Tuesday, July 8, 2008

First Thoughts on Declare

I finished Declare sometime last night and I'm still trying to wrap my brain around it. I've learned over time that you shouldn't even try to understand a Tim Powers book on the first read, but just try to get the gist of it kind of like a read through of a play. First you get the blocking down, the basics, before you move on to the nuances. It's the second or third read before you get something above a surface reading.

I can anticipate the question, "Why bother then? If you have to work so hard?" The answer is because Powers books are an awesome, mind-melting trip! Yeah, I won't get all the connections or even anything more than basic plot, but there's still moments in the text when the hairs raise on my arms. Powers can create some terrifying scenes.

Declare is a cold war era, globe tropping, spy thriller. The main characters are Andrew Hale, a British spy, Elena (something or other), a hot Soviet spy, and Kim Philby, real life British/USSR spy. However, there's so much more to that. There's genies (called djinns), Lawrence of Arabia, A Thousand and One Nights, Russia, Britain, the Bible, rubaiyats, etc. etc.

Besides the hair raising moments, what I love about Powers book is how he is able to see magic in the mundane, but also in events that are interesting in their own right. The Cold War, the existence and fail of the USSR is fascinating from a historical perspective, and it's something wondrous and original that Powers can take a look take an already rich history and reimagine it without it losing of its meatiness and realness.

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