The Archive Undying by Emma Mieko Candon (The Downworld Sequence #1)
WHEN AN AI DIES, ITS CITY DIES WITH IT
WHEN A CITY FALLS, IT LEAVES A CORPSE BEHIND
WHEN THAT CORPSE RUNS OFF, ONLY DEVOTION CAN BRING IT BACK
When the robotic god of Khuon Mo went mad, it destroyed everything it touched. It killed its priests, its city, and all its wondrous works. But in its final death throes, the god brought one thing back to life: its favorite child, Sunai. For the seventeen years since, Sunai has walked the land like a ghost, unable to die, unable to age, and unable to forget the horrors he's seen. He's run as far as he can from the wreckage of his faith, drowning himself in drink, drugs, and men. But when Sunai wakes up in the bed of the one man he never should have slept with, he finds himself on a path straight back into the world of gods and machines.
The Archive Undying is the first volume of Emma Mieko Candon's Downworld Sequence, a sci-fi series where AI deities and brutal police states clash, wielding giant robots steered by pilot-priests with corrupted bodies.
Come get in the robot.
CONTRIBUTOR(S): Yung-I Chang (Narrator)
PUBLISHER: Macmillan Audio
LENGTH: 482 pages (16 hours 16 minutes)
Queer Rep Summary: Gay/Achillean Main Character(s), Bi/Pan Main Character(s).
THE ARCHIVE UNDYING by Emma Mieko Candon hits my brain like an achillean version of THE TIGER FLU by Larissa Lai or THE ALL-CONSUMING WORLD by Cassandra Khaw, combining viscera and technology to create liminal immortality in an ongoing negotiation, tenuous and vital.
I love stories with worldbuilding that is immersive, not waiting for the reader to catch up, but just letting the story unfold; only explaining things that someone in the world would need stated, more explicitly. THE ARCHIVE UNDYING provides explanations late, intertwined with regret.
As I’ve said before and will doubtless say again, I specifically love books which include mental transformations of nominally the same character, such that they understand some thing very differently than they did before, or have an entirely new state of mind. My particular favorite is when they are so different as to be a discrete person by the time the changes are done. THE ARCHIVE UNDYING is full of this, first with a narrator whose identity takes a long time to be known, and then with of variety of technologically assisted mental connections and transformative clashes of mind, such that even if everyone nominally remains afterward as entities, they are changed by those meetings.
Reading this is an audiobook definitely helped to let the story roll over me, enjoying the flow of the words even if I didn’t always understand why something was happening. A few pretty significant changes happen towards the end which reframe and contextualize the actions of some secondary characters. It’s the kind of book where I know I will reread it, if only to experience the shift in perspective that comes with knowing characters, backstories, and ulterior motives from the start.
Moderate CW for cursing, panic attacks/disorders, blood, gore, body horror, violence, injury detail, torture, cannibalism, murder, death.
Minor CW for sexual content, vomit.