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Cowboy Angels Paperback – January 1, 2011
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"A clever book. . . McAuley deals with his themes intelligently and with spark. Even just as an entertaining story, this is a captivating read, depicting realistic action, unsettling events, complex characters, and great pacing. A must read."
—Dreamwatch Total Sci-Fi
"Fast moving, clever, great visuals. . . this book was great entertainment, intelligent, and enormous fun. . . Recommended."
"One of the best SF novels of the year."
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
Cowboy Angels is a thought-provoking and truly intriguing vision of just what the cost of empire-building actually is - the Americans of 'The Real' (the alternate history which invented cross-time travel) see it as their sacred duty to bring freedom and democracy to as many different versions of the United States as they can find. Sometimes this involves rebuilding Americas destroyed by nuclear conflict, but just as often it involves overthrowing communist or fascist Americas and instilling their own brand of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, whether the inhabitants want it or not.
As the story opens, it's 1980, and Jimmy Carter has just been elected President of the Real America, promising to end 15 years of cross-time war and focus instead on peace, not bloodshed. But there are those who want to preserve the status quo...
This book is just hands down good. McAuley mixes Ludlum spy-games, Wambaugh police-procedural, pop culture, gee-whiz science fiction, and just plain old-fashioned excellent story-telling to create a fantastic novel. The characters are sympathetic and interesting, with enough back-story and vivid dialogue to make them really come alive and relate to each other like real people. The twists and turns will keep you guessing, and the ending is not to be missed.
The main characters are all searching for Hitchcock's McGuffin, which in this case turns out to be a mysterious device which not only allows you to travel to an alternate history but time travel as well. Once this found, and the characters began using it, the story really got confusing. McAuley creates a number of time loops and didn't do a good job of explaining what was happening.
I started reading another McAuley book last year called The Quiet War. This had gotten off to a promising start but about half way into it I had to give it up. I didn't understand what was going on and worse, didn't care. I'd say that Cowboy Angels is a better book. Although I was confused I did want to see how it ended.
This one is a spy/thriller novel set across several iterations of America in the multiverse. Our main character, Adam Stone (was McAuley being ironic with that name?), is a former undercover agent for the Company (his home universe's equivalent of the CIA), infiltrating other universes (or "sheaves") and researching the best way to make America in that universe democratic and powerful like the America in his home universe, or "the Real." After he retires, he gets pulled back in to the intrigue after a former Cowboy Angel -- what the early agents for the company called themselves -- goes rogue and starts murdering the same woman over and over again in multiple sheaves.
The book is definitely a thriller, with PLENTY of action throughout, but it is also very intelligent, and not just in the details and variations of the different universes we pass through as the story unfolds or in the intricacies of the snappy and twisting plot. The book gives a science-based view of how alternate universes would work, branching and collapsing as various choices and events -- some that matter and some that don't -- occur. It also explores several themes, like loyalty, patriotism, and free will and determinism. In particular, however, the story focuses on what it is that makes us unique, and why our choices really do matter. This book was what Walls of the Universe hinted at but never actually achieved.
The one drawback of the book was its British spelling and phrasing. I know that McAuley is British and that this book was first released in the UK, but for the US version, I think the editors should have "Americanized" the language of the book. Of course, maybe in Mr. Stone's home universe, America retains the British spelling of all words.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
McAuley's character-fueled spy-novel swing through multiple alternate universes has the occasional cool telling detail, and makes one yearn not only for a sequel, but a prequel.Published on April 1, 2014 by Christopher B. Shay
...if a little too flippant with time, occasionally. The setup - the CIA having agents move between the timelines to make a greater, Multiverse-aware America - is good, but there... Read morePublished on August 13, 2013 by Mike B.
Multiverse alternate history stories have been used to explore historical issues at least since H. Beam Piper's Paratime stories of the late 1940s and 50s, but the past 30 years or... Read morePublished on April 27, 2013 by Russell Cashman
Outstanding alt history novel. This book could be a great Hollywood flick. As always, Paul mcauley mixes hard sci fi with great story-telling, without getting bogged down with too... Read morePublished on January 9, 2013 by Jdnoles
Alternate history meets the american empire. Delightful asides, and blissful irony makes for the most entertaining read I've had this year. Read it, your will not be disappointedPublished on September 6, 2012 by Just reading
In 1963, American scientists opened a Turing gate, and promptly initiated a major effort to bring together Americas across quantum sheafs (alternate realities). Read morePublished on July 30, 2011 by booksforabuck
I'm biased because I liked everything else McAuley wrote a lot. This is definitely not his best. He was seemingly trying to write a "hard boiled PI" novel, and it's not his strong... Read morePublished on July 21, 2011 by truri
Paul McAuley combines familiar story elements and characters and adds enough spice with the intriguing setting to give the plot a unique flavor. Read morePublished on June 24, 2011 by Josh Vogt
When I was a kid I read a novel by Keith Laumer called Worlds of the Imperium. Worlds of the Imperium was (and still is) a kick-ass science fiction novel involving an American... Read morePublished on June 8, 2011 by Jamie Jamison