Clockwork Angels by Kevin J. Anderson is an interesting experiment. It is a collaboration with the band Rush, and a novelization of their 19th studio album. I have not heard the album, nor am I a particular fan of rush. I’m familiar with Anderson largely through his Dune books co-written with Brian Herbert. All of which is to say that I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when I started this book.
Essentially the novel is a fairly straightforward coming-of-age tale set in a steampunk world of alchemy, lost cities, pirates, airships, and carnivals against the backdrop of a grand contest between order and chaos, between the Watchmaker and the Anarchist with the main character stuck in the middle. Owen Hardy lives in the Watchmaker’s world of order and precision but naively dreams of something more. His dreams take him on a series of adventures across the world.
The novel has the quality of a fairy tale. Anderson’s prose is breezy and effective, but he seldom delves deeply into the many ideas that are raised. The conflict between the Watchmaker and the Anarchist that is so prominent at the start, disappears for a large stretch then reappears for a somewhat lackluster climax. There were a lot of elements, a lot of moving parts, obviously based on songs from the album, and Anderson has done a very good job of tying them into a coherent and intriguing story. It was an enjoyable read, but in the end, Clockwork Angels leaves a few too many loose narrative strands dangling.
**Received NetGalley Copy for Review