Read Empire State by Adam Christopher Online


The stunning superhero-noir fantasy thriller set in the other New York.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.Adam Christopher’s stunning debThe stunning superhero-noir fantasy thriller set in the other New York.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.Adam Christopher’s stunning debut novel heralds the arrival of an amazing new talent....

Title : Empire State
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780857661920
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 445 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Empire State Reviews

  • Dan Schwent
    2019-03-03 11:33

    Two battling superheroes open a rift into a parallel dimension. On the other side of the rift is The Empire State, an imperfect copy of New York. Empire State detective Rad Bradley's search for a missing woman brings him into conflict with forces from New York. But do they mean to save the Empire State or destroy it?Why I liked this book:Parallel universes are awesome, aren't they? One out of ever five Star Trek episodes uses them in some way. The Empire State is a copy of New York that reminds me of the movie Dark City. Many New Yorkers have analogues in the Empire State. In the course of this story, many of them meet their doppelgangers. Some people's doppelgangers were not very dissimilar from the originals.The setting is a pseudo-New York of the 1930's, with robots, detectives, prohibition, and a war against an Unseen enemy. Ray Bradley is just a gumshoe that isn't all that bright and keeps finding himself in the thick of trouble. The two superheroes, Skyguard and Science Pirate, after pretty interesting. Nimrod and Carson were both characters I'd like to see more from. I had no idea where the central mystery was going.Why I did not think this book was amazing:Let me take a deep breath and... for a book that's promoted as a superhero book, there isn't nearly enough super hero action. The logic of how New York and the Empire State are connected was inconsistent from chapter to chapter. None of the characters were particularly well developed. I know I was supposed to care when the Skyguard's identity was revealed but I didn't. I felt like a lot was going on and it never really came together into one cohesive story. In that way, it kind of reminded me of Stephen Hunt's Court of the Air.I think if the book had been more focused and about a hundred pages shorter, I would have liked it a whole lot more. It had it's moments but felt plodding and bloated in places. It's not a bad book, though. It's pretty entertaining if you can stomach the slow parts. I've giving this one a 3-.The thing I meant to mention but forgot until I was driving home from work: For a similar but better story, give Doc Sidhe a try.

  • Gabriel C.
    2019-03-16 09:11

    I absolutely need to stop reading anything that Cory Doctorow recommends. He has absolutely no filter. Fool me once (I'm looking at you, Star Island), shame on Boing Boing. Fool me twice, there's more than enough shame to go around. Cory and I can share it with the author, the publisher, and anyone who knows either of them. There's enough shame here that we can give a big helping to anyone who has held a door for Adam Christopher or said to him "Excuse me, I think you dropped your hat." By page three or four I knew that there was something hideously, hopelessly wrong.SETTING (UNSETTLING):The setting is manifestly terrible. It's a poorly thought out pastiche of everything that Christopher happens to think is cool about New York City and whatever genres are "hot" in his head. It's also by far the best thing the book has going for it. Tired-ass cliches of the detective novel, superhero genre, alternate universe fauxics, manhattan qua place, and steampunk are all misunderstood and misapplied in the most embarrassing ways, and it's the very best thing the book has going for it. By far. There's no sense of place, just mist. There's a single speakeasy with no visual cues. There are empty streets. It's like a videogame when you've done almost all of the things you were supposed to do, but haven't found one powerup or something. The level is empty. It's not eerie, it's just boring. The science is the worst. The main conflict is between different groups of people who just believe without any rationale that procedure X will fix some stupid problem while procedure Y will destroy the world or vice versa. As you can imagine, loyalties are fluid in a situation like this.CHARACTERIZATION (CHARADE):Christopher's idea of characterization is for his main character to go around with a headache thinking that needs a drink. There's an absolutely bullshit out where these are fake people, but that's just bullshit. The detective doesn't know anything about being a detective. The reporter doesn't know anything about being a reporter. No character has any kind of motivation. When people find out their friends have died or betrayed them or that their doppelgangers have committed murder, they're mainly worried about where they left their hats or that a character they thought was a man is actually a woman. This is flatter than flat. None of the characters act like humans or understand what priorities are. They make connections that aren't there in their heads ("I just got a case and totally independently I just met this person; they must be related"), they are curiously incurious and alternately infuriatingly curious. I said that the characters of Moby Dick were invented by a ten year old, but there it's like we've dropped the ten year old's inventions into reality and they act like people. Here it's like the ten year old is still deciding what they do and say.PLOT (PLODDING):The worst. Everyone has decided that the characters Rad/Rex are important and central, and as it turns out, they are, a self-fulfilling prophecy. But there is no reason for this, not even within the logic of the story. If there were some kind of magic and we had a prophet writing garbage about the Bringer of Death or the Dragon Reborn or something, then there would be a coherent internal logic. But we have none of that. He wants to write a Chandler story (this is a total failure as far as that goes) so he shoehorns a gumshoe into a plot that doesn't need him and has nothing to do with him. He never does anything detective. Without any tension, the plot trips along toward an artificial deadline. Whenever necessary, one of the many loose ends can come back and effect a reversal or betrayal, like running electric current into a dead frog to make it twitch. Every reveal is unsurprising and takes forever, and the eventual denouement--oh wait, there wasn't one.THEME (TEHRRIBLE):I think that my complaint about the superfluidity of Rad points to another sad fact: Christopher has fundamentally misunderstood noir. He thinks it's about nostalgia and atmosphere. That's wrong. Seven Samurai is as much a spaghetti western as Django. Chandler is foremost about the failure of societal ethics and the need for a personal moral compass, and secondly about an intricately wound plot like a swiss clock. Then you have the eye for detail. Christopher thinks he can get the same effect with atmosphere bereft of detail. GRABBAG (GARBAGE):I totally thought that this was a terrible young adult book until, I don't know, a hundred pages in, I turned a page and the first word on the next one was "fucking." My heart leapt to my throat as I realized, with dawning horror, that this was not, in fact, a terrible young adult book. It was a book for adults, a book so bad that the only way my oxygen-starved brain could make sense of a world gone mad was to think that the most egregious problems were at least partially intentional or due to external constraints.There is the most perfunctory tip of the hat to racism, sexism, and the presentation of members of underrepresented groups. Rad/Rex is black. It's not a Starship Troopers thing where it's all "No big deal, bet you had the wrong idea, chump." No, it's emphasized on like the second or third page when someone calls Rex "nigger" and then totally dropped. Wrong way, brochacho. Same with the science pirate.I really don't understand, in this era, what allows a book like this to be published. Is this really the best that this imprint (Angry Robot) can do? Wikipedia tells me that they're supposed to be experimenting with different business models. I guess either the business model is "print books that totally suck" or maybe it's just that no writer worth her ink is willing to take these risks.

  • Veronica Belmont
    2019-03-15 09:17

    Three stars means "I like" a book, even though it feels more like a "meh" when you see those three lonely stars up there on a review. However, in this case, it rings perfectly true: I liked Empire State.I'm having some trouble being objective in this review, because I follow Adam Christopher on Twitter, he has been a friend to Sword and Laser, etc etc. But I had a hard time truly getting into this book as much as I wanted to. Part of the problem is that the storyline is purposely convoluted. We're thrown into a world that features alternate dimensions, time-shifting, doppelgängers, and a murder mystery... all wrapped into one. The intentions and loyalties of the characters are constantly in flux, and I frankly found it hard to keep track. This is not a book of hard science fiction: the science used to explain the "fissure" between these two worlds (or rather, the Origin and the Pocket) is murky at best, but that's not really the important thing here. Was it an entertaining story? Yes! Did I like the characters? I think so (when I understood what was happening)! Was the ending satisfying? Hmmm... mostly. Ended somewhat with a fizz rather than an explosion. But overall, I thought the storyline was original and interesting. Though it felt a little unclear to me at times, it's entirely possible that this was a fault of mine, not the books.

  • colleen the convivial curmudgeon
    2019-02-20 09:08

    This book is a hot mess. Often times, books which are a hot mess are fun to review, because I go into rant mode and just let loose on all the many ways I hated it. But, honestly, I didn't hate it. I didn't care enough about it to hate it. And, in a way, that's kinda even more sad than hating it.It's just kind of there.I think, overall, it just tried to be too many things. There's a smattering of Rocketeer like superheros. There's some prohibition/gangster kind of stuff that's mostly there for window dressing. There pocket dimensions and guys in gas masks (and for a brief, shining moment I thought it was going to have some 'Dark City' vibes - but no such luck). It's got a noir, down-on-his-luck detective who does absolutely zero detective work and generally just gets led by the nose from one hot mess to the next, and we know as little about wtf is actually going on as he does...And in some books this works, and in some books it just makes a convoluted nightmare that I can't even begin to care about.This is the latter.It didn't help that the characters were all charicatures and just generally uninteresting.And it felt like it went on for. ever.But I'm still gonna give it 2-stars and not 1 because it had some interesting ideas - and that's mostly what the second star is for. I mean, the execution was painful, but the ideas were pretty cool.Ya know, it wasn't even painful as much as just kinda shoddy. And sorta boring.And, for the second review of today I'm gonna say this coulda been awesome as a graphic novel. Take the general ideas of the world and outline of the story, strip out a lot of the repetitive prose and crappy dialogue, and the over explaining everything... basically, keep the good stuff, dump the extraneous crap, and graphicalize it. It would totally work better in that format, I think.ETA: One thing that did bug me was that there weren't really any rule to the pocket. Sometimes your alternate would be the opposite of you. Sometimes they were just like you, but with your names being weirdly opposite. Sometimes they were pretty much the same people.Ditto with the Enemy. (view spoiler)[They were a "reflection", which is why the ships turned into airships, except it's not just like the sky was reverse or anything, because the land was still on the land, and the airships were in the air and all... and the airships even had hydrogen... so it's not like they were just water ships that were somehow reflected in the sky - they were actual airships.But they were airships because the Enemy is a reflection of the Pocket.But if it's a reflection, shouldn't it be, ya know, a reflection? (hide spoiler)]The rules were basically "it works however it needs to work for the purposes of the story". Like I said - shoddy.Oh, and, no, it doesn't make it less shoddy when you sort of call attention to it in the book and just be like "no one really knows how it works".

  • Brandon
    2019-03-08 11:17

    The Empire State is an alternate reality to what we know as 1930s New York City. Under oppressive rule, the inhabitants of the city are forced to ration all commodities to fund the war effort against an unknown force simply identified as “The Enemy”. When detective Rad Bradley is hired to investigate the disappearance of a young woman, he encounters visitors from New York. As Rad’s investigation continues, the truth behind the existence of The Empire State begins to unravel causing the detective to question everything he’s ever known.I had a hard time writing that introduction. The truth is, a lot happens in this book and the less you know, the better. It should be noted that writing a book is most likely not an easy feat. When you’re writing a book that features time travel, multiple versions of any one character and more twists and turns than a race track in Mario Kart, it has to be that much more difficult.Adam Christopher takes up the daunting task of presenting us with a Sci-Fi novel constructed with the pillars of many different influences. You have his love of superheroes with the appearance of original characters The Skyguard and his partner turned rival, The Science Pirate. You have his love of pulp-era detective novels with private dick, Rad Bradley as well his appreciation for weird alternate dimension travel through Doctor Who. You would imagine that approaching a novel incorporating all of these elements would create a bit of a jumbled, unfocused mess but Christopher manages to take those ingredients and create a pretty decent meal out of it.Despite the fact that I’ve been known to have a hard time in the past keeping track of who’s playing for what side when several back-stabbings and twists occur, Christopher never left me feeling lost. Given the nature of a lot of these selfish characters, it’s only natural that each would align with the side that gave them the biggest advantage; even if at times only temporarily.On a side note, I should mention that Angry Robot included a great interview after the novel’s conclusion that is definitely worth a read. Adam also included what he felt was a soundtrack to the novel itself featuring songs and artists that he listened to while working on the book as well as ones that influenced the story on a whole. There are links on Adam’s website to the iTunes as well as Spotify playlists if you wish to download them.When I finished the book, I was glad to know that a sequel is being written (and even happier knowing that I already have an advanced reader copy ready to go). I’d give it a good hearty recommendation.Cross-posted @ Every Read ThingCheck out my interview with Adam.

  • Kate O'Hanlon
    2019-03-09 09:06

    Take this with a pinch of salt, because though I'm immersed in geek culture enough to be passing familiar with superheroes, parallel universes, etc I don't have much contact with the primary sources, so maybe I just don't get it.The plot moves along briskly but is complicated to the point of convolution and the writing style is often unclear. The main characters are cardboard cut outs and the supporting characters are tissue paper thin. The ideas were so interesting but they're mostly just wasted when they're not confused. Sometimes the pocket universe is the opposite of the origin, sometimes it's not. I don't know why. Does Christopher? (view spoiler)[Why are Sam and Lisa Saturn different? Why are Rad and Rex? Why aren't Carson and Nimrod? My questions need answering (hide spoiler)]Okay, now I feel mean. Fine for a quick action packed read. 2.5 stars.

  • Tom Merritt
    2019-02-18 09:24

    Oh my. Where do I start? Do you like superheroes? How an noir ace detectives? Or perhaps steam punk? Alternate realities? Robots? If you're not absolutely salivating with geeky lust, then move along. There may be nothing to see here. But to those cleaning the drool off their tablets and laptops, stop now. Go to book store website. Buy Empire State. It's absolutely awesome. I want more Skyguard. I want more Detective Rad. I want more drinks at Jerry's. I want more robots. Well done Mr. Christopher. Island and applaud. Slow clap.

  • Kim
    2019-02-22 09:25

    From outside this looks like some cross-over of noir and superheroes with flashes of Watchmen and Wild Cards but when you drill down you find this confusing, tangled sci-fi heart of other dimensions, reflections of the real world and duplicity of the soul.The book starts as a detective novel set in a 30's/40's blend of Prohibition and World War 2 era Manhattan, known as the Empire State. A woman is missing and it's up to PI Rad Bradley to find out what's going on. The more he digs the more he discovers only find a whole lot more than he bargained for. It's almost as if he walked onto the wrong sound stage and suddenly he's in a different movie. Full of mad scientists, superheroes, an unknown Enemy, bizarre cults and more.This is a madcap book with so many different genres pushed into it but somehow it holds them all together and doesn't burst. Towards the end it does start getting a bit full with a lot of things crossing over but it all ties up well. The description was great, the characters brilliant. I could see this making a great movie. For a debut novel it's a hell of a good start and I look forward to seeing what Adam Christopher comes out with next.Definitely recommend this.

  • Michael
    2019-03-19 16:13

    During the last great superhero fight a blast of energy rips a hole in reality, the result Empire State; a twisted parallel prohibition-era New York City. But now the rift is starting to close and both parallel worlds have to fight for the right to exist. Adam Christopher’s Empire State tells the story of Rad Bradley a private detective investigating the disappearance for Sam Saturn which leads him to uncover something a whole lot bigger. This book is everything you expect in a pulp style superhero novel; you have the super villains, airships, robots, organised crime and prohibition (to make it feel more like a pulp novel). This is all a brilliant back drop for the main plot; the case the gets Rad Bradley tangled in a complex web of robotic killers, inter-dimensional doppelgangers and science.The whole tone of this book feels very much like a superhero novel but never loses sight of the noir style narrative. The whole story cast of wonderfully unique and mystery that will keep the read on the edge of their seats while reading this book. There are some things that didn’t quite work within the story and the constant world shifting can get the reader lost. I think in the end there turns out to be at least three different worlds; Prohibition New York, Empire State and New York 1950’s. The world, the crime and the characters show potential for a lot of great stories to follow.Adam Christopher and publisher Angry Robot Books have invited others to create works based in the world of Empire State. Writer, artist, musician, sculptor, puppeteer, interpretive dance major, or poet, are invited to create their own stories with what they are calling WorldBuilder as long as you stick to their Guidelines and Instructions. They are authorising fan-created content to be created under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License which means content can be posted on the internet or beyond as long as it’s in a non-commercial way; publication rights of the stories are still in the hands of the publisher. There are plans for an eBook or Print-on-Demand anthology of the best stories which is pretty exciting; I’ve never seen a novel do anything like this, making for some interesting stories to follow. I think this world is capable of millions of other great stories whether superhero, science fiction, alternate history, organised crime or even pulp stories.I’m curious to see what the results of this creative common might lead to but as for this book, if you want a fun, exciting novel with twists and mystery, then you really should give Empire State ago. There’s a certain uniqueness within this book while remaining familiar with the writing style. I feel nostalgia towards a good pulp novel and this blends that with science fiction elements with such ease. This genre is often called Neo-Noir (a genre that blends pulp with updated themes, content, or style, often blended with Science Fiction) and there have been some great books that have come out in this style, but Empire State is definitely one of the better ones.

  • Ben Babcock
    2019-03-02 14:17

    Empire State is a frenetic concoction of noir mystery, Prohibition-era gangster-style criminal conspiracy, and Golden Age superhero fiction. Reading it is like sitting in a bare room, concrete walls and a single steel table with an uncomfortable chair, as the clock above the door ticks steadily towards 3 AM. It’s minimalist and rough, sometimes surreal and always uncomfortable. Just when I thought I had it figured out, Adam Christopher changes gears and leaves me in the dust. I like that I was always kept guessing in that sense. However, Empire State’s characters and story also leave much to be desired. I’m not sure how great a book this is, but it’s definitely a very interesting experience.Without spoiling too much of the story, Empire State is basically about the relationship between two alternate universes. The first universe is like ours, except that New York in the 1930s came with two superheroes attached. The second universe, the Empire State, is itself a distilled, distorted version of the first, even more different from our own universe. (And don’t worry, Empire State obeys the airship law of alternate universes (TVTropes), though it’s somewhat justified here because of the time period.)Although mysteries were my first novel love, way back in grades five and six, I never made it as far as the noir and pulp traditions—I stayed safely in the posh land of Poirot and Holmes and their ilk. Empire State features a private detective named Ray Bradley. He’s exactly what one would expect: short on funds, caught in the middle of an interminable separation/divorce with a woman he might still kind of love, not quite an alcoholic but well on his way to being dependent on the bottle, and possessed of slightly too much in the way of integrity to make his way in this broken town. Unlike his counterpart from New York, Rex, I found Ray a rather tolerable and sometimes even entertaining protagonist.Christopher aptly bridges the noir genre with speculative fiction. Though I’m not really qualified to judge the noir aspects of Empire State, I think that in general this is a very natural union. The science fictional parts of Empire State are almost but not quite Lovecraftian in atmosphere, almost but not quite steampunk in implementation. Both of these styles are compatible with the dreary, gritty atmosphere of the noir realm, that sense that the world is a tough, unyielding place of grey skies and unceasing rain.On top of this union Christopher adds the superhero element. The Skyguard and Science Pirate were once a crimefighting duo in 1930s New York. Then they became bitter enemies for reasons no one knows. Their final, climactic fight is related directly to the origins of the Empire State, and the identities of the Skyguard and Science Pirate play a crucial part in the resolution of the book. These heroes are of the technological, Batman kind rather than the alien or mutant kind: their powers are marvels of science and engineering, not natural gifts. This all fits with the setting Christopher has created. Some other reviews have questioned whether these superheroes are necessary (or, along similar lines, lamented the way their stories are sidelined and shoehorned into the rest of the plot). I can see the reasoning behind those critiques, but I personally didn’t mind the superhero part of the plot. Could Christopher have achieved the same ends with different means? Perhaps. But the inclusion of superheroes doesn’t hurt anything.Instead, I am more disappointed in the characterization—of the superheroes, yes, but also the rest of the characters. Most of the time, the narration follows Rad, occasionally jumping to a different character. Sometimes their actions come out of the blue—Carson’s twist during the climax is a good example of this. With other characters, like the anomalous Katherine Kopek or the Science Pirate, are complete ciphers without so much as a motivation call their own. Christopher has an interesting in-universe excuse related to the paradoxical nature of the Empire State’s existence. Even so, as someone who reads books primarily for the juicy drama of relationships between real human beings, this leaves much to be desired.I still liked Empire State, mostly because I love what Christopher attempts to do with these universes he has created. I’m not just talking about worldbuilding (a term about which I feel increasingly ambivalent these days), though I can see why Angry Robot decided to use it as the basis for the WorldBuilder project. I’m referring to the way Christopher has intentionally taken these disparate but very compatible genres of noir, superhero, and alternate universe and fused them into a recognizable, workable story. The plot is sometimes lackadaisical in its pacing, and the characters irritate me, but the framework on which these two elements hang is itself very intriguing.But better a novelist should take a stab at something clever and original and fascinating than play it safe. Empire State doesn’t succeed in a marvellous fashion—but its very attempt, and the creativity behind it, deserves high marks. It’s a story that should appeal to a broad audience—fans of noir mysteries or alternate universe shenanigans will probably find this a must-read.

  • Stefan
    2019-02-25 15:30

    Angry Robot is one of those publishers you just have to keep an eye on, because they come out with some unique, surprising fiction. Their books tend to defy genre conventions and often are impossible to classify. To mess with our heads even more, they then stick weird little filing instructions on them, such as “File Under: Fantasy [ Aztec Mystery | Locked Room | Human Sacrifice | The Dead Walk! ]” for Aliette de Bodard’s Servant of the Underworld, or “[The Mob & Magic | Ancient Secrets | Zombie Wizardry | Bet Your Life]” for Matt Forbeck’s Vegas Knights.So when Angry Robot announced Adam Christopher’s Empire State and mentioned a Prohibition-era parallel universe in the book description, deftly combining two topics I dearly love, I couldn’t wait to get my copy. (And if you’re wondering, this one says: File Under: Science Fiction [ Pocket Universe | Heroes or Villains | Speak Easy | Loyalties Divided ]). Unfortunately, Empire State didn’t entirely live up to my expectations, but there’s still a lot to love about this intriguing debut novel.Rex Braybury is a small time bootlegger in Prohibition-era New York who is shaking down one of his clients when a competitor shows up and threatens to cut his burgeoning criminal career short. The resulting chase scene ends with him more or less accidentally witnessing a major confrontation between the city’s two major superheroes, the Skyguard and the Science Pirate — a fight that will prove to have major consequences....A few chapters later, we’re introduced to private detective Rad Bradley, who lives in the Empire State, a strange — but strangely familiar — city that’s perpetually at war with an unseen Enemy somewhere beyond its mist-shrouded shores. It’s the year Nineteen, and all is not well. The Empire State’s citizens survive despite rationing, Prohibition, an overbearing bureaucracy, and the fact that people’s memories seem to be strangely incomplete. In this odd environment, Rad manages to stay afloat by taking scarce P.I. jobs, living in the back room of his office and regularly visiting the neighborhood speakeasy. When we first meet Rad, he is being accosted by two men wearing gas masks who demand to hear what he knows about “nineteen fifty”... until the Skyguard appears to save him. The real puzzler, however, is how the Skyguard managed to rescue Rad, because — as Rad’s friend Kane Fortuna informs him shortly afterward — the Skyguard was supposedly executed before he saved Rad...Empire State is a debut novel that has a lot going for it, but ultimately it didn’t quite work out for me. I expected a different result, because there’s a lot here that I usually love. There’s Prohibition-era material — and I often love stories set in this period. There’s noir. There’s a pocket universe. There are, for crying out loud, actual superheroes. Dear reader, I was so ready to love this book.The problems ultimately all go back to the characters. The book gets off to a bit of a false start with Rex the bootlegger. We don’t really get the chance to get to know him, because he’s only allotted three chapters before he abruptly disappears from view and Rad takes over. Rad is slightly more interesting as a main character, but like Rex he never really grabs your attention. Like too many of Empire State’s characters, Rad simply never acquires much depth. There’s actually a great explanation for this lack of depth in the story, but we don’t find out what it is until much later. Unfortunately this means that, for a good chunk of this novel, you’re reading a story populated by characters that feel like shallow reflections of real people. I found myself losing interest a third of the way in, and while I was curious enough to keep going, I was sorely tempted to give up several times.So Empire State may not be a good fit for readers who first and foremost look for well-rounded characters, but on the plus side its concept and setting are fascinating. The book’s atmosphere and premise occasionally reminded me of Philip K. Dick. That’s never a bad thing. There’s a grey emptiness to both the characters and the setting that’s somehow a bit Kafkaesque. (Don’t you wish Kafka had written science fiction noir set in an alternate Prohibition-era New York?) Much of the novel is set in an odd, distorted version of reality that manages to be at the same time sinister and campy — a pulp fiction world that has darkness creeping in from the edges. It’s an unsettling, unique place to visit.Maybe it was the strength of this setting, and the way Adam Christopher left his fictional universe wide open for further exploration, that made this novel such a good fit as the first starting point for Angry Robot’s Worldbuilder, a site where readers can share fan fiction and art set in the world of Empire State. It’s nice to see a publisher actually encourage fans to work and play in one of their authors’ fictional universes, and even nicer that some of this fan art may eventually even be published by Angry Robot. Empire State is a book I fully expected to love. I wanted to love it, because its concept is so damn cool, but in the end I had to admit that it simply didn’t work for me. The “Alternate Prohibition” setting is a great idea, and it’s wonderful that Angry Robot and Adam Christopher have opened it up as a playground for others, but the actual novel somehow feels like an outline that wasn’t properly filled in, mainly because the characters just don’t have enough substance to carry an entire book. Still, this is a promising debut, and I’m confident that it will find a large readership because it’s full to the brim of neat ideas. If you’re looking for atmosphere and concept, Empire State is definitely worth a look.(This review was also published on on 12/27/2011 and on on 1/4/2012.)

  • Justin
    2019-02-20 10:25 of the most highly anticipated titles of early 2012, Adam Christopher's Empire State has been billed as superhero noir.  Angry Robot, recognizing the broad appeal of such a pastiche, has marketed the novel along with their WorldBuilder project.  WorldBuilder invites readers to create their own works based in the world of Empire State, which Angry Robot may publish (if they get anything good).  That's neither here nor there, but I thought it worth mentioning.  As a novel, Christopher's debut is wildly entertaining in a tradition Angry Robot fans have come to expect.Set in New York City during prohibition, Empire State starts with a street tough named Rex witnessing the final battle of the superhero Skyguard and his nemesis the Science Pirate.  Make note of this, because it's the last real super-superhero action you're going to get (mostly).  The story quickly jumps out of New York and into the Empire State (don't worry, you'll be back) -- a parallel-universe, where prohibition continues unfettered and a never ending war with an unknown enemy keeps the populace in constant fear.The narrative centers around a private dick named Rad Bradley, a divorcee who at 40 years old can only remember the last dozen years or so.  Beautiful women and newspaper reporters soon get him embroiled in a murder mystery that crosses space, time, and dimension.  Sound a little complicated? It is and it isn't.  At its core, Empire State is a standard mystery novel couched in the noir tradition. Rad is a straight forward down on his luck, hard-boiled P.I. working his way through a murder and the conspiracy behind it.So, that's what the novel is about? Not really.  Near as I can tell, it's really about social inequality.   Existing as a poor copy of New York, down to the people themselves, the Empire State is an isolated and oppressed pocket of humanity.  At its edges, reality blurs, and across the Hudson River exists the Enemy, a nebulous entity of government machinated fear.  The conceit exists on two levels, both within Empire State and in New York.  Internally the authoritarian government rations its populace living large at the top, while those below struggle to subsist.  Externally, those without would sooner see it forgotten or destroyed all together because the implications of Empire State call into question self-realizing notions of identity and existence (draw what parallels you like from real life).Alright, I might be pushing it a bit with that breakdown, but it's certainly there, whether the author intended it or not.  As for the prose and tone of the novel, Christopher does a bang-up job of conveying the State's bleakness.  The lament of lost memory and the hopelessness of constant war hangs over everything.  It's tangible and permeates all of his characters most especially Rad and heretofore unmentioned trapped explorer, Captain Carson.  Christopher channels a certain dark humor as well that kept me smirking in the face of the unrelenting gloom.On the downside, the novel does struggle at times with clarity (here's where things get complicated), mostly in breaking down how and why Empire State exists.  Christopher would probably have benefited greatly from an astrophysics degree, and the whole setup reminded me not a little of Mark Hodder's Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack in that the novel itself isn't science fiction, but the device that makes it possible is.  How it all ties together with the plot makes for an obscure ending that doesn't jump the shark as much as it detours around it.  All that adds up to an ending that relegates Empire State to great noir instead of a great novel.Utlimately, Christopher does a lot more right than he does wrong in his debut.   It seems that Lee Harris and the Angry Robot team have a clear editorial direction in publishing these pastiche novels that don't fit neatly into any sub-genre -- a trend that looks to continue well into 2012 with Empire State at the fore.  I don't put it in the same class as Lauren Beukes's Zoo City, but Adam Christopher is another great new voice in the genre.   It'll be interesting to see where he goes next.

  • Anna
    2019-03-02 12:32

    I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed. 'Empire State' has been on my to read list for three years, as the combination of detective noir and superheroes seemed highly promising. I was expecting a standard thriller plot with some interesting world-building, rather than anything special in terms of writing or characterisation. Yet I was sad to find that none of the above were really achieved. At first I thought the problem was very similar to that of Aurorarama, which has a fantastic setting but frustratingly terrible, reactive protagonists. ‘Empire State’ does indeed have two awful protagonists, who have no idea what’s happening and exhibit no notable personality traces other than alcoholism (Rex and Rad) and psychopathic disregard for deadly violence (Rex). However, Aurorarama built a beguiling, fascinating alternate world. The Empire State, a pocket dimension connected to 1930 New York, has none of that vividness. It feels like a derivative film noir remake that has been recorded onto old videotape and is fuzzy at the edges. The noir element is thus underwhelming, but not as much so as the superhero theme. The two superheroes, Skyguard and the Science Pirate, get practically no explanation. Why are there only two of them? Why did they team up originally? Why did they subsequently argue and start fighting each other? The reader never finds out any of this, as the novel is narrated by a clueless, ineffectual private investigator who complains constantly and doesn’t even have the saving grace of being funny.Now that I think about it, much of narrative is taken up with matters irrelevant to the plot, as Rad wanders about being baffled and wanting a drink. It’s just very disappointing, as is the rather horrifying depiction of women. Female characters are extremely marginal to the story and when they do turn up get few lines, appear vulnerable & upset, are hit in the face for standing up for themselves, and never have their motivations properly explained. Actually, this novel contains the most shockingly offhand murder of a woman that I’ve ever read. It is presented as a trivial accident - the woman was so little and fragile, he snapped her neck accidentally with his clumsy man hands! The murderer remains astoundingly blasé about this; when reminded of it the adjective used is 'petulant'. You know, I’ve changed my mind. I am angry. Is this depiction of women meant to be a satire on detective noir? Because Raymond Chandler was a lot less misogynistic than this. Is the twist that two female characters are a lesbian couple supposed to make the horrible things that happen to them OK? The two of them never even have a scene together!While writing this I’ve talked myself down from giving this book two stars to one. There is potential for great interest in the setting, but this is not capitalised upon. The plot is confused and frustrating. None of the characters feel sympathetic or interesting and their dialogue is flat. The writing failed to engage me and the ending is unsatisfactory in the extreme. I kept reading, hoping there would be some saving grace, but it didn’t turn up. Maybe I ask for a lot from novels, but the vast majority manage to give me more than this one did.

  • P. Aaron Potter
    2019-03-18 12:18

    Bait and Switch.This book very nearly landed on my books-I-sort-of-regret-reading list (see my bookshelves), not necessarily because of any intrinsic flaw but because it indulged in the 'My Girl' sin: it promised to belong to one genre, then ended up somewhere else entirely.The packaging, title, cover, back blurbs, press, and even the first chapter suggest heavily that this is going to be a noir comic-book inflected action story of super heroes among us, perhaps not on the order of Watchmen, but perhaps in the same vein as A Once Crowded Sky. It isn't. The 'super heroes' - which aren't, by the way, super - appear only in a few brief cameos, there is no uber villain, and the actual plot revolves around a down-on-his-luck cliche of a private eye. Not what was advertised.The book still might have been saved had it been significantly better written. Unfortunately, the whole plot, such as it is, hinges on the protagonist having no clue what's going on. It is precisely half-way through the book, to the very page, that we even find out the name of the Big McGuffin everyone wants to control. And then that McGuffin turns out to be not actually controllable. Our 'hero' is a sad sack, bumbling around in the dark with no agency, constantly being reminded by the *actual* movers and shakers of the Empire State that his actions are pretty much meaningless. Well congratulations, you sold me on that idea. The writing is leaden, the plotting unbearably slow, and the 'payoff' at the end is a whimpering trail-off without much to look forward to.So why isn't this getting a 'one'? There are hints here of a much bigger, more important story taking place outside the confines of this book. All the significant choices and characters are offstage, and our hero is reduced to an ineffective sidekick, at best. It's like reading Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead as if Hamlet had never existed. There's no brilliance here, no particular wit, not much action and less meaning. It is, like the Empire State itself, a reflection, dimly perceived, of some better work which this reader was searching for.

  • Sam Reader
    2019-02-16 15:30

    "You're late.""No, actually, you're early." He rechecked his watch. "Actually, I am late, I think my watch is busted.""Like your lip."- Rad Bradley and Kane Fortuna               I found this book in a very conventional way, for once. It was on the shelves of the local Barnes & Noble not far from my house. Now, I don't normally support big bookstores, but they've never steered me wrong much. In fact, a lot of the ones I visit inexplicably have smaller and mid-range press genre titles sitting on the shelves without the slightest provocation*. I'd had a bad day, and some money burning a hole in my pocket, so I pointed myself towards the bookstore. And there the book was, its cover done in a very stark red-black-white-green Art Deco-style design, and its back promising a story of private detectives, film-noir backdrops, and masked villains. I was intrigued, and by the time it started to compare itself to Boardwalk Empire and Batman, I knew it would make the trip home with me.            And at first, it was brilliant. That was at first. As the book continued, it started to cool off a little, turning into something more and And eventually, I found myself realizing the thing I always realize...a lot of the modern retro-future writing aims high...and then promptly ducks under the bar. There are exceptions, of course...Stephen Hunt's lightly retro-themed fantasies are a delight, Larklight is a great book with an interesting atmosphere, and the seminal works of the genre-- like K.W. Jeter's Infernal Devices-- are, while flawed, classics in their own right. But it seems now that every pen jockey with something to prove has to say it with pneumatic tubes and an over-gross of airships. But that's enough of that.              Empire State is the story of private detective Rad Bradley, a man who doesn't seem terribly in his element. Rad lives in the Empire State, a fog-enshrouded version of New York City, and is given a case to find Samantha Saturn, a woman who has gone missing after an encounter with the quietly-sinister Pastor of Lost Souls. Rad is also menaced by two men in gas masks asking him about "Nineteen Fifty" and hounded by a long-dead superhero named The Skyguard. Rad must decipher the clues about the city and keep one step ahead of his enemies if he ever hopes to unravel exactly what is going on in his city and indeed why it even exists. As things ramp up, he will encounter cyborgs, doppelgangers, alternate universes, and the possibility that his own friends may know more than they let on. Much more than one could ever think of. In the end, he may have to contend with the end of the world if he hopes to solve the case and save his own universe from destruction at the unwitting hands of our own world.            And I would like to tell you it's the book that revived my faith in the genre. I'd like to tell you it's the book that I could hold aloft as proof that the retro-future genre isn't a complete wash. Yeah. I'd like to. But you already know how this review is gonna go.               Empire State is above all a book with serious commitment issues. It wants very badly to be a golden-age superhero story. It also wants very badly to be an alternate-world story (spoilers be damned, it's right there on the back of the freaking book), a noir detective story, a retro-future sci-fi novel, and a pulp adventure story. It wants to be all these things and it tries really, really hard to be all of them. The problem is, since it can't make up its mind and it cannot be all of these things, it really just falls short of all of it. The book ends up a jangling, confused mess where people swap allegiances almost with the flip of a coin and a major character is named "Nimrod" for seemingly no purpose than to hold up the naming conventions. The ending makes no sense, as not even the main character can tell whose side he's on and what he's doing in the overall conflict.               That sense of not really knowing what's going on permeates the entire book, too. Perhaps it's just that I failed to connect with the plot on any level, but it just didn't seem like there was any reason for me to. The initial chapters did much to try and draw me in, but once I was there; the story got bored, puttered around the house, checked its email, and then promptly looked back into the living room where I was sitting and asked, "Oh, you're still here?" When the few historical characters used (there are two of them at the very least, I know, shocker) appear, they're given some brief context as to who they are, but not really much to why they're there. The main villain of the piece is one of those, further driving any investment in the plot towards apathy.               Speaking of the characters that drive the main plot, there are four of them. None of them are the main character. Not a single one. And this is the problem. There are books where the protagonists have had no effect on the plot. Gravity's Rainbow is a good example of a book where the main character has no real effect on the plot, and Gravity's Rainbow, despite being the most incoherent and cack-handed book ever written, is a fantastic read**. But to have us follow a single character from cohesive beginnings to an incoherent climax that involves Rad, his alternate universe double (spoilers be damned, if there's an alternate universe, there is always an alternate universe double. This is a scientific fact), his introduced-as-untrustworthy ballroom-dancer friend, and just about every other high-powered character in the story. It eventually rockets towards a climax that, somehow, The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack handled better***.                However, after all of that, I do have to say this: The book has its good points. A fair number of them. The bits in the Empire State reveal a pulp dystopia**** that sounds like a lot of fun to play around in, and there is an excellent control over setting. At the beginning, the mystery is gripping and reads very well, unfolding with just the right amount of information to keep you guessing. I admit that this is one of the very few works of fiction that had me stumped: I had no idea where they were going with the story (I would later learn this is because the story went nowhere), and I liked that. And the dialogue, on top of all those things, is very well-done. Maybe not to Locke Lamora levels, but very well done nonetheless.                But in conclusion, it is the plot that keeps the book down, and the plot that damns it. Despite having a great many cool concepts in it, the book isn't actually about anything, and without any kind of driving force behind it, the machinery breaks down, and that big, beautiful box of a plot unfolds into a depressing Christmas present, much like an ugly sweater but with more robots and gunplay.The issue Mr. Christopher has in his book is the same one I have with my own writing-- you can invent as many cool concepts and characters and lines as your mind can dream of, but it doesn't mean a thing if you can't give them anything to do.                And so my final verdict would be this: While I don't recommend this book, it's certainly not terrible enough to warn you away from it (Hello to Ghosts of Manhattan!). I'd suggest taking it out from the library if you're curious, and seeing how you fare. It's certainly an interesting novel, if not a particularly well-plotted one.       *It's weird, but then again I live in New Jersey. Weird kinds of things (like, f'rinstance, Eraserhead Press books sitting on the shelves of Barnes & Noble) just sort of happen statewide. My unofficial state motto is "Over sixteen portals to hell and counting!"**As a sidenote, I hate this book even more for making me use up a Pynchon reference before I did a review of an actual Pynchon book.***Actually, in hindsight, I may have been a little too hard on Burton & Swinburne. Despite the stupid time-travel bits, it's actually quite well-constructed compared to other books in the retro-future genre.****This word is not recognized by my spellcheck, but somehow "Quidditch" is. Why is it not recognized by my spellcheck?!

  • Mark
    2019-02-18 17:31

    The art-deco style cover gives you a clue about this one. Here is a tale set initially in a 1920/30’s style New York, though not the New York City, but a place called Empire State. (Although the real New York City does appear, later.)We have murder and gunshots in dark city streets, where it is always raining, detectives under streetlamps wrestling silently with their broody thoughts and dubious morals. We have Superheroes entwined with Gangsters. And with illicit booze, gang fights, car chases, airships, and robots, it’s a great mash-up of pulp fiction, film-noir and even a little SF ‘sensawunda’. It’s a book with the detective feel of Chandler and Marlowe living in the strange urban landscapes of China Mieville, mixed in with a good dose of Paul McAuley quantum universe SF. And above all, it’s a pulp style superhero book, one that is reminiscent of George RR Martin’s Wild Cards series, or my recent read of Paul Malmont.The sense of place is strong in this one. I was impressed by the grimy sidewalks, the speakeasies, the general sense that all is not well in this urban metropolis.The characterisation is pretty good too. Though our main hero, Rad Bradley, fits all the usual clichés of ‘downtrodden detective’, Rad has a bit more depth than I’d expected. Whilst being the tortured hero, it’s also clear that he has issues, though these are not overplayed. He wants to do the right thing and clearly has good intentions, though the city is wearing him down.Rad is given the case of finding a young woman (Sam Saturn) who has gone missing. In the finest tradition of film noir, there’s more to this than you (or Rad) expect, and we soon find ourselves enmeshed in a plot of secrecy and betrayal, connected to the seemingly never-ending ‘Wartime’ and the under-construction Empire State building.There’s a great range of secondary characters to fill out the world. We meet Rad’s best friend newspaper reporter Kane Fortuna, who eventually becomes not-what-we-expect. Kane introduces Rad to Captain Carson and his enigmatic robotic sidekick Byron, who remind me of the old pulp adventurers such as Doc Savage and Alain Quartermain. At the same time, but in alternate storylines, we meet Rex, a gangster, and a Ku-Klux-Clan-like prophet, The Pastor of Lost Souls, whose secret meetings suggest that a time of revolution may soon be at hand. In such tales where the writer is juggling so many aspects, there’s a great risk it isn’t going to work, that there’s too many references to the past and not enough originality, and that ‘the grand idea’ in the end peters out to nothing. There was an issue here in that the set up in the initial pages is quite impressive, although by the middle the novel suffers by a colossal slow-down of pace, with lots of running around between low-key locations which is a tad repetitive. In order to maintain the air of mystery before the big reveal midway through, we don’t see a lot of Empire State and so momentum is lost. Some things are kept deliberately enigmatic: the war between Empire State and ‘The Enemy’, the fact that most residents of the Empire State cannot remember much of their history, but seem to exist mainly in the now.In the middle there are major revelations to explain these strange characteristics, mainly in an info-dump format when Rad has the problem/s revealed.[MAJOR PLOT SPOILERS!!!]The key concept of the story is that Empire State and New York City are in parallel universes, the Origin and the Pocket, but connected through a rift, the Fissure. Opposing factions on both sides are trying to keep the Fissure open or close it, but time is running out as the Origin universe (New York) is reabsorbing the Pocket universe (Empire State). Some of our characters have crossed over between the two to do this whilst others have doppelgangers co-existing in the opposing universes.{END OF MAJOR PLOT SPOILERS!!!]The remainder of the novel is spent dealing with the repercussions of these revelations and the tale becomes a little fractured towards the climax, jumping between the key characters and travelling between the places where they are.By the end, it’s all resolved. The problem is solved, things settle into a new reality, although again there’s a lot of ‘here’s why this happened’ dialogue in order to do this.Despite the drop-off in the middle of the book, and the ending not quite holding up to its ambitious premise, I’m pleased I persevered with this one. It’s a very impressive debut. His next novel, Seven Wonders, is due out from Angry Robot Books in September 2012. Based on what I’ve read here, it’s going to be brilliant.Some interesting little extras at the back of the book: there’s an interview with Adam about the writing of the novel, which is quite enlightening. There’s also a listening list of music that inspired the author whilst writing the novel, which includes sources as diverse as The Cure and Hans Zimmer’s Inception soundtrack.Most interestingly of all, there is information about Worldbuilder, a computer website that allows the reader to put up web designs, fan art, comic art, audio, or anything appropriate to the world Adam has created, under a Creative Commons licence. A great idea, in my opinion.

  • Ranting Dragon
    2019-02-17 13:06 State is the genre-bending debut novel of New Zealand-born author Adam Christopher, one of Angry Robot’s exciting new acquisitions. Empire State successfully combines science fiction, Prohibition-era detective noir, comic book superheroes, and nearly endless plot twists to create a fast-paced and unique saga of surprises that is sure to keep countless readers up into the early hours of the morning.Welcome to the Empire StateEmpire State primarily tells the tale of Rad Bradley, an out-of-work private detective who, despite bordering on middle age, can’t remember anything much further back than the last decade. The majority of the story takes place within Rad’s home city, the Empire State, which is not surprising, really, as according to the authorities, there is nowhere else. Seemingly, the only ones ever to have left the Empire State’s boundaries are the human-robot hybrids incrementally sent off into the surrounding fog to fight a mysterious and unnamed enemy. None of these have ever returned. The city itself is a dismal place where the majority of citizens struggle to make ends meet, relying on scant Wartime rations, and an authoritarian government uses their fear of the unknown as a tool of oppression.However, a new case will see Rad caught up in a series of strange events and multilayered conspiracies with roots deep into the heart of the Empire State itself. Rad is about to discover that the Empire State is not the only place; in fact, it is merely a pocket dimension that was created in the image of the larger city of New York during a battle between two scientist heroes. Soon the fate of both cities may lie in Rad Bradley’s hands.And now for something just a little bit different…The first thing I have to say about Empire State is that it will probably not be quite what you are expecting. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Although Empire State deals with the concept of a multiverse and contains quite a number of other science fiction elements, it is not an example of hard science fiction. In fact, I would venture to say that Empire State is not really a science fiction novel. Nor is it really a superhero novel in the classical sense. The most adequate description I can find for it is a parallel world, Prohibition-era noir, detective novel with a superhuman twist.Anyone for some Prohibition-era detective noir?In my opinion, the noir elements are what really make the novel and give it pathos. The shadow of Wartime Prohibition lies over the entire narrative like a distorting lens, lending it a distinctive tone and aesthetic. Even when more immediate events take precedence and temporarily push these aspects into the background, their presence is still undeniably felt. Related themes of inequality and repression also underpin the narrative as do the concepts of self and other, belonging, and the temptation of something greater. The latter two are embodied in a grass is greener mentality that has the character’s constantly questioning whether the Empire State is but a poor reflection of the ‘real’ New York City and whether they would be happier on the other side.The characters themselves are also complex and memorable, ranging from the strange and quirky to the creepy and morally reprehensible. In addition, their motivations are believable despite never being quite what you expect. Christopher’s protagonist Rad Bradley is a standout character throughout the novel, remaining likable and sympathetic despite his flaws. He is a man we can all relate to, just trying to get by and do the best he can in a world gone mad.A nonstop saga of surprisesChristopher packs numerous little twists and turns into the novel, and Empire State contains all the elements to make it a rip-roaring read—from creepy religious cults, dark humor, murder, and intrigue to the concept of Wartime and a dash of aeronautical piracy. Once the novel gets started, it just keeps increasing in tempo, resulting in a fast paced revelation-fest that will continue to surprise even the most savvy readers.So many surprises may occasionally come at the cost of clarity. Readers looking for a no-holds barred succession of surprises will no doubt be delighted, while those who prefer to have some idea where the story is going may find themselves a little lost. In addition, the reader is not made explicitly aware of the fact that the Empire State is a parallel world reflection of New York City until quite a while into the novel. Although this should be easy enough for most readers to figure out, and is stated quite clearly on the blurb, more literal readers may find it a little off-putting. As I discovered after a few failed attempts to read it late at night after a long work shift, Empire State is a novel you have to keep your mind focused on so you don’t lose track of what is going on and who is betraying whom. Nevertheless, those who give the novel their undivided attention will be well rewarded for doing so.Why should you read this book?Overall, Empire State is sure to provide an interesting and immersive read for fans of offbeat science fiction and detective noir or anyone simply looking to try something a little new and different from an up-and-coming debut author. Furthermore, it has also been selected as the basis for Angry Robot’s first Worldbuilder project, which allows readers to contribute works of their own based upon the world of Empire State. As a result, reading the novel may provide one with an exciting opportunity for their own creative endeavors. However, readers expecting a novel primarily involving super humans flying around shooting lasers out of their eyes may find themselves more suited to Christopher’s newly announced second novel, Seven Wonders, which promises all that and more.

  • Tom
    2019-02-28 10:18

    Empire StateWritten by Adam ChristopherRead by Phil GiganteEmpire State is a novel that sounds really great in concept but comes off a bit confusing in execution. This novel has it all - superheroes, detective noir, gangsters, prohibition, robots, alternate dimensions, you name it. If any or all of that sounds cool to you, this may be a book for you. The story generally takes the form of a detective noir once you get into it except that the story's perspective does not only stick with the detective all the time. As with detective noir stories, you don't know who is on which side all the time and things are slowly revealed as the story unfolds. Unfortunately, the story became confusing as things developed and the loyalties and motivations of characters seemed constantly in flux. The characters didn't have a whole lot of depth past being exactly what you'd expect from their role in the story (detective, gangster, old-timey adventurer, reporter, etc).Despite the confusion, I really liked the ideas and world that Christopher created in this novel. The world of the Empire State is a dark, foggy equivalent of New York that had me picturing scenes from Dick Tracy. I'm looking forward to seeing what else Christopher does in this world.Phil Gigante did a great job narrating Empire State. Voices for different characters were distinct and gave a great vocal aspect to the nature of the character being done.That said, I don't know if I would actually recommend this as an audio book. There were quite a few times I wanted to rewind a bit because I had no idea what just happened (I actually did rewind a few times which is rare for me). I think the ability to easily look back a page or two in a book would probably have helped with the confusion.

  • Chris Bauer
    2019-02-24 09:08

    There is a lot to like about this debut novel from Adam Christopher. The premise of Empire State is exceptionally fresh and unique. The mechanics behind the novel are also interesting. There were so many details and minor points alluded to in the book which I found utterly fascinating and thought-provoking.And the Worldbuilder system shows plenty of promise. But...I could not sympathize with the protagonist(s) at all. Very dry, 2D and somewhat stereotypically "noir" in nature. The basic structure of the novel was also a problem for me to follow. No spoiler alert, but not only is the timeline fractured by design, but on several occasions I found myself confused about the characters and their relationships in the book. The writing is above average, but the dialogue seemed forced and trite in several key scenes. Another big problem I had with the book is the fact that I found the secondary and minor characters to be MUCH more interesting than the primaries. If you're a fan of new speculative fiction (ie., horror and sci-fi) you have to check out other books by the publisher of "Empire State", Angry Robots Press. They are doing some INCREDIBLE things in the industry and signing on debut writers as well as veterans left and right. IMHO, they are redefining the entire genre and the publishing industry along with it. I have to admit I feel some guilt in giving this book only 2 stars; it should've had more.

  • Aaron
    2019-03-15 14:16

    Confusing, rambling, and poorly edited. Angry Robot lost me as a customer when they put this book out. Adam Christopher has a great imagination, and a good sense of where to focus when writing action sequences or descriptive passages. But this book is loaded with passages that needed a careful editor's eye, and Angry Robot apparently does not employ any careful editors. Typos, grammar errors, redundant phrases. This book read like a first draft that got quickly skimmed by an editor and put to press. I'd discuss the storyline more, but I was so distracted by the quality of the writing that I couldn't tell you what really happened and ended up not finishing the book, despite trying on three separate occasions to read it!Super heroes in alternate universe New York? Cool! Hard-boiled detective protagonist? Cool! Weird underbelly activities in a seedy district? Cool!But none of it made much sense to me, coming as it did in a mish-mash of scenes and switchbacks between the two universes. The first three chapters are completely disconnected from the next several and it isn't until much farther along that I started to understand what Adam was trying to do. He could have succeeded (for me) if he'd had a qualified editor behind him.

  • G.R. Matthews
    2019-03-16 13:08

    This took me a while to finish. The story is there, the world building is fine, the tone works. I ended up confused at times and then it ended, leaving the way open for more.

  • Marc Aplin
    2019-03-14 14:28

    So, essentially, we as fantasy fans don’t mind a bit of repetition. In fact, I think the majority of us would admit that within our genre there isn’t a huge amount of variation. But, we don’t mind this – we read fantasy because we enjoy the young lad who against it all somehow manages to complete his quest. This could be taking a ring to Mordor, it could be defeating the evil Voldemort, maybe pulling a sword from a stone and rising up to become King? We love it. What we also love is the past – those Game of Thrones or Wheel of Time type settings – I guess you would call them Medieval(ish), oh – and Dragons and Unicorns – chuck some of those in too. The point I am trying to make is that within Fantasy Literature it is very, very rare that you read something that feels completely new and unlike anything you’ve previously read. Well, when Angry Robot announced Empire State and touted it as a Sci-Fi / Fantasy blend I was pretty damned excited because it sounded completely unique in both setting and story. However, before I continue – I should point out that I did discover during my reading of Empire State that they (Angry Robot) kind of tricked me *shakes angry fist* (I shall explain later).So, Empire State – this is Adam Chrisopher’s début novel and I have to say that for his first published novel the narration is damned impressive. I’ve seen people describe it as ‘noir’ and I’m going to run with that because I think it’s a pretty damned good description of Christopher’s voice. The novel is in third person and we switch between a number of (at most times) character limited perspectives (i.e. we know only what the character knows). This is important because the novel reads kind of as a detective novel – one of the characters, Rad, is actually a Private Detective and the other, Rex, is a petty criminal.The novel opens up with the character Rex fleeing from some gangsta types that he has had a run in with. When the car he is escaping in flips over it looks like the end of the line – however, nearby events cause a bit of a distraction and Rex is able to escape into the crowd. So, what is this event that has distracted the crowd and allowed Rex to escape? Well, it is a superhero vs supervillain fight – happening right there – in the centre of New York – ah yes, that old chestnut! Well, as Rex watches the Superheroes there fighting it out he witnesses the death of our Superhero. The strange thing is though, the Supervillain decided to unmask upon her victory and get this – the supervillain… she is kind of… a girl! Yes… a girl! (A hot one too apparently). Anyway, she obviously legs it – being a supervillain the police would quite like to speak to her and she doesn’t seem keen on that. Rex takes the opportunity too to flee and when he sees the broken, scared looking supervillain dashing into an alleyway in front of him – he realises he has an opportunity here… he could, if he wanted, kill the supervillain and earn himself a medal.Snap – we leave Rex for now and centre in on Private Detective Rad. Rad is a pretty likeable guy, a no-nonsense Private Detective who we can relate to and are quite happy to explore, with him, the 1920′s/1930′s style New York, known here as Empire State. Remember Philip Marlowe? That 1930′s private detective that appeared in that golden age of hardboiled crime fiction? If you do – that’s the kind of man you get with Rad. He is searching for a missing woman that sounds, through description, remarkably like the supervillain character we saw Rex follow down the alley a few chapters ago. Certainly, it is a strange coincidence and we know (as the reader) there must be some kind of link between this woman who has disappeared, the supervillain who removed her mask and Rex. We, as the reader, are as much the detective as Rad with Mr Christopher placing us upon Rad’s shoulder as he wonders around Empire State trying to find out what the heck is going on.Whilst looking for the missing person, Ms Saturn, Rad teams up with a local reporter who introduces him to a man, Captain Carson, who quite simply, blows Rad’s mind. In fact – he not only blows Rad’s mind – but the readers mind (that is me – and you, if you read it!). We find that Empire State is not all it seems and in order to solve the disappearance of Ms Saturn, Rad is going to have to embrace and explore the various aspects of Empire State that make it ‘not’ normal. Now, this is where I reveal the little lie that Angry Robot handed to me and tricked me with… Where as I was expecting some kind of magical powers to be powering the super heroes and behind the events that happen in Empire State, it is in fact some pretty damned complex Science-Fiction consisting of Portals, Robots, Superheroes. Now though, I’m going to forgive Angry Robot – because, even though I’m not a Science-Fiction fan, I very much enjoyed this. I think the reason I did so is due to Adam Christopher’s ability to really take the time and ensure that the reader explains the various Science Fiction elements of the novel.So, once we as the reader have been explained the various Science-Fiction elements of Empire State they begin to really add new dimensions to the story. More characters and introduced and their varying comprehension of how this World that Mr Christopher has created begins to add a certain complexity to the story that readers will initially loathe, but should they be willing to invest the time into thinking it through, will be damned impressed with the wrap up. I would describe this story as a roller coaster. On the way up, you are completely unsure what the hell is going on and what is going to happen when you reach the peak, once you reach the peak you understand and things become clear, then comes the break-neck pace at which you fly down that damned coaster hanging on for your dear life. Even more terrifying though is that Adam’s roller coaster doesn’t have a single track on the way down. It seems to have around 10 different tracks in which you could end up being thrown down – you, as the reader, will not know until the very end of the book who is whose side or who is working for the greater good as opposed to their own, selfish motives.So, to conclude things, I have to first say sorry for not doing Adam’s novel justice. In order to properly explain and commend Adam for the work he has done I’d have to completely destroy his hard work in regards to keeping the reader in the dark throughout the majority of the story. The fact that we, as readers know as little as the detective is fantastic and what makes the novel so successful. So, I’m actually going to end this review with two thank yous. One to Angry Robot for tricking me into reading Science-Fiction, something I very rarely do. And secondly, Adam Chrisopher who has emerged as not only a fantastic author but a damned genius that kept me guessing and on the edge of my seat throughout the entire novel. Readers, I suggest you run out now, pick up a copy of Empire State, embrace the uniqueness of the novel, the initial confusion and trust Mr Christopher to take you on a thrilling journey that will have a more than satisfying ending.

  • Reader-ramble
    2019-02-20 15:17

    So, um, okay. I liked this book. It was fun, but definitely strange. You would thing that after reading Wendig, Kadrey, Christopher Moore, and watching way too much anime that I could handle this. I handled it, but I have a slight feeling that this book suffers from slight overstuffing.I'll throw down a spoiler filled summary and then I'll explain why.Rad Bradley is a down on his luck private eye who drinks too much back room liquor. When a woman of means offers him a job looking for her missing lesbian life partner, he's thrown into a world of art deco superheroes, parallel realities, zealous cults, and airship adventurers. As it turns out, his home, The Empire State, is a pale shadow of the real New York City that was created when the Skyguard and the Science Pirate threw down in an epic battle during Prohibition. If the Fissure between the two cities is closed, both worlds will be lost.Sound straight forward? It kind of is, if you can get past which dimension people are from and who killed who and who is doing what. It all gets a bit screwy at the end for a moment, but Christopher manages to straighten it back out enough to keep me interested in the world.Now, why does it feel a tad over stuffed? First, the reader is introduced to the Enemy they've been fighting for 20 years. The Enemy just ends up being a hazy reflection of the Empire State, but it more or less serves as a red herring aside from the flying airships. It draws the reader away from the superheroes and what happens to them. They pop up here and there and a sense of mystery, but I didn't really think about them most of the time. They're super important to the plot, but again, other lines detracted from them.Like the cult. Yes, the cult. Thought it was going to be more important than it really was. The leader of the cult was important. The actual cult itself, not so much.There is so much going on, that when it all came crashing together at the end, I had to read a lot of lines multiple times just to figure out who was fighting who and what the heck was going on. Christopher could have cut back on trying to tie his world building in characters, and I believe things would have been clearer.I know it sounds like I hated to book after I said I liked it, but I discovered I really liked the character of Rad. Empire State is a noir detective novel at it's heart and Rad is the perfect character for it. He's hard drinking without being a mean alcoholic. He's smart enough to put the clues together without being an arrogant prick. He likes the simple things like coffee and conversations with his friends, but he's not afraid to stick his nose where people say it shouldn't go. He also tries to keep his eye on the case because his client trusts him to. I just plain like Rad.Christopher also does a good job making all the elements he's working with feel like they belong in the same world and maintaining that foggy streets atmosphere. It helps that his writing is good and clear as well. I got the sense that The Empire State was the wet, gloomy place with this eery orange fog that added to the haziness. It really fits the feel the writer is shooting for.I admit it took me a bit to get into the book, but I look forward to checking out the sequels. I'll try not to forget that it's sitting on my kindle this time around.So, if you're looking for a fun, genre-blending book that might make you think a bit with the craziness that goes on, I'd give this book a shot.

  • Josh
    2019-03-12 14:29

    EMPIRE STATE is a blend of prohibition era shysters and superheroes ripped from the comic strip with a nod towards noir and the dime detective novels of the pulp era. There is also a liberal dose of sci-fi too with a multi dimensional New York/Empire State with access to and from via a fissure. This pocket and origin concept is a times confusing yet plausible within the limitations of Adam Christopher’s world he so craftily manufactures. Once I was able to get my head around it, the idea worked really well and added another ‘dimension’ to the characters. Empire State is a city confined by a mysterious and everlasting fog, it’s in a perpetual state of wartime with fleet after fleet disembarking to join the war effort. The calendar spans back a mere 19 years with its inhabitants having no memory of their history. It’s a strange place which gets a whole lot stranger following the fusion of the cities when the Science Pirate is murdered and Rex, a gangster is plucked from New York straight into the heart of Empire State. Rex’s Empire State counterpart (for each person in Empire State is a mirror of those in New York), Rad, is a private investigator tasked with discovering who is responsible for the murder of a young women with a distinct likeness to the Science Pirate. It’s this investigative angle that allows Christopher to fuse sci-fi with the common noir elements. Personally I would’ve liked to have seen more of the prohibition era gangsters and speak easy establishments, however, the battles involving the superheroes and ever changing landscape between good and evil make up for this. EMPIRE STATE is not an easily definable novel in terms of confining it within a single genre as there are simply too many facets and faces to the story Christopher tells. I found EMPIRE STATE to be mostly enjoyable if not a little confusing at times with some interesting characters and a unique place-setting. This is a must read for fans of superhero and sci-fi fiction.

  • Alterjess
    2019-03-17 15:17

    When this is inevitably turned into a movie it will be one of the very few cases where I recommend that people NOT read the book first. I'm giving this two stars because the premise is cool and I like stories about science fiction happening in New York.This is an interesting premise, but the poor quality of the writing makes for a sluggish read. The characters never fully come into focus, the plot is needlessly convoluted, and the climactic final scenes are a sloppy action sequence peppered by "As you know, Bob" infodump speeches.It's also quite obvious from the start that the author knows next to nothing about New York City. (He says as much in the interview attached to the Kindle version of the book.) Just as you can't break the rules of good writing without mastering them first, you can't write a convincing AU if you don't research the real world you're riffing on. If you don't know what changes you're making, how can people familiar with the source material (say, people who live in NYC!) believe in your alternate version?This book also suffers from what is rapidly becoming one of my biggest pet peeves in genre writing, the "Surprise, they're a girl!" character. (I'm not actually spoiling anything here - the reveal happens in the first 10 pages of the book.) This book doesn't even come close to passing the Bechdel test, with exactly 2.5 female characters, none of whom ever share screentime with any of the others, and the female character with the most to do is mainly female so that the other characters can realize in sequence "Hey, she's a GIRL!" and allow the author to demonstrate how progressive and feminist he is because look! a girl! Really, guys, if you can't do anything more with your female characters than point how how surprising it is that girls can do stuff too, please, don't bother. Just make them all dudes.

  • Demercel
    2019-02-28 12:15

    It seems I am spoiled with reading mostly Hugo and Nebula award-winning books, so for me Empire State is a representative of the new, less-then-perfect generation of books. The book started slow, really slow. It is not an uncommon tool in authors' arsenal, but it still made the book not very well-balanced, because literally the first half is slow and introducing the characters and the setting, in the physical middle of the book the mystery is unveiled and the reader's suspicions are confirmed and then everything happens in the second half of the book. The noir theme is well developed, but otherwise the mix of robots, steampunk, prohibition, noir and superheroes is somehow mechanical. It is like the author grew only with comic books and has difficulties in imagining something without superheroes flying in the night sky. The other, more important thing, is the fact that there (at least for me) was no message, no deeper level. It is just a strange detective story in a sci-fi setting with robots and superheroes thrown in the blender. I should admit that the second half made me read the book in one breath, but I was still disappointed by the predictable and anticlimactic ending. If I have to summarize - there is no deeper meaning, the bubble world seems not to be thought as a allegory of something, so the book is just a superficial, one-dimensional sci-fi crime novel, which from a crime-novel point of view has a very uneven pace and not enough twists and turns to be unpredictable. I guess I just expected something like Sergei Lukyanenko's Watch series, but in an American noir setting. But I guess I expect too much from someone who has read too much about Spiderman and his arch-enemy Slipperman ;)

  • Jen Williams
    2019-03-17 14:10

    Prohibition-era New York, parallel universes, duelling superheroes... And the world of Empire State gets a lot stranger than that. This is a great, punchy novel full of odd ideas and thrilling conflict, but what I liked best about it was the atmosphere, and the details that build it. Christopher constructs the sense of an off kilter world with layer upon layer of pulp noir strangeness, until the whole thing crackles with its own crazy energy. It's a fun house novel, where nothing is quite what it seems and you're continually thrown off balance; Christopher is a writer dedicated to taking you places that you might think you know, and then showing you them from a different angle, and I love that sort of thing. The world of Empire State is swaddled in fog and hazy street lights, riddled through with mystery and betrayal, and thrums to the sound of gun fire and the genteel tinkle of people drinking hooch from china cups. It is, in other words, a great deal of classy fun, with superheroes as a sort of extra added bonus.For all its pulp, noir roots, Empire State is a book unlike anything else I've read, and it will stay in your memory for a long time, probably giving you lingering looks from under its fedora and smelling faintly of gunpowder.

  • Julian
    2019-02-18 17:04

    I was lured into buying this by the promise of a tale of an alternative reality where Prohibition was never repealed, and where superheroes went bad. And everything went really, really well until I started to read it. The first page established, at considerable length, that two men were in a car. On the second page we learned that the author is overly fond of adjectives, tending towards the inexperienced writer's belief that where none are necessary, three are better. We also learned that he is apparently incapable of remembering the tenor of his narrative over a period of more than two sentences, in as much as that his point-of-view character switches opinion and attitude abruptly, with no explanation given as to why. If this were literary fiction of an experimental nature, I might forgive this, but Mr Christopher is not yet a nature enough writer to be capable of perpetrating literature. Let us hope that some day he may be.

  • Greg
    2019-03-17 14:15

    An utter mess of a book. I don't know why I thought it would fix itself in the end. Terrible characters, dialogue, and haphazard worldbuilding. Finishing this one made me angry.For a longer version of the egregious problems this book has: Gabriel C. does an excellent job at explaining why this is just an awful mess. (

  • Randy
    2019-02-28 12:14

    A fine mix of steampunk/noir/superhero/pulp in a story that I had a great time reading.A PI takes a case to find a woman's missing lover in a thirties city in the midst of a war. Two superheroes, The SkyGuard and The Science Pirate, former friends now battling open the book.The whole thing ties into two worlds threatened with destruction.From the speakeasies to the blimps overhead to a fanatical preacher, robots, parallel universes, it is all great fun.