Monday 27 August 2012

Empire State

Adam Christopher, 2012
(August 2012)

This could be so cool. This should be so cool. In places it is very cool indeed, but in others, well, it isn’t.
Another phenomenal cover from Angry Robot, which looks to be turning out some very interesting books of late. Trouble is, it falls prey to the usual problem of spoilering (or maybe just spoiling?) some pretty major plot points. If the author sees fit to keep an explanation back until page 250, then don’t put it on the fucking cover. It really reduces the tension and makes the plot feel far less urgent.

Given that this is a noir detective novel (among other things), and that plot and tension are therefore vital, this is a pretty big handicap to force your author to work under. That aside, it feels like a book of slightly missed opportunities. The plot is great, but the characters all feel undeveloped. There’s so, so much wow potential here and the fact it goes unrealized is almost more disappointing than if it were just uniformly poor.

It isn’t poor, that should be said, but it could be so much more. Even towards the end I didn’t really feel that much urgency. The book opens with a superhero fight which is full of that wow, and then the guys with capes are kept on ice until the climax. Fair enough, as in-between we get robots, dirigibles, fissures in time and space, a mid-air rescue and a chase or two. And just as the superheroes are gearing up to go at it again we also get three-quarters of a page describing a cargo hold. Riveting (ahem).

There are a ton of very intriguing questions that remain unanswered, and those answers we do get sometimes feel a little unsatisfying. Chekov’s gun kind of misfires and too often we are told, not shown. Still, as debut novels go there’s a lot to like about this, if nothing else it’s a novel set in New York (sorta) which features no therapy whatsoever. A sequel is forthcoming and with more focus on character, and more ruthless editing, it could be well worth a look.


  1. Love the praise quote on the cover..."As captivating as a kaleidoscope"

    I don't think I've ever held onto kaleidoscope for more than a few seconds at a time...

    1. :)

      "As captivating as a secret CIA rendition flight" lacks for a bit of poetry though, wouldn't you say?