for a family he’s becoming increasingly alienated from, trying not to back to his old life in the gangs as a killer, and slowly becoming aware that there’s more to the abattoir — and the world — than he could have imagined.

Williams’ world is horribly brutal: everything is falling apart, rotting or rusted to death. Machines and society alike are breaking down, and the survivors are scrabbling more and more hopelessly, trapped in endless cycles of pain and despair. Monsters called Mowers come out at night seeking blood and the unwary, but are they really monsters at all…?

It’s a story reminiscent of China Miéville’s worldbuilding at his grittiest and most nihilistic, but even more depressing if that’s humanly possible. My only complaint? Too short — I wanted books and books, worlds and worlds of this.

Enthusiastically recommended. It’s a signed limited edition, not very expensive, from UK-based PS Publishing, and quite difficult to get elsewhere. Buy from them direct. You won’t be sorry.

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