Empire State by Adam Christopher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Superheroes, parallel dimensions, and noir – oh, my!
Empire State is the tale of two cities, reflections of one another – New York, and the Empire State. Neither of these cities are the one we know in our world. In New York, war is being waged between two rocket-powered superheroes who used to be the best of friends until they had a falling out. In the Empire State, a grim city suffering under Wartime restrictions, a private detective is hired to find a missing woman. These stories are linked together in a most puzzling manner.
Empire State kept me guessing – the overall picture of what is going on remains tantalisingly just out of reach for most of the book. I enjoyed the unusual combination of elements; while noir+superheroes has been done before, as has superheroes+parallel universes, noir+superheroes+parallel universes was just enough different to be fresh. I also enjoyed Christopher's attention to small details and his ability to capture the essence of a character or a scene with them. He is clearly a keen observer of human behaviour. Everything from the way characters walk to how they light their cigarettes or drink their drinks is carefully considered.
I do have a few small complaints about the book. First, it seemed as if there were just a few too many elements incorporated into the concept. If merely a single thing had been trimmed, the book might have been a more settled read. My other complaint is the logic of the timelines and people's ages. The only thing that I think needed to change for it all to make sense would be for the character Nimrod to be 20 years older than he was.
But all in all, I found Empire State a fresh and enjoyable read, and I am looking forward to Christopher's next book, Seven Wonders.