A minority woman visits the ghetto she grew up in, with bittersweet memories of its warmth and closeness but also its insularity and parochialism. She reflects on how much she has grown beyond it. Both her art and her interracial relationship are in part a rebellion against it. This chapter could be part of any number of stories about the immigrant experience, except that she and the rest of her community have scarab beetles for heads.
This is but one minor bit of character development and world building in a book that is full to bursting. In the first few hundred pages I could not have given even the faintest outline of where the plot was going, but I knew I was totally enthralled by the world and the characters (as surely as if I were staring at a slake moth's wings.) This is the book that The Fragile is the soundtrack to, bombastic, industrial, depraved, a little gross. It's the sort of book that a lovecraftian horror would write about its hometown.
I guess you could say it's steampunk, but in a world with an entirely different set of natural laws and creatures. The menagerie here has no counterpart in any fantasy I'm aware of. Its humanoids are portrayed so earnestly that a race of half cactus people can seem dignified. Its monsters are the scariest of any I've ever seen concretely described. There's no fear of the unknown here, he shows you everything, and it is still completely terrifying.http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/995419437