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Empire State by Adam Christopher

Empire State by Adam Christopher
4
Book Name: Empire State
Author: Adam Christopher
Publisher(s): Angry Robot
Formatt: Paperback / Audio Book / eBook
Genre(s): Science Fiction
Release Date: December 27, 2011

So, essentially, we as fantasy fans don’t mind a bit of repetition. In fact, I think the majority of us would admit that within our genre there isn’t a huge amount of variation. But, we don’t mind this – we read fantasy because we enjoy the young lad, who against it all, somehow manages to complete his quest. This could be taking a ring to Mordor, it could be defeating the evil Voldemort, maybe pulling a sword from a stone and rising up to become King? We love it. What we also love is the past – those A Game of Thrones or Wheel of Time type settings – I guess you would call them Medievalish. Oh, and dragons and unicorns, chuck some of those in too. The point I am trying to make is that within fantasy literature it is very, very rare that you read something that feels completely new and unlike anything you’ve previously read.

Well, when Angry Robot announced Empire State and touted it as a sci-fi/fantasy blend I was pretty damned excited because it sounded completely unique in both setting and story. However, before I continue – I should point out that I did discover during my reading of Empire State that they (Angry Robot) kind of tricked me *shakes angry fist* (I shall explain later).

Empire State (detail)So, Empire State – this is Adam Christopher’s début novel and I have to say that for his first published novel, the narration is damned impressive. I’ve seen people describe it as noir and I’m going to run with that because I think it’s a pretty damned good description of Christopher’s voice. The novel is in third person and we switch between a number of (at most times) character limited perspectives (i.e. we know only what the character knows). This is important because the novel reads kind of as a detective novel. One of the characters, Rad, is actually a Private Detective and the other, Rex, is a petty criminal.

The novel opens up with the character Rex, fleeing from some gangsta types that he has had a run in with. When the car he is escaping in flips over it looks like the end of the line – however, nearby events cause a bit of a distraction and Rex is able to escape into the crowd. So, what is this event that has distracted the crowd and allowed Rex to escape? Well, it is a superhero vs supervillain fight – happening right in the centre of New York – ah yes, that old chestnut! Well, as Rex watches the Superheroes fighting it out he witnesses the death of our Superhero. The strange thing is though, the Supervillain decides to unmask after the victory and get this – the supervillain…she is kind of…a girl! Yes a girl! (A hot one too apparently.) Anyway, she obviously legs it – being a supervillain the police would quite like to speak to her and she doesn’t seem keen on that. Rex takes the opportunity too to flee and when he sees the broken, scared looking supervillain dashing into an alleyway in front of him, he realises he has an opportunity here; he could, if he wanted, kill the supervillain and earn himself a medal.

Snap – we leave Rex for now and centre in on Private Detective Rad. Rad is a pretty likeable guy, a no-nonsense Private Detective who we can relate to and are quite happy to explore, with him, the 1920s/1930s style New York, known here as Empire State. Remember Philip Marlowe? That 1930s private detective that appeared in that golden age of hardboiled crime fiction? If you do – that’s the kind of man you get with Rad. He is searching for a missing woman that sounds, through description, remarkably like the supervillain character we saw Rex follow down the alley a few chapters ago. Certainly, it is a strange coincidence and we know (as the reader) there must be some kind of link between this woman who has disappeared, the supervillain who removed her mask, and Rex. We, as the reader, are as much the detective as Rad with Mr. Christopher placing us upon Rad’s shoulder as he wonders around Empire State trying to find out what the heck is going on.

Steampunk by PReillyWhilst looking for the missing person, Ms. Saturn, Rad teams up with a local reporter who introduces him to a man, Captain Carson, who quite simply, blows Rad’s mind. In fact, he not only blows Rad’s mind, but the reader’s mind (that is me – and you, if you read it!). We find that Empire State is not all it seems and in order to solve the disappearance of Ms. Saturn, Rad is going to have to embrace and explore the various aspects of Empire State that make it not normal.

Now, this is where I reveal the little lie that Angry Robot handed to me and tricked me with. Whereas I was expecting some kind of magical powers to be powering the super heroes and behind the events that happen in Empire State, it is in fact some pretty damned complex science-fiction consisting of portals, robots, and superheroes. Now though, I’m going to forgive Angry Robot, because, even though I’m not a science-fiction fan, I very much enjoyed this. I think the reason I did so is due to Adam Christopher’s ability to really take the time and ensure that the reader explains the various science-fiction elements of the novel.

RollerCoasterSo, once we as the reader have been explained the various science-fiction elements of Empire State they begin to really add new dimensions to the story. More characters are introduced and their varying comprehension of how this world, which Mr. Christopher has created, begins to add a certain complexity to the story that readers might initially loathe. But should they be willing to invest the time into thinking it through, will be damned impressed with the wrap up. I would describe this story as a roller coaster. On the way up, you are completely unsure what the hell is going on and what is going to happen when you reach the peak. Once you reach the peak, you understand and things become clear, then comes the break-neck pace at which you fly down that damned coaster hanging on for dear life. Even more terrifying though is that Adam’s roller coaster doesn’t have a single track on the way down. It seems to have around ten different tracks in which you could end up being thrown down. You, as the reader, will not know until the very end of the book who is on whose side or who is working for the greater good as opposed to their own, selfish motives.

So, to conclude things, I have to first say sorry for not doing Adam’s novel justice. In order to properly explain and commend Adam for the work he has done, I’d have to completely destroy his hard work in regards to keeping the reader in the dark throughout the majority of the story. The fact that we, as readers know as little as the detective is fantastic, and what makes the novel so successful.

I’m actually going to end this review with two thank yous. One to Angry Robot for tricking me into reading science-fiction, something I very rarely do. And secondly, to Adam Chrisopher who has emerged as not only a fantastic author, but a damned genius that kept me guessing and on the edge of my seat throughout the entire novel. Readers, I suggest you run out now, pick up a copy of Empire State, embrace the uniqueness of the novel, the initial confusion, and trust Mr. Christopher to take you on a thrilling journey that will have a more than satisfying ending.

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Rating: 9.3/10 (3 votes cast)
Empire State by Adam Christopher, 9.3 out of 10 based on 3 ratings
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