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Clockwork Angels: The Novel (edition 2012)

by Kevin J. Anderson, Neil Peart

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Member:lutenzo
Title:Clockwork Angels: The Novel
Authors:Kevin J. Anderson
Other authors:Neil Peart
Info:ECW Press (2012), Hardcover, 304 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
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Clockwork Angels by Kevin J. Anderson

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Clockwork Angels is the companion book to the new Rush album of the same name. It's a steampunk fantasy describing a young man's dissatisfaction with his safe, ordered life in the Watchmaker's precisely ordered realm (even the rain arrives on time) and his embarkation on an impulsive adventure that rapidly spirals out of control. Through the book, the hero - Owen Hardy - changes from a naive boy to a young man.

However, if you are expecting complex plotting and multi-layered characters, you will not find them. Clockwork Angels is an allegory; Owen's physical journey represents his (and everyone's) journey to maturity, with the inevitable disillusionments and discoveries along the way. As you travel with him, you get to think about the virtue of balance, and the fact that extremes of either order or chaos can be equally undesirable; the nature of life and death; the purpose of imagination; and freedom - the freedom to choose, and the freedom to fail; and more. Some of these concepts occur as themes throughout the book (such as freedom) and others as vignettes covered only in one scene or part of a scene.

Anyone with an interest in philosophy or French literature will recognise a strong resemblance to Voltaire's Candide; in some ways, Clockwork Angels might be regarded as a retelling of Candide for a modern audience; the authors - for I include Neil Peart, Rush's drummer - say in an afterword that Candide 'was an early model for the story arc'. For Rush fans, there are also plenty of references to Rush's previous work.

So in conclusion, you can read this just as a steampunk fantasy and enjoy it, but by doing so I think you would miss out on the best bits. Read it slowly, and allocate it the brain space and time for some good thinking. You'll be glad you did. ( )
  T_K_Elliott | Mar 12, 2017 |
This is basically a novelization of the 2012 album Clockwork Angels by Rush. Which is maybe less weird than it might sound, as Clockwork Angels is one of those concept albums whose lyrics, somewhat loosely, tell a story. In this case, the story is a sort of steampunky homage to Voltaire's Candide. It features a young man who grows up in a society run both like and by clockwork, following the dictates of a godlike figure known as the Watchmaker. The young man goes off and has lots of adventures, during which he comes to question everything he was brought up to believe.

I am, I should probably say at the outset, a huge fan of Rush. But, this isn't my favorite entry in their discography. Heck, it's probably not even my favorite SF-dystopia concept album of theirs, even if I do generally prefer their more recent sound to that of their 2112 days. I certainly don't dislike it. It's decent enough. But it's never going to number among my favorites.

The book, however, I did dislike. Possibly more than it deserves. Don't get me wrong, it's not a good book. The writing is rather clunky and simplistic. The story and the characters are flat, and much less interesting than whatever I might have vaguely imagined for myself while listening to the album. And Anderson does an awkwardly obvious job of incorporating the album lyrics, as well as other random bits of lyrics from other Rush songs. No doubt this was intended to be cute and fun, a little easter egg for the fans. But I found it incredibly distracting, as if the author were constantly winking at me and going, "See what I did there?"

Honestly, though, I've read worse SF novels than this one and felt much less irritated by them. I can only conclude that the problem here is that the whole exercise took something I liked okay by an artist I love, and made me like it less, rather than more, made it more boring, rather than more interesting.

Which is a pity, because it's a very pretty book, physically, with rich, colorful illustrations, and a lovely parchment-y pattern marking the first page of every chapter. Also because I can't help feeling that it would be possible for a really good author to do something worthwhile with the story, something that would add to, rather than detract from, the experience of listening to the album. But Kevin J. Anderson is not that author. And, yes, Neil Peart apparently worked very closely with him on the story. But, look... Neil Peart's lyrics have meant a hell of a lot to me over the years, and seeing him doing his virtuoso drum performance live may be the closest I've come to a spiritual experience in my life. But he's not a novelist, and if a project like this was going to be a real success, I think he needed to be paired with someone more skillful in that area. ( )
  bragan | Dec 15, 2016 |
It continued in in much the same vein. Some beautiful prose and imagery. but I found the plotline to be severely lacking. I actually think I flashed back to the plot of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Whilst it didnt involve jailing all children, it definitely put me in that frame of mind, with everyone having to follow the plan and do exactly what the Watchmaker said... ( )
  Vinbert | Nov 22, 2015 |
It continued in in much the same vein. Some beautiful prose and imagery. but I found the plotline to be severely lacking. I actually think I flashed back to the plot of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Whilst it didnt involve jailing all children, it definitely put me in that frame of mind, with everyone having to follow the plan and do exactly what the Watchmaker said... ( )
  Vinbert | Nov 22, 2015 |
The Watchmaker has spent a couple hundred years bringing absolute precision to the lives of Albion. The Anarchist is trying to tear the order apart. In between the two of them is a rather unassuming young man, Owen Hardy, who is almost at the age of adulthood and is ready to propose to a pretty girl and take over running the apple orchard for his father. He is noticed by the Watchmaker and the Anarchist as a possible hiccup in the order of things and they try to sway him to their respective views. The anarchist takes the first shot by literally snatching him onto a steamline train, off to take raw supplies to Crown City and to possibly see the legendary Clockwork Angels.

The reader follows Owen as he arrives in the city and naively makes his way around until he runs out of funds. He comes across a traveling circus and starts working for them, traveling through many small towns like his home and he gets strong and more attached to the beautiful trapeze artist. Later he joins a steamliner captain and also works on a ship and is wrecked by pirates. He sees the good and bad in order and chaos and wants to find a good balance between the two.

The reader is treated to an interesting world full of alchemy and follow the growth of a young man who gets hard lessons during his journey. A fun read. ( )
  mamzel | Jun 23, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kevin J. Andersonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Peart, Nealsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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A remarkable collaboration that is unprecedented in its scope and realization, this exquisitely wrought novel represents an artistic project between the bestselling science fiction author Kevin J. Anderson and the multiplatinum rock band Rush. The newest album by Rush, Clockwork Angels, sets forth a story in Neil Peart’s lyrics that has been expanded by him and Anderson into this epic novel. In a young man’s quest to follow his dreams, he is caught between the grandiose forces of order and chaos. He travels across a lavish and colorful world of steampunk and alchemy with lost cities, pirates, anarchists, exotic carnivals, and a rigid Watchmaker who imposes precision on every aspect of daily life. The mind-bending story is complemented with rich paintings by the five-time Juno Award winner for Best Album Design, Hugh Syme.
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A novel based on the album "Clockwork Angels" by the rock band Rush follows a young man on a quest through a world of lost cities, pirates, anarchists, and a Watchmaker who imposes precision on all aspects of daily life.

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