The Archive Undying

Tor.com. (The Downworld Sequence, Bk. 1). Jun. 2023. 496p. ISBN 9781250821546. $28.99. SF
Archivist Sunai expected death at the hands of his city-state’s AI Iterate Fractal. Instead, Iterate Fractal corrupted and transformed him into a relic who cannot die. Relics are usually repurposed to pilot ENGINE mechs formed from remnants of their patron AIs in defense of their newly vulnerable cities. Sunai escaped that particular fate, but his former city-state has built a uniquely destructive ENGINE. Reluctantly, he joins old allies and the secretive autonomist he’s begun a dangerous relationship with, in order to destroy the ENGINE before it devours him. Candon (Star Wars Visions: Ronin) delivers original worldbuilding with rich, sensory detail and description. A creative use of perspective keeps readers on their toes with successive twists that recontextualize the slowly unfurling story. AI divinities and war machines provide the perfect setting for the characters to grapple with physical and mental upheaval and find strength in each other. The action-packed finale mixes mech battles with equally dramatic personal revelations.
VERDICT Will appeal to readers who like their giant robots paired with explorations of emotional intimacy and moving forward after trauma. A good purchase for large SFF collections.
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