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 manâ€™s soul set in a world of alchemy and alternate universes. And steamships! KJAâ€™s world building plus Easter eggs for Rush fans, and a struggle that starts out simple but is complex.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Owen Hardy grows up in a world controlled by the Watchmaker, where â€œthe Universe has a plan, All is for the best.â€ 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.
PROS: Hugh Symeâ€™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 worldâ€™s history and characters;
BOTTOM LINE: After a slow start,Â Clockwork AngelsÂ 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 theÂ 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 bandâ€™s 19 studio albums (the other (20th)Â was a cover of rock standards). Several of these songs formed â€œconcept albumsâ€ 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 â€œthose listsâ€ of â€œBands influential in the worlds of SciFi and fantasyâ€ (and I will confess, I penned a completely awful short story based on the lyrics of â€œA Farewell to Kingsâ€ in college).
In spite of his place in life as a drummer ranked repeatedly among the worldâ€™s best, in his motorcycle tour/philosophical/observation books such asÂ Ghost RiderÂ andÂ Roadshow, Neal Peart comes across as a normal guy (or as normal as a Canadian can beÂ Â ) 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 â€œheroâ€ of the novelÂ 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 (â€œI will choose the path thatâ€™s clear, I will choose free willâ€).
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 inÂ Roadshow). KJA takes the lyrics of the albumÂ 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.