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Cowboy Angels
Paul McAuley
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Cowboy Angels

3.29  ·  Rating Details ·  399 Ratings  ·  81 Reviews
The first Turing gate, a mere hundred nanometers across, is forced open in 1963, at the high-energy physics laboratory in Brookhaven; three years later, the first man to travel to an alternate history takes his momentous step, and an empire is born.

For fifteen years, the version of America that calls itself the Real has used its Turing gate technology to infiltrate a wide
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Published January 5th 2011 by Pyr (first published 2007)
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Jan 31, 2011 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I started this sort of randomly. I mean, I certainly intended to read it next, but I was on my way to the bathroom (tmi?) and saw it sitting there on my desk and just sort of brought it along. Then we had more than a foot of snow dumped on us so I kept reading. I don’t know what it is about the novel that prompted me to keep reading. I think that it had something to do with the sort-of wearied spy/two old soldiers talking dialogue early in the novel. There is a certain undeniable attraction to t ...more
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Cowboy Angels by Paul McAuley.

Cowboy Angels by Paul McAuley combines the genre of alternate history with thriller writing. The Real is an America where Alan Turing created the theories which led to gates to alternate histories called Turing gates. There are some wonderfully dry thoughts on Schrodinger's Cat in association with the Turing gates.

This is Paul McAuley's best book. I like the main character Adam Stone, an orphan who is recruited into the CIA to change the course of different alternat
Alan Zendell
Nov 02, 2011 Alan Zendell rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
At a recent science fiction writers panel someone asked why we avoid discussing alternate universes. The answer, as exemplified in spades by this book, was that it's almost impossible to tell a coherent, interesting story once you open that door. "Cowboy Angels" is an orgy of chaotic nonsense. I found it impossible to follow either the logic or the thread of the story, if, in fact, either actually exists. And the physics of quantum theory? Let's not even go there.

What's worse, the characters are
Feb 19, 2012 Robert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: x2011-12-season
Parallel Universes - Good.
Time Travel - Also Good.
Time Travel between Parallel Universes - More beer please.

McAuley's novel pulls a Reece's two great tastes that taste great together. Its an unusual pairing considering the paradoxes involved with each and the narrative problems that they create, but the problems are handled well and woven into the story naturally enough not to be boringly expository.
The multiverse he creates is original enough to be distinct without being pointlessly, flippantl
Andy Love
Mar 18, 2012 Andy Love rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I had high hopes for this book - I was expecting a deep and interesting exploration of foreign intervention and how it affects the intervening and the intervened-upon, through the book's conceit that one version of America is intervening in the affairs of various alternate Americas. The fact that the version that does the intervening called itself "The Real" seemed like a good sign for the book, but the book was instead a lengthy (and violent) spy-chase thriller, with only a few moments of inter ...more
Walter Underwood
Dec 26, 2012 Walter Underwood rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Kind of Tom Clancy meets the quantum multiverse with a jab at US imperialism. But if you are going to write about multiple universes, you have to get the little facts right because those are the clues to the differences. And there is no universe where Canadian bacon is crispy and where the IHOP syrup is in aluminum carafes. Those are stainless steel or glass.

I think the intention was to explore the whims and uncontrollability of chance, but it turned out to be mostly about clandestine ops, tortu
Judd Karlman
I am a sucker for the cynical special forces agent who has realized that the government they have killed for has gone too far or the deadly-man-who-regrets-killing. Richard K. Morgan rocks this archetype in the Takeshi Kovacs novels and hits it again in Black Man.

Cowboy Angels has a rocking premise with all kinds of fun alternate history toys to play with but it drags on and takes too long to solve the damned mystery. I wanted that moment when the protagonist has all of the pieces and its time t
Apr 23, 2015 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cowboy Angels
Author: Paul McAuley
Publisher: Prometheus Books
Published In: Amherst, NY
Date: 2011
Pgs: 363


Alternate worlds. Alternate Americas. Just a gate crossing away. Turing Gates opened the multiverse to America. The Real, the first America to open the gates, has used the technology to infiltrate a variety of Americas, rebuilding nuclear wracked ones, freeing the communist or fascist ruled, and creating a Pan-American Alliance bringing alternate Americas toge
This was my first novel by British SF writer Paul McAuley. It is a thriller set across several "sheaves" of the multiverse, in which one version of 1970s America is spreading covert and overt influence over alternate Americas. Retired CIA operative Adam Stone is recalled from his retirement in an agrarian Manhattan to track down his former colleague and now renegade Tom Waverly, who has absconded with a self-aware device that can be used to enhance the capabilities of the inter-universe gates. T ...more
Oct 23, 2014 Rebecca rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
In the first chapter of this book, I found the incredibly hawkish "Go 'Murica" neo-con politics so off-putting that I almost put the book down. For the author, apparently the rest of the world doesn't exist except as shadowy opponents. Given enormous military resources and access to other timelines, America chooses to "free" other Americas in as many timelines as possible--and only other Americas. Cuba is mentioned once, as a temporary refuge for democratic Americans in a despotic scenario; Euro ...more
Jun 30, 2011 Aaron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Paul McAuley is quickly becoming one of my favorite SF authors. This is only the third book of his that I've read, but I have really liked all three (Quiet War and Gardens of the Sun are the other two).

This one is a spy/thriller novel set across several iterations of America in the multiverse. Our main character, Adam Stone (was McAuley being ironic with that name?), is a former undercover agent for the Company (his home universe's equivalent of the CIA), infiltrating other universes (or "sheav
Maddi Sojourner
I really enjoyed this alternate-history/crosstime/spy-thriller pastiche.

What really surprised me is I know McAuley is from the UK, yet for the most part he made all the different United States of Americas (there are several) believable. He only dropped the juggled balls a couple of times. Once he tripped with the phrase "strips of Canadian bacon," because I guess as a Brit he wouldn't know Canadian bacon isn't strips at all, but round slices. There was another similar mistake like that which I'v
Jimm Wetherbee
Oct 17, 2011 Jimm Wetherbee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I must admit that I am not a fan of alternative history novels. There is first the problem how alternative history differs from fiction in general. The answer usually turns on a single event turning out differently that is in fact the case. To look a recent and painful incident, authorities might have connected the proverbial dots and foiled the 9/11 plot. Going back further, image that on August 23, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. came down with laryngitis, or more happily that he did not go out ...more
I picked up this one at the library after I read and liked something else by this author (The Quiet War) late last year.

The basic premise behind 'Cowboy Angels' is around the existence of what are called Turing Gates, essentially devices that allow people and things to travel into alternate universes. Each universe, usually described as a 'sheaf', has differentiated itself from the one we know in some way - the main place we see, calling itself the Real, is very clearly not the US we're familiar
Lianne Burwell
Oct 26, 2011 Lianne Burwell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: alt-history, sf, library
This is a high-tech science fiction novel set... in the 1980s.

Back in the seventies, scientists find a way to open gates to alternate universes, usually either one fairly similar to their own, or else ones where human civilization never developed. Being the US, they immediately start to intervene in alternate Americas to create a 'Pan-American' alliance. You can get the feel for the attitude when the universe that developed this technology is referred to as the 'Real'.

But after years of this, un
Chris King Elfland's 2nd Cousin
Jun 07, 2011 Chris King Elfland's 2nd Cousin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Alternate History, Spy Thriller Fans
NOTE: This review first appeared at The King of Elfland's 2nd Cousin on June 7, 2011. If you enjoy it, please check out the blog!

I first came across Paul McAuley's work sometime in the mid-to-late '90s with his genetic cyberpunk (genepunk? I've always thought this should be a term) masterpiece Fairyland . Since then, I've always kept my eyes open for new McAuley novels and have found far more hits than misses among them. While his books span a variety of sub-genres (space opera, alternate his
Daniel (Attack of the Books!) Burton
If you aren’t paying attention, you might forget that Paul McAuley’s new novel, Cowboy Angels, is science fiction. Don’t get me wrong: there’s no doubt that it is science fiction. But McAuley has written a clever, quick, and fast moving novel that has all the elements of a great spy thriller, too. It’s a blend of genres that McAuley pulls off brilliantly, and it makes for an exciting and fast ride, a page turner perfect for a summer vacation or a rainy weekend indoors.

Before I found science fict
Aug 17, 2013 Anna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
'Cowboy Angels' is an exciting combination of crime noir, spy thriller, and science fiction. The idea is that Turing Gates, or portals into parallel worlds, have been discovered. Because they were discovered in America, the government decided to use them to create a pan-American empire. The thread of imperialism that runs through the world-building in the novel is distasteful but strikingly convincing. Only America has access to the Turing Gate technology, unlikely as this seems twenty years aft ...more
Mar 28, 2011 Alan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Steely-eyed adepts in tradecraft
Recommended to Alan by: Uchronia (, I think...
Man, this thing was like crack cocaine to me—a fast, hard hit that I could hardly put down, over too soon and, in retrospect, probably not all that good for me.

In this fast-paced novel, alternate universes are real—and in this one, the "Real" (so-called) got there first, opening the first Turing Gate (named after Alan Turing, natch, after he defected to the States) in 1969.

Unfortunately, the Real's crosstime operations are run by the Company, an outfit made up of those same unimaginative gung-ho
Imaginem que existiam portais que nos permitiam “viajar” para realidades alternativas do nosso país. De momento, dava um grande jeito viajar para um Portugal alternativo, onde não houvesse crise económica, não dava? Pois é com esta realidade que se deparam as personagens deste livro. A descoberta dos portais Turing, em 1963, permitiu que fossem encontradas várias outras Américas alternativas, para além da Real, que divergiram da mesma em determinado ponto do tempo, durante o último século. O des ...more
Trevin Sandlin
Jul 29, 2012 Trevin Sandlin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Solid 4 stars. This was a fascinating read that captivated me from start to finish. It's several books at once. Starts as an exploration of quantum theory and the "many worlds" theory of alternate universes. Moves on to to be a thriller that keeps you turning the pages to find out what happens next. And ends with (view spoiler). But throughout the novel, it is one of the most fascinating explorations of colonialism, imperialism and "endless war" that I've ev ...more
Cowboy Angels has as its background a United States which, having gained access through the development of quantum computing in the 1960s to various alternative versions of its own history, proceeds to infiltrate, ally, fund and destabilise in time-honoured fashion until by the 1980s it has its own empire of client USAs, all dominating their respective globes but subservient to their political masters in "the Real".

This could be a fascinating story, but unfortunately we only get glimpses of it.
Alex Telander
Paul McAuley takes the concept of United States domination and occupation to a whole new level in his latest and excellently titled Cowboy Angels. In 1963 the first Turing gate was opened; three years later a gate was made large enough to allow the first person to travel into another world: an alternate history to the one we know. Thus begun a series of events under different presidents that led to our United States playing a supposed importantly role in helping shaping these alternate histories ...more
Zeke Chase
I first read this book before I began doing my reviews, so when I signed up for Goodreads, I merely gave it a rating and left it at that. However, this book is forever coming back to my mind, and whenever I see it on my shelf, I am struck with a certain urge to drop everything and read it again, despite the fact that I said to myself I'd never read a sequel (were there ever to be one), nor another book by Paul McAuley. I feel I need to adjust my rating a bit, and write a proper review.

This book
Jason Pettus
Mar 03, 2011 Jason Pettus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

This is my third book now by science-fiction veteran Paul McAuley (all of them courtesy of our friends at Pyr); and like the other two, this latest is based on a really great if not overly familiar premise -- basically, that humans invent a "quantum gate" that lets them travel between infinite sets of alte
Jul 15, 2011 Mario rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book for the adventure of it. Wasn't so into the relationship between the hero and his friend. I could never tell if they were friends or what. There were a couple points where I felt like the author lost his way and then just made up a bunch of stuff to get the story going again. A few of the chapters started with this real literary description of the setting and then just dropped into the story and the style seemed to change.

I'd give it a two for the adventure part. A four for the
Nov 22, 2011 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
It's a great action-packed story. Fascinating idea, opening gateways to alternate Americas and freeing them from tyranny/communism/fascism/anything-we-don't-consider-free whether they like it or not. And of course, the real world is just one of the "alternate" sheafs explored by the protagonists from the "Real" America in the book. (We're referred to as the Nixon sheaf)

One thing that annoyed me: the author is British, but the characters are all American and the action takes place in various vers
Feb 02, 2014 Zozo rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was a very weak book. The idea was silly and then it got sillier.
The action sequences had a far away feeling to them as if the main characters were watching them on TV. It wasn't exciting for one moment. The main characters were not likable. The foes were just crazy.
Alex Richmond
I liked most of this book, i always prefer storys that i dont feel i have read before, and a story about a america that fights to save america from alternate universes is a different story. The story followers a former "cowboy angel" by the name of Stone who retired after a major event that ruined the reputation of the angels, this doubled with president carter (who this author doesn't like no matter the universe)Stone is happy to be living away from all of that until he is contacted by the gove ...more
Jerry Peace
Apr 08, 2015 Jerry Peace rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book. Imperialism, nationalistic arrogance, quantum physics, chaos theory, and the always scintillating question-Would you change the past if you could?
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Since about 2000, book jackets have given his name as just Paul McAuley.

A biologist by training, UK science fiction author McAuley writes mostly hard science fiction, dealing with themes such as biotechnology, alternate history/alternate reality, and space travel.

McAuley has also used biotechnology and nanotechnology themes in near-future settings.

Since 2001, he has produced several SF-based tech
More about Paul McAuley...

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