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Review of CLOCKWORK ANGELS by Kevin J. Anderson – on SFSignal

My review of CLOCKWORK ANGELS by Kevin J. Anderson, based on a story and lyrics by Neil Peart, is up on SFsignal.com. An excerpt:

REVIEW SUMMARY: A fable of Order vs. Chaos fighting for a young man’s soul set in a world of alchemy and alternate universes. And steamships! KJA’s world building plus Easter eggs for Rush fans, and a struggle that starts out simple but is complex.

MY RATING

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Owen Hardy grows up in a world controlled by the Watchmaker, where “the Universe has a plan, All is for the best.” His yearning for something more takes him out of the order of his small town, and thrusts him into the battle between order (the Watchmaker) and chaos (the Anarchist) leading him to explore places and worlds he did not realize existed.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Hugh Syme’s graphics (wish there were more in the ARC!); Rush easter eggs; combination of alchemy and steampunk world
CONS: Starts slow; more backstory (i.e, a longer novel) on the world’s history and characters;
BOTTOM LINE: After a slow start, Clockwork Angels barrels through a world of alchemy, multiple universes and steamships, using a manipulative war between chaos and order as the canvas for a philosophical discourse based on lyrics by Neil Peart. Not just for Rush and KJA fans, but enjoyable for those who like different worlds and allegorical fables.

[For additional background, see the review of the Clockwork Angels album by Rush]

 

Neal Peart, lyricist and drummer of Rush, has, ably assisted by Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee of the band, written lyrics for hundreds of songs for the band’s 19 studio albums (the other (20th) was a cover of rock standards). Several of these songs formed “concept albums” where all of the lyrics (or maybe just a side of the LP, for those of us who remember and still have those wonderful discs) put together told a tale: a revolt against the controlling priests of Syrinx (2112), the battle of emotion vs. logic fought by old gods (Hemispheres), and many others. The band has been listed on several of “those lists” of “Bands influential in the worlds of SciFi and fantasy” (and I will confess, I penned a completely awful short story based on the lyrics of “A Farewell to Kings” in college).

In spite of his place in life as a drummer ranked repeatedly among the world’s best, in his motorcycle tour/philosophical/observation books such as Ghost Rider and Roadshow, Neal Peart comes across as a normal guy (or as normal as a Canadian can be :) ) who has tried to follow his own path and is often in awe and even doubtful that people see him as something special.

Take away the drums and motorcycles and replace them with juggling and steamships, and you get to the everyman that is Owen Hardy, the “hero” of the novel Clockwork Angels. Not that this tale is autobiographical, but it is certainly a fable of an everyman, confronted and pulled by the tides of order and chaos, asking him to chose one or the other. That everyman concept, and the choices they make are the topic of several Rush songs (“I will choose the path that’s clear, I will choose free will”).

Writing lyrics and writing a book are, of course, different animals. It is good to be friends with an experienced author like Kevin J. Anderson (mentioned in Roadshow). KJA takes the lyrics of the album Clockwork Angelsand builds a world around them. It is hard not to read this book with the album playing in your head, and KJA interweaves the lyrics into the story to keep the voices in your head singing along.

 

Read the rest of the review on the Hugo-nominated SFSignal.com.

Review of Assassin's Code by Jonathan Maberry - on SFSignal

Review of Assassin’s Code by Jonathan Maberry – on SFSignal


My review of Assassin’s Code, the fourth “Joe Ledger” novel by Jonathan Maberry, is up on SFSignal.com.

An excerpt:

REVIEW SUMMARY: With ancient conspiracies wrapping more genetic mutations and the not quite omniscient Department of Military Sciences, Assassin’s Code is the most enjoyable in this series yet.

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Taking a cue from the headlines after rescuing U.S. students being held as spies in Iran, Joe Ledger and Echo Team are pulled into an ancient hostile agreement between Christian and Muslim factions, with an old foe, some legendary mutations and the past of the DMS leadership complicating their fight against a nuclear holocaust.

MY REVIEW
PROS
: Maberry keeps the pace moving with short chapters, wise-cracking Joe Ledger, lots of action and flashbacks; blends in historical background with enough realism to make you check the facts; large world and history shaking conspiracies.
CONS
: Need some new villains; hopefully background on Church/Deacon/St. Germaine in a future book.
BOTTOM LINE
: Fast-paced, with Joe Ledger getting more and more complicated with each novel, Assassin’s Code is easily the best in the series since Patient Zero…and may be the best of the four.

Thus far, Joe Ledger has been drafted into the Department of Military Sciences to take on zombie-like genetic mutations (Patient Zero), redundantly battled more genetic mutations while suffering great personal loss (The Dragon Factory), and taken out the Seven Kings, manipulators of the world (The King of Plagues).  Through it all, Ledger has become a more complex character, morphing from a machine-like fighter into a man with a history as a teenage victim of violence that turned him into the man he is, with a will do to what is necessary in spite of the voices in his head. And along the way he picked up a very cool dog, Ghost.

The fourth book in the series, Assassin’s Code, starts with Ledger, fresh off of saving students captured as “spies” by the Iranian government, coerced into a meeting by a female sniper’s red dot. An Iranian diplomat of questionable honesty and morals (as all villains are) feeds Ledger information about a nuclear threat: several bombs that have been planted in Middle Eastern oil fields, with one possibly on US soil. Several interested parties are listening or interested in this conversation, including the (of course) beautiful female sniper, part of an all female sniper gang (can you say “made for the movies”?). Ledger and DMS must decide if the threat is real, which of multiple conflicting parties has their finger on the trigger and track down the nukes in time.

The factors that turn Assassin’s Code into something more than your normal spy novel I would classify asSPOILERS. Those of you that WANT TO AVOID THAT should turn back now and not click to read the rest of this review after the jump.

 

  

Read the rest of the review on SFSignal.

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