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Empire State

Super hero stories tend to shine when they’re dipped in noir-style nostalgia; both genres lend themselves to tales of two-fisted fisted, and the grime and dirt of the post-war era balances nicely with heroism and rocket powered justice. So it should come as no surprise that Adam Christopher’s debut novel Empire State, a tale of rocket powered heroes and private detectives during the American prohibition, is pretty good stuff.

Empire State is the tale of two cities; one is New York in the 1950’s, the other is a mirror-universe version of the Big Apple, called The Empire State. Whereas New York is a big place, filled with possibilities, The Empire State is a claustrophobic, insular city at war with a shadowy foe. The story follows the life of Private Detective Rad Bradbury1, a good man in a rotten city.

Gas Masks, Rocket Packs and Zepplins. What's not to love?

As you’d expect, there’s a woman with a secret and a missing person to find. There’s also rocket powered heroes, super villains, robots, airships and dashing captains. It’s a skilful blend of two well-loved genres, and it’s a fun, pulpy, tightly written book.

The setting is not just an interesting backdrop; the author takes full advantage of the premise and fills in a lot of the details in way that keeps luring you. This makes for a dense story with a well realised world behind it. Like you’d expect in any good mystery story, every character has a past and a strange secret. These elements slowly fit together to create a world greater than the sum of its parts.

Empire State is a master class in world building, whilst still retaining a coherent and engaging story. It manages to keep the reader guessing all the way through, without losing itself in its own mythology.

Fans of Kurt Busiek’s Astro City , movies such a Sky Captain and the World of Tommorow and the The Rocketeer or any ‘Dark Mirror’ episode of Star Trek, this one is for you. Fan of pulp adventures and twisty, noir-style plots will find a lot to love here.


1: Oh yeah, and it’s full of lovely little references like that as well.

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