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Alternate Routes

(Vickery and Castine #1)

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  617 ratings  ·  113 reviews
Something weird is happening to the Los Angeles freeways—phantom cars, lanes from nowhere, and sometimes unmarked offramps that give glimpses of a desolate desert highway—and Sebastian Vickery, disgraced ex-Secret Service agent, is a driver for a covert supernatural-evasion car service. But another government agency is using and perhaps causing the freeway anomalies, and t ...more
Hardcover, 277 pages
Published August 7th 2018 by Baen
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Katherine Gosh, this is a tough question to answer, but I'm put in mind of a John Allison quote from Giant Days: "Kids need a good warping before the charismati…moreGosh, this is a tough question to answer, but I'm put in mind of a John Allison quote from Giant Days: "Kids need a good warping before the charismatics get to them."

Alternate Routes doesn't contain any explicit content like people having sex. There's some violence, but it's not very gory or explicit that I can recall. There is some swearing for sure.

But Tim Powers books are very weird. They're very weird in a way that a certain kind of preteen is really going to love, so if you kid is a preteen I honestly think it's a great book for them to read. But the bad guys in Tim Powers books are definitely extremely horrible people and the good guys are often sort of surly and complicated and drink too much. Themes around drinking and mental illness and people making bad choices pop up in his books a lot, though none of those things are ever valorized as _good ideas_, and all of his protags are basically decent people trying to do their best to do the right thing.

They're also full of WEIRD, extremely fun occult ideas about ghosts and tarot and shit which, speaking as a former preteen/teen, a certain kind of preteen/teen really goes nuts for.

Any younger than preteen, though, and they'll probably have trouble materially understanding the words, because Tim Powers writes in a very persnickety way that requires you to take his books kind of slow. (less)

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Average rating 3.63  · 
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Oct 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Having read a number of Tim Power books, I knew enough to expect some RATHER interesting juxtapositions of ideas turned into a huge worldbuilding conceit and a wide exploration of possibilities.

A big mix of mythologies, history, and even poetry? Yep. Ovid, Daedalus, and Dryden mix with a ghost uprising directly tied to the American highway system, and underneath it all, we have an incursion of unreality, the Minotaur's Labyrinth, and a pretty traditional UF hidden beneath these layers.

UF? Well,
 Reading Reindeer 2021 On Proxima Centauri
Review: ALTERNATE ROUTES by Tim Powers

There is no author equivalent to Tim Powers. Mr. Powers and John Connolly are the two authors I consistently count on to "take me away," to transport me to a realm at first seemingly like ours, but a realm undergirded and overtoned by a truly magical realism (surrealism) in which anything can happen and rules never apply.

In ALTERNATE ROUTES (the subtitle reads "The Ghosts of the Freeway are Rising"), L.A. exists side by side with a bizarre form of Afterlife,
Aug 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Once again, I find myself wishing for half stars or a sliding scale on Goodreads. This could be anywhere between a 3 and a 4 depending on how much you love the books of Tim Powers.

I am a big fan and did enjoy this novel, but it fell short in some key areas for me. The biggest was the characters - the two main characters never really come alive in the way that his leads usually do, and the villain of the book almost seemed like a quick sketch.

One very-Powers-fanesque complaint I have is that the
Andrew Shultz
This book was Tim Powers fanfic written by Tim Powers. It was everything about him turned up past when it's interesting and on to being self-parody without knowing it. He's done great things, go reread them instead. ...more
Eric Tanafon
Jan 26, 2020 rated it liked it
Tim Powers used to write books with characters who were engaging, quirky, and sometimes magical. The protagonists here are more than a bit wooden. And back in the day, it was a pleasant surprise to get a new Powers book and find out that some of those characters had returned (Earthquake Weather, where the casts of Expiration Date and Last Call make (mostly) common cause.) Here, the fact that this book is advertised up front as 'Vickery and Castine #1', feels more like a threat.

Granted, this one
Kevin Frost
I hate giving Tim Powers a two star review but I hangglide and that part of the story was ridiculous, could have been researched a tiny bit. But the whole last half of the story was a slog to get through. Should have just reread Declare.
Jan 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Well its been a while since I have dipped myself in the alternate histories of Tim Powers. It appears he has a knack for his own kind of strangeness - where he is able to create a whole technicolour world of myths and practices and make it sound like we are seeing some modern rendition of ancient rites and magics

I will admit ever since I read Earthquake weather I have struggled to properly explain (even to myself) Tim Powers unique take on the metaphysical work, the way he can take almost random
Mar 21, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020, urban-fantasy
I dunno. It's chaotic, difficult to get into, but ties everything and offers a satisfying ending. I need to think about it. ...more
Jul 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Alternate subtitle: “The Deep State Goes Deeper Than You Think”.

This is not Declare. This is Tim Powers writing a movie, right down to one-liner quips. The narrative and the magic are less intricate, the rabbit-holes fewer. It could almost be an RPG adventure. It’s a very fast read for a Tim Powers novel.

Hell is superimposing itself on Los Angeles—specifically the freeways. Most people can’t tell the difference because LA freeways are pretty much hell to begin with. But those with access to weir
Angus McKeogh
Aug 20, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Have to admit that by half way through this novel I’d lost interest in the story and characters and was simply going through the motions. Perhaps Tim Powers books are not for me. I found The Anubis Gates grueling and unimpressive as well. From this one I was hoping for some sort of X-Files type story, unfortunately I just found myself repeatedly turning to the end of the book to see how many more pages I had left. Definitely not a fan of Powers yet.
I'm really up in the air on this one between a very low 4 and a high 3 stars. The concept and reveal are well done in the classic Powers style - I've had a problem with his recent stories as they either seemed unambitious or (in the case of Medusa's Web) poorly realized. Alternate Routes combines ghosts (What Powers' novel doesn't?), the Los Angeles freeway, the legend of the Minotaur, Ovid's Metamorphosis, probabilities and perception, the Labyrinth of Daedalus, the destruction of Thera, and mo ...more
Eric McLaughlin
Dec 04, 2019 rated it liked it
This is definitely not on the caliber of a typical Powers novel. This seems more like Peter Clines book actually. Meaning it would make a great syfy movie script. Not as rich and deep nor as mind bending and twisted as a typical powers novel. But I found it highly successful in terms of being a fun and energetic adventure with some of those crazy mythological mysteries we expect from Powers. I feel like like he is trying something different here creating a sort of x files type buddy adventure ex ...more
Sep 05, 2018 rated it liked it
I was lured into this story by it's synopsis! Ghosts showing up around the Los Angeles freeways because the of the currents produced by traffic! it's a good story, very offbeat, but the odd twists and turns were confusing at times! The two main characters, Vickery an ex-Secret Service agent and Castine, a TUA agent, are being chased by this oddball government agency, the TUA, who want them dead for hearing ghosts! ...more
Jun 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Fun, fast read about ghosts in Los Angeles -- and nobody does Southern California and ghosts better than Powers. While not as hefty as "Earthquake Weather," "Expiration Date," or "Last Call," there's some wonderful side characters. Here's hoping the haunted pine cone makes a reappearance in the next Vickery and Castine adventure. ...more
Jeff Miller
Aug 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Yes another quirky Tim Powers novel with odd systems regarding the supernatural. Quite enjoyable. While having his framework this novel stands on it own story wise. There are also Catholic elements to the story I also enjoyed.
Theo Logos
The collected works of Tim Powers can be read as a haunted universe. From the haunted 19th century London of The Anubis Gate, to the haunted 18th century Caribbean of On Stranger Tides, to the haunted 20th century Las Vegas of Last Call (and all books in between), Powers signature is his unique, creepy host of ghosts. They play greater or smaller parts from novel to novel, but as Keith Richards provides that special something that immediately identifies a Rolling Stones song, Powers' ghosts are ...more
Lisa Hannon
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Powers takes you down impossible roads

Tim Powers has, possibly, the most unique vision of all. His ghosts make his worlds very different. That, and I always mourned Icarus, too.
Feb 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
I frequently love books by Tim Powers, but these characters never grabbed me and ultimately I didn't care for this despite the cool setting. ...more
Mar 23, 2019 rated it liked it
I always like Tim Powers' books and I enjoyed this one, although I wouldn't rank it among his best books. I do generally prefer it when he's writing in a historical setting, although there were still some 'secret history' elements in the backstory the modern-day Los Angeles setting wasn't as interesting as the settings of some of his other books. One of the things Powers does well is to take a bizarre supernatural premise and make it feel strangely plausible, for most of this book he manages tha ...more
Apr 05, 2020 rated it liked it
The last third of this book got lost in the labyrinth and by the time it got out I had lost interest. It is Tim Powers and was full of some nice conceits but it was also, to me at least, mawkish.
Jun 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a strange modern fantasy, the only one I can remember where the world's oldest freeway plays a role.
If there are supernatural powers in the world, would a government agency wanting to utilize them really surprise you? The only real shock is just how crazy one of the government bureaucrats has become, possibly from his brushes with what's on the other side of death. Ghosts that seem to be semi-sentient echoes of what the person had been, along with ways to and from the other side of the
Sep 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
5 Stars for Narration
4 Stars for Story


Tim Powers has become one of my favorite authors. I really enjoy the way he weaves various myths, fables, legends, religion, philosophies, history and more into a surreal world that is close to home. It's here.

Oddly enough, this book is not as dense in complexity as some of the other stories I have listened to. The lines between the physical world and the realm of leftover spirits is starting to fray apart. Persistent experiments to understand t
Chris Bauer
Nov 03, 2018 rated it liked it
IMHO, Tim Powers is one of the most exciting and unique writers of speculative fiction around. I've been reading his work for quite some time and have never failed to be amazed by his work.

For some reason, however, "Alternate Routes" just didn't quite click for me.

- As a reader, I felt that I was scrambling for purchase from the first chapter to understand what I was reading. Never really felt grounded.
- The characters, while fascinating, were...distant, somehow. I wanted to know their agency, t
First thoughts: more of a 3.5 than a 3. A solid sci-fi adventure that's part Night Vale, part crime noir, and part Greek myth. My only criticism is the two-dimensional, incomplete characterization of the villain. Either really commit to "hapless govt employees misusing something they dont understand with catastrophic results" or flesh out Terracotta into a villain with more depth and malice. ...more
Aug 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, fantasy, 2018
Tim Powers doing what he does best. Los Angeles area freeways are a major element as is Free Will. The Griffith Observatory makes a cameo appearance!

I enjoyed the strong sense of place in this novel. I liked the two main characters and the development of their relationship as allies and eventually friends.
Jun 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Tim Powers fans
This is an ARC. The release date is August 7, 2018.
I won this book from Baen Books at ConCarolinas.
It is a very interesting ghost story.
It is a stand alone book. I actually prefer series because when I like the characters, I want more stories involving them.
Aug 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
There's no thing like a bad Tim Power's book.
And this one is excellent.
I was not able to put it down and found it both enthralling and amusing.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to Baen and Edelweiss for this ARC
Benjamin Espen
Oct 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Alternate Routes is a combination of the myth of Daedalus and the horror with which long-time residents of Los Angeles regard their infamous freeway system. I’m not an Angeleno, but I don’t find a supernatural conjunction between the LA freeways and the Minotaur’s Labyrinth at all implausible.

To give you an idea of how differently writers of fantastical literature have approached similar subjects, consider Gregory Benford’s Artifact. Benford went with a de-mythologizing, hard sci-fi take on the
Apr 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tim Powers takes the weird and grounds it in the normal so quickly and naturally you jump on board and don't even notice the crazies along for the ride. On this drive, a phantom offramp might appear to take you out of this world entirely.

In "Alternate Routes," ghosts — or "deleted persons" — are increasingly appearing along California freeways (the beginnings of the American freeway system and home to the primary "ghost drain" or "ghost fountain"), and a shady government group called the Transpo
Terzah Horton
Jul 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy-sci-fi
This was my time to read a book by Tim Powers, so I didn't have the history of his other books to draw upon. Hence, I was free to really enjoy the book and the characters. Having read a bzillion who-done-it detective novels, I felt that the characters were quite well done. Vickery is a man in hiding and that part of him never really goes away; he is constantly looking behind his back and lives according to the rules of a man on the run. He is a great character with heroism and boldness despite h ...more
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Timothy Thomas Powers is an American science fiction and fantasy author. Powers has won the World Fantasy Award twice for his critically acclaimed novels Last Call and Declare.

Most of Powers's novels are "secret histories": he uses actual, documented historical events featuring famous people, but shows another view of them in which occult or supernatural factors heavily influence the motivations a

Other books in the series

Vickery and Castine (2 books)
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