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Hang Wire [Paperback]

Adam Christopher

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Book Description

Jan. 28 2014
Ted Hall is worried. He’s been sleepwalking, and his somnambulant travels appear to coincide with murders by the notorious Hang Wire Killer.

Meanwhile, the circus has come to town, but the Celtic dancers are taking their pagan act a little too seriously, the manager of the Olde Worlde Funfair has started talking to his vintage machines, and the new acrobat’s frequent absences are causing tension among the performers.

Out in the city there are other new arrivals – immortals searching for an ancient power – a primal evil which, if unopposed, could destroy the world!

File UnderUrban Fantasy [ Tensile Strength | Dual Identities | The Greatest Show | Bandits ]

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Angry Robot (Jan. 28 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857663178
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857663177
  • Product Dimensions: 22 x 14 x 2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 386 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #755,078 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"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.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.4 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Discombobulated world and plot that builds confusion rather than tension June 10 2014
By A. McNeil - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
I picked this up because it sounded like an urban fantasy serial killer mystery, which is just my speed. Unfortunately, I found a book with a discombobulated world and plot that builds confusion rather than tension.

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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars It was okay. Feb. 8 2014
By FunIsReading - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
This book follows several different characters whose lives intersect. Ted just had his birthday and had some sort of accident at his party. He is having trouble with his sleep. Joel is on a mission to follow the light. Bob has retired to the beach and is a regular tourist attraction, because he likes to ballroom dance with tourists. Finally, there are the Hang Wire killer who is stalking the streets of the city and an acrobat from the circus who is chasing the killer. There is something sleeping under San Francisco, and what Ted, Joel, Bob, the killer, and the would-be hero do will either cause it to wake or stay under the streets.

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.
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent read, but rather confusing narrative structure. Oct. 6 2014
By Rocky Sunico - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
The book makes extensive use of time jumps as we trace the history of various characters. I was a little excited when the book first opened with Bob trying to help out during the big San Francisco earthquake so many year ago - and of course showing that the earthquake was actually something else at work. But then we come to Joel, the odd servant of the light and who becomes responsible for creating the strange machines of the circus. His various flashbacks have him jumping all over America and didn't feel like they really contributed to the story significantly. It's not like each component of the circus had a unique story or perhaps individual powers or aspects that we needed to learn about.

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.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great, intriguing read Feb. 2 2014
By RJ Blain - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
I love when I find an intricately complex book that manages to blend fantasy, drama, thrills, mystery, and action without becoming overtly confusing. While I wouldn’t classify Hang Wire by Adam Christopher as an easy read, I really enjoyed this book. It has the elements I love in a mystery-styled novel, all while having the excitement of a proper thriller. Add in the fantasy elements, and this one was a winner for me.

Before I move on to what I liked (and ultimately didn’t like) about this book, I want to expand on one of my comments in the introductory paragraph. This is not an easy read. If you go in expecting to be spoon fed every little detail, you’ll get frustrated with this book. If you tend to read books by skimming for the main points, you’re going to be flipping back and re-reading sections.

Take your time with this book. Read carefully. This will make sure you get the most out of this novel.

The TL;DR version: I like this book. It’s a great book for anyone wanting a good, creative, contemporary fantasy novel. This story has a bit of everything, including strong characters balanced with an equally-strong plot.

Hang Wire is the story of one man, Ted Hall, who starts sleepwalking. Unfortunately, his forays at night coincide with the murders of the infamous Hang Wire killer. It is also the story of immortals, of being seeking power, and of the existence of power. It’s a story of the past and the present. It’s a story that spans generations, encompassing far more than just the here and now.

That doesn’t tell you much, does it? This book is hard for me to describe in a short blurb because of its complexity. This is the fault of me as a reviewer — and one of the things I loved about this book.

This novel mixes a lot of sub-genres under a modern umbrella, so expect the unexpected and the fantastical, all at the same time. That’s all I’m going to say about it, because I want you to step into this book without any spoilers.

It’s a fun read.

I think that’s why I liked this book so much. It’s fun. It’s different. It’s quirky. It breaks all of the wrong rules in all of the right ways. Things that are often deal-breakers for me work in this book. Tenses are selected and used as tools in scenes, drawing attention to the subtle shifts in perspectives. Each character — each era of character — has a life all of their own, and it is expressed in the use of shifting tenses as a writing tool. It’s a purposeful, well-done progression rather than an error.

When I first saw it happen in the book, I thought I was going a bit insane. I don’t like shifts of this nature as a general rule. I went through a roller coaster ride’s worth of thoughts on it, because by the time it started happening, I was already invested in the novel.

While it did keep the novel from being a 5* novel for me (I just can’t make myself love one of the tenses — and I reserve 5*s for books I love everything about…), it didn’t change the fact I thought this was a good story, and well worth the read. The characters are interesting, and how the tense shifting is used matches the book. It’s not my particular cup of coffee, but it didn’t tear me out of the book either. The characters, so diverse and unique, made sure I stayed invested all of the way through.

As a side note, this novel defied sub-genre for me. It has a lot of urban fantasy elements, in taking place in cities in various eras, and in modern era, but it’s something more (and possibly less) as well.

If anything, Hang Wire tells the story of several different locations and times, which makes the urban presentation feel a little off to me. Some of the locations are urban, and have a great sense of wonder and history to them — others aren’t. Some of the book takes place in times that are anything but modern, which makes this book really hard to place on the shelf for me.

At least I can say with confidence is that this book is definitely Paranormal, no matter how you look at it. It’s definitely contemporary fantasy, too — but I still feel a little stuck on the urban labeling. (It’s definitely not a romantic kissy kissy paranormal though, be assured of that.)

The book does start off very strong in setting, but it didn’t maintain the sense of setting all the way throughout, at least not in the intensity I desire. I wanted a little more of this element, especially towards the climax of the novel.

This is personal preference, as I’m sure other readers will gobble down the settings used without thinking twice about it.

I’ll just say one thing: I’m really glad I didn’t live in the San Francisco portrayed at the start of the novel. And as a bonus second thing: I absolutely adore his portrayal of Old San Francisco — even though I definitely wouldn’t have wanted to live there.

There are a lot of things I could say about this book, but to do so would be to spoil some of the marvelously creative things within these pages. So, I’ll leave you with this:

Please read carefully so you don’t miss a thing.

This book was acquired as an ARC from publisher
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ***Review Courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy*** Jan. 30 2014
By Megan Christopher - Published on Amazon.com
If Tim Powers wrote THE NIGHT CIRCUS, the resulting novel would probably look a lot like Adam Christopher’s HANG WIRE. A number of seemingly random ideas – including an exploding fortune cookie, a serial killer, and a semi-retired Hawaiian god – form together to create a mystery, tangled in history, surrounded by evil. Some emotional depth is sacrificed for the density of the plot, but each of the characters is fully-formed and multi-layered, and make for an engrossing read.

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.

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