Sunday 15 April 2012

Empire State - Adam Christopher

Rad Bradley is a PI living in Empire State. It's War Time and prohibition is in force. Times are tough for the people as the live under state control. As a result Rad is just making ends meet. After a late night drinking with his journalist friend he is surprised by a young lady looking to hire him. Her lover has gone missing and the police don't care due to the illegal nature of the relationship. Rad agrees to find her and soon comes across her body. She's been murdered and it looks like the murderer was a robot returned from the war. Somehow this is linked to visits from a supposedly dead superhero, an illegal cult. two masked goons and mysterious phone calls from someone called Nimrod. Just when Rad can't possibly be any more confused Kane, the journalist friend, suggests a visit to the scientist Captain Carson might help.

This book got a great review in SFX and it sounded right up my street. Alternate universes, robots, noir and feuding superheros. What's not to like? Plus I did like it. I loved the feel of the book. The image of Empire State was very strong in my mind thanks to the author. I pictured it as a bleak and dark place. Everything in black and white. Exactly the way noir should be. If it was a film it would be visually like Sin City or Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Both films I very much loved.

However, I was completely confused a lot of the time. I felt that I could relate to Rad a lot in that sense. The book starts of in New York. Keep in mind that I knew the book was about an alternate New York. When two superheros start fighting each other in front of the Empire State building I think I can be forgiven for being confused when the book switches to the alternate world Empire State. Given that there were superheros in the original I assumed (wrongly) that it was the alternate. Eventually it was clear in my mind why they were alternate because Empire State is almost a mirror image.

I then become confused about who exactly is the bad guy. Just as confused as poor Rad and that confusion stayed until the end. Who exactly is he fighting against? Is it the feuding superheros, the goons, the robot, the crazy man, Carson, Nimrod, all of them? Poor Rad is only one man and not a very good PI (although he is a hero). He can't win against all of them. Don't worry that confusion is cleared up to (eventually) but for that you are going to have to read it yourself.

It was entertaining and a little bit different. Plus Rad was a very likeable character (unlike his doppelganger). For that I do recommend it.

I read this as part of the sci fi challenge hosted by Ellie of Curiosity Killed the Bookworm. The months book choice was actually Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear (the book that won the Arthur C. Clarke award and resulted in a rant from Christopher Priest). Whilst I do like Greg Bear I would need to buy it and I am on a book ban this month. Plus I have been dying to read this one. If you want to see what others read you can do so here.


  1. Oooh, great review. After discovering last year that I really do enjoy sci fi, I want to expand into noir. This sounds awesome, but for the confusing bit. I don't like it when I don't get it (as I suppose most people feel). I'll be on the look out for this.

  2. Despite the confusion the feel of the book was great. The author is a big fan of noir himself knew he had to include it in something he wrote. Worked well I thought.