• The Grand Dark

  • By: Richard Kadrey
  • Narrated by: Vikas Adam
  • Length: 16 hrs and 13 mins
  • 4.0 out of 5 stars (381 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

“A stand-alone heavy hitter that’s more in line with recent deviants like Chuck Wendig’s upcoming Wanderers (2019) and Daniel H. Wilson’s The Clockwork Dynasty (2017). Tonally, this lush novel is closer to Scott Lynch’s pirate fantasy The Lies of Locke Lamora (2006), but technologically it resembles the near-future dystopias of Cory Doctorow or China Miéville [...] Wildly ambitious and inventive fantasy from an author who’s punching above his weight in terms of worldbuilding - and winning.” (Kirkus (starred review) 

From the best-selling author of the Sandman Slim series, a lush, dark, stand-alone fantasy built off the insurgent tradition of China Mieville and M. John Harrison - a subversive tale that immerses us in a world where the extremes of bleakness and beauty exist together in dangerous harmony in a city on the edge of civility and chaos.

The Great War is over. The city of Lower Proszawa celebrates the peace with a decadence and carefree spirit as intense as the war’s horrifying despair. But this newfound hedonism - drugs and sex and endless parties - distracts from strange realities of everyday life: Intelligent automata taking jobs. Genetically engineered creatures that serve as pets and beasts of war. A theater where gruesome murders happen twice a day. And a new plague that even the ceaseless euphoria can’t mask.

Unlike others who live strictly for fun, Largo is an addict with ambitions. A bike messenger who grew up in the slums, he knows the city’s streets and its secrets intimately. His life seems set. He has a beautiful girlfriend, drugs, a chance at a promotion - and maybe, an opportunity for complete transformation: a contact among the elite who will set him on the course to lift himself up out of the streets.

But dreams can be a dangerous thing in a city whose mood is turning dark and inward. Others have a vision of life very different from Largo’s, and they will use any methods to secure control. And in behind it all, beyond the frivolity and chaos, the threat of new war always looms.

©2019 Richard Kadrey (P)2019 HarperAudio

What listeners say about The Grand Dark

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Kadrey does it again!

Like most of Kadrey's stand alone novels, The Grand Dark manages a tone so unique that it immediately differentiates itself from all previous one-offs, and leaves the reader with a sense of something brand new. That thought that sometimes arises in the early stages of reading a book where you find yourself thinking "I've never read anything quite like this before." The Grand Dark is at times melancholic and drowning in ennui, while soaring to ecstatic heights of wild abandon at others.

And, as is usual for Kadrey, the landscape of the story (in this case, a city) is described in such detail that it feels more like a character than a backdrop (see his descriptions of LA in the Sandman Slim series-- eventually it just seems a part of the cast). I admire his ability to intertwine the events of a characters life with the places they occur, almost as if they're dependent on one another, inextricably linked. Regardless of whether you love or hate this book, you'll likely agree that The Grand Dark could not have taken place in any other setting. The city feels alive, and crawls with just as much suppressed existential dread and chronic boredom as do the characters.

As for plot, there's not much I can say that will adequately describe the heart and soul of the story. Essentially, this book follows Largo, a young man working as a bicycle courier in a city grappling with the aftermath of what is referred to as "The Great War". Never ambitious, Largo is content to spend his days trying to keep his boss happy, and his nights trying to do the same for his girlfriend, Remi, via the alcohol soaked, drug induced haze of a perpetual party that has most of the city in it's grip. But, as usual, Kadrey's character development is brilliantly subtle and we get to watch as Largo slowly realizes his world is not what he thought it was-- people don't always show you their true face, you can be used and not even realize it, and nasty things can happen to good people at any the time, even if you don't see it. It's fascinating and a little heartbreaking to watch him slowly shed his naivety. In some ways, it's a coming of age story, as well as a love story. Now just add in some dystopian future tech, hint at some pseudo-magic spiritualism, toss in biting social commentary and the gritty urban fantasy we've all come to expect from Kadrey, and you've got The Grand Dark.

The narrator, Vikas, was really successful at bringing the story to life as well. Definitely not one of the ones that puts you in a coma mid-way through chapter one.

Overall-- this was a killer read. Hauntingly beautiful, scary as hell, thought provoking, and full of an interesting blend of existential dread, languid hedonism, and genuine hope for a better future. Read it now. Thank me later.


17 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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Not the kadrey I love

I’ve gotten into a bad habit of buying books by an author without knowing anything about it. Love most of kadreys work but after spending half this book waiting I finished it simply waiting for it to entertain me. Very “1984”

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Kadrey's Best Work Yet

The Grand Dark is a familiar book. The setting, the writing, the partial use of German nouns and verbs is almost a little awkward because I am already so very familiar with each of the disparate themes brought together. What makes this superior and in no way cliche, is the craftsmanship and world building Kadrey brings to the table in just a single spectacular novel. The first 100 pages establish the context and culture of this world, as he simultaneously lays out the world, but also introduces us to the main character. The last 100 pages race along at supersonic speed and might have needed an additional 100 pages to feel more natural.

Richard Kadrey's initial talents have been eclipsed by honed craft and hard practiced skill from the Sandman Slim series. I like that Kadrey writes in themes and mood that I intrinsically like - and The Grand Dark has aspects of nearly all of them while still telling a cogent story. But the craft level of his writing is above excellent when it comes to the dialog between characters. He uses supporting characters so expertly to reflect the better nature of the main character in one fantastic scene after another. Affection, esteem, respect, and love are very well represented in these pages.

I enjoyed this book. I simultaneously read and listened to it. There are a few areas that are rougher than others, but like many of Kadrey's other readers, I'm hoping he is able to return to these characters and this world he penned an introduction to in The Grand Dark. As is often the case with Kadrey's amazing cast of characters, I'd buy any book set in this world with any character introduced in these pages. I look forward to many more hours of reading and listening.

Vikas Adam did a good job with his acting, although I found his female voice portrayal to be too similar. This blurred the line between Kadrey's depiction and the actors interpretation to voice.

4 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Good mashup of horror/alternate history/scifi

[I'm revising this rating because I realized I have a higher opinion of this book now that a few months have gone by!]

I got Grand Dark because of an enthusiastic review by Cory Doctorow, one of my favorite scifi-YA writers. But I found it pretty clumsy. The setting is a fairly-intriguing alternate or fantasy history (like that of China Mieville's Perdido Street Station), but Kadrey doesn't really have the dynamics of his fantasy world well-thought out. And the first half of the book is a weird hour-by-hour description of our hero's week, then it finally accelerates. Also this book is clearly meant as the first in a trilogy or longer series, so the story's mysteries aren't even fully worked out by the end.
That said, I'll probably read the next volume when it appears!
The narrator Vikas Adam gets 5 stars for a huge, mostly successful, effort to bring the story to life using different voices. His female characters really sound like women! And he goes the extra mile in the interspersing background chapters, putting on voices appropriate to the (say) travel brochures or scientific reports these interludes purport to be.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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A tough book to get through

Kadrey once wrote great stories. lately, his last two entries have been a struggle. the last Sandman Slim book I bought was a Woke mess that introduced woke ideology in a completely unplausible way; the story was a mishmash that didn't seem to make sense to me from a narrative point of view and I couldn't understand Slim's attraction to some waitress without much of a backstory, character development, and arch. I met a waitress, and after a bit, we were married. I'm not seeing ANYthing that would attract me, or anyone I know to the donut nihilist.

This book has been hard to track, and the interruptions with the story have been abrupt, jarring, and off-putting. I'll finish it because, well I bought it. However, it's tough to chew through. not sure what happened to Mr. Kadrey but I don't know that I'll be buying any more books from him. his protagonists and characters' "MEH" personalities are wearing my patience thin.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Story Arch Doesn't Compliment a Great World

This book was saved from being 2 star by 2 things -
1. Vikas Adam gives an amazing performance and a different voice for a lot of the characters. His incredible shifts between old/young, male/female made the reading entertaining.
2. The world Kadrey built and detailed will be one that sticks with me for sure. But I will always want more from it.

The story arch was slow and the character development was minimal until the last few chapters. Over all I am disappointed that such a wonderfully built world did not get a good tale inside of it.

Also the audio preview for this book is not a good peek at the incredible job Vikas Adam did to breathe life into somewhat bland characters.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent story with great narrator!!

Post apocalypse from different world/history..grimdark style..check. Went by fast with a perfect narrator. There were a few moments towards the beginning when I thought there was another person narrating but turns out vikas Adam is just good at his job.

The scene with lucy's character when at her birthday party might be the only complaint I have,..just didn't like her voice..but loved the story and would listen to the next if there is one. Definately a dark world to place youtself in.

Thank you Richard and Vikas.

2 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Missed the mark

I am a HUGE fan of all of Kadrey's work up until this one! Normally I can't put one of his books down, but had a really hard time finding the want to finish this one. The whole German-esque theme was a bit over the top for me personally. Not a bad book by any means but didn't do it for me.

2 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Good Book

I listened to another book by the same narrator and couldn't stand him. I think he was perfect for this book though. The protagonist is written as a kind of dim "useful fool" character. Instead of twisting and become a brainiac by the end of the book, he basically stays the same (with a few character improvements). This is the perfect way to write a book like this, IMO, as it allows the reader to see the world through a neutral eye. Early on, we understand what's happening in the city, and the corruption, but Largo is blissfully unaware until the 3rd act. Good writing, good narration, good book.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Surprisingly catching

What starts about as a slice of life in a post war world turns into something quiet surprising.

Kadrey has done it again with a stand-alone novel that has left me wanting more and more of its world.

Vikas Adams nails the performance as well. Truly delivering masterful use of his wide range of voices. I swore his women were another narrator entirely.

I highly recommend giving this book a decent chance as the story goes from 0-100 half way through

1 person found this helpful