On a sort of walkabout around the wasted wilds that are an integral aspect of Black Feathers, Megan and her master Mr Keeper—characters who live off the land long after the end the world has come and gone—happen upon a sight unlike anything she's ever seen.
It's simply a city, or rather the remains of one, but from Megan's perspective—a perfect POV for Joseph D'Lacey to make plain his apocalyptic point—this devastated landscape feels alien, mythical and malevolent.
Here's some of what she sees:
"A procession of skeletal towers, cages rising high up into the air, make an angled line across the land. From each tall framework, three pairs of arms stretch out to either side. These arms grip black ropes which connect every tower. Where the ropes are broken they hang earthwards like whips. A few of the towers are damaged too or buckled, leaning to the left or right. Megan thinks of giants; blind, drunken giants using ropes to guide themselves across the land.
"Following the motionless march of the giants is a huge slate grey path with lines painted onto it. Dozens of people could walk abreast along it. In many places the path is broken or cracked, black chasms like hungry mouths wait for travellers to fall in. Along the path are things she has only seen in her visions—enclosed cars without their horse or oxen to pull them. Cars. That was what the boy had called them.
"The path and the giants have one destination: a village. But a village so large it would hold more people than Megan knows how to count. The outlying areas of the village are made up of dwellings around mazes of smaller tracks. Hundreds and hundreds of dwellings in each area. Hundreds of tracks leading back to buildings many times the height of those nearest to Megan. Hundreds of dwellings rising high into the air, thousands of square wind-eyes, like black lifeless sockets.
"There is more, much more, but all of it is silent and dead. She's never seen an absence of life like this in the day world. It makes her cold inside." (pp.221-2)
I'm a bit of a country mouse myself, so I see what Megan means. Urban environments are, after all, absolutely artificial, if not utterly other. They speak of the indelible mark we've made on the world, whether for good or for ill.
In any case, I hadn't thought about the city as a dead thing before Black Feathers, and it's an interesting idea, isn't it?
Angry Robot Books are poised to publish Joseph D'Lacey's latest in early April in the UK, and I'll be reviewing it in full at a later date—so do stay tuned.