Random Ruminations Remotely Related to wRiting


“Declare” by Tim Powers. A book review.

In defense of audio fiction. I listened to this book on audio which I purchased from Audible.com. I mention to my friends at work that I am ‘listening’ to a book and they make some condescending remark like, “books are supposed to be read”, or something equally absurd.

I was listening to the Grammar Girl Podcast and she mentioned Audible is her sponsor and pointed out that the average number of books “read” by the average reader in one is is between five and six. The average “Audible Listener” listens to fifteen to sixteen books a year. Those statistics are surely correct. I am one that was bringing the average down on the “reader” stats. I have been reading one book for nearly four years now. But since I started listening to Audible recordings in August of last year I have listened to five complete books and am part way through three others.

“Declare” is the critically acclaimed novel about British espionage and the supernatural on Mount Ararat.

Andrew Hale is inducted into a super secret agency in the British secret service as a very young boy. For much of the book I wondered if I was watching another version of “A Beautiful Mind” and if anything he was doing was real. He has to learn the espionage trade as he goes.

The story takes you through the second world war occupied Paris, divided post war Berlin, and cold war Russia. You start in England but visit Lebanon, Arabia, Turkey, France, Germany and Russia.

The characters are richly written and fascinating. The plot is absorbing and immersive.

I especially like a story that teaches me something about history or geography or some aspect of human life of which I am not very familiar. This book is very satisfying in that respect. There is information about occupied Paris, the indigenous people and the refugees, short wave radio, the Spanish Civil war, Lebanon, the Arabian Desert, the Bedouin people, cable riding, the Djinn, Mt. Ararat, Noah’s Ark, Russia and cold war Russia.

The most fascinating aspect of this story is the main character’s interactions with Kim Philby, a historical double agent who worked between Great Britain and Russia. You have to read or listen to the afterward that tells which references to Philby are factual and which are fictional. Philby’s father wrote a major work on Arabia that Powers used for much of his reference material for ‘Declare’.

Tim Powers is a gifted writer and tenacious researcher.

As I finished this book I immediately logged on to Audible.com and was please to see that they had added three more of Mr. Powers’ books since I began reading this one. However, I told myself before I could purchase another, I would need to finish listening to George R. R. Martin’s, ‘The Game of Thrones’. (I didn’t want to. The first section of the four was hard for me to get into. I have, since, gotten absorbed into this story and will soon have a review of this story as well.)

The only problem I had with ‘Desire’ was changing points of view. I felt, throughout the book, that the story was about Hale. However, it’s important that the listener/reader asks themselves at the beginning of each chapter, “Who is speaking.” I found a few times that other peoples word work coming from Hale’s mouth until I realized there had been a POV change. Then, it was harder to find my place in the story until I had resolved who had spoken what.

The language isn’t extreme, nor the sex graphic.

I give this story five stars and recommend it to anyone who enjoys stories of historical fiction, espionage and or science fantasy.

Philip ‘Norvaljoe’ Carroll is a staff editor at Flying Island Press, and is buried in things he has to do and things he wants to do. He needs to cut his grass, rebuild his 1965 Barracuda, and record the final episodes of his Podiobooks.com novel to be released on January 18th, ‘The Price of Friendship’; A novel of teenage relationships and dimensional travel.

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