Clockwork Angels: ECW Press, September 2012, 315 pages, cover art and interior illustrations by Hugh Syme. This is a novelization of the album Clockwork Angels by rock band Rush. It's from a story and lyrics by Rush's Neil Peart. I'm not that familiar with Rush, and I haven't heard this album. Kevin J. Anderson is a bestselling science fiction author who has written a multitude of books, including many spin-off novels in well-known fictional universes.
Owen Hardy lives in a village in Albion where life is extremely orderly and everyone knows their place. Owen's seventeenth birthday and official adulthood is soon. His future working at the apple orchard is already planned, but he wonders of other possibilities.
Owen daydreams on a hill. Lavinia, his true love, wants to leave because a rainstorm is scheduled for 3:11 PM, but Owen waits to see the steamliner go by, with its floating dirigible cars. They rush back to the village. Owen daringly asks Lavinia to meet him at midnight for a kiss under the stars.
When hurrying home, Owen encounters an old "pedlar" who gives Owen a small book titled Before the Stability. Owen reads the book which tells how horrible things were before the Watchmaker came.
Owen and his father hear the day's announcements at the Tick Tock Tavern. Before going to bed they wind all their clocks. Owen sneaks out at midnight. Eventually he realizes Lavinia isn't going to meet him.
Red Sand: Cray Press, November 2012, 184 pages. Red Sand is Ronan Cray’s self-published first novel.
Newly single Mason is on a cross-Atlantic cruise. By chance, a hungover Mason sees two odd, inverted triangles sailing on the horizon.
On the same cruise ship, horny sexpot Bailey dresses up and leaves her husband Eddie sleeping in their cabin. She goes man-hunting at the ship's bar and restaurant. First she accepts a drink and joins the table of an older man, the fat man Howie, and a steward. The steward talks of people falling overboard and being lost at sea. Next at the Captain's table, Bailey meets Emily, Max, and Max's wife and daughter. Emily mentions shipwrecks and asks the Captain about a ship that supposedly went missing on their route. Finally, at the bar, Bailey meets Mason, and a short time later they leave together. After Bailey and Mason have sex, Bailey's husband breaks down the door to Mason’s cabin and shoots Bailey. Suddenly the ship's orientation goes wrong.
Next thing, debris and survivors are in the water. The fat man Howie is floating, as he has been through life. Howie never intended to have two wives. Howie is pulled into a lifeboat. Already in this boat are the steward, Emily, a sick Max, and another woman. They haul Mason aboard. The boat is being rowed by two strange white-haired men that don't talk. An island is spotted.
The Battle: This match-up features a steampunk fairy tale going up against a mysterious shipwreck thriller.
In Clockwork Angels, Albion is ruled by the loving Watchmaker in far away Crown City. Everyone is happy, but life seems routine, even scheduled. The protagonist Owen is a daydreamer who doesn't quite fit in, he craves something more exciting.
I enjoyed the instances of Owen thinking more creatively than others. Owen considered Lavinia's hair to be "the color of warm hickory wood, or fresh pressed coffee with just a dollop of cream." But Lavinia considered her hair to be merely brown.
This book has a nicely different feel than many fantasies. More fanciful and less gritty. I liked the alchemical energy, the coldfire lanterns, and that Atlantis is across the Western Sea.
Red Sand, on the other hand, just didn't work for me. This is a first novel, and in my opinion, after reading the first 25 pages, it shows.
The major event, the demise of the cruise ship, happens almost entirely offstage. Apparently it happened suddenly, but I would have expected the survivors to be more upset, asking each other what the hell happened, and speculating on the cause of the mishap.
Bailey, the sexpot, seemed to me to be a caricature. The same could be said of Howie, who had not only one, but two controlling wives. They unfortunately weren't used for comic effect.
I don't think any twelve-year-old girl, especially when out with her parents, would tell a woman she has "great tits." Max's daughter then goes on to tell Bailey that she just got her "first training bra" and had "high hopes." This conversation struck me as wrong.
Also, norovirus isn't spread only by tainted food. Noroviruses can survive on contaminated surfaces.
As to what book I’d rather continue reading after 25 pages, it's really no contest.
THE WINNER: Clockwork Angels by Kevin J. Anderson
Clockwork Angels advances to the second round to face either The Path of the Fallen by Dan O’Brien or Quantum Coin by E.C. Myers.
To see the whole bracket, click here.