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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Crime noir with a twist of noodle
This is the first published novel by Adam Christopher. I've met Adam once and he is one of those genuine people, so it is no surprise that he got the chance to pitch for this novel due to impressing The Robot Overlords as a person as well as with his short stories (see the link to his site to read some). Being a twitter follower for a year I pre-ordered this book as soon...
Published on January 9, 2012 by IuchiAtesoro

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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great atmosphere and concept, flawed characters and plot...
Angry Robot is one of those publishers you just have to keep an eye on, because they come out with some unique, surprising fiction. Their books tend to defy genre conventions and often are impossible to classify. To mess with our heads even more, they then stick weird little filing instructions on them, such as "File Under: Fantasy [ Aztec Mystery Locked Room Human...
Published on January 4, 2012 by Stefan


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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great atmosphere and concept, flawed characters and plot..., January 4, 2012
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This review is from: Empire State (Paperback)
Angry Robot is one of those publishers you just have to keep an eye on, because they come out with some unique, surprising fiction. Their books tend to defy genre conventions and often are impossible to classify. To mess with our heads even more, they then stick weird little filing instructions on them, such as "File Under: Fantasy [ Aztec Mystery Locked Room Human Sacrifice The Dead Walk! ]" for Aliette de Bodard's Servant of the Underworld, or "[The Mob & Magic Ancient Secrets Zombie Wizardry Bet Your Life]" for Matt Forbeck's Vegas Knights.

So when Angry Robot announced Adam Christopher's Empire State and mentioned a Prohibition-era parallel universe in the book description, deftly combining two topics I dearly love, I couldn't wait to get my copy. (And if you're wondering, this one says: File Under: Science Fiction [ Pocket Universe Heroes or Villains Speak Easy Loyalties Divided ]). Unfortunately, Empire State didn't entirely live up to my expectations, but there's still a lot to love about this intriguing debut novel.

Rex Braybury is a small time bootlegger in Prohibition-era New York who is shaking down one of his clients when a competitor shows up and threatens to cut his burgeoning criminal career short. The resulting chase scene ends with him more or less accidentally witnessing a major confrontation between the city's two major superheroes, the Skyguard and the Science Pirate -- a fight that will prove to have major consequences....

A few chapters later, we're introduced to private detective Rad Bradley, who lives in the Empire State, a strange -- but strangely familiar -- city that's perpetually at war with an unseen Enemy somewhere beyond its mist-shrouded shores. It's the year Nineteen, and all is not well. The Empire State's citizens survive despite rationing, Prohibition, an overbearing bureaucracy, and the fact that people's memories seem to be strangely incomplete. In this odd environment, Rad manages to stay afloat by taking scarce P.I. jobs, living in the back room of his office and regularly visiting the neighborhood speakeasy. When we first meet Rad, he is being accosted by two men wearing gas masks who demand to hear what he knows about "nineteen fifty"... until the Skyguard appears to save him. The real puzzler, however, is how the Skyguard managed to rescue Rad, because -- as Rad's friend Kane Fortuna informs him shortly afterward -- the Skyguard was supposedly executed before he saved Rad...

Empire State is a debut novel that has a lot going for it, but ultimately it didn't quite work out for me. I expected a different result, because there's a lot here that I usually love. There's Prohibition-era material -- and I often love stories set in this period. There's noir. There's a pocket universe. There are, for crying out loud, actual superheroes. Dear reader, I was so ready to love this book.

The problems ultimately all go back to the characters. The book gets off to a bit of a false start with Rex the bootlegger. We don't really get the chance to get to know him, because he's only allotted three chapters before he abruptly disappears from view and Rad takes over. Rad is slightly more interesting as a main character, but like Rex he never really grabs your attention. Like too many of Empire State's characters, Rad simply never acquires much depth. There's actually a great explanation for this lack of depth in the story, but we don't find out what it is until much later. Unfortunately this means that, for a good chunk of this novel, you're reading a story populated by characters that feel like shallow reflections of real people. I found myself losing interest a third of the way in, and while I was curious enough to keep going, I was sorely tempted to give up several times.

So Empire State may not be a good fit for readers who first and foremost look for well-rounded characters, but on the plus side its concept and setting are fascinating. The book's atmosphere and premise occasionally reminded me of Philip K. Dick. That's never a bad thing. There's a grey emptiness to both the characters and the setting that's somehow a bit Kafkaesque. (Don't you wish Kafka had written science fiction noir set in an alternate Prohibition-era New York?) Much of the novel is set in an odd, distorted version of reality that manages to be at the same time sinister and campy -- a pulp fiction world that has darkness creeping in from the edges. It's an unsettling, unique place to visit.

Maybe it was the strength of this setting, and the way Adam Christopher left his fictional universe wide open for further exploration, that made this novel such a good fit as the first starting point for Angry Robot's Worldbuilder, a site where readers can share fan fiction and art set in the world of Empire State. It's nice to see a publisher actually encourage fans to work and play in one of their authors' fictional universes, and even nicer that some of this fan art may eventually even be published by Angry Robot.

Empire State is a book I fully expected to love. I wanted to love it, because its concept is so damn cool, but in the end I had to admit that it simply didn't work for me. The "Alternate Prohibition" setting is a great idea, and it's wonderful that Angry Robot and Adam Christopher have opened it up as a playground for others, but the actual novel somehow feels like an outline that wasn't properly filled in, mainly because the characters just don't have enough substance to carry an entire book. Still, this is a promising debut, and I'm confident that it will find a large readership because it's full to the brim of neat ideas. If you're looking for atmosphere and concept, Empire State is definitely worth a look.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Audacious and fun but seriously flawed, December 27, 2011
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This review is from: Empire State (Paperback)
Start by combining a depression-era gangster story with a comic book saga of superheroes wearing rocket boots, mix in a private detective, toss in a rogue robot, add an alternate history in which a parallel version of New York City is isolated and at war with an enemy that surrounds it, top it off with transdimensional travel and time confusion and you've got Empire State. Sounds like a mess, doesn't it? Empire State is such a strange novel that, despite being unimpressed with Adam Christopher's prose and unenthused about the storyline, I kept reading just to find out what would happen next. I suppose that's a recommendation of sorts.

The two superheroes who once protected New York City -- the Skyguard and the Science Pirate -- have taken a holiday from crime fighting so they can battle each other, leaving the depression-era city at the mercy of bootleggers and mobsters, predators and corrupt officials. One defeats the other and a gangster named Rex Braybury seems to defeat the winner.

Years later, a private detective in Empire State named Rad Bradley (who bears an uncanny resemblance to New York's Rex) is hired to find a missing woman. The woman's corpse turns up before Rad has a chance to conduct a serious search. The evidence suggests that the woman was murdered by a robot but in this novel things aren't always as they appear. Besides, robots are generally found only on the ironclad ships that sail off to war in defense of the Empire State, never to return -- except, that is, for the ironclad that recently came home and is now quarantined at a safe distance from the port. Could a killer robot have come from the ship? Rad, his reporter friend Kane, and a strange character named Captain Carson resolve to find out. Rad soon uncovers secrets about the war and the robots that are concealed from the Empire State populace. Later he learns an even bigger secret about the nature of the Empire State itself.

Adam Christopher's writing style is ordinary, at best -- not awful, but this isn't a novel you'll read for the beauty of its prose. The convoluted plot just barely holds together. In the end I thought this was a novel in search of an identity; it doesn't quite know what it wants to be. It doesn't work as a crime or detective story, despite the presence of a detective and mobster, nor does it succeed as an action/adventure story. Empire State is more tongue-in-cheek sci-fi than serious speculative fiction (I wouldn't even regard it as serious comic book fiction; I'm not sure why superheroes are part of the plot) but it often reads as if it were meant to be taken seriously. Still, if you ignore the absence of any reasonable explanation for nearly anything of consequence that happens as the story unfolds, Empire State does have some limited entertainment value.

Part of the fun of Empire State is picking out all the in-jokes. In the Empire State, Seduction of the Innocent isn't Fredric Wertham's infamous diatribe against comic books but a quasi-religious "moral code" written by The Pastor of Lost Souls. (Of course, a character named Frederick turns up in the novel.) From a street named Soma to a theater production called Boneshaker, the novel is filled with thinly veiled references to the history of science fiction and comic books -- the character Kane, for instance, brings to mind Bob Kane, who created The Batman. Mix together Bradley and Braybury (the twinned characters from the parallel worlds) and you get Ray Bradbury.

Based solely on its audacity, I am tempted to recommend Empire State, but I can do so only with the warning that its many flaws nearly outweigh the fun factor that might motivate a reader to give it a try. I would give Empire State 3 1/2 stars if that option were available.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Just when you hope there's something in the fog, July 8, 2012
This review is from: Empire State (Paperback)
In a New York lost in endless fog and tied up in an endless war, private detective Rad Bradley is given a new job by the classic high-class dame: find out what happened to her lover. To do so, Bradley must find the elusive Pastor of Lost Souls, avoid the attentions of mysterious gas-mask wearing men, and team up with New York's greatest explorer. But there's also a little problem with the Skyguard, the city's self-appointed superhero, who keeps popping up despite his highly public execution for vigilantism. And Bradley keeps getting these headaches ...

Empire State isn't quite what the publishers paint it as: there's a lot less superhero and a lot more private detective than the blurbs suggest, along with strange physics, more than a little steampunk (again), and some world-hopping that only just manages to avoid being confusing. I found the book a struggle to finish, because ultimately - between the mystery, the war, the superheroes and the heavily-signposted hints that there is Something Wrong - there was just too much going on. Like The Company Man, the Empire State could have been a better book if it had avoided trying to give all the answers. There is something to be said for offering a weird setting and asking readers to accept it and its weirdness, and as long as the internal rules are consistent we don't need to have all the whys.

My edition of Empire State came with lots of extras including interviews, a playlist (truly) and an invitation to join, and contribute to, a shared world based on the characters and settings of the novel. Judging by the number of contributions on the web site its an invitation not too many people have accepted. I'm not surprised: it's not a world I want to go back to, either. I have plenty of books to read, and even more to re-read, but Empire State won't be making it on to the second list.

fractallogic.wordpress.com
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great idea but... "meh", September 4, 2012
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This review is from: Empire State (Paperback)
I really did want to like this book - truly. The setting is right up my alley, being a pulp/noir superhero fantasy set in 1920's New York. But ultimately, the writing didn't live up to the idea.

The biggest problem I had with the story is that we are whip-sawed through the narrative, never knowing what is truly going on. Characters change allegiances, critical environmental aspects are unexplained. In this we are in the situation of the story's main protagonist, private investigator Rad Bradley. Who basically has no idea what's going on and cannot make logical decisions on how to pursue his case. Good detective fiction has plenty of twists and turns as well as clever misdirects. For both the reader and the main character. But the best examples of genre plant clues along the way that the reader can pick up on... or at least go back and see how it all fits together. Empire State is a mish-mash. Why is the Science Pirate like that? Why did she fall out with the SkyGuard? How did the fissure open up? Does it have definitive rules? How many times is Carson going to switch sides? How did the judge end up like that when everyone else from the other universe has a double? There are no answers to questions like these.

Overall it made for frustrated reading. I pushed through to the end hoping for a decent payoff. But ultimately it was just "meh".
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Worst PI Ever, January 25, 2013
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This review is from: Empire State (Kindle Edition)
I walked into Empire State looking for a fun read, nothing too heavy just entertaining, so how could I go wrong with a noir superhero sci-fi romp? Well when the superheroes are so poorly realized and often missing you start to question your choice. So you say at least this is going to be a good noir mystery. Nope. Rad Bradley is just about the worst PI in both worlds. In the entire book he does about one, ONE, act of detective work. The rest of the time smarter people are pulling him along the path of the mystery as he whines about not getting enough sleep, needing a drink, the gritty life in Empire State and needing answers to the big mystery. At one point he is so frustrated from being pulled around he demands that Cpt. Carson tells him everything! Everything in order from the beginning. Yeah now Rad is taking charge and strapping on his PI boots. Nope. A mere sparse paragraph of vague information later Rad proclaims, enough I've heard enough. Even though he's heard nothing, nothing relevant or revealing at all. This was the second time Mr. Christopher pulled this shameful move in the book and the moment I completely gave up on Rad Bradley.

Empire State has so many plot holes and logic problems that if you're not careful you'll fall through a giant fissure and end up in a world where this book is actually good, may god have mercy on your soul if that happens.

If you want to enjoy this book consider that it should foremost be filed in the comedy section. Then read this book aloud (even funnier if you have someone to read it to) and enjoy their laughter at the bizarre word choice and the constant rambling internal monologues of a bad PI pretending to be in a gritty noir thriller. Finally do your best to ham up the voice and tell your listener to visualize Rad Bradley as Eddie Murphy in a fat suit.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Goes off track and doesn't get better, February 13, 2012
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This review is from: Empire State (Paperback)
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While the premise of this novel was interesting, the story didn't hold together for me. The writing was uneven and the characters weren't well executed. Normally this is the type of book that I just dig right into but I couldn't get immersed. The characters were just too flat to be memorable, all the more troublesome when there were dopplegangers of them in play. As the story progress it gets progressively looser and goes off the rails, with the ending pretty much a mess. From the description, I had hoped this would be a much better novel, but I was disappointed.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Promising but somehow lacking, December 21, 2011
This review is from: Empire State (Paperback)
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The number of times I put this book down, thinking I'd never return to it-- at least 10 or 15. But I did, time after time. And I'd always find something to keep me reading. I think the story really took off around page 240 (no kidding, I hung in until then and there was this great burst of writing and plot development) and then it went back to its torturous and slow pace about 30 pages later.

Basically, this book is a big gorgeous disaster. There were times when I was just gnawing off my own head wondering WHEN THE HELL A SCENE WAS GOING TO GO SOMEWHERE!?! And other times I was thinking, "Cooool, this is just plain cool!"

What can I say? This is definitely a book that will stick in my head for a very long time. If for no other reason than wondering what the author was trying to say? And how did he get such love for the Empire State coming all the way from the other side of the globe (and then moving to yet another place on the globe, NOT NYC??)

The main thing I didn't like about the book was the feeling of getting nowhere. There were parts of this book that reminded me of a recurring dream I have. The dream where I'm trying to run and getting nowhere. And trying to run. And getting nowhere. Well, you get the point.

I think stronger characterization would have helped me through these irritating and frustrating parts of the book. However, the only character who gets any treatment at all is Rad. Everyone else is pale and uninteresting.

Maybe the problem for me is that this book seems to be part comic book and part book. It felt very "Dick Tracy" to me in a certain way, but also striving to be something deeper.

When I discuss a book with my friends I always like end up talking about who else the author writes like. I can't think of anyone who Christopher writes like. I think there are several authors he may aspire to write like-- PK Dick or early Vonnegut. The difference is that those guys were serious trend setters. I don't know if this book set any trends. It didn't rend apart my brain like China Mieville or chuck Palahniuk have done (trend setters of my generation, I think).

Anyhow, I'd say read it if you are drawn to this type of stuff. There just isn't enough of it out there to NOT read it. I think Christopher will get better (read: more succinct) if he keeps at it. All, of course, IMHO.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Starts intriguing, but loses steam, August 16, 2013
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This review is from: Empire State (Paperback)
Empire State is an obviously ambitious first novel. It blends science fiction, hardboiled noir, superheroes, and a bit of steampunk into one chaotic and enjoyable package. At least, it starts off chaotic and enjoyable. Somewhere past the middle it seemed to start to lose direction, and the ending was hard to follow and didn't make much sense.

Overall, though, Empire State is a fun read with a very interesting setting. The resolution of all those interesting bits just leaves something to be desired.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars disapointing, September 1, 2012
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This review is from: Empire State (Paperback)
It was labeled as a mash up of Batman/ gotham ethos and prohibition era Broakwalk empire. Sold! Unfortunetly its neither, it has too many ideas and concepts, and the author seems obsessed with double identity whoa didnt see that coming moments that all fall flat bc the reader never cares. Prohibition/ bootlegging is hardly ever touched other than the characters have to go to a speak easy to drink. It is far from Noir also, the prose is dull and boring, the only thing noir about this is there is a detective and a city that is foggy. NYC and its parrell empire state where never explored other than they both have an empire state building. This book is all over the place, lots of good concepts but too many of them, the book gets convoluted and there is never enough character development to buy into anyone. Disappointing bc the premising sounded really promising
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Cool idea but unlikable characters and a fractured plot, January 1, 2013
This review is from: Empire State (Paperback)
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I got a copy of this book through the Amazon Vine program to review. The second book in this series will be titled The Age Atomic and is scheduled for a March 2013 release. This sounded like an awesome premise for a story and I was excited to read this book. I started this book two or three times and just couldn't get into it. I finally was determined to read it over Christmas break. I again had a lot of trouble getting through the first 30 pages or so, but the story improved a bit after that.

The story follows Rex and Rad. Rad is a PI who ends up investigating the disappearance of a young woman in the Empire State. Rex is a mobster who ends up in the Empire State (originally from New York city) and is disoriented and confused by his presence there.

The style is kind of a blend of crime, urban fantasy, and steampunk. The story is incredibly original; involving parallel worlds, super heroes, steam driven power, and rifts in time. It kind of reminds of a Doctor Who episode, the movie Dark City also comes to mind.

Rex is a mobster type character that is very unlikable and very hard to relate to. I had a lot of trouble reading through the parts where he featured.

Rad was a much more interesting character that was easier to engage with. The portions where he features in the story were a lot more interesting. Despite the fact that he is a heavy drinker and always on the edge of self-destruction, Rad is determined to do his job and solve the mystery set in front of him. I admired his determination.

There are a variety of other characters, all of them fairly forgettable since they are in and out of the story quite rapidly.

As the story continues and things get more and more complex (with double of the same characters but from different parallel areas) things got very ambiguous and hard to follow. The story became a burden to read and I had a lot of trouble picturing the story and characters. I struggled through it and I understood what was going on, but I really didn't enjoy it.

This book is not an easy or pleasant read. The characters are hard to relate to. The story is especially fractured towards the second half of the book as it rapidly switches between a number of different POVs. It becomes hard to follow and boring. The ending felt rushed and forced.

Overall not a great read. I really really wanted to like this book. The premise is pretty neat and you have super heroes, steampunk, and investigative elements...all things I enjoy. Unfortunately, the characters were hard to relate to or engage with. Also as you approach the end of the story it becomes very fractured switching rapidly between numerous points of view, all in all it makes for a difficult and unpleasant read. By the end of this book I was just happy to be finished with it. I won't be reading any more books in this series which is a pity because it sounds so cool.
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Empire State
Empire State by Adam Christopher (Paperback - December 27, 2011)
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