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Alternate Routes

(Vickery and Castine #1)

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  174 Ratings  ·  39 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, 288 pages
Published August 7th 2018 by Baen
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November Is Nyarlathotep
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
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!
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
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.
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
Randi Kennedy
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.
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.
Aug 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Tim Powers delivers a very urban urban fantasy in this novel of ghosts interacting with the freeway system of Los Angeles. Sebastian Vickery, a former Secret Service agent, and Ingrid Castine, an agent with a covert agency using the ghosts of LA in some sinister ways, get caught up in a potential supernatural disaster. The actions of that covert agency is weakening the barriers between our world and the world of the ghosts (connected to the Labyrinth of Greek mythology) and the end result could ...more
Sep 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’m a massive Powers fan, albeit perhaps more for his historically set novels than his weird modern Americana, so if you’ve tried Powers and found him not to your liking then this is unlikely to change your mind. That said, this seems to be a bit more entry-level Powers than some other works of his, with action from the off and more-and-earlier explanations of the Weird Stuff, so it might be worth trying if you’re new to Powers.

In this case the Weird Stuff revolves around ghosts, freeways, and s
Sep 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Trying not to spoil things.

Not the worst Powers but not his best either. His setting in LA captures the feel of the city (as far as I know, I've never even been there) as a grimy real place with a hidden underbelly churning under the surface. The main protagonist is well-drawn for the most part. However, his partner never quite rang true - her motivations were all over the place, I never felt like she was much more than a device for moving the plot forward or to serve as a foil for the main prot
Sep 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
brian dean
Aug 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is another inventive supernatural no-romance story set in LA. It is a good book but not Powers' best. Of course, when the best includes On Stranger Tides, Anubis Gates and Stress Of Her Regard, second tier is still pretty high.

Three notes.

I was surprised at the end(view spoiler)
Henry Lazarus
Oct 07, 2018 rated it liked it
A ghost world has been created from our super highways filled with ghosts who died by them and then took Alternate Routes (hard from Baen). The Secret Service uses access to these ghosts to predict future attacks on the president, and according to Tim Powers, are willing to kill to keep their secret. Sebastian Vickery, new to the service who entered the wrong car, survived an assassination attempt and has been on the run for four years. Then the services uses the ghost of his suicided wife to tr ...more
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
Sep 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Tim Powers mines L.A. typography once again to bring a spooky story to the readers of Alternate Routes. Sebastian Vickery used to be a Secret Service agent based in L.A., but disappeared after killing members of the TUA. So when a member of the TUA tracked him down, he was less than pleased, especially when he had to go on the run with her. Plenty of Powers' ghost strangeness from the Fault Line series, but with the addition of disappearing freeway exits, ghost cars, and the possible destruction ...more
Paul Skelding
Oct 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Tim's novels are always a treat. I find his prose a bit dense and throws the reader right in which is never a bad thing. But with Tim you need a "world dictionary" sometimes to keep up with the amount of stuff coming at you. Warning you may need to reread a few passages more than once to really get what's going on and even then you won't be sure you got it. I think this is a novel which may need many rereads to absorb more of the themes and meanings, similar to Dune. I liked the book a lot and i ...more
Garry Geer
Oct 21, 2018 rated it liked it
If you are a Tim Powers fan, you will enjoy the book. It has all of his trademark flourishes--a consistent supernatural paradigm that seems almost incomprehensible but isn't, someone with a Past, and a clash of ideologies (although there is a bit more subtlety). The execution was a little clumsy in some places, but I think he wrote the book he wanted to write.

If you have never read Powers I would recommend the Anubis Gates, Declare or the Last Call. Pick this one up after you have familiarized y
Aug 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This here's some hard-core Tim Powers. It's deep in (what I call) his "ghost mechanics" genre, where we learn along with the characters all the rules for how ghosts work -- lots of ghostly nuts and bolts. (Oh, why isn't there a Tim Powers RPG?) His short story "Down and Out in Purgatory" gave us a glimpse of the Other Side; Alternate Routes expands on that with several crazy Labyrinthine chapters. I felt that this book might be a turnoff for someone new to Power's work, but those familiar with h ...more
Graham Bradley
Aug 29, 2018 rated it liked it
In true Powers fashion, this was an absolutely demented mashup of ideas and symbols and characters that congealed into a plot by the end. I spent a lot of time soaring up to high peaks only to plummet into uncanny valleys, at times wondering what in the heck was going on. By the end, most of it came together, but the underpinnings were not as stable as they ought to have been, so at times I got turned around and had to catch up to how it all worked. Otherwise it might have gotten 4 stars.
Marc Hutchison
Aug 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tim Powers has to be the most creatively original fantasist alive. In this book he first grounds us in a starkly real Los Angeles, then takes us off a nonexistent off ramp of the Pasadena Freeway into a desert netherworld where nothing makes sense and anything is possible.

Powers is probably my favorite writer. I've read just about everything he's written and he's never disappointed me.
Umm, very odd. It started out very well, got very weird, then turned solid again. Guess that's a result of the topical material, but someone with more flare for the occult would enjoy this one way more than I did. It's not a bad story, just not my cup of tea, but it was good enough that I had only minor difficulty in finishing it.
Paul Leonard
Aug 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: i-own-it
I enjoyed it, and things picked up toward the end with interesting details, but really I expected a lot more from Tim Powers. The characterization was kind of flat and it just felt like a book that had most of the meat left out.
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.
Oct 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars. I just couldn't get into this book. There were a lot of terms and back story that didn't make any sense to someone who just picked this author up. It really felt like the second or third book in a series to me.
Sep 23, 2018 rated it liked it
This is my second Tim Powers book, and I’m starting to think his stuff is just not for me. I like the concepts, but I just couldn’t get into it. Maybe it’s his style of writing, or the characters? Not sure. 2.5
L.D. Colter
Nov 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm always happy to have a new Tim Powers book to read. I would have know this for a Powers' book without the cover when on page one freeway traffic generates a measurable current and metronomes with carved wooden heads stuck on top sense ghosts.
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
Aug 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Mr. Powers is the master of the there-is-more-than-you-can-see-going-on fiction. Alternate Routes delivers a ghost story with a secret government agency all set around the highways of LA. Wonderful as usual!
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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