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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Empire State

Empire State
by Adam Christopher
(4/5 stars)

Other than time travel, I'm not sure there's a more overused plot element in science fiction than parallel universes.  You can look at shows like "Sliders" and "Fringe" that have leaned heavily on that.  DC Comics had so many parallel universes that in the mid-80s they had a huge war between them all to establish one continuity.  "Empire State" takes the sci-fi convention of parallel universes and combines it with noir detective fiction.

It all starts one night in 1930 when bootlegger Rex and his buddy are trying to flee from some cops.  They wind up crashing near the Empire State Building, which at that time isn't finished.  They don't get arrested because the cops are busy at the same place with a titanic fight between the city's two superheroes:  The Skyguard and the Science Pirate (who has one of the worst superhero names ever).  The fight ends when both crash hard into the pavement and seemingly disappear.

From there we meet Rad Bradley, a private investigator in the "Empire State."  The Empire State is basically a world that consists solely of Manhattan circa the mid-30s.  (If you saw the movie "Dark City" it's kind of like that because people in the Empire State think there's a world outside of it and a past beyond the nineteen years of the Empire State, but they can't really remember the details of that world or past.)

There's strict rationing there as they're engaged in "Wartime" against the "Enemy" who is never seen as no one who goes off to fight them ever returns.  Then like in most stereotypical detective novels, a dame walks into Rad's office.  She's looking for her partner, Sam (as in Samantha) Saturn, who's gone missing.

The case of course leads Rad to much bigger things.  I don't want to give away more than I have by detailing all those things.

Overall I think while the story was interesting, it could have used a little more paring.  There were so many explanations and double-crosses and failed schemes it was hard to keep track of what all was happening and who was on what side at what moment.  Also for young writers who worry about "showing instead of telling" I could highlight many passages here of blatant telling over showing.  Also point of view shifts during scenes.  (So really if an agent's minion is telling you that's why they don't want your story they're probably lying because clearly they take those kinds of stories if the story is clever enough.  Mini-rant over.)  There was also at least one case where the British author got his American details wrong where he mentioned something was as big as a "football pitch."  Football meaning soccer.  Maybe in the parallel universe they like soccer instead of football?  I doubt it.

Still, I did want to know what all was going on with the Empire State vs. New York and what happened to Sam Saturn and all that good stuff.  So in that way the novel succeeds.

Basically if you like sci-fi and noir detective fiction then you'd enjoy this book.

That is all.

1 comment:

Tony Laplume, Scouring Monk said...

I hate people who rely on "showing rather than telling," because that's a visual medium. Telling is what writing books is all about. An author who spends their time describing details of a room or an event doesn't have anything interesting to say.

But good review.