“We are, each of us, a multitude. I am not the man I was this morning, nor the man of yesterday. I am a throng of myself queued through time. We are, gentle reader, each a crowd within a crowd.”
In Arm of the Sphinx we return to the adventures of Thomas Senlin and his quest to find his missing wife. It has now been just at a year since they were separated and Senlin is hanging on to the barest thread of clues to discover what has happened to her.
Senlin Ascends was my number 1 favorite book that I read last year and is probably in my top 5 books of all time, I loved it so much. So I had pretty high expectations going into Arm of the Sphinx, book 2 of The Books of Babel.
For the most part, those expectations were met. Long story short, I don’t think this second installment is quite as good as the first but it still a damn good book.
Thomas Senlin has changed so much from the start of the series. For his character, this book was less focused on continuing to transform him and more explore in what ways he changed over the course of the first book.
He is no longer a village schoolteacher. After everything he has been through, the world of a small village just may be too small for him. So who is he now? Is he a captain, a leader? Is he a friend? Is he even a good husband?
Towards the end of Senlin Ascends, Senlin himself reflected that his wife, Marya, was becoming more of a concept than an actual person in his mind from the time that they had spent together. This book I felt continued that. This story is no longer about finding Marya. It is just about Thomas Senlin.
I am so looking forward to the end of this series and seeing who exactly he is after everything is said and done, after everything that he has gone through and everything that is yet in store for him.
But I did say that I didn’t like this book quite as much as the first. The reason for that is simply that I didn’t have the same sense of wonder as I did while reading the first book. I was mesmerized by the Tower and what it held in store. While the plot got infinitely more complex in this story, I just didn’t feel the same sense of awe.
With this book, we start to understand a little bit more about the Tower and its origins and some of the politics that go inside it. It should be no surprise that the Tower has a bit of a terrible history and a future that isn’t looking so good either.
Like I said, I was not quite as enchanted with this book as I was with its predecessor, but I think that has something to do with Senlin himself having become disenchanted. What he once saw as a shining pillar of civilization he now realizes both more mundane and more sinister than he ever anticipated and he is trying to figure out exactly what it has made him.
At the time of writing this, the expected publication date for The Hod King is this coming September and there are still so many mysteries in the Tower that I am very excited to see where they go!