Review From User :
by Tim Powers.
Perhaps this will explain better than I what I mean by wonderful descriptions and almost "lyrical prose."
" From over the shoulder of the mountain, on the side by the Abich I glacier, he heard booming and cracking; and then the earthbound thunder sounded to his right, and he saw that it was the noise of avalanches, galleries and valleys of snow moving down from the heights and separating into fragments then tumbling and exploding into jagged bursts of white against the remote gray sky before they disappeared below his view.
The cracks and thunders made syllables in the depleted air, but they didn't seem to be in Arabic. Hale guessed that they were of a language much older, the uncompromised speech of mountain conversing with mountain and lightning and cloud, seeming random only to creatures like himself whose withered verbs and nouns had grown apart from the things they described.
The music was nearly inaudible to Hale's physical eardrums, but in his spine he could feel that it was mounting toward some sustained note for which tragedy or grandeur would be nearly appropriate words.
Silently in the vault far overhead the clouds broke, all tall columns of glowing, whirling snow-dust stood now around the black vessel, motionless; Hale reflected that it must be noon, for the shining columns were vertical. The mountain and the lake and the very air were suddenly darker in comparison.
The columns of light were alive and he fields of their attentions palpably sweeping across the ice and the glacier face and the mountain, momentarily clarifying into sharp focus anything they touched; for just a moment, Hale could see with hallucinatory clarity the woven cuffs of his sleeves.
Angels, Hale thought, looking away in shuddering awe. These beings on this mountain are older than the world, and once looked God in the face"
I'd love to talk about all the wonderful things in this book. Tim Powers is an amazing author and it boggles my mind when I think about how little is known of his writing in this day and age. His command of the English language rivals those of a bygone age where lyrical prose sounded almost poetic and authors paid excruciating attention to the most minute detail in order to paint pictures and convey emotions, noble love, tragedy and desperation with only words from their hearts. Words that conveyed scents, tactile sensations, tastes, sounds and wonderful sights while inspiring fear, hopelessness joy and love as if the reader were standing next to the story's hero and freezing in the cold with him. Authors like E.A. Poe, A.C. Doyle, E. R. Burroughs and Jules Verne. In Declare Tim Powers reminds me of these greats, but, that's not all.
Declare has a twisted, tangled multi-layered plot that reminds me of Robert Ludlum's writing in the days of the Parsifal Mosaic and The Holcroft Covenant. This is a tale of cold war espionage and cloak and dagger skullduggery with a touch of the wicked darkness of the Osterman Weekend or The Boys of Brazil. There is action in Declare reminiscent of an Alistair Maclean novel like Where Eagles Dare. On top of this, dark, mysterious themes seep through all of this, like bourbon through sweet yellow cake. Themes that bring darkness and fear like that from the movies Rosemary's Baby and The Omen. As if this came short of any mark, Powers chose to weave his fantastic tale through actual events in history, without changing them.
In his own words
"In a way, I arrived at the plot for this book by the same method that astronomers use in looking for a new planet-they look for "perturbations," wobbles, in the orbits of planets they're aware of, and they calculate mass and position of an unseen planet whose gravitational field could have caused the observed perturbations-and then they turn their telescopes on that part of the sky and search for a gleam. I looked at all the seemingly irrelevant "wobbles" in the lives of these people-Kim Philby, his father, T.E. Lawrence, Guy Burgess-and I made it an ironclad rule that I could not change or disregard any of the recorded facts, nor rearrange any days of the calendar-and then I tried to figure out what momentous but unrecorded fact could explain them all."
Powers uses the same formula that won the movie "Titanic" and "The Return of the King" Oscars. By unswerving loyalty to the original book or the historical facts and an a scholarly dedication to keep the details as much as they happened in the book of Philby, Lawrence of Arabia or T.S. Eliot's lives while waving a wonderful tale of magic, betrayal and hope around them.
Knitting all of these elements together and providing a sense of hope, like the loom of a lighthouse light where the tower is hidden behind the horizon and only the glow of the light brings faint hope for guidance and resurrection, a tragic and heart worming love story that spans decades with the lovers trapped in a cold war that's older than civilization itself.
In the early chapters of this book, Powers tapped into the grim, hopeless feeling darkness that lurks throughout George Orwell's masterwork, 1984. Andrew Hale reminds me as much of Winston Smith as he does Arthur Blair (Orwell) himself in the days of the Spanish Civil war. The later chapters evoke memories of Alistair Maclean's Where Eagles Dare or The Guns of Naverone.
Ordinarily, so many elements between the covers of a single book may be overwhelming and distracting, like a master-chef preparing Chicken Cordon Blu, the layers are blended together in Declare in perfect unique compliment of each other and they please the pallet beyond what most writers are able to do.
Did I like this book
Yes, very much. Right now I rate it 4.5 stars, but I am considering an upgrade to a rare 5 star award.
Warnings (as usual, the Devil is in the Details).
1) As masterful and wonderful as I think this book is, it is written in an cadence and pace that is more like the wonderful novels of John Wyndham, H.G. Wells and George Orwell published in the 1950s and 60s. Though Powers wrote and published his work in 1988, like a chameleon he adapts the style of writing that was prevalent in the era he writes about. He is a modern author and writer and this is a modern novel so there is more dialog and other conventions that mark modern works different from classic ones, but some might find the pace has two speeds, slow and lightning speed. I like the "Sprint and Drift" formula here, as I did in The Hidden Oasis but some may thing it gets too slow in places.
2) There are no sexual scenes, though the characters do engage in sex. There is very little foul language, but there is a word or two that you wouldn't utter in front of your mother. Make no mistake--I think these are well managed with the emphasis on story, plot and character development.
3) There is plenty of violence in this book. The story is written so smoothly that it is not out of place, not gratuitous or vulgar, but people get shot and damaged in some very creative ways.
4) There is a theme here involving biblical elements. This may be one of the few books where I can say, "I" (me) do not believe that these elements will challenge anyone's faith. I can never tell, so, warning these are here and there is also a blend of supernatural elements.
I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did.
I would also like to say, that, if you are a fan of audiobooks, that I listened to the narration of Simon Prebble. I usually do not recommend Audiobooks because liking or hating a narrator is generally a personal matter. Narration is a fickle art. Having one good book does nto gauruntee another. Simon Prebble, Tim Powers and Declare hit perfect notes. This book was a superb fit for Prebbles dignified sense of expression and carefully paced timing.
I will also say that I liked some of the discriptive paragraphs so much that I bought the Kindle book so I could read them myself. This is just a good read.
In his eleventh novel, Tim Powers takes his unique brand of speculative fiction into uncharted territory, instilling the old-fashioned espionage novel with a healthy dose of the supernatural.
As a young double agent infiltrating the Soviet spy network in Nazi-occupied Paris, Andrew Hale finds himself caught up in a secret even more ruthless war. Two decades later, a coded message draws Professor Andrew Hale back into Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Elements from his past are gathering in Beirut, including ex-British counterespionage chief and Soviet mole Kim Philby, and a beautiful former Spanish Civil War soldier-turned-intelligence operative, Elena Ceniza-Bendiga. Soon Hale will be forced to confront again the nightmare that has haunted his adult life: a lethal unfinished operation code-named “Declare.” From the corridors of Whitehall to the Arabian Desert, from post-war Berlin to the streets of Cold War Moscow, Hale’s desperate quest draws him into international politics and gritty espionage tradecraft – and inexorably drives Hale, Ceniza-Bendiga, and Philby to a deadly confrontation on the high glaciers of Mount Ararat, in the very shadow of the fabulous and perilous biblical Ark.