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Cowboy Angels Paperback – January 1, 2011

3.6 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"This gripping tale, which calls to mind both the Stargate TV series and any number of spy thrillers. . . provides nonstop action, a believably damaged hero, and a complex set of mysteries that will keep the reader breathlessly turning pages."
—Publishers Weekly

"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."
—SFF World

"One of the best SF novels of the year."
—Locus

About the Author

Paul McAuley’s first novel won the Philip K. Dick Award, and he has gone on to win almost all of the major awards in the field. For many years a research biologist, he now writes full-time. McAuley’s novel The Quiet War made several "best of the year" lists, including SF Site’s Reader’s Choice Top 10 SF and Fantasy Books of 2009. He lives in London. Visit him online at unlikelyworlds.blogspot.com.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 365 pages
  • Publisher: Pyr (January 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616142510
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616142513
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,727,911 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In Cowboy Angels, McAuley breathes new life into a fairly well worn idea. This is a story of alternate histories and parallel worlds, of people travelling through magic doors to worlds that are almost-but-not-quite their own. This was an idea that wasn't new when Andre Norton did it in The Crossroads of Time, much less when Keith Laumer tackled it in Worlds of the Imperium or when Harry Turtledove more recently dusted it off for Gunpowder Empire. But as Cowboy Angels shows, it's an idea still worth exploring, if an author can come up with a novel approach to the subject. McAuley's twist here is to view the interactions of different histories through the lens of American foreign policy, and in particular the CIA's "dirty tricks" in the mid-20C Cold War. The superpower in this particular multiverse is the "Real," a version of America that didn't experience our WWII, but in which physicists at a high-energy physics lab in Brookhaven in 1963 discovered the secret of creating "Turing gates," doorways to parallel worlds. The US government takes control of the technology, and uses it to "spread democracy" to the various alternate Americas it finds out in the multiverse. The various worldlines, or "sheaves," are known by the name of whomever was in charge of America when contact is first made, hence the designation "Nixon sheaf" for our own history. The structure of Cowboy Angels is part thriller, part murder mystery, with a fair number of pulse-pounding action scenes along the way. But it's really in the examination of the history of the 20th Century seen from a variety of angles, and the history of America and her foreign policy in particular, that Cowboy Angels shines. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've been a fan of Paul McAuley for a long while now, ever since I read Pasquale's Angel, so it was nice to see him dipping into the alternate history genre once more.

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.

Five stars.
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Format: Paperback
I have a love-hate relationship with alternative history novels. I think most of them are crap. This one was pretty good. The concept of one world discovering the means to travel to alternative worlds and then subverting those worlds for its own ends is not new. But I thought that McAuley handled it well. I had some problems with the characters, especially the main character, Agent Adam Stone. Stone is a retired CIA agent, one of the first Cowboy Angels, who was known as a tough and decisive character back in the day. I wish McAuley had written about that Adam Stone. Retired Adam Stone seems to be confused most of the time and often doesn't know what to do.

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.
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Paul McAuley is quickly becoming one of my favorite SF authors. This is only the third book of his that I've read, but I have really liked all three (Quiet War and Gardens of the Sun are the other two).

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.
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