Shop now Shop now Shop now  Up to 50% Off Fashion  Shop all Amazon Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Listen in Prime Shop now
Customer Review

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great, great book, 30 Jan. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Declare (Kindle Edition)
It’s my favourite book of 2014 so far (even though that’s less than 2 weeks in) and here are some reasons why:

It’s dense but honest. There’s a lot going on in Declare, and a lot that’s alluded to but never fully explained. But Powers set himself a rule when writing this alternate history, that none of the documented events that we know of could be moved or manipulated for his convenience: he had to operate in the restrictions of the world. There’s no point where a giant mecha-Hitler has to descend, deus ex machina style, to save a problem in the plot.

Although described as le Carre meets HP Lovecraft, it’s closer to a Bond film (a succession of well-realized, exotic locations) written by a paranoiac with mystical leanings. The magical elements are rarely the interesting parts of the book; it’s the locations and the characters and the details of spycraft that are so captivating. Also (spoiler alert) it’s not a total gloomfest from start to finish, whereas if you finish a le Carre and there haven’t been a dozen meaningless deaths of principal characters by the end, you feel cheated.

There’s a strong female character. Alas, only one, so there was no chance it could pass the Bechdel Test, but Elena is well-written, interestingly conflicted and a dab hand with a gun.

It’s set between the 1930s and 1962; the build up to the Second World War and then the Cold War. Those don’t seem to have been fun periods to live through, but I,really enjoy reading about them, whether fictional or non fictional accounts. I don’t think it’s just the quality of the writing; modern, techno-obsessed spy thrillers are less charming, but have less palpable menace, than the work of le Carre, Deighton et al, even though now we can look back and see that the ‘inevitable’ nuclear conclusion wasn’t going to happen after all. I could read Deighton all week; I read Clancy all week to laugh at the tin-eared dialogue. Similarly, I found Ian Tregillis’ Bitter Seeds triptych, another WWII/Cold War/paranormal epic to be captivating – perhaps for the same reasons.

Declare feels a more serious work than Stross’ Laundry sequence; more like a proper spy novel compared to a B-movie with cartoonish heroes and monsters. It helps that we don’t see the supernatural elements for quite some time, just ominous phrases like “O Fish, are you faithful to the covenant?” which made me suspect an assault by Lovecraftian Deep Ones, instead of what actually occurs. That’s not to say that the Laundry novels aren’t as enjoyable as Declare, but they definitely feel more pulpy.

Also, Declare’s cast is of (often) real people, such as Kim Philby – perhaps unfeared by thoughts of libel, Powers brings in plenty of people who are recently dead to make things feel more real. The fact that occasional Americanisms, like ‘sidewalk’ and the verb ‘to tromp’ make it in is not so terrible a distraction.

What’s strange to me is that Declare isn’t more famous a book, or indeed recognized as a great work of espionage fiction. Then again, Tim Powers is partially implicated in one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, so nobody gets things 100% right.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

Be the first person to comment on this review.

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
Name:
Badge:
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines ">here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking on the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
 
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in
  [Cancel]


Review Details

Item

Reviewer


Location: Hong Kong

Top Reviewer Ranking: 45,990