In Clockwork Angels, Kevin J. Anderson weaves a unique examination of the world of Steampunk. Anderson wrote the novel in collaboration with iconic drummer Neil Peart, of the rock band Rush – the story was influenced by the lyrics Peart penned for the band’s latest album of the same name. It not only has a well conceived poetic story, but at its core it is a study of the very structure of the Steampunk genre. The smooth flowing rotation of gears and cogs is a visual metaphor of a rigid world locked in regulated structure. Then fill the skies with the liberated fluidity of airships representing the rebellious want of independence, and you have an engaging conflict between the controlled order of the “Stability” and the chaos of freedom.
Owen Hardy is a young man living in the small village of Barrel Arbor with his father. He is being groomed to eventually take over the family’s small apple orchard business. Life is contented, where nothing unpredictable ever happens. The world around Owen runs…well, like clockwork. But books left behind by his late mother showing grandiose images of a world far away from Barrel Arbor stirs the boy’s imagination and his desire for change. Pictures of Crown City, the Watchmaker’s capital, with its four magnificent Clockwork Angels dancing high up in the sky are proof enough that there is much more outside his trite little world of Barrel Arbor.
Late one night after feeling abandoned by his childhood sweetheart, Owen is whisked aboard a steamliner where he seizes the opportunity to escape to the big city. Struggling from the onset to survive on his own, he soon finds solace in a colorful band of circus performers with whom he begins traveling from town to town. This fresh view of life opens his eyes to the majestic beauty of airships, the dangers of pirates, and the even greater dangers of falling in love. As the real world around him comes to light, he realizes that the illusion of his freedom is merely a manipulation by one and somethimes both sides of a dichotomy.
There are also a few hidden treasures sprinkled throughout the pages as well. Hugh Syme’s illustrations bring a satisfying clarity to the images described by Anderson. Not a necessary element, but certainly a welcome one. If for some reason the vibrant characters and diverse landscapes are not enough to draw you into the story, Syme’s artwork just might do the trick. The world of Steampunk is thrust to life though these images with a clear subtlety, complimentary to the overall literary value of the book.
Kevin J. Anderson is a master storyteller with a knack of putting readers at ease, allowing them to be absorbed into the story with comfortable prose. Not to be outdone, Neil Peart is a master lyricist with a tight rein in the art of verse. His words both dance and influence the music they often accompany. As evidence, the albums lyrics are provided at the end of the book, presented more like an anthology of poems. The influence these songs have on the story is obvious, but the true meaning behind the words is brought to life in Anderson’s story.
Whether you are a fan of Rush’s music and Peart’s lyrics, a fan of the pages of Anderson, or just a fan of Steampunk in general, Clockwork Angels is a powerful collaboration of all three. For those not familiar with world of Steampunk, Kevin J. Anderson has woven a perfect introduction to the multifaceted genre with Clockwork Angels.