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Empire State
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on September 4, 2012
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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on May 14, 2014
This was a very fun book that hits a lot of genres. It's a bit of sci-fi, noir, steampunk, with some superheroes thrown in for good measure. The Empire State is New York, but it's not New York at the same time. The story mostly takes place in an alternate reality version of New York where things are just a bit different from the real version. Rad Bradley is an old school gumshoe on the case of a missing woman, and that case leads him from his favorite speakeasy to the highest levels of The Empire State building and almost everywhere in between. A great adventure in a prohibition era world that's very much like ours, only not. Fantastic!
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on June 29, 2013
A bunch of intriguing ideas combined with a bunch of thin, unpleasant, and aggressively annoying characters. Was hoping for more capepunk, but got noir steampunk instead. Also tended towards the crapsack end of the worldbuilding (despite the false note of optimism at the end), with very little of the deeply flawed but fiery pursuer of justice private detective protagonist that is often the saving grace of the unrelentingly bleak noir landscape. The detective here is a passive, slow, annoying fellow, despite many opportunities to be much more interesting.
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on September 1, 2012
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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on August 27, 2012
I wanted to like this book so much. I was so jazzed to see a book written in a similar time period as my spec fiction/alternate universe/history novel. I liked the interactions I had with Adam on Twitter. He comes off as a genuinely good fellow, a collegial writer, someone who wants to be a part of the publishing world and believes in what he has to offer to that world. All of this preamble is meant to ensure nobody comes away from my review thinking I'm bashing the author of Empire State. I'm not. I will be bashing the editor, and the publisher, who let Adam's book go to press in the condition it was in.

Adam has an incredible imagination. That much is clear from the first few pages. I got a vivid sense of the car chase, the inside of the old 1930s jalopy racing around corners, gunfire popping off here and there, the windscreen cracking and glass scattering as the car crashes.

So. Action packed opening? Check. Interesting characters that make me care about their future? Um, sort of, yeah, more or less.

Then the superheroes come into the picture and it's getting pretty exciting. I'm getting curious, sort of. I would be more enthralled if someone had helped Adam tighten his prose though. After the fourth or fifth couplet containing a contrasting conjunction (i.e., "This, but That.") I started to feel like I was reading through a grammar textbook. Honestly. And this killed the story for me. The writing was full of description, vivid description. But it was also full of clunky, choppy sentences that just removed any sense of pacing whatsoever. And when Rad finally gets introduced to us, and we start following him on his journey of discovery about this mixed up world he lives in, the writing really seemed to get worse. It got choppier, clunkier, harder to follow. Two or three 'but' sentences in a row. Two or three short sentences that begin with 'Rad did X'. What was the editor doing when he was supposed to be reviewing Adam's story?

The opening scene was tight enough. It kept me involved, despite more than a few rough spots, and even a handful of typos and grammar errors. But then, after Chapter 3, the opening scene ends, and in a horribly confusing fashion. And then a new book begins. I mean a completely new and totally disconnected narrative. The characters and events of the first three chapters don't reappear until well along in the story, which is to say that the first three chapters are forgettable. Which isn't okay.

I get it, pocket universes. It's a tried and true mechanic in sci-fi writing (I've heard). I haven't read any such stories prior to this one, but that should not be a prerequisite for understanding, being able to follow, or feel connected to the narrative of Empire State. Adam's story contains some incredible plot devices, some twists and turns that would make a brilliant piece of film. I mean cult classic kind of stuff here. Characters dance in and out of two universes in a winding parade through the dark streets of a New York that neverwas but might have been. It's clever storytelling. But it isn't good storytelling. Any editor worth her salt will tell you to ensure that you NEVER leave the reader wondering what the hell is going on for more than a scene at most. If a reader has to scratch his head for more than a dozen pages, you're looking at losing that reader for good. And that's what happened with me and Empire State.

So, please consider that when you read this two-star review that wishes it could be better. Consider that I didn't finish the book because I honestly couldn't. Angry Robot put this book to press before it was ready. They either gave it a quick once over editing, or had Adam do the editing himself, which is not a good idea for any writer. Adam was done a disservice here.
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on August 16, 2013
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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on April 2, 2017
Unique and absorbing. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and have followed up with Adam Christopher's other works. Glad to have found him.
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on January 10, 2012
Adam Christopher's steampunk-noir-urban fantasy has a compelling first act: moody, atmospheric--gripping stuff. Characters wander around a recognizable 1950s Manhattan, complete with Gotham-style superheros, but then they turn down blind alleys, find neighborhoods they've never seen before and confront men wearing gas masks demanding answers to incomprehensible questions. Then they begin to wonder about the strange lacunae in their own minds. It's Philip K. Dick meets Raymond Chandler, Bladerunner meets the Big Sleep.

All of this makes "Empire State" well worth reading.

But, it has to be said, that Christopher's characters never quite make sense. Early on, a key figure commits a murder for no discernible reason. Fine--that sometimes happens in noir. But then none of the characters has a really convincing voice. Bad guys brandish "heat" (I think that was supposed to be a "heater"). Problems "get sorted". A tough-guy private eye compares a building to a "football pitch". And then the one ostensibly English character is a sort of unbearable Colonel Blimp pastiche.

So, a four star book, but deduct one star for dialogue that orbits the Atlantic ocean and travels in time from the modern day to a movie theater in Fresno playing a James M. Cain revival.

Interested in new-wave noir? James Ellroy's The Big Nowhere practically reinvented the genre 25 years ago and it's still going strong.
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on May 24, 2012
This plot had a ton of things thrown the reader's way. Murder, mystery, alternate universes, superheroes...yes, superheroes. Early on, the multitude of surprises seems so disjointed that I almost put it down. Just when I expected one thing to happen, it was filled with something so out of left field it was almost jarring. However, the characters were compelling enough that I continued and I'm happy I did. By the middle of the book, many of the disjointed threads come together in an intriguing way. Much like Total Recall or The Usual Suspects it becomes hard to trust the characters that seemed trustworthy and everyone seems to be double crossing each other. The payoff at the end of the book makes it worth reading this fascinate mash of genres.

I loved the interview with the author at the end of the book, moderated by another author, Chuck Wendig. The questions asked were all the questions I had and offered what amounted to seeing the author speak at a book tour. Fun, engaging and insightful. I also loved that the author included a playlist of music that inspired characters in his book. Much of the music is unfamiliar to me but I will be seeking them out.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon May 14, 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )|Verified Purchase
Look there, enshrouded in perpetual mist and fog is the Empire State, an oppressive state, a police state, and in a forever state of war. Within the confines of the Empire State, down-and-out private detective Rad Bradley scratches out a living. But it's tough for gumshoes. It's tough for everyone, living under wartime conditions. The populace are subjected to curfews and the Prohibition and the rationing of coffee and those mysterious memory lapses. Habitually, fleets of Ironclad ships sail out to go to war with the unseen enemy. They never return. The city's superhero got executed some time ago. No, sir, we wouldn't want to live in the Empire State.

One day Rad Bradley lands a case, hired by a posh dame to locate her missing roommate. And because it could only turn out this way, Rad's routine investigation soon embroils him in a cross-dimensional conspiracy that threatens to destroy the Empire State... not to mention, the very fabric of reality itself. Also, his coffee ration had just run out.

With this book, writer Adam Christopher tantalizes you and dazzles you and perhaps ultimately lets you down when at some point his execution fails his ambition. But see the gleam in his eye? He gleefully messes about with the conventions of the sci-fi genre and the whodunit. He brazenly concocts one inventive imagery after another. This one oozes with the feel of the hard-boiled private eye story and the feel of the superhero noir. the writer injects a stylish style - feverish, enigmatic, obfuscating - designed to throw the reader off-balanced. It makes you keep your guard up, makes you not quite trust the narrative, and I mean that in a good way because now you're not taking things for granted. Rad Bradley is your classic private eye, him and his fedora and trenchcoat and an aura of general seediness about him (the man thumbs his nose at Prohibition and regularly frequents a speakeasy). And because of a major plot conceit that renders Bradley - and every denizen of the Empire State - unable to recall certain things about the past, we get a bland through character that is essentially a composition of tropes we normally associate with the tough private eye. No distinctive personality trait, as such, to single him out. It bugs me, too, that he gets knocked out too many damn times. But, despite that, I don't mind rolling with Mr. Bradley. I'm familiar enough with his sort and his tarnished code, and he's trying to do the right thing. Unlike Lew Archer or Sam Spade, he does end up being braced by an alarming pair of thugs in spooky gas masks and by mysterious doppelgangers and even by a costumed vigilante or two. So pound the pavement with that, Sam Spade! Adam Christopher, who merrily writes of bootlegging and parallel universes and the hazards of reflective surfaces, serves up the pieces of a screwy puzzle. It's up to you to fit them together. And maybe you'll incur amnesia like the characters in the story and forget that the ending never does come together in satisfying fashion. 3 out of 5 stars.
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