The Walled City by Ryan Graudin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Before Wolf By Wolf, Ryan Graudin went not so much for alternate history as for an alternate world, inspired by the Kowloon Walled City slums of Hong Kong in the mid-20th century. Photos of the place (which appear at the end of this book) make it look so otherworldly, like something out of Star Wars, that of course Graudin couldn't resist penning a dystopian novel set in what is, in all but name, the Kowloon Walled City.
It's an action-packed story, if a bit marred by the quick shifts between three different, and yet very similar, POVs of young people fighting to survive in this rough world. In keeping with the cosmopolitan nature of Hong Kong, Graudin presents a fairly pan-East Asian world, with some characters being Chinese, some being Japanese, and a few Vietnamese-sounding names (like the name of the whole city, Seng Ngoi if I remember correctly.) My only real issue with the setting is that it's hard to tell the time period, even if it is an alternate universe - the real-world Walled City having been torn down in the mid-90s, but a lot of Graudin's characters wearing hoodies and other clothes more associated with the 2000s and 2010s in my mind. Asian readers might also take issue with the use of the phrase "almond eyes" at least once in the narrative, so be aware of that going in.
All in all, a wild ride from Graudin, but I still prefer her later novel, Wolf By Wolf.
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