In his 11th 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 Teresa 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 postwar 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.
©2001 Tim Powers (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“Dazzling…A tour de force, a brilliant blend of John le Carré spy fiction with the otherworldly.” (Dean Koontz)
“[Powers] orchestrates reality and fantasy so artfully that the reader is not allowed a moment’s doubt throughout this tall tale.” (The New Yorker)
“Highly ingenious…No one else writes like Powers, and Declare finds him at the top of his game.” (San Francisco Chronicle)
This is a meticulously imagined and researched supernaturally themed alternate history of some events concerning the Cold War. The description above does a great job of laying out the scenario so I won't try. They story is told in flash backs and nothing is spoon fed to listener/reader. The characters really take time to unfold. It helps if you have some understanding of the time period but it's not necessary. It helps if you are patient and willing to re-listen. The reader does an awesome job and handles voicing the different characters admirably. Very impressive considering he has to pull off American, English, French, Russian, and Arabic accents as well as portray a female character and an arrogant stutterer. This is probably the most dense and difficult to follow of Tim Powers novels. If you find a lot of description and historic detail boring, this book probably isn't for you. If you are looking for something original and well read, then please be my guest. So far it doesn't seem that Audible has really done much to market this book and author. That is really a shame and a crime as both are excellent and worthy of the attention of any discriminating lover of fantasy.
A trusted friend recommended that I read this book because he knows how much I enjoy a good spy story. I found a copy of the book on Amazon and bought it- for a great price too. Then I realized with my schedule I wouldn't have time to read it anytime soon. Fortunately for me I found the audio here.
Declare is a richly detailed, byzantine story of the cold war almost in the style of LeCarre', but with a supernatural angle that Smiley's creator wouldn't dare. But instead of the supernatural angle stopping the story dead in it's tracks it drives the tale forward in many ways.
Powers' story is too complex to explain here simply. Believe me when I say it's a humdinger. What really made this book come to life was the narration. Simon Prebble is in a class by himself. Accents, dialects, foreign languages and genders are no problem for this adept reader. Kim Philby's well known stammer is so well handled that you would swear Prebble is not acting. It's tour de force from beginning to end.
I'm glad I took a chance on this book for many reasons. I'll listen to all 21 hours of this interesting and well told tale many times in the future. Definitely one of the best.
This is one of those tales that will not appeal to anyone who looks forward to summer blockbusters for their enlightened storytelling and character development.
Rather, it's a gloriously intricate tale focusing on the maneuverings of intelligence services. Not surprisingly, and exactly because intelligence services mostly attempt to outthink and not outfight, things blow up irregularly and progress deliberately.
If you've struggled with a John LeCarre title or found that Umberto Eco moves "too slowly", this is not for you.
Even with the black things from other planes occasionally shredding some hapless dude.
Increasing my ops tempo by allowing storytellers to whisper in my ear(buds).
Tim Powers has composed a super spy novel with more than a touch of the supernatural. Told in long story sections out of chronological order, you often learn the reasons why things happen long after you witness them when they occur. Powers has made the editorial choice to tell Andrew Hale’s story out of sequence, and it is very effective; for situations that may at first seem to have a simple explanation take on an entirely new meaning when the full machinations of the plot are revealed. DECLARE has a plot that is intricately baroque in its complexity and interconnectedness and a quixotically satisfying conclusion that pulls in lose strings from every major character. This, to me, is an exceptional Tim Powers novel, displaying all the elements I expect from him: immense historical detail, quirky characters, and a well-ordered sense of the fantastic. The spook business verifiably earns its nick-name here. The characters seem to be real people placed in unreal circumstances so bizarre that you find yourself buying into the weirdness just for the privilege witnessing the story unfold . Some of the players in fact are real historical figures from the world of international espionage. The way Powers manages to weave a complex story under and around the life of Kim Philby, the notorious cold-war spy, is fascinating and gives the novel an air of credibility. I had read the print version of this book years ago and found it to be eerie and unsettling. This audio version seems much less creepy and more accessible. Perhaps I have become desensitized, but I think not. I think it is the very nature of having someone read the book to you. The phenomena is more likely attributed to the sense that you are not alone; the narrator is a companion, your steady voice of reason and a buffer between you and the strangeness of the underworld.
Simon Prebble is a fine narrator for this book and imparts a steady pace to the story and a much needed link to reality in a tale that could become absurd with a more melodramatic performance. His portrayal of Kim Philby is particularly good, giving him a vulnerable stutter than brings him down to life. The book does start slow, first building the relationship with the protagonist, but when the dialog and the supernatural plot begin to open up Prebble’s performance elevates his inflection to match.
I think it's easier to listen to... maybe? Tim is a very deep writer. He dives deep into his subjects. Far deeper than most writers ever think of going. He will always show you things new and strange and something you'd never ever think of. He is a great story teller. His mind works in strange ways. His tales are a challenge. They make you think. You have to make the effort to understand a Tim Powers book. I think Tim is a really GREAT writer. He is passionate about his subjects. He works very hard to create something new from classic mythology.. and makes you wonder.
My favorite Tim Powers book is "On Stranger Tides". It's one of the VERy BEST books I've ever had the pleasure of reading. and re-reading. Like "Tides" I will need to give this one a few more listens to "get" everything Tim is writing about... his writing is layers deep. Not a quick easy read. His tales are challenging, and magical in their weirdness.
The ending is quite amazing... brings all these fantastic strange things together at last... oh so strange... as all his books lead up to huge strange amazing events.
One read, or one listen will not convey this tale to you. It requires more ... two , three... more to get everything that's going on. Tim Powers is like a madman writing... or a very smart & sane man explaining something extremely mad. His books make you think about them after you are done... He does not "Crank out action adventure books"... he crafts elaborate tales that you will need to experience more than once to grasp. That, or I'm a bit stupid. I'd say, word for word, you sure do get your money's worth with a Tim Powers book. Just thinking of the massive research he must go into to get all the details in his tales. Quite impressive.
Tell us about yourself!
Tim Powers weaves together a completely plausible story combining cold war spycraft and the occult. It took me a couple of hours of listening to get into the groove of the story but Simon Prebble's performance kept me listening until the story hooked me. Worth a listen.
Not really. It's a bit tiresome, touches again on a lot of regular Powers themes...immortality, a shared self, strangely intricate methods for combatting magical creatures, playing cards. It's new in that he jumps around time periods and gives a lot of backstory for the three main characters, but it's sometimes very difficult to tell what time period you're in.
This is nearly the same as the above question... No I wouldn't. As a spy novel goes, it's not as cool as say a James Bond tale...and although he gets into some backstory for the characters this time, he doesn't get us inside their heads. That's what he needs to do. We need to feel their anxiety and joy, see their thought processes. Maybe he should try a novel in the first person.
He's as good as ever.
With some major editing it seems like it might make a good movie or mini-series. I think the way the angels are represented in the book is a bit difficult to picture but having seen "Noah" I suppose he was thinking something like that (which reminded me of those spirits or whatever they were at the beginning of "The Ocarina of Time").
Hale's reactivation in the beginning, Elena and Hale's early time together ("Do you want to see a monkey?"), and Elena's brainwashing were all great portions. Some things just seem too contrived (arbitrarily confusedly contrived) in Powers' books. The beats for rendering themselves invisible and the doctored bullets for killing angels were mainly what bothered me on that front this time around.I haven't read all of his books yet but so far I think the only must read is "On Stranger Tides." That one is brilliant. But even in there he nearly falls completely into that contrived trap with the blood/iron magical method of defeating the enemy at the end. I think that would have been fine if he hadn't insisted on making it more complicated by charging the blood magnetically or whatever it was with the compass needle. He's got to K.I.S.S. (keep it simple stupid). I don't remember exactly how he over-thought that but if he had made it so they just had to slice open an arm, bleed on the sword and then cut the bastard that would have flowed and been acceptable. Once it starts getting overly convoluted the reader loses faith in the story, he's lucky he only put that in the very end of "On Stranger Tides."If we look at "The Secret of Monkey Island," all Guybrush Threepwood had to do was spray the ghosts with root beer. For some reason that was easily to believe, I think because it was simple! And that game was based on "On Stranger Tides." Ron Gilbert I think noticed the problem and compensated for it (he made it simple), it was just too convoluted with Powers' MacGuffin solution.
This started off well but didn't hold my interest. The characters drawn from history weren't convincing and I think this was the core of my disappointment. The timeline of the story was difficult to follow and as the narrative went on (and on) I stopped caring about where it was going.
I thought the narrator did a good job, although I did notice a couple of entertaining spoonerisms!
Hale. Main Character. His Realism and Acceptance of his lot in life.
Mr. Prebble has a way of interpreting the story as if he is simply relating his own experiences.
Truths about Soviets?
I am not a fan of cold war drama in general, but I absolutely love the inclusion of local myth and legend in the retelling of the actual events of post WWII Russian and British spy drama. The narrator is perfect and the author among my favorites.
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