It was the last great science hero fight, but the energy blast ripped a hole in reality, and birthed the Empire State – a young, twisted parallel prohibition-era New York.
When the rift starts to close, both worlds are threatened, and both must fight for the right to exist.
One of the most buzzed about debuts for 2012, ever since it was announced, Adam Christopher’s Empire State is a much anticipated release around the blogosphere. Normally not given to reading superhero novels or comic books, I do enjoy a good noir detective, so I was curious to read the book and see why everyone was so excited about this book. While I really enjoyed the story, I did have some issues with it, but I do understand the buzz for Empire State.
What stands out most in this book are the atmosphere Christopher creates and the world building, which was very well done. You can feel the fog and the rain; see the gritty, yellowish light of the Empire State. The Prohibition vibe was laced through everything. I also really liked the idea of an alternate dimension NYC. The idea of doubles being created in this alternate dimension was pretty cool and I liked the way the author played with this conceit. What also spoke from the atmosphere and world building was Christopher’s love for New York City, he lovingly paints its picture and that of the Empire State. In fact, the writing was such that I think the book would make for an excellent film, with leeched colours and lots of rain!
The character of Rad was well drawn; I really liked his everyman, good guy outlook, even though he is a bit of a PI gone to seed. He gives the reader a hook to understand what’s going on, because he’s discovering these facts for himself, thus for the most part staying away from the dreaded info dump. The secondary characters were good too, especially Captain Carson. I really liked this old gentleman and his companion Byron. I thought he was interesting and his back story would make for interesting reading as well, though by the end of the book, for reasons I’ll explain later, he became a little exasperating to me. Much has been made of the superhero angle of the book, but to me they were the characters that came to the fore and to life the least. For most of the book they just seemed the means to an end – to give us a reason for the Empire State – only at the end of the book does their role really interact with the narrative.
My main issues with the book were that for me it was a bit of a slow starter – it took me a while to get into the story – and the last few chapters. During the last part of the book, there are lots of crosses, double-crosses and triple-crosses and at one point I just lost track and felt a little worn out by it all. Even though by the wrap up of the novel, it all made sense, during those last chapters I just felt needlessly confused and started rolling my eyes whenever people switched sides. I could have done with a few less switches and a more straight-forward denouement of the novel. Then again, your mileage may vary on this point, as I’m convinced there will be lots of people who will love the complexity of those final chapters, but for me, it didn’t work very well.
In the end though, despite my reservations stipulated above, I had a really good time with Empire State. I really liked Rad and wanted to know how his story ended and when an author succeeds in investing me in a character that much, he’s done his job well. I personally hope the book will be optioned for a film, because I think that would make for a fantastic flick! If you like a good noir tale, Empire State is a book you won’t want to miss. For a full on superhero book, you might want to wait for Christopher’s next novel, Seven Wonders, due out from Angry Robot Books in September 2012. Empire State will be released next Tuesday, December 27th, though it has already been spotted out in the wild!
This book was provided for review by the publisher.