Jeremiah Genest's Reviews > Declare

Declare by Tim Powers
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Aug 30, 07

bookshelves: secrethistory, occultespionage, specfic
Read in February, 2001

'Tradecraft meets Lovecraft' is the way Tim Powers describes his latest novel. And he's right. Declare is Powers' wild romp combining a John LeCarr?-style spy novel with his own blend offantasy and horror.

This is definitely my favorite Powers' book since The Stress of Her Regard, and Declare shares much in common with that novel. Instead of vampires, we have djinn straight out of The Arabian Nights; instead of the Romantic poets, the attentions of these creatures are focused on Cold War spies. We get Philby for goodness sake!

Powers sticks to his customary set of rules in Declare: in portraying historical events, he sticks strictly to the known facts, but gives them a slight twist. Did upperclass Englishman Philby betray his country out of misguided idealism, or were his reasons more peculiar? Was Stalin simply a madman, or did his seemingly insane purges of his own intelligence agencies have some arcane purpose? How did an institution built on such shifting sands as the Soviet Union was survive for as long as it did? Powers applies his reverse version of Occam's Razor -- the strangest explanation is the most likely -- to these and other Cold War mysteries, and wow do we the reader have fun in the process.

I'm really intigued by Powers' treatment of the djinn, which are incredibnly awe-inspiring and chilling. Gives me a lot to think about in my own fiction and use of them in gaming.

I was pleased that Mt Ararat was the center of much of the action. There is quite a lot of useful threads about this pivotal mountain.

Like any of Powers works I was left wanting more. Then again, I liked Earthquake Weather, though I do agree with many fans that it was his most superficial novel and that it sometimes got lost and confused.
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