Thursday, May 15, 2014

Battle of the Books, Bracket Seven, Second Round :: Clockwork Angels by Kevin J. Anderson vs. Quantum Coin by E. C. Myers

Our third match in the second round of Bracket Seven of the Battle of the Books pits Clockwork Angels by Kevin J. Anderson against Quantum Coin by E. C. Myers. The winner will be the book I (Amy) most want to continue reading after 50 pages.

Clockwork Angels:  ECW Press, September 2012, 315 pages, cover art and interior illustrations by Hugh Syme. This is a novelization of the album of the same name by the rock band Rush, based on a story and lyrics by Rush's Neil Peart. Kevin J. Anderson is a bestselling science fiction author who has written many novels in well-known fictional universes. Clockwork Angels reached the second round by defeating Red Sand by Ronan Cray.

In Clockwork Angels, we met Owen Hardy who lives in Albion where life is extremely scheduled and everyone knows their place. Owen's seventeenth birthday and official adulthood is soon. It’s time, his father told him, to put away his foolish daydreams.

Owen boldly asked Lavinia, his girlfriend, to meet him at midnight for a kiss under the stars. Lavinia doesn't meet him. She didn't take him seriously or she was unwilling to bend the rules.

Owen hears the clanging of a steamliner. Owen liked to watch the steamliner go by his village each afternoon, but he had never been awake to see the one passing at night. Owen daringly runs down to the glowing rails. A man in a cargo car waves and offers his hand. Owen impulsively allows the man to pull him aboard.

The steamliner is bound for Crown City. Owen worries about what he's done, but looks forward to the adventure. The nameless man is strangely disrespectful of what Owen was brought up to believe. Hours later, on the outskirts of the city, the man gives Owen some coins and jumps off the train. Owen, realizing that he's now a rule-breaker, jumps off before the station.

Owen explores Crown City. He wanted to see the Clockwork Angels but is not allowed to get in. Owen spies workmen removing anarchist graffiti from buildings. At a carnival, Owen gets his fortune told by a mechanical fortune teller.

Quantum Coin:  Pyr books, October 2012, 331 pages, cover art by Sam Weber. Quantum Coin is the sequel to Fair Coin, which was E. C. Myers' first novel. Quantum Coin reached the second round by defeating The Path of the Fallen by Dan O'Brien.

In Quantum Coin, Ephraim was at Senior Prom. While waiting for the return of Jena, his date, Ephraim talked with his geeky friend Nathan, who was filming videos. When Ephraim spotted Jena, she was no longer wearing her Prom dress. Soon Ephraim realized that she was not Jena at all, but Zoe, an analog of Jena from a parallel universe. Ephraim met Zoe in his adventures last year.

Jena returns, with her twin girlfriends, in time to see Ephraim with Zoe. Before the two Jenas attract more attention, Ephraim suggests that all six of them go somewhere more private to talk.

Strange things are apparently happening in the multiverse. Zoe has a controller that looks like a flip phone, which works with Ephraim's coin in shifting universes. After Zoe's arrival, Nathan's video camera began capturing ghostly images of people from a parallel universes.

Zoe and Ephraim need to go see Nathaniel, an analog of Nathan in a futuristic timeline. Jena insists on coming with them. When they try to arrive in the other universe, they are somehow blocked. Upon returning, Jena's two twin girlfriends merge into a one girl.

To test that the controller and the coin still work, Ephraim, Zoe and Jena go to Zoe's universe. Zoe has modified her grandfather's old ham radio to pick up transmissions from parallel universes. They hope to contact Nathaniel over the radio.

The Battle:  This match-up features a steampunk fantasy book going up against a YA science fiction book.

Clockwork Angels, with the Watchmaker's extreme order, is different than many fantasy books, and that's a good point. I can believe that there would be people like Owen that don't quite fit in. But I'm somewhat uncomfortable that others seem to know of Owen's rebellion before Owen even knows himself, such as the mysterious peddler who gifted Owen with a book telling how things were horrible before the Watchmaker's stability, and the nameless, freedom-seeking stranger who pulled Owen to aboard the steamliner in the middle of the night.

So far, Owen is a lone traveler seeing new people and new places. I'm curious where Owen's adventures will take him.

Quantum Coin involves a group of teenagers. There are unknown problems to fix. I think that Ephraim, Zoe and Jena revealed what was going on to Nathan and the Morales sisters a bit too quickly. But the explanation about parallel universes was useful to me as a reader.

I enjoyed that Ephraim phoned his mom to tell her he's going to another universe. His mom first asked, "Who's in jail?", and later questioned Ephraim if he had been drinking.

I liked how the characters interacted with each other:
"Hey, what happens if this machine moves you to a universe where there's something already occupying the space you're standing in?" Nathan asked. "Like a building or an obelisk?"

"An obelisk?" Ephraim asked. "Why would there be an obelisk here?"

"Because it's the future! The future has obelisks. And zeppelins. There are always zeppelins in alternate universes."
After reading 50 pages, both of these books are engaging and readable. Yet for Battle of the Books, I'm forced to choose between them. After some thought, I decided that I was more interested in continuing reading the sillier, but fun, book about parallel universes.

THE WINNER: Quantum Coin by E.C. Myers

Quantum Coin advances to the semifinals to face either The Apocalypse Codex by Charles Stross or Apollo’s Outcasts by Allen Steele.

To see the whole bracket, click here.