M. John Harrison’s The Pastel City has long been one of my favorite books. Recently I read it again for the third or fourth time. It is set in a desolate future Earth, where large tracks of land are given over to polluted wastes and deserts of rust. There are ruined cities and ruined machines left over from the civilizations of the past, the Afternoon Cultures.
Across this backdrop strides tegeus-Cromis, a black-clad swordsman supreme, something of a somber Solomon Kane figure, though he is a poet rather than a Puritan. He and his fellow Methven, a knightly order that served the old king, are caught up in a new war involving the new queen, Northmen, and deadly brain-harvesting machines dug up from the past. The plot is fairly slight, and has a deus ex machine taint to the conclusion, but what stands out is the Future Gothic moodiness, the characters, and some great dialog.
Tomb the Dwarf, who is good with his hands, finds an immense exoskeleton and repairs it — strapped into it, he hoists his energy-bladed axe and shouts “I’ll shorten them!”
Tegues-Cromis, in despair, facing enemies who outnumber him vastly, pleas “Come and kill me. Just come and try.”
If you’re not familiar with this book, you should try it out. Be aware the sequels are disappointing.