Book Review: The Wall (Sumer #1)
“The Revolution will have your heart – and all of it – or it will have none of it”
Open to almost any spot in Gautam Bhatia’s speculative sci-fi novel The Wall, and you will find language that is both beautiful and heartbreaking. The entire book is filled with a strong sense of yearning amidst entrapment, and prose like poetry pours from the pages. The story, the characters, the conflicts – all feel timeless and yet incredibly timely.
SUMMARY: Mithila’s world is bound by a Wall enclosing the city of Sumer—nobody goes out, nothing comes in. The days pass as they have for two thousand years: just enough to eat for just enough people, living by the rules. Within the city, everyone knows their place. But when Mithila tries to cross the Wall, every power in Sumer comes together to stop her. To break the rules is to risk all of civilization collapsing. But to follow them is to never know: who built the Wall? Why? And what would the world look like if it didn’t exist? As Mithila and her friends search for the truth, they must risk losing their families, the ones they love, and even their lives. Is a world they can’t imagine worth the only world they have? For fans of Isaac Asimov’s Nightfall and Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed comes an astonishingly powerful voice in speculative fiction that explores what it means to truly be free.
The city of Sumer is enclosed by a massive Wall, and for 2,000 years no one has gone out or come in. Mithila, obsessed with knowing what lies beyond, resolves to breach the Wall with a band of like-minded companions. Unfortunately, there are many in the city who like life just the way it is, with its laws and hierarchies, and will do anything to stop her.
This is a story of layers, both in the complexities of the plot and in the world that Bhatia is building for us. It’s a little confusing at first to keep it all straight. So many character names, rival factions, organizational features to the city, and so on. But thankfully the author provides a detailed map and character list at the beginning of the book, which were very helpful. And once you get a few chapters into the story it all starts to stick, and suddenly I found myself fully immersed. Bhatia does a fantastic job with this immersion, interspersing the main narrative with songs, poems, quotes, manuscript excerpts, and side stories – all from the history/culture of the world he has created. It made me think of RPGs like Skyrim (although obviously without the “open world” concept haha), where you’re constantly coming across items/texts which reveal additional details that help flesh out the world.
I absolutely love the main character Mithila, whose passion is infectious and whose desire for truth, knowledge, and freedom is deeply relatable. I rejoiced in her successes and cried out in frustration at her setbacks (side note: I also appreciate the inclusion of same-sex relationships where the emphasis is entirely on the relationship and not the fact that it’s same-sex). There are a lot of great side characters as well, but Mithila will always have my heart as we are kindred souls of a kind.
Honestly, because there is so much going on in this book I could write pages for this review. To put it briefly: the characters are compelling, the mythology/lore is intriguing, the concept of the city is unique, and even though there’s a lot of political subplots and meetings-in-forums they are never boring (actually, for someone who normally doesn’t care for such, I was super engaged during those moments). The ending of the book is both perfect and perfectly frustrating (as epic cliffhangers go), but from what I understand this is just the first part of a larger story and I cannot wait to see what happens next!
Massive thanks to the author for sending me a copy all the way from India in exchange for an honest review!
If you want to learn more about Gautam Bhatia and his work then check out his LinkTr.ee (https://linktr.ee/gautambhatia). You can also follow him on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/gautam_bhatia_books/) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/gautambhatia88).