This Gilded Abyss is a Bioshock inspired LGBTQ+ Horror and Fantasy book. It also just happens to have come out directly before everything with the Titan submersible happened, which I find slightly hilarious in the timing. Not that it’s what originally got me to download this book on Kindle Unlimited. No, I went for it because of Bioshock which I played for the first time earlier this year.
If you have never played Bioshock, here is an extremely abridged version of the plot:
There is an underwater city known as Rapture in the 1960s that was supposed to be a utopia, but in reality is a dystopia due to the fact that the citizens are mutated with genetic enhancements that leave many of them murderous. There are large, armored individuals in dive suits known as Big Daddies that protect little girls that collect ADAM, the substance that has caused the citizens to lose their minds.
There’s also a massive twist known as “Would You Kindly” which I was looking out for the entire time I was reading this book. But I’m not going to say what that is because… spoilers.
Sergeant Nix Marr is a damn good soldier. She’s also desperate to leave her haunted past deep in the bioluminescent ocean, buried alongside her best friend, Quian. So, when Subarch Kessandra, Valkesh’s favorite royal–and Nix’s loathed ex–requests Nix’s help investigating a masacre in the abyssal city of Fall, Nix refuses. Vehemently.
She should have known Kessandra would fight back.
Consigned as Kessandra’s bodyguard, Nix grudgingly boards the Luminosity, a luxurious submersible that offers the only transportation to Fall. But Kessandra wasn’t truthful–surprise, surprise–and her “investigation” isn’t about the massacre, but rather what caused it: an illness that incites its victims into a violent craze.
When another royal is brutally murdered, Nix and Kess realize the disease has spread–and no one on the Luminosity is safe. If they’re going to survive until Fall, they’ll have to trust each other… but considering Kessandra is responsible for Quian’s death, that won’t be easy.
- Published: June 6, 2023
- Page Count: 361 pages
- Genre: LGBTQ+, Horror, and Fantasy
Thoughts on This Gilded Abyss
This book is told from the perspective of Nix, a military sergant who is suffering with PTSD of her last deployment to the Crypt. A place where a substance known as ichron is mined by military personal. During her last deployment there, a tunnel collapsed resulting in the death of her best friend from childhood (Quian). She has taken up his hobby, photography, in her time back in the sixty-first (her military unit). And has been denied promotion during the four years since her return, despite having one of the best records for keeping her troops alive during battles with their enemies.
Her ex-lover, Subarch Kessandra, comes by one day and requests Nix’s help with an investigation into a murder that took place in the Fall. Despite initially saying no, Nix ends up agreeing when she learns that it’s the only way she’ll be able to afford the ichron medicine her father desperately needs. Another one of her ensigns, Leon, is also going to the Crypt claiming that he needs the money for his sister’s complicated pregnancy.
However, Nix learns there is more at work. Many individuals want Kessandra dead for what she’s trying to do. Only Nix isn’t clear on what that is other than she’s been in talks of negotation with their enemy. It turns out she’s also linked ichron, the precious material that their civilization is built on, also causes a disease that turns it’s hosts into murderous monsters that ultimately end up dead themselves. And the rest of the government would rather that secret remain classified then stopping the production of ichron into medicine and enhancements.
Things go from bad to worse when ichron enhanced individuals on the submersible become infected and start killing other passengers. While Kessandra and Nix try to contain and stop the outbreak, there isn’t much they can do when each of them end up severely injured at different points on the first/second day. The captain of the ship puts everything in lockdown but not before causing mass panic that turns everyone against each other resulting in the majority of passengers dying or becoming infected. It also doesn’t help that Kessandra has an ichron eye, so she’s suspectible to the disease as well.
It really felt like I was reading a video game where things go from bad to worst. And it follows similar themes to Bioshock chapters. There are heavy, bulky dive suits like the Big Daddies. There’s a substance that while it can enhance and heal you, can also turn you against other individuals. There is a mind controlling element, though I’m not going to go into the spoilers regarding that.
I could see where if you were not familiar with Bioshock or video games of this genre where the horror (mainly gore and violent deaths) would seem over the top or not the typical ‘horror’ book since it’s not really a psychological horror. However, in the context of Bioshock, it is very on par since it’s survival horror (fighting for their lives on a ship that is falling apart around them while they are trapped beneath the ocean). And I have a feeling the psychological element is going to come more into play during the next book in the series.
There were several elements of where the book seemed more telling than showing, mainly when it came to the character’s feelings or personality. And that might be in part due to characters being taken out of the action for large portion of time, so their personality traits can’t be shown. Like we don’t get a lot of Kessandra in the role we’re told she excels in. Nix also doesn’t have a lot of depth as a character unless she’s grieving for her best friend or actively fighting danger. Then she shines. Maybe it’s just she doesn’t have a lot of character growth during the book. She hasn’t really gotten that chance to learn from what’s happening, so hopefully that comes in the next book.
Some parts also felt slow at the beginning, but I was never bored reading those parts. Parts of the beginning even made me emotional especially when Nix was thinking about her best friend that died. Once chaos starts, the pace picks up significantly as these characters fight for their lives as betrayal, death, and an invisible threat loom over them.
This book does end with an opening ending, not a cliffhanger per say, so there’s more coming in the future. And unless the book was going to be insanely long, there was no way for it to be a standalone. So, if you’re not into series then this one isn’t for you.
So, with all that being said, I would give This Gilded Abyss 4 out of 5 stars. As it nailed the steampunk, Bioshock vibes but there were some things I thought could’ve used some adjustments as I mentioned.
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