Declare

clovis-man

Prehistoric Irish Cynic
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I see this title mentioned in other threads, but don't seem to find any detailed discussion about it. My apologies if I somehow missed one. I finally finished reading this novel. I did see it mentioned in another thread that one of Powers' characteristics is exhaustive research into the subject matter he is exploring. Having consumed pretty much everything he's written, I have to agree.

Certainly this is the case in Declare (and I'll try to avoid spoilers). The Kim Philby character (and some others) is real. Much of the historical context is real. The Gordian knot of espionage is realistically portrayed. What is original, of course, is the author's fantastic spin on the factual events. And that is what makes the story intriguing.

But it also makes the tale a tad laborious at times. Sometimes it seems he is trying too hard. I don't mind all the double and triple agent nuances. It's the mundane factors that seem overwrought at times. Two examples: He mentions B-29 bombers flying WWII missions in Europe. That never happened. The B-17 and B-24 were the American workhorses of the European theater. B-29s were reserved for the Pacific and Hiroshima/Nagasaki. He also remarks on the characteristic sound of V-2 rockets as they fall on London. Not true. The V-1 made noise due to the pulse of it's ram jet engine. But the V-2 was terrifying to victims of the Blitz precisely because it made no sound as it fell to earth.

These are minor quibbles. Not enough to detract from the compelling build-up of the story as it progresses. And it must be concluded that he is able to draw the myriad of loose ends and fantastic scenarios together nicely at the end. Lengthy, but very worthwhile. Oh, and I'd be interested to know if, as I suspect, the films The Thief of Bagdad (1940) and Lawrence of Arabia had anything to do with his inspiration.

Now onward to Three Days To Never.
 

HareBrain

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*** mild spoilerage ***

I did start a thread on this book which was swallowed in the Great Crash. I probably won't read it again, because too much of it I wasn't very interested in, though I was intrigued at the time because i wanted to find out what was going to happen. But it left a big imprint on me, more than did Last Call (which I think probably a better book) because of the sheer inventiveness by which Powers creates a race of wholly inhuman supernatural beings by taking one snatch of description from the Book of Ezekiel(?) and running with it. He has a rare talent for creating the truly alien - the encounter with the king in the desert was one of the most chilling things I've ever read. If the Djinn are closer in nature to God than we are, then God must be at least as alien and incomprehensible as the Djinn - not a comforting image.

In addition to the quibbles mentioned by clovis-man, it seemed strange to me that he should make such an effort to write a convincing British protagonist but not (I assume) have had his work proof-read by a Brit - e.g. the use of "math" rather than "maths" stuck out enough to jar me out of the narrative for a bit. But that was only because in all other senses it is wholly convincing, which, given its plot and subject matter, is an incredible achievement.

Everyone should read this once. But has anyone managed to read the whole thing twice?
 

Connavar

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This is the only book of Powers i havent been able to finish when i first tried to read.

I liked the historical spy feel but i feel he tried too hard and forgot the supernatural,secret history thing he is so good at.

I have read like 70%. The main characters,Philby and co are interesting but not near Tim Powers at his best. Really its weird his other books didnt win WF but this one did....
 

clovis-man

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In addition to the quibbles mentioned by clovis-man, it seemed strange to me that he should make such an effort to write a convincing British protagonist but not (I assume) have had his work proof-read by a Brit - e.g. the use of "math" rather than "maths" stuck out enough to jar me out of the narrative for a bit.

Proofing was a weakness. Toward the end of the book a scene describes the position of Philby's hand and the word used was (I'm sure) supposed to be "pronated". Instead we got "probated". Too soon for the reading of the will, I think. :rolleyes:
 

Omphalos

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This is the only book of Powers i havent been able to finish when i first tried to read.

I liked the historical spy feel but i feel he tried too hard and forgot the supernatural,secret history thing he is so good at.

I have read like 70%. The main characters,Philby and co are interesting but not near Tim Powers at his best. Really its weird his other books didnt win WF but this one did....

Exactly what happened when I tried to read this, Connavar. I just could not finish it, even though I got pretty far through it.
 

MPorter

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Declare is one of my favourite of Tim Power's books... but it was also the most difficult. When I was first giving it a go, sometimes I would set the book down for a few days and then come back to it and be completely lost. Start over from the beginning and and work my way through only to have the same thing happen again.

Eventually I decided to approach it like I approached "must read" texts in University and just power my way through it.

Now I don't have that problem but that first read through was a real slog.

~Mike
 

Toby Frost

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I enjoyed this very much, but I agree that it's not a light read. However, it reminded me of Le Carre in that way, and I found it sufficiently engrossing not to mind. Powers is also surprisingly good at the British elements, and doesn't go on about the nobility or make everyone a wacky eccentric, which seems to happen sometimes when it's viewed from the outside. But "math"! It's a massive giveaway, like when authors talk of London having "blocks". However, this was the only thing that jarred for me.

I thought the combination of spy novel and supernatural story was very apt. Powers did a very good job of meshing them, and of using the details from Philby's weird life. I think Powers is better at mood than action, but then this is a book about atmosphere as much as anything. And yes, it does imply that God is not how you might want him to be.

It's a heavy-duty novel, with some powerful set pieces - the king in the desert, and the "anchoring" in Berlin stand out. Two things surprised me: firstly, that the characters could experience all this and stay sane, and, secondly, that nobody experienced a serious crisis of faith as a result of it all. But overall, it's very good, and I'm glad that Powers is doing this sort of thing.
 

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