In the Well-Built City, Cley is the perfect judge and jury, the infallible arbiter of life and death, for he is trained in the art/science of physiognomy. To the physiognomist, body shape and facial features reveal every aspect of personality, expose every secret, and even predict the future. When Drachton Below, Master of the Well-Built City, sends his premier physiognomist into the primitive outlands to uncover the thief of an unperishing fruit that may grant immortality, Cley discovers love and the truth about physiognomy. His discoveries unleash horrific destruction and plunge him into Hell--and neither he nor the Master can foresee their revolutionary fate of their world.|
A New York Times Notable Book and the winner of the 1998 World Fantasy Award, The Physiognomy may be read with equal success as either fantasy or SF, but it does not much resemble the fiction of either genre. This novel's closest relatives are In the Well-Built City, Dante's Divine Comedy, Kafka's black allegories, and Caleb Carr's crime thriller The Alienist. The brilliant and sardonic Physiognomist Cley is SF/F's most entertainingly arrogant narrator since Richard Garfinkle's Celestial Matters. You won't believe that this strange, ambitious, and sui generis work is Jeffrey Ford's first novel.
Source: Cynthia Ward, Amazon.com.
The nightmare metropolis called the Well-Built City exists because the satanic genius and Master, Drachton Below, wished it so. And few within its confines hold the power of Physiognomist First Class Cley. With scalpels, calipers, and the other instruments of his science, Cley can divine good and evil, determine character and intelligence, uncover dark secrets and foretell a person's destiny, through the careful study of facial and bodily features. But now the Master has ordered the great physiognomist out of the City on a seemingly trivial assignment into the rural hinterlands. but there, removed from Below's omnipresent scrutiny, even the most loyal servant of logic and order can fall prey to seductions of the flesh and spirit. And in this strange and unfamiliar place possessing terrors uniquely its own, there are stark truths awaiting the eminent Cley--and inescapable revelations that could shatter his perceptions of himself, his profession, and his world.