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Friday, April 10, 2009

“God of Clocks” by Alan Campbell (Reviewed by Robert Thompson)

Official Alan Campbell Website
Official Alan Campbell Blog
Order “God of Clocks
Read An Excerpt
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s Reviews of “
Scar Night”, “Lye Street” + “Iron Angel
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s Interview with Alan Campbell

AUTHOR INFORMATION: After graduating from Edinburgh University in Computer Science, Alan Campell worked for DMA Design, Visual Sciences and Rockstar, developing such video games as Body Harvest, Formula One 2000, and Grand Theft Auto. After completing Vice City, Alan left to pursue a career in photography and writing and is the author of the Deepgate Codex and the “Lye Street” novella.

PLOT SUMMARY: In the cataclysm of the battle of the gods, a portal to Hell has been opened, releasing unnatural creatures that were never meant to be and threatening to turn the world into a killing field. And in the middle, caught between warring gods and fallen angels, humanity finds itself pushed to the brink of extinction. Humanity’s only hope is the most unlikely of heroes...

Former Spine assassin Rachel Hael has rejoined the thaumaturge Mina Greene and her master, Basilis, on one last desperate mission to save the world from the grip of Hell. Carried in the jaws of a debased angel, they rush to the final defensive stronghold of the god of time—pursued all the while by the twelve arconites, the great iron-and-bone automatons controlled by King Menoa, the Lord of the Maze. Meanwhile, in the other direction, the giant John Anchor, still harnessed to his master’s skyship, descends into Hell itself to meet Menoa on his own ground.

But neither Heaven nor Hell is anything they could ever expect. Now old enemies and new allies join a battle whose outcome could be the end of them all. Rachel’s ally, the god Hasp, finds himself in the grip of a parasite and struggles against conflicting orders to destroy his own friends; and a dangerous infant deity comprised of countless broken souls threatens to overcome them all. As Rachel travels to the final confrontation she has both sought and feared, she begins to realize that time itself is unraveling. And so she must prepare herself for a sacrifice that may claim her heart, her life, her soul—and even then it may not be enough...

CLASSIFICATION:God of Clocks”, and The Deepgate Codex in general, is essentially an epic fantasy saga that takes place in an imaginative setting partly influenced by Gormenghast, Paradise Lost, and steampunk. The series also includes hints of urban/dark fantasy and videogame-like escapism, while this novel in particular features a familiar time traveling plot device...

FORMAT/INFO:God of Clocks” is 384 pages divided over twelve titled chapters, a Prologue and an Epilogue. Narration is in the third-person mainly via Rachel Hael, but also includes the POVs of returning characters John Anchor, Alice Harper, King Menoa, Carnival, and other minor narratives. “God of Clocks” is the third and concluding volume in The Deepgate Codex after “Scar Night” and “Iron Angel”, and I strongly recommend reading those two novels before attempting “God of Clocks”, otherwise readers will find themselves lost.

April 14, 2009 marks the North American Hardcover publication of “God of Clocks” via
Bantam Spectra. US Cover art provided by Stephen Youll. The UK version (see below) will be published July 3, 2009 via Pan Macmillan. UK cover art provided by Dominic Harman.

ANALYSIS:God of Clocks” is the third and final volume in Alan Campbell’s The Deepgate Codex, and a book that I was highly anticipating, especially after the terrific cliffhanger ending to “Iron Angel” which was one of my favorite novels in 2009. Compared to that novel, “God of Clocks” was disappointing for various reasons, but the book was still fun to read and a worthy finish to the series...

The most significant contrast between “God of Clocks” and “Iron Angel” was in the imagination department. A major strength in the previous Deepgate Codex volumes, Alan was not nearly as inventive in “God of Clocks” relying mainly on ideas already established in the first two books, while concentrating more on the story and wrapping up the series. As a result, much of what made “Scar Night” and “Iron Angel” so enjoyable—including the setting and the atmosphere—was sadly more of an afterthough in “God of Clocks”. To be fair, the author does introduce some interesting concepts in the book like the River of Failed, a submarine that can sail through the very fabric of Hell, Mr. D’s Emporium, and a castle that exists simultaneously in different pockets of time, but these ideas were far and few between.

The second major difference between “God of Clocks” and “Iron Angel” was in the story. While “God of Clocks” starts out impressively enough with two separate groups splitting off to simultaneously attack both Heaven and Hell in a desperate attempt to save humanity, “God of Clocks” eventually flounders under weak subplots (John Anchor’s son which is never explored, Mina Greene’s machinations to save Hasp, the love between Rachel & Dill, etc.) and a time traveling plot device that acts as one giant deus ex machina. The time traveling angle in particular was disappointing because the whole paradox and parallel universe thing has been done to death, and to me it felt like a huge cop out, especially when the book does so little to wrap up the fates of our characters. To make up for these disappointments were plenty of cool moments like an epic battle between Carnival and John Anchor, the unexpected death of a god, the surprising true identity of King Menoa, and other memorable scenes, but the finale to The Deepgate Codex could and should have been better...

Other issues include shallow characterization, juvenile dialogue, and characters that were either underutilized or disappeared for long periods of time, but these were problems that have plagued the series from the beginning, so were not a major matter. On the flipside, Alan’s descriptive prose continues to be a strength, while pacing and storytelling remain much improved over the author’s debut.

CONCLUSION:God of Clocks” is by no means a perfect ending to The Deepgate Codex. There are deus ex machinas, unfulfilled promises, and unresolved conclusions in the novel, yet for all of its faults, “God of Clocks” is another very entertaining book in a very entertaining fantasy series, one I would recommend just for its incredibile creativity. As for Alan Campell, I think it’s safe to say that the former video game designer has successfully made the transition to speculative fiction writer, and I for one look forward to reading more of the author’s works...


Calibandar said...

I've decided not to pick up this series, after reading an excerpt. It just doesn't seem to fit well together, even if it is very intriguing what with the steampunk elements as well as other fantastical stuff.

Liviu said...

Robert liked the series a lot but I could not get into the first book on many tries - one of the very few books I bought the original UK edition based on reviews. subject... and could not read

Robert said...

I think you might be missing out Calibander. Scar of Nights is definitely a mess, but it has some great ideas, and the writing is much improved in the second volume. The conclusion was a bit disappointing, but the trilogy overall has a lot to like. Plus, it's a pretty fast read :D

Anonymous said...

The cliffhanger in Iron Angel had me wanting this book so bad. I really have to say I agree the ending was kind of a let down, and the time stuff seemed like an easy way out or something I dunno, became too messy. Really would have liked more interaction with dill towards the end.

Piran said...

Must agre with Anon. I wished there had been more of Dill in God of Clocks, and it dissapointed me that there was not a crisper end to the main characters-a lot of..."well, what now?".
I think in many ways, scar night was my favourite, but overall, a very readable triology with some great ideas running through.

NyteFly said...

I was very disappointed after having invested my time into this story that the ending was not better. The first two books were good but the last one had me feeling like I was walking in quicksand. It seemed that the author just gave up half way through. This story really deserved a better ending.


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