Adam Christopher's debut novel Empire State is a noir, Philip K Dick-ish science fiction superhero story about a pocket universe that's created when two battling New York superheroes open a vent through spacetime. New York City is reflected through this vent into the pocket, and in the distorted surface of the pinched-off bubble of reality, the city is reflected back in strange, existential form. The new city is called Empire State, and it is a grey, washed-out version of New York, perpetually shrouded in mist, perpetually at war, and the brave lads of Empire State are forever being wired into the bodies of robots and sent off in seagoing Ironclads, warships that never return.
New York and Empire State are imperfect mirrors of one another, and only a handful of people in either city know or suspect of the existence of the other. Some people are mirrored in the new world, versions of themselves that are either convincingly like the original, or their polar opposite, or something in between. The year is 19, nineteen years after the creation of Empire State, and the war slogs on, and the strange, violent bureaucracy that runs the city and persecutes the war tightens up the rationing and prohibition that make life even darker in Empire State.
This is a novel of surreal resonances, things that are like other things, plot turns that hearken to other plot turns. It's often fascinating, as captivating as a kaleidoscope, especially if you don't spend too much time trying to figure out the mechanics of the setup, the physics of the worlds. Just let it wash over you, the way that Jonathan Lethem's phildickian debut Gun, With Occasional Music does, and don't think too hard -- just feel it in all its weird glory.
This is a promising debut, and the publisher, Angry Robot, is pursuing a great promotion: WorldBuilder, "our way of reaching out to the fan creator communities, to invite you to come play in our yard." It's an official, sanctioned place where fans and pros can work together to create new media inspired by Empire State and its superheroes, hard-boiled dicks, traitors, madmen, cult leaders, and endless war.
Published 6:17 am Tue, Dec 27, 2011
happy mutants, novel, review, Reviews, science fiction, superheroes