Hang Wire Paperback – Jan 28 2014
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"Christopher fulfils our expectations and more: just when we think the story couldn’t get any weirder, he adds a whole new layer of weird, bouncing from one unexpected moment of goofiness to another, keeping us stuck to our chairs until we think it’ll take an industrial-strength solvent to pry us loose. Days after finishing the book, you’ll still have a grin on your face."
-Booklist (Starred Review)
"Adam Christopher's debut novel is a noir, Philip K Dick-ish science fiction superhero story... a novel of surreal resonances, things that are like other things, plot turns that hearken to other plot turns. It's often fascinating, as captivating as a kaleidoscope... just feel it in all its weird glory."
-Cory Doctorow, author of Makers and Little Brother, on Empire State
"This is traditional heroism with a decidedly wicked and iconoclastic twist. Inventive, engaging, bewitching, and delightful, a feast as much for fans of the tropes as for the innocents amongst us."
-Greg Rucka, New York Times bestselling author of Alpha, The Punisher and Batman, on Seven Wonders
About the Author
Adam Christopher was born in Auckland, New Zealand. In 2006, he moved to the sunny North West of England, where he lives in domestic bliss with wife and cat in a house next to a canal. Adam's short fiction has appeared in Pantechnicon, Hub, and Dark Fiction Magazine.
When not writing Adam can be found drinking tea and obsessing over Dark Shadows, DC Comics, and 1960s Doctor Who. Adam is also very bad at épée but knows that Thibault cancels out Capa Ferro, unless the enemy has studied his Agrippa. Which he has.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
If my summary above seems disjointed and confusing that’s because that’s precisely what this book is. Multiple different extremely odd plots are going on that ultimately do have some relation to each other, but the relation takes far too long to establish or understand. The book starts with a flashback to the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and introduces us to Bob/Kanaloa. It then jumps forward to the completely dull Ted and the exploding fortune cookie. It then jumps backward in time again to an entirely different character, who is tied to the circus, eventually. It takes quite a while to find out what his relation is. These three disparate storylines that seems to have no relation to each other continue throughout the book. Bob/Kanaloa’s journey from immortal god to just immortal beach bum would be an interesting book. But his plot keeps getting abandoned for the other two plots, so all tension and interest is lost. Similarly, the evil circus organizer would be interesting, but only if his plot was handled with more detail and finesse. As it is, what he is doing and why he is evil is just confusing, not interesting. Ted’s plot would not be interesting, even on its own with more detail, because Ted is a two-dimensional, boring character.
Beyond the three disjointed, confusing plots, nothing in this story is ever fully fleshed-out. There’s the vague idea that immortals were once on Earth and involved but now have left, but the details of the hows, whys, and how this has affected Bob/Kanaloa is left out. We’re told the organizer of the circus is evil, but we never see his fall from grace. We see him as a poor pioneer then later as an evil circus worker. The interesting part of how he got sucked into this evil is left out. Similarly, two people ultimately become human hosts for gods, but this is basically just announced and moved on from. The intricacies of how this feels for the human and for the god, why it might be effective or not, etc… is all left out. This is a bare-bones, confusing plot with little development, which ruins all possible tension.
Just as the plot is created in broad, sloppy strokes, so are the characters. The closest any come to being three-dimensional is Bob/Kanaloa, which at least made the story readable. But the rest are quickly laid out with broad character traits, and the story moves on. There is, for instance, no depth to Ted’s relationship with his girlfriend. We’re told she’s his girlfriend and he loves her, but we never truly see them together and functioning as a couple. We get no flashbacks to times prior to the supernatural craziness to see them in a non-stressful situation. Ted’s girlfriend is there as a plot device, nothing more.
I understand that this is an advanced copy and there will be another editing pass, etc…, however this is the most errors I have ever seen in an ARC. It was rife with typos, use of the wrong word, and format issues. Most egregious to me is the Britishisms used by American characters, such as “prawns” for “shrimp.” ARCs should have already had at least one editing pass. A reasonable amount of errors could slip through, but not this many. There were errors on approximately every other page. Hopefully the final version received a heavy final edit. Check reviews of the final version to be certain.
This book reads like an extremely rough first draft that badly needs an editor to come through and fix, not just minor typos and grammar, but also plot and characters problems. It could be an interesting story if it was more fleshed-out, with some storylines dropped in favor of a more solid main one, and with at least a couple of three-dimensional characters the reader can really relate to and root for. As it stands, there are certain scenes that are well-written and engaging, but together they do not make an engaging, readable mystery. I normally love books published by Angry Robot, so I found this particularly disappointing.
I finished this book on Friday, and I have been struggling with what to say in this review. Let's first review what I disliked the about the book. I found that there were two big problems with this book. (1) The world building rules were not defined. There are gods in this book from different cultures, but there is no explanation why these gods are in San Fransisco or if there are other gods roaming about the city or the world. I was also confused why the gods mentioned in this book are in this book. They didn't seem related to San Francisco or have another connection to this story. (2) There were a lot of POV characters in this book, and the chapters were short. I had a hard time caring about the characters and remembering who was who, because the chapters ended and moved to a new POV character before I got interested in them. About one-third of the way through the book, I started to get into the groove, but I was definitely feeling a bit frustrated by this point.
Although I had some problems with the world building and revolving cast of characters, the writing kept me hooked. I didn't want to put the book down; I really wanted to see how everything came together. I was really surprised how content I was reading this book even with its problems. I also really enjoyed the feel and the atmosphere of the book. People have described Hang Wire as noir fiction. I typically expect characters to be a bit more cynical and the city to be a bit more rundown for a book to be considered noir fiction; however, the feel of the book was noir. There is something haunting about this book that harkens to noir even though it isn't (at least in my opinion).
Overall, this book was okay. I wish it had been a bit longer, so the world building could have been more developed. Also, there was a bit of info dumping at the end of the book that was probably added, because the world building had been so vague up until that point. Christopher at that point had to just bluntly tell his audience what he was thinking, so the readers knew what was going on, if they were still confused. If you are a fan of American Gods by Neil Gaiman, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, or the television show Carnivalé and are okay with limited world building, this may be a fun read for you. Unfortunately, for me, this wasn't a great fit. At the same time, I enjoyed the writing, and I am still excited to try some of Christopher's other book.
I received this item for free in exchange for an honest review.
It all started with a fortune cookie.
An exploding fortune cookie.
Ted Hall is out with friends celebrating his thirty-seventh birthday when a confectionery disaster cuts the party short and leaves Ted feeling concussed and confused.
Felled by a fortune cookie.
Things haven’t even begun to get weird.
Elsewhere in San Francisco, victims of the so-called Hang Wire Killer continue to mount, making it unsafe to be caught out in the city streets alone. The circus has come to town, bringing with it a mysterious costumed trapeze artist who calls himself Hirewire. And something long dormant beneath the streets of the city by the Bay is starting to awaken, which in turn stirs both gods and nameless evil, drawing all to this one spot for what could be the end of all humanity.
“You are the master of every situation.”
Author Adam Christopher’s latest novel, Hang Wire, may be dubbed on the cover as “Urban Fantasy”, but its mix of mythology and Lovecraftian horror, eerie carnival rides and magic, fantastical elements and the mundane concerns of day-to-day existence–coupled with a historical look at the city of San Francisco–make this a hard-to-define entry into the realm of modern genre literature. The fact that it is a tightly-woven, mysterious story that will have you trying to guess two steps ahead of its interesting characters makes it a book that stands out among books carrying a similar label.
I have seen other reviews describing Hang Wire as a mash-up of genre ideas. While arguably an accurate description, I see the term “mash-up” promoting the idea that these disparate elements are forced together rather than the relatively seamless manner with which Adam Christopher accomplishes his storytelling. It is tempting to start a long list of the various elements that are present in Hang Wire, but to do so would truly spoil some of the more interesting revelations of the novel. Suffice it to say that this story has elements that would appeal to fans of urban fantasy, folklore and mythology, mystery and true crime, history and there is even a science fictional aspect or two woven in.
Prior to this experience I had not had the pleasure of reading Adam Christopher’s work, purely from sheer volume of material to read. I have listened to and read numerous interviews with him and he has been on my to-read list for some time. I initially thought to give Hang Wire a pass, based entirely on the fact that there was an advertised serial killer element. I’m not a fan of serial killer stories in any medium. But there was a certain something about Hang Wire that compelled me to ignore my qualms. That too started with a fortune cookie, or rather it was Christopher’s recalling in a recent interview about his own real-life exploding fortune cookie incident–that sparked my curiosity.
I am glad I gave the book a chance. Adam Christopher weaves both a historical look at parts of San Francisco’s history and a road-trip history of parts of America, in flash-backs, or “interludes”, that feature the two most mysterious characters in the novel. Those interludes serve to increase the tension on the present day storyline and provide the reader with tantalizing revelations about those characters. Adam Christopher gives good story. Once I started reading there was little that could distract me. Those necessary interruptions–like work, sleep, eating–only served to make me more anxious to get back to the story.
The novel is very tightly written for most of its 384 pages. I must admit that I found the climactic events to be somewhat loose and there was a degree of ‘rushed’ feeling as plot lines converged. I was pleased with the denouement and satisfied with the overall story, which was very entertaining.
If this novel exemplifies Adam Christopher’s work, I am destined to have more great reading ahead of me as I partake of his earlier novels.
Kudos to Adam Christopher for taking several imaginative ideas, some of which on their own could make for page-turning genre novels, and bringing them together to tell a story that intrigues, mystifies and ultimately satisfies.
And you can go through that back and forth between the past and present only so long. When you're well 85% of the book (sorry, I'm obviously a Kindle guy) and you're still going to flashback to yet another incident of Joel meeting someone who has a part of the circus and then killing him or something, that's a bit much. The characters in the present day were already focused on trying put the entire mystery together and yet we keep breaking up the action with the weird flashbacks.
The final explanation for Ted's missing time and his ties to the Hang Wire Killer were also a bit of a let down, I have to admit. I figured it would be something like that, but when it did come it, it didn't feel like it was all that legitimate. I don't want to go into spoilers right now, but I just felt the need to go on record to say that I was a little confused by how that was presented.
Bob was actually the most interesting character given his internal conflict with his former divine nature. Beyond the smart choice in picking a god that wasn't in any of the major pantheons like the Greek, Norse or Egyptian gods, I like how he was genuinely afraid of losing himself to his powers. Every effort to reach for the divine was a bit of an emotional struggle for him since it meant the risk of giving up his mortal seeming and just abuse his powers as a god. And that was a nice piece of writing right there.
The final conflict was okay - the overall resolution of the various mysteries and plots made enough sense and had been decently foreshadowed. And I only cite this since Christopher has demonstrated a bit of a flair for mystery-style stories, something that his fit his other noir-flavored stories like Empire State and such. And he certainly made an effort to recreate that success here.
Hang Wire was okay on the whole, but there were bits that didn't quite seem perfectly there. I wonder if Christopher was having a bit of a struggle with wrapping his head around how he wanted to present his godly figures - especially since his pantheon selection seemed rather random.
It’s not easy to balance a story with so many characters whose histories stretch back centuries, but as is fitting a book featuring an acrobat, Christopher does it with grace; though I’m not sure the switch to present tense during Highwire the acrobat’s scenes accomplishes its purpose, since it created a discordant note for me up until the reveal at the end. What I really enjoyed was the differences in all the characters influenced by the supernatural. No two are the same, even those who work as allies. There are a few gods, all in different forms, an alien presence, and something that seems alien, but was actually here before us.
Christopher also uses the backdrop of San Francisco well, and integrates the 1906 earthquake, not as a way of emphasizing a character’s great age, but as foreshadowing for events to come. I love it when writers work around established historical events and suggest that something paranormal may have been the root cause of it.
One of the unique elements that I came to enjoy as it unfolded was the story within the story, a character’s backstory that’s strewn throughout the novel which reveals the blood-soaked past of the carnival at the center of HANG WIRE. The narrative isn’t straight-forward – Christopher doesn’t lay it all out at the beginning, and it takes a few chapters to get a grip on all the moving parts, but ultimately I liked having to work for my entertainment.