Read Declare by Tim Powers Online


A cryptic phone call forces ex-MI6 agent Andrew Hale to confront the nightmare that has haunted his adult life: an ultra-secret wartime operation, codenamed Declare. Operation Declare took Hale from Nazi-occupied Paris to the ruins of post-war Berlin and the trackless wastes of the Arabian desert....

Title : Declare
Author :
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ISBN : 9781848874039
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 576 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Declare Reviews

  • The Pirate Ghost (Formerly known as the Curmudgeon)
    2019-04-28 02:49

    Delcare by Tim Powers.Perhaps this will explain better than I what I mean by wonderful descriptions and almost “lyrical prose.” ”… From over the shoulder of the mountain, on the side by the Abich I glacier, he heard booming and cracking; and then the earthbound thunder sounded to his right, and he saw that it was the noise of avalanches, galleries and valleys of snow moving down from the heights and separating into fragments then tumbling and exploding into jagged bursts of white against the remote gray sky before they disappeared below his view. The cracks and thunders made syllables in the depleted air, but they didn’t seem to be in Arabic. Hale guessed that they were of a language much older, the uncompromised speech of mountain conversing with mountain and lightning and cloud, seeming random only to creatures like himself whose withered verbs and nouns had grown apart from the things they described. The music was nearly inaudible to Hale’s physical eardrums, but in his spine he could feel that it was mounting toward some sustained note for which tragedy or grandeur would be nearly appropriate words. Silently in the vault far overhead the clouds broke, all tall columns of glowing, whirling snow-dust stood now around the black vessel, motionless; Hale reflected that it must be noon, for the shining columns were vertical. The mountain and the lake and the very air were suddenly darker in comparison. The columns of light were alive and he fields of their attentions palpably sweeping across the ice and the glacier face and the mountain, momentarily clarifying into sharp focus anything they touched; for just a moment, Hale could see with hallucinatory clarity the woven cuffs of his sleeves. Angels, Hale thought, looking away in shuddering awe. These beings on this mountain are older than the world, and once looked God in the face…” I’d love to talk about all the wonderful things in this book. Tim Powers is an amazing author and it boggles my mind when I think about how little is known of his writing in this day and age. His command of the English language rivals those of a bygone age where lyrical prose sounded almost poetic and authors paid excruciating attention to the most minute detail in order to paint pictures and convey emotions, noble love, tragedy and desperation with only words from their hearts. Words that conveyed scents, tactile sensations, tastes, sounds and wonderful sights while inspiring fear, hopelessness joy and love as if the reader were standing next to the story’s hero and freezing in the cold with him. Authors like E.A. Poe, A.C. Doyle, E. R. Burroughs and Jules Verne. In Declare Tim Powers reminds me of these greats, but, that’s not all.Declare has a twisted, tangled multi-layered plot that reminds me of Robert Ludlum’s writing in the days of the Parsifal Mosaic and The Holcroft Covenant. This is a tale of cold war espionage and cloak and dagger skullduggery with a touch of the wicked darkness of the Osterman Weekend or The Boys of Brazil. There is action in Declare reminiscent of an Alistair Maclean novel like Where Eagles Dare. On top of this, dark, mysterious themes seep through all of this, like bourbon through sweet yellow cake. Themes that bring darkness and fear like that from the movies Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen. As if this came short of any mark, Powers chose to weave his fantastic tale through actual events in history, without changing them. In his own words… “In a way, I arrived at the plot for this book by the same method that astronomers use in looking for a new planet—they look for “perturbations,” wobbles, in the orbits of planets they’re aware of, and they calculate mass and position of an unseen planet whose gravitational field could have caused the observed perturbations—and then they turn their telescopes on that part of the sky and search for a gleam. I looked at all the seemingly irrelevant “wobbles” in the lives of these people—Kim Philby, his father, T.E. Lawrence, Guy Burgess—and I made it an ironclad rule that I could not change or disregard any of the recorded facts, nor rearrange any days of the calendar—and then I tried to figure out what momentous but unrecorded fact could explain them all.” Powers uses the same formula that won the movie “Titanic” and “The Return of the King” Oscars. By unswerving loyalty to the original book or the historical facts and an a scholarly dedication to keep the details as much as they happened in the book of Philby, Lawrence of Arabia or T.S. Eliot’s lives while waving a wonderful tale of magic, betrayal and hope around them. Knitting all of these elements together and providing a sense of hope, like the loom of a lighthouse light where the tower is hidden behind the horizon and only the glow of the light brings faint hope for guidance and resurrection, a tragic and heart worming love story that spans decades with the lovers trapped in a cold war that’s older than civilization itself. In the early chapters of this book, Powers tapped into the grim, hopeless feeling darkness that lurks throughout George Orwell’s masterwork, 1984. Andrew Hale reminds me as much of Winston Smith as he does Arthur Blair (Orwell) himself in the days of the Spanish Civil war. The later chapters evoke memories of Alistair Maclean’s Where Eagles Dare or The Guns of Naverone. Ordinarily, so many elements between the covers of a single book may be overwhelming and distracting, like a master-chef preparing Chicken Cordon Blu, the layers are blended together in Declare in perfect unique compliment of each other and they please the pallet beyond what most writers are able to do. Did I like this book? Yes, very much. Right now I rate it 4.5 stars, but I am considering an upgrade to a rare 5 star award. Warnings (as usual, the Devil is in the Details). 1) As masterful and wonderful as I think this book is, it is written in an cadence and pace that is more like the wonderful novels of John Wyndham, H.G. Wells and George Orwell published in the 1950s and 60s. Though Powers wrote and published his work in 1988, like a chameleon he adapts the style of writing that was prevalent in the era he writes about. He is a modern author and writer and this is a modern novel so there is more dialog and other conventions that mark modern works different from classic ones, but some might find the pace has two speeds, slow and lightning speed. I like the “Sprint and Drift” formula here, as I did in The Hidden Oasis but some may thing it gets too slow in places.2) There are no sexual scenes, though the characters do engage in sex. There is very little foul language, but there is a word or two that you wouldn’t utter in front of your mother. Make no mistake--I think these are well managed with the emphasis on story, plot and character development. 3) There is plenty of violence in this book. The story is written so smoothly that it is not out of place, not gratuitous or vulgar, but people get shot and damaged in some very creative ways. 4) There is a theme here involving biblical elements. This may be one of the few books where I can say, “I” (me) do not believe that these elements will challenge anyone’s faith. I can never tell, so, warning these are here and there is also a blend of supernatural elements. I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did. I would also like to say, that, if you are a fan of audiobooks, that I listened to the narration of Simon Prebble. I usually do not recommend Audiobooks because liking or hating a narrator is generally a personal matter. Narration is a fickle art. Having one good book does nto gauruntee another. Simon Prebble, Tim Powers and Declare hit perfect notes. This book was a superb fit for Prebbles dignified sense of expression and carefully paced timing. I will also say that I liked some of the discriptive paragraphs so much that I bought the Kindle book so I could read them myself. This is just a good read.

  • Jonathan Peto
    2019-04-29 10:01

    Where to begin? I should take a day off from work to write this one, but I can't.Just days ago I assumed I was going to give this book 3 stars. That reflected disappointment. The first couple hundred pages are... well, I guess the word is "slow". Many of the scenes held my interest but they did not seem to be adding up to much and I was getting impatient. I'm sure readers drop this thing left and right before getting to page 300. I can't imagine not wanting to start it though. One of the characters is Kim Philby. The story is a spy novel that integrates real people and events with elements of the supernatural. The settings include Paris during World War 2, London, and the Middle East and Soviet Union during the 1960s.But the story unfolds slowly. I didn't mind what I read, but ultimately the author probably should have been more selective about what he showed of the main character's past. That man, Andrew Hale, becomes a spy who works on a super secret operation that involves supernatural creatures and the Cold War. It takes forever for important scenes with the supernatural to occur, but ultimately, I thought it was worth the wait. These things are influential but hidden. Most of us have no idea they are influencing Cold War events, and Powers has stuck to the facts but slipped these things into his alternative history. If you are patient, there is a reward. When Andrew Hale faces them, it's scary. Powers does not portray him as a courageous hero. He's scared of these things.Hale has a love interest. Some of those first 300 pages set that up. It's complicated because her spy career revolves around the supernatural too. It is an interesting twist on the whole spy vs spy love thing, but the characters are not as vivid as they need to be for it to amaze.If you're patient and are interested in alternative history with elements of the supernatural weaved around real events and real people, you should check this out. Why would you want to miss a scene with elite soldiers in World War 2 army jeeps on the side of a mountain being told by some captain they don't know (Andrew Hale) that supernatural beings await them at the top of the hill? Hale feels guilty about what happens next, but who could prepare anyone for that?

  • Ian Tregillis
    2019-05-14 07:46

    Five stars: I want to have this book's babies. If Tim Powers had taken a sabbatical into my subconscious, living like Jane Goodall among the phantoms of my nightly dream life, he couldn't have written a book more perfectly suited for me. Part of me wants to eat his brain and thereby absorb his power. That's how much I enjoyed this book: it makes me wonder what it would be like to eat somebody's brain, and how long I'd have to keep it down before the power transfer became permanent. It's no secret that I think Tim Powers is a mad genius. I've been known to shoot my mouth off fairly frequently about how I think his take on magic is just plain right. So, admittedly, it's not like my biases were working against this book from the outset. And yet. As much as I enjoy his work in general, this is the one that pressed all of my buttons. How could it not?The novel begins with a young spy fleeing a failed secret mission atop Mount Ararat. That mount Ararat, which immediately gets my occult Spidey-sense tingling. From there we follow Andrew Hale on a globe-spanning adventure that effortlessly weaves Cold War history, heartbroken spies, magic, Kim Philby, the Dead Sea Scrolls, djinn, MI6, Lawrence of Arabia, The Thousand and One Nights, the Brandenburg Gate, the Special Operations Executive, and Noah's Ark. Noah's freakin' Ark, people! But wait, there's more. Because as if weaving all of that into a surprisingly plausible secret history isn't by itself a tour de force, Powers pulls it off in the form of a love letter to John LeCarre novels. (Damn, man. What else? Were you riding a unicycle and juggling flaming clubs while you wrote this?) Stylistically, this novel differs a bit from Powers's other outings because this is straight-up espionage literature of the stale beer variety. Powers, an avowed LeCarre fan, knows what he's doing in this arena. Our hero, Hale, is the son of a disgraced nun, the identity of his father a mystery. At every year's end he suffers nightmares of a vast power thrashing in troubled sleep beneath the desert while the stars wheel overhead. He was baptized in the Jordan river, and that makes him the key to the most secret, longest-running operation in the history of British Intelligence. At age 7, he becomes an unwitting agent of DECLARE.Hale is an imperfect hero. He isn't suave, he isn't endowed with an improbable surfeit of competence, he isn't the toughest SOB in the room. But he's smart, and sometimes -- at the very highest-stakes table of the Great Game -- that's just enough to get by. Most of all, he's a lonely, brokenhearted man suffering from, if not exactly unrequited love, frustrated and unfulfilled love. More Smiley than Bond, his heart has only ever belonged to one woman: Elena Teresa Ceniza-Bendiga. They met in occupied Paris, where she was Et Cetera, or Elena, and he Lot, or Marcel. Together they spent several months hiding from the Gestapo, moving from flat to flat, all the while serving a network of Soviet agents (she with the fervor of a true believer, he as a double agent). They were young together, feared for their lives together, huddled together against malevolent magics older than mankind. And then their mission(s) ended. Elena was recalled to Moscow (and almost certain execution), while Hale was recalled to England. When he fails to convince her to come west with him rather than go east to an uncertain fate, he knows he will almost certainly never see her again. But it's too late for him. How, given everything they'd experienced together, could he possibly love anybody else? Hale's devotion to Elena is lovely and touching, an honest portrait of the complex currents of the human heart. He is broken and stunted by the circumstances of his life, unable to move beyond his brief relationship with Elena. This rang very, very true to me.They do meet again, of course. In Berlin in 1945, and on Mount Ararat a few years later, and in Beirut some years after that.The fates of Hale and Elena are closely intertwined with that of the third player in these secret machinations: none other than Kim Philby, the most notorious member of the "Cambridge Five" spy ring. And, for my money, this is where Powers's craftsmanship shines. He's playing a game throughout Declare, weaving a supernatural explanation to the many strange (and they are strange) facts surrounding Philby's life. He somehow manages this without ever changing or ignoring the documented facts. Powers outlines all the pieces of this puzzle in an extensive and fascinating author's note. It's that note, as much as anything else, that makes me want to consume his mind.Powers's djinn -- or are they fallen angels? -- are truly alien and truly scary. Shit gets real when they come on stage. This novel is very well suited to my tastes, but it isn't immune to criticism. Others don't care for Declare as much as I do, and understandably so. For one thing, the storytelling is very nonlinear, jumping from 1948 to 1963 to 1941 and back to 1963. . . It jumps around enough that I wouldn't be surprised if it turned some people off. It might also be guilty of hiding the football, constantly referring to things known to the POV characters without revealing them to the reader. It does take about half the book before the reader learns just what happened on Mount Ararat, and why. I know people who found that extremely irritating. I can't blame them. For me, personally, the hints were so yummy that I didn't mind waiting for the big reveals later in the book -- and, to my opinion, the revelations are never a letdown. YMMV. It's also fair to say that the rivalry between Hale and Philby as they vie for Elena C-B's affection isn't particularly enlightened. They gamble for the right to pursue her hand, but they never stop to consider the lady's preferences. Again, I can see how that could color readers' perceptions of the characters. I wasn't quite so bothered by this, because it's quite clear that Hale is truly in love with Elena and that Philby is, quite frankly, a selfish, backstabbing, smarmy, lying, traitorous, asshat. Of course he'd be the kind of guy to see her as a game piece, a symbol of the clashing ideologies behind DECLARE, another object to be won. Hale gambles with him because -- seriously -- who in his right mind would want to see the love of his life accosted by Kim Philby? So yeah. While it may not be a perfect book, it's as damn close to perfect for this reader as I'm likely to find.Anchors aweigh, my dear boy.

  • Apatt
    2019-05-01 03:50

    “The concealed war that, ironically, facilitated its own concealment simply by being beyond the capacity of most people to believe.”Tim Powers’ Declare is about this “concealed war” where Russia, the UK, Germany and France engage in using supernatural weapons in additional to conventional ones during the Second World War and continues into the 60s Cold War between the East and the West. I love the idea of a secret layer to our reality that we don’t know anything about. Tthe author calls it an "extravagant—but consistent—premise". I agree with this. So many great concepts and interesting depiction of spycraft in this book. Shame about the execution.On the face of it Declare looks like an exciting mash-up of spy and fantasy fiction, but the actual book—for me—is a damp squib. Objectively I can’t say that this book is terrible because it is highly rated here on Goodreads and plenty of people like it, a 4.02 average rating is not to be sniffed at. Unfortunately for me, the book is a huge disappointment. I love fantasy fiction and the occasional spy fiction by the likes of Ian Fleming, Frederick Forsyth, Robert Ludlum and John Le Carré. However, in a mash-up of the two genres, the fantasy side would be of more interest to me. Tim Powers teases and teases with his mysterious prologue and slow build-up of something odd going on in the background of the espionage world, but he takes too long to introduce the overtly supernatural element of the story. I am not an impatient reader but nothing clearly fantastical happen for during the first 130 pages of the book. This mash-up already felt off balanced, and the espionage side of it is glacially paced with long, dull conversations and expositions. Occasionally we get fun cloak and dagger shenanigan like:“Tonight at eight o’clock you are to be standing under the—Eros?—statue in Piccadilly Square, you know what that is? Good. Hold a belt, you know?—for trousers?—in your right hand. A man carrying some fruit, an orange perhaps, will approach you and ask you where you bought the belt; you will tell him that you bought it in an ironmonger’s shop in Paris, and then you will ask him where you can buy an orange like his; he will offer to sell it to you for a penny. Hand this envelope to him then. He will have further work for you.”Good stuff, but not enough of them to compensate for the mundanity of the first 100 or so pages. Once “weird shit” begin to happen my interest perked up a bit. The inclusion of the notorious real-life spy Kim Philby, with some added magical element to his back story, and tying all that into known facts about his life, is a cleverly done bit of alt-history. As a character Philby is more compelling than the other characters in the book, possibly because he has the advantage of being real. The actual protagonist of the book, Andrew Hale, is as flat as a pancake, I really could not invest in his character. Apart from his obsession with a Russian spy called Elena his character seems to be vaguely defined and I could not root for him in his—often dull— adventures. There are many other characters that drift in and out of the book without leaving any kind of impression.Another problem is that the narrative seems to be terribly earnest, considering it is a blend of two usually exciting genres it is mostly devoid of humour. A story about a spy on a mission to kill a demon or guardian angel protecting Russia from supernatural attacks doesn't need to take itself so seriously. I became so disengaged from the narrative that by the time I arrived at page 370 (about 60% of the book) I had to put the book down and pick up another—shorter— book* to read for a few days. I didn't want to give up on Declare but to continue with it to page 641, the last page, seems like an awful slog. Had the narrative been much tighter I would not have needed to take a break. Anyway, after I finished the shorter book I—somewhat reluctantly—resumed reading Declare to the bitter end. Instead of building a steady momentum to an exciting climax and denouement the narrative just moves on at an uneven pace until it gets to the end. By this time, even the fantasy sections of the book are not that enjoyable because I have stopped caring.Obviously, I am not going to recommend this book, but I appreciate that more people like it than not, which is fine. If you are particularly interested in this book, read a few reviews and perhaps read some sample chapters and decide from there. Having said that, I did read a few sample chapters of about 30 pages and still wrongly decided to buy the book. I had the impression that the hints of the supernatural in the early chapters will build up to something special. That did not happen._______________________*Martian Time-Slip, a far better book and half the length of Declare. IMO of course!

  • Becky
    2019-04-29 04:55

    I've been listening to this for hours, over the course of several (many? all?) weeks, and I'm calling it quits. The narrative jumps around all over the place, and there are soooo many details about the spying, and so many layers to the spying, and so many historical details that probably should make all of that mean something to me... but almost as soon as I turn this back on, my eyes glaze over and I zone out... and I just don't care. I don't know what this book is about. Maybe knowing that might've helped me focus because I'd have known that we were working toward something. And even though I technically and academically know that we were probably working toward something, because that's what stories are supposed to do, I just can't bring myself to be interested in getting there. Parts of this reminded me a bit of The Grimnoire series by Larry Correia, with the magic and the mid-30s timeframe, and political power stuff, but where that series was enjoyable and exciting and held my interest, this book wasn't and did not. I'm sure that I'm doing it wrong, and missing the point, and am stupid and illiterate and should die in a fire for not loving this book, but I just can't. Sorry.

  • Genevieve
    2019-04-29 09:38

    Tim Powers is an incredible writer. Some of his early books stutter a bit - while I love them, several of them lack strong endings and aren't as cohesive as they might be. By the time we get to this novel, however, Powers is in full control. Declare is an intricately constructed novel of spies and the nations who run them, with the central character, Andrew Hale, involved in secret radio transmissions from Occupied Paris, agent-running in the Middle East, and occasional interaction with - and against - Kim Philby, another spy ( a real person, not an invented character). In his inimitable fashion, Powers introduces a supernatural element that serves to explain so many oddities that pop up in the biography of Philby and his equally strange father - oddities that may not mean much on their own but which, in the hands of Powers, combine themselves into a plausible...and truly scary...narrative. A book belonging in the secret history genre, where layers are peeled back from reality, revealing deep mysteries beneath. However, Powers never lets his plotting overshadow his characterization. Andrew and Elena and Kim are realistically brave, flawed, scared, heroic, and understandable.

  • Commodore Tiberius Q. Handsome
    2019-05-02 03:00

    this novel blew my socks off. i had to pick them up and put them back on for real. SHOOM - right off. anyway, i love tim powers. he does this thing a lot of the time, where he takes an historical event, studies all of the scholarship on it, and then fills in the missing gaps with concocted fantastical happenings and providing a compelling, supernatural explanation on which he bases the novel. for Declare, the backdrop is the Cold War, specifically between the UK and Russia. this novel spans so many genres - espionage, religious, thriller, geopolitical, fantasy - that it's nearly impossible to classify. "supernatural spy thriller" comes close. a british agent of a clandestine service contests with Russian agents and the British traitors in their employ for mastery over a supernatural phenomenon that could determine the fate of the world. the action spans the globe. murder, deciet, assassination, djinn (genies), Noah's ark, gods, ESP, backstabbing, heroism - i thought it was fantastic.

  • Cheryl
    2019-04-27 10:55

    Spy novel with fantasy elements. This is a hard one to rate. The first 200 pages were almost too dense and confusing with info on Cold War espionage. It actually took me two attempts to get through it, and that was after I'd done research on the real life spy Kim Philby. You really can't skip the pages, though, because it has alot of info crucial to the plot's later sections. Those who muddle through will be rewarded with a story that gets better and is faster paced after the halfway mark. I really enjoyed the fantasy elements - djinn/fallen angels on Mount Ararat (supposed resting place of Noah's ark). How these seemingly unconnected elements all come together makes for a unique and intricate plot. I would say that if the spy genre is not for you, then you probably won't like the story.

  • Melissa McShane
    2019-05-25 06:52

    Saying Declare is not my favorite Tim Powers novel is like saying butter pecan is not my favorite ice cream flavor: it's still ice cream, and better than almost any other flavor but chocolate fudge brownie, which in this somewhat confused analogy is his book Last Call. Much as I enjoy reading Declare, I am more impressed by what he has done with his secret history in combination with djinn, fallen angels, Noah's Ark, and the intersection between the secret spy networks of Britain, France, and the Soviet Union in World War II and its aftermath.In the Author's Note to Declare, Powers writes: In a way, I arrived at the plot for this book by the same method that astronomers use in looking for a new planet--they look for "perturbations," wobbles, in the orbits of the planets they're aware of, and they calculate the mass and position of an unseen planet whose gravitational field could have caused the observed perturbations.... Every aspect of this secret history rises out of the real, uncanny history of infamous spy Kim Philby, and Powers has done incredible work in creating a brilliant story without changing a single detail of the recorded facts or a single date. That leaves me absolutely breathless.Of course, what he's invented is pretty amazing too. I am fascinated by the concept of the djinn, whose consciousness is defined by things, for whom to remember something is to do it again. Andrew Hale, our reluctant hero (something else Powers is good at writing, creating main characters who teeter on the verge of being unsympathetically weak), begins to act for himself after his encounters with these strange creatures and the chaos they have left behind. They are truly alien, and yet convincingly, terrifyingly, part of our world. (view spoiler)[Hale's reminder to his erstwhile handler Theodora that the colony of djinn on Mount Ararat is not the only one in the world is an important part of retaining the djinns' mystery and power; that Hale was able to destroy them is reasonable, but that his action rid the world of their threat entirely is not. And yet I don't feel the urge for a sequel to this story, set perhaps in the 21st century, in which a new organization springs up to combat djinn in China. That would be so anticlimactic. Fortunately Powers seems to feel the same way. (hide spoiler)]So much is intermingled here--Biblical stories and folk legend and, my favorite, the explanation for the extraordinary success of the Soviet Union for so many decades, which I found creepy and thrilling all at once. I love that Powers' characters not only act upon the story, but are acted upon. This is a spy story, at least in part, and it's natural that sometimes these people behave in ways that are larger than life (Hale's facing down the djinn in the Rub' al-Khali desert, Elena surviving her tortuous initiation at the hands of Russian zealots) and sometimes are simply very human. And then there's Kim Philby, whose own history makes him an excellent and occasionally sympathetic villain. That Powers didn't have to make most of his character up (his actions, if not his motivations) is still stunning to me.I always come to the end of a Tim Powers novel wondering what he will choose to write about next. I come to the end of Declare a little afraid of what he will choose to write next.

  • Sandi
    2019-05-09 04:59

    I’m really torn about whether to give “Declare” 4 stars or 5. I enjoyed the story and I think Powers had some really great, innovative ideas and crafted them into a unique narrative that defies classification into traditional genres. It’s fantasy, but not fantasy as you normally think of it with dungeons and dragons and elves. It’s sort of a WWII/Cold War spy thriller, but the supernatural aspects prevent it being placed in that genre. It deals with faith and religion, politics and history. I read a lot. I read a lot of difficult books. I was an English Lit major and I read a lot of even more difficult books than I’m reading now. I can’t think of any book I’ve read that’s been harder to read than “Declare” by Tim Powers. Not that it’s not worth the effort, it just takes extreme concentration to get through it without getting totally lost and confused. I tried to read it several years ago when I wasn’t reading as much as I am now and I didn’t have as much time to spend reading. I couldn’t make it through it. The things that make “Declare” so difficult to read are the same things that make it so rich and complex. It’s a fantasy novel, so there is magic. But you don’t recognize it when you first see it. Instead, it starts off as a spy thriller; jumping from location to location and from year to year with mind-boggling transitions. I sometimes lost track of whether the setting was in the 1940’s or the 1960’s. The decade and locale would change in mid-chapter. To add to the confusion, Powers uses a lot of historical fact. One of the characters is Kim Philby, a real-life double agent working for the Soviets. In his author’s notes, Powers says that he worked this novel around what was really known about Philby’s life and career. He’s trying to come up with an explanation for some unaccounted time in Philby’s life. This blurring of fact and fiction makes this novel very complicated, but interesting. The protagonist, Andrew Hale, is a very believable character. He is a bona fide human being, not some cookie cutter spy. His actions reflect his humanity.I think another thing that made this novel very difficult for me to read was its use of spy-thriller conventions. I have read very, very few spy novels in my life. Most of those were Reader’s Digest Condensed Books versions over 30 years ago. So, I’m not familiar with the conventions and pacing of the genre. The second half of the book does get easier as the timeline becomes less complex. All in all, I’d say this is an excellent book. However, it’s not for the casual or the distracted reader. By the end, all the plots and sub-plots are tied up. But, nothing is handed to you on a silver platter. Reading this book is like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle. It’s worth reading if you have the time and concentration and are used to reading very challenging books. If you’re looking for a light, entertaining read, you won’t find it here.

  • David Hebblethwaite
    2019-05-12 05:57

    For many years, Tim Powers’ work has largely been out of print in the UK, but that began to change in 2010, when Corvus gave Powers’s novel Declare its first UK edition, which quirk of publishing explains how a ten-year-old book ended up as a contender for the Clarke Award. It felt a little odd to see Declare so nominated, but I was optimistic because I’d read and liked a couple of Powers’ novels previously; Declare won the World Fantasy Award, which I’ve generally found a reliable indicator of good fiction; and the Clarke judges had made fine selections elsewhere in the shortlist. I pretty much took it for granted that we had six strong nominees this year.Well, now I’ll have to eat those words, because I simply cannot see that this book stands up to any of the other shortlisted titles.One of the hallmarks of Tim Powers’ fiction is the taking the fantastic and slotting it into the gaps in reality to create an alternative and hidden history of the world; in Declare, the author does this against the background of the Cold War. In 1963, a British former (or so he thought) spy named Andrew Hale is reactivated to complete Operation Declare, the previously failed mission to attack the djinns of Mount Ararat.Declare is a very long book – 560 B-format pages of close-set type in the edition I have – and the key problem it has is being overly stiff with research for much of that length. Overall, I find it a very slow read (not ideal for a book which is part spy thriller), because so much detail is crammed in at the expense of pacing. Actually, come to that, the general stodginess of Declare makes it difficult to appreciate most other aspects of the novel. For example, there’s a proper sense of otherworldliness in some of the scenes featuring djinns (made particularly interesting by the matter-of-fact tone of delivery), but the impact is diluted by all the less effective surrounding material – the more conventionally ‘spy-thrillerish’ sequences don’t work nearly as well for me.Perhaps if I knew more about, or were more interested in, the details of Kim Philby’s life (around which Powers has constructed the supernatural framework of his novel) – or if I’d read John Le Carré – I might appreciate more of what Powers is doing in the book. But it does seem to me that Declare is too content to assume that sort of interest on the part of its readers, rather than trying to generate it – hence the profusion on detail.It’s been a while since I read Last Call and The Drawing of the Dark, but I don’t remember their being a chore to read; Declare, on the other hand, was just that.

  • Will
    2019-05-10 10:55

    I was expecting far more from this. I was surprised by the Anubis Gates and shocked by Last Call, so surely Declare, a story that mixes magic with spycraft, would be a perfect match of horror and intrigue.But it isn't what you think. It's about the Cold War, but It's about Andrew Hale, a spy for the SOE who loves a woman called Elena... who is a spy for the Russians. Only... it's not about that. It's really about Kim Philby and the British SOE, mixed in with the existence of powerful yet abstract creatures called Djinn.Only... it's not about that. It's about 500 pages of description of boxes, countryside, prep school antagonism and sentences that cover half the page. I don't know how I didn't notice it before, but Powers can't write staccato to save his life. Here's a sentence cracked open from a random page:"To these wizened babushkas the NKVD was still the Cheka or even the pre-revolution Okhrana, and they took a particularly intense interest in Hale's researches, often pausing to cross themselves as they translated some musty old report of a Russian expedition to Turkey in 1883 or a description of burned grass around little coin-sized eruption holes in the grave plots of Russian cemeteries."Which would be fine, in isolation. But essentially half the book is needless detail that is irrelevant to the plot. You would never in a million years catch Iain Banks or Charlie Stross going off track in this way, and by the end of the book I would scan each page for relevant words to see if it was actually worth reading. Charlie Stross mentioned this as an analogue to his Laundry books. I think that's incorrect; the Laundry deals directly with inimical threats to humanity, whereas the Djinn are not opposed to humanity and most of the book is taken up with inter-agency wrangling. And Philby.There needs to be a special section for Philby, because the man is clearly the center of the book -- and he's a slimeball in every sense of the word. Clearly Powers read up on the real Philby and mentions details from Philby's life, but that hardly makes him more sympathetic. He loathes and is loathed by every character in the novel, and his preening sense of entitlement, fated destiny and "special nature" only make him more intolerable. He's like Harry Potter crossed with Christopher Monckton.So... yes. Hated it, hated it, hated it.

  • Lightreads
    2019-05-08 05:02

    Eighty percent WWII/Cold War spy thriller, twenty percent creepy fantasy about the supernatural powers moving behind our little conflict.Tim Powers has some sort of impervious force field. His Three Days to Never made me spittingly furious, but I still dug it. This book was unevenly paced with an irritatingly ham-handed romance* and a cast of largely loathsome people, and I still dug it. How does he do that?He just writes cool shit, there’s no other way to put it. This book is dense, well-researched, irrationally plausible in the story of a secret British force trying to kill one of the ancient fallen gods protecting the eastern block. With real people stepping in and out, and a lot of interesting spycraft wanking.*He’s a double agent in 1941 Paris. She’s an 18-year-old communist married to Russia. He’s young and stupid and horny, and suddenly they’re fated for life – I mean the book believes this too, not just our hero. Points for giving the girl some actual agency; massive negative points for the appalling hateful scene of two men playing cards to see who will go fuck her – her consent being, you know, a point which occurs to neither of them, including the guy who’s allegedly in love with her.****Impervious. Force field. Seriously.

  • Max
    2019-05-17 04:36

    I've liked everything of Powers' I've read, but in DECLARE his mixture of wit, world-building, and exhaustive erudition really sings. Also, the language! Big, long, chewy sentence after big, long, chewy sentence, yet maintaining flawless pace. In a few moments (e.g. Philby's fox), the backstory becomes a touch baroque, but since this is a product of Powers' gravitational approach to history—finding invisible causes to make sense of too-weird-for-fiction events—I can't exactly fault him for that. The narrative's reification of myth, faith, and sacrament unsettles and spins, which might be all to the best as it occasions reflection on what role these phenomena (maybe not the right word?) actually play in our lives. It felt strange and bracing, in an all-old's-new-again sort of way, to see Christian sacraments directly affect the supernatural world of the book, which thus refigures Christianity and Islam as fantastical setting elements. (Though it's possible we're in a Bultmann zone here—we're seeing ways Christian and Muslim ritual have preserved older magical traditions. I don't remember much textual support for that position in the novel.) While I'm uncertain about the novel's handling of religion, Powers does evoke the characters' guilt, awe, sin, and desire for confession / amendment, maybe putting at odds the ritual power of external events with their internal, existential significance. Maybe.Powers' determination that his magical constructs are part of supernature, rather than obscure nature, may be bracing with the more "scientific" magic common in, say, epic fantasies these days. (Though, if it matters, the "magic system" here is well-thought-out and internally consistent.) The supernatural stuff in this book really does defy any ad-hoc scientific explanation my mind can supply, which pushes us deeply into mysterium tremens et fascinans territory.If you like spies, or secret worlds, this book deserves your time.

  • Sandi
    2019-05-16 05:43

    This is my second Powers novel and I have to admit I'm hooked. This guy can write!I've never been a true fan of political thrillers or espionage but this one grabbed me from the start. I love that his heroes aren't he men in constant armed or unarmed combat. The lack of gory and graphic violence was pleasing as well. It's not that this lacked action, it didn't. The story just wasn't centered on the actions so much as the interactions of the characters.I'm also in awe as to how Powers manages to weld the supernatural to cold war spying. You would think that such disparate subjects wouldn't meld at all but Powers makes it more then plausible. It reminds me a little of Raiders of the Lost Ark in that respect. Yes I know it's not that ark involved in this story.His use of real life spy Kim Philby made me interested enough to do some cursory research on the man.I really do love how Powers mixes real history with his fiction and how well researched it is. This and Anubis Gates are both keepers that I will definitely reread.

  • Alex
    2019-05-02 07:55

    A strange fantasy novel about shifting alliances among spies in a world where supernatural entities exist. It's interesting to think about because it's generally hard to figure out what the hero wants. There's a love story. And he's a dedicated spy trying to infiltrate ... something ... but the story unfolds in back-and-forth time -- 1948, then 1963, then 1941, then 1945, then 1963 again. And it changes main characters halfway through. I don't know what the stakes are.The hero is a bit of cipher, as spies sometimes are. What am I rooting for? In other words it bends all sorts of narrative rules and even arguably breaks some. Somehow it gets away with it. I wasn't sure why I kept reading it, but I did. Maybe because I wanted to find out what the supernatural powers are, and what exactly happened on Mount Ararat in 1948.I wanted to get to the bottom of the mystery. That must be it. There's a fascinating epilog, too. The book creates a whole mythology around the British spy turncoat Kim Philby. It was interesting to read how Powers came up with the story. He was reading biographies of Philby, and kept running across events that suggested a much more interesting story hidden just behind what was written. Why did Philby weep for two days when his pet fox died -- when he had only wept so much for the death of his father? Why did a Saudi sheik give Philby, as a child, a twenty carat diamond? And what was the real meaning between Solomon's offer to split the baby in two?Powers set himself a rule, as he constructed the story of DECLARE, to abide by all the historical facts, and only conjure up what was behind them. Fascinating. Worth a read.

  • William
    2019-05-17 10:51

    DECLARE is Tim Powers' take on a British, Le Carre style spy novel, with his own added supernatural twists. And as such, it's a resounding success. What starts in murky waters in the British spy services quickly spirals out into the history and final culmination of a decades long investigation into what might or might not inhabit the high peaks of Mount Ararat, the reasons why the Russians are so interested, and the motives, ulterior mostly, of one of the most famous spies of all.Powers' decision to weave this tale in and around the known facts of Kim Philby's life in the secret services is a brave one, but having facts and actual events involved serves to anchor the story in reality and allows the flights of fancy and supernatural to feel more rooted. As ever, Powers' narrative is a fractured one, but the aforementioned Philby life story serves as a backbone that holds the whole thing together, even the more outlandish sections.Powers' way with a sentence is much in evidence, and there are the trademark lyrical flourishes that, in this story even more than some of his others, reminded me much of some of the work of Roger Zelazny. It's a largish book, near 600 pages in the edition that I read, but I breezed through it , for despite the sometimes dense exposition which shows the depth of research that was undertaken, at its simplest, this is a love story, and what with that, and the added thrill of the Le Carre like machinations, I loved it, and read it in two sittings over two days.Highly recommended.

  • Hallie
    2019-05-08 05:02

    Loved the secret history in here, despite its being all a little lost on me as I knew *nothing* about the British secret service historical characters. Very intense, and extremely engrossing - also appreciated how easy it was to follow the many chronological jumps despite the narrative complexity.

  • Mieczyslaw Kasprzyk
    2019-04-25 05:37

    I first heard of "Declare" when reading Charles Stross' "The Atrocity Archives". He talks about being warned not to read Tim Powers' book whilst writing his own. Naturally, I became curious, ordered "Declare" via you-know-who and put it on my shelf... And there it sat. Possibly ruminating.The other day I picked it up (I think it was guilt... but it may have been something more... ominous?) and read it. I should add that I couldn't put it down."Declare" is an intriguing book. Initially it reads like some sort of spy thriller. In fact, it IS some sort of spy thriller. The opening is slightly intriguing and confusing, disjointed? Certainly it makes you wonder what's going on yet, very soon, we enter the familiar world of the French Resistance, secret radios and brave agents avoiding the clutches of the Gestapo. We even experience the rivalry that was so common between the different Resistance groups (depending on your political affiliations) and, of course, we see the nasty side of the Soviet system also.But there's something else as well... something... strange.Must have been something in the gruel, you say, as our agents move on.And here we have someone VERY familiar, Kim Philby, and we know that things are entering that world of double agents and, very soon, the Cold War... But there's always that something else... something... Well, it wasn't the German gin and it wasn't the gruel.I don't believe in spoilers and sadly there will be plenty available - DON'T READ THEM! Read the book instead. Enjoy it, savour it. It's a spy story and a love story. It's Lawrence of Arabia and it's 007. It is, as my copy says, Le Carre plus. It is a wonderful read that will reward your imagination and leave you wanting more. Read it.

  • Tim Pendry
    2019-05-14 09:01

    Dean Koontz is quoted on the cover of this paperback edition as naming this book a ‘tour de force’. That is just about right.The book is a mix of Le Carre (‘The Perfect Spy’ springs to mind as well as his earlier Cold War spy thrillers) with quasi-Lovecraftian cosmic horror and it even offers homage to Alistair Maclean towards the end.But it is also very distinctively Tim Powers. Themes of conspiracy, secrecy, ruthlessness and betrayal are all there as we might expect. It gives nothing away to say that Kim Philby plays a major role in the story. One has to wonder whether Powers has a paranoid streak in his private life, or has suffered some form of betrayal of trust that drives his work – or is simply a very imaginative miner of a rich literary vein.Nearly every chapter is preceded by a quotation from Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Kim’ so we are in ‘Great Game’ territory, the central conceit being a struggle between empires through agencies that are beyond secret and exceptionally ruthless in their greater cause. This is classic Powers’ territory.In this sense, it is rather old-fashioned and is all the better for it. British imperial gentry and public schoolboys as well as tormented Catholics (shades of Graham Greene who also wrote early thrillers are here) are the heroes, with the Americans and the French tagging along for the ride.On the other side, Stalin’s Soviet Union (and that of his decaying successors) are mere overlay to an earlier Mother Russia whose guardian ‘angel’ is at the centre of the plot (again, no spoilers). So, it is a politically and culturally conservative book, filled with the nostalgia of all British Atlanticists (of which I am not one) who continue with the pretence that Britain matters and has not degenerated into a rather wealthier Yugoslavia of small nations on the edge of a greater empire.The book is thus massively entertaining nonsense, by a master of genre fiction, both on grounds of content and ideology but it should equally be lapped up by anyone who lives vicariously through the adventure novel or who seeks the fantastic.It is certainly rare to see two genres as radically opposed as cosmic horror and the spy thriller merged with such effect but Powers succeeds beyond all expectations.His earlier ‘Three Days to Never’ frustrated us by being a compulsive read that then degenerated into incomprehensibility. Do not fail to read his appendix about how he came to his conceit but only after reading the book to the end.This book reverses that 'failing'. It starts with an incomprehensibility that expands into a finely crafted tale of geo-politics and horror (no spoilers here) in which everything is ultimately explained.Perhaps the only significant criticism is that Powers appears to be so entranced with his own in-depth research that some incidents, especially those set in Paris in wartime, might be regarded as over-lengthy at a time so much of the story cannot yet be understood.Perhaps he wants you to keep the book for reading a second time and I suspect you might keep it in your library (like his still remarkable ‘The Anubis Gates’) for just that reason. The research that he has put into getting each scene ‘right’ is quite remarkable.In other words, do not be put off by his determination to be precise and accurate about ambience – whether of Paris, wartime London, post-war Berlin or Cold War Kuwait – because you will lose out on a rollicking adventure story that might even send a chill down the spine.

  • Evelyn
    2019-05-19 02:53

    The author of this book calls himself a writer or 'speculative fiction,' an interesting term that encompasses fiction, science fiction, fantasy and a smattering of history. He's one of my husband's favorite authors, and this book is my husband's current favorite by this author. I'm not much of a fantasy or sci-fi fan, but this book really seems to have something for everyone, and it's well written to boot. I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did.From a very young age, Andrew Hale knows that he's going to be serving the British crown in some way, and in 1941 he's called on by the British SOE to spy on the communist resistance in Paris by joining the communist party at Oxford where he is studying, then allowing himself to be recruited and trained as a telegraphist. These first pivotal steps, along with the key people he comes into contact with as he executes this assignment, are the basis for greater and more significant adventures over the following 20+ years.The author starts out with a short but thunderous first chapter, then slowly eases into the backstory, as well as the mayhem and fantasy/sci-fi as the book progresses. It's the perfect blend for someone like me who doesn't necessarily enjoy fantasy fiction...there was enough espionage to get me hooked and believing in the characters. And, by the time the hyper-reality is full blown, I was so involved with the story I did't find it at all annoying.

  • Jonathan
    2019-05-20 04:43

    "Oh Fish, do you hold to the old covenant?"A literally heavyweight book, a cold war novel chock full of spy craft. Tim Powers restrains his usual excesses until almost the end. A decades long intelligence operation to "verify the status" of the inhabitants of Mt. Ararat staggers to fruition, with Kim Philby betraying each side in turn.The SOE's wish to "verify the status" of the entire Mt. Ararat community seems somewhat excessive, given that the only one causing direct offence is dwelling ghoulishly in Moscow. The mighty forces appear as monstrous innocents, dealing with a world of men that they don't understand at all, supernatural toddlers with a taste for Medical Supplies.I love the 1001 Nights references, the ominous powers plucking soldiers into the sky, and the decades spanning romance, though there are more spy nods and winks and opportunities for confusion and double crossing than you could shake a bundle of sticks at.There isn't much else like this, you can step straight to John Le Carré in one direction, or Anubis Gates by Tim Powers in the other.

  • John
    2019-04-25 07:00

    I just love what Powers is attempting here - a spy story cum secret history of the cold war where magic, ancient djinns, guardian angels and biblical myth are really the secret drivers of the arms race (very Indiana Jones) - but for me this was a case of the plot of a novel being far more interesting than the writing. I think the problem is that there is just so much information Powers must convey to give the story even a glimmer of credibility (in the suspended disbelief kind of way) that he had to indulge in some overwriting just to take care of the exposition. Still, it was a fun read, real brain candy, and with an awkward, somewhat unconvincing but still somewhat sweet little love story thrown into the works. I think I'll try Anubis Gates next.

  • Nemalevich
    2019-05-22 02:54

    Сложноустроенная шпионская история времен холодной войны, закрученная вокруг Кима Филби, только (кроме шуток) с джинами из 1001 ночи и написанная нетипично для жанра богатым английским языком. В принципе, это удавшийся вариант того, что пытался сделать Симмонс в The Abominable - Пауэрс подробно изучил биографию семьи Филби и других из Кэмбриджской пятерки и вставил фэнтези вместо всех исторических белых пятен, так, чтобы история сложилась. Было бы пять звезд, но, черт подери, почему автор, способный довольно точно описать дорогу от дома иностранных корреспондентов на Садовой-Самотечной до Патриарших пишет "Matchikha Nash", когда хочет написать "Наша Мачеха" и "Nichevo" вместо "Ничего"?

  • Chris Berko
    2019-05-18 08:38

    Amazing read. I love "discovering" previously (to me) unknown authors who have extensive well reviewed back catalogs of stuff! This is only my second Tim Powers book, behind the equally but for different reasons awesome Stress of Her Regard, and I am going to RUN through a couple of more if you know what I mean. This guy is incredible, where has he been all my life, and blahdidy blah blah. Three cheers for Declare and the joy it brought my life!

  • Rif Saurous
    2019-05-17 06:36

    If you already know you like Tim Powers, and you have an interest in reading a cold war spy / magic novel that offers a secret backstory to real world events, well, you're gonna like this. If you don't like Tim Powers this is definitely more Tim Powers. If you've never read Tim Powers I think Anubis Gates and On Stranger Tides are better places to start, depending on whether you'd rather read Egyptian magic + time travel or pirates + magic. I tore through it and enjoyed it.

  • Benjamin
    2019-05-15 05:54

    I've heard for a while now about how great Powers is, how he seamlessly ties together rich history with mythic fantasy: here's a Fisher King story in California, here's Merlin-brewed beer, here's angels in the Cold War. Finally, I broke down and read (heard) my first Powers, and I can say that it fairly lives up to the hype while also being something of a head-scratcher in places.Here's the basic non-spoiler story: Andrew Hale is a British agent in a hush-hush operation that stretches from before World War II to the 1960s, an operation that has to do with a secret history focusing on magical beings that are variously described as angels or djinn. The story largely focuses on Hale's experiences (Paris and Berlin, 1945; Mount Ararat and the Middle East 1948, 1963); with a strong subplot about his love for the Spanish-born Russian/French agent, Elena Teresa Ceniza-Bendiga; and the related experience of real-life spy Kim Philby and his family's associations with the supernatural.Powers has a really eye-opening afterword here, where he talks about his research and his self-imposed guideline of not changing any historical facts. It's fascinating to me to hear how close this fantasy cleaves to historical fact--though in cases like this, I always want a companion piece or footnotes to tell me the actual history, as we know it. From a purely puzzle-regarding, cleverness-grading standpoint, that's an impressive feat.And while most of that historical accuracy fades into the background when read as a novel. I wonder if that's why the book sometimes (often) feels a little overdetailed and overwritten. Some of these details probably give the book an air of verisimilitude (even more important in fantasy, Wells would argue), but some of them seem merely to slow down the reading process and make it clear that this is not just a spy thriller. (I suppose a similar case could be made for the nonlinear jumps in the book, from time period to time period: of course we don't worry about Andrew Hale in 1948 after we've met him in 1963.) In any case, there are times when exhaustive research tips over into exhausting reading.My other complaint here has to do with the characters and their structural role. Andrew Hale--spoiler--turns out to be half of Kim Philby; and it's explained that Kim got all the love of family/women while Andrew got all the love of country. Which turns all of Andrew's decisions into either pre-ordained (will he shoot his family to save his country? of course he will) or unbelievable (will he sacrifice everything to find his true love? of course he will--but I won't buy it). Similarly, it's not always clear to me what's really motivating this secret war: at some points, Hale's boss seems to have it in for Communism, but at other points, he seems to have it in for the angels themselves. Likewise, one of the most interesting characters is a Russian agent from Armenia who is described as owing allegiance primarily to the fallen angels. What does that mean to him? What sort of world are these people fighting for?Lastly, while it's clear that Hale is just a pawn here, there are a few too many briefing scenes, where someone higher up in the intelligence system explains to Hale something crucial about the angels or about himself. If you're keeping track, file this under "demonstrating research/cleverness while sacrificing plot urgency and momentum."

  • Scott Firestone
    2019-05-03 05:41

    After recently reading Christopher Golden's Ararat, I was reminded of another book where this mountain plays a key role:Declare, by Tim Powers. So, being the impulsive reader I am, I decided to reread this, 12 years after the first read. I'm always scared of rereading a "5 star" book. Will I think less of it? Will it hold up? Declare was even better the second time. Andrew Hale has led an odd life from birth. His mother was a disgraced nun. He doesn't know who his father is. He was baptized in the Jordan river. And for almost his entire life, he's been a part of an ultra-top-secret operation: Declare. We follow Hale as he moves across the globe, acting as a double agent, falling in love with Communist agent Elena Teresa Ceniza-Bendiga, and orbiting Ararat, the fabled resting place of Noah's Ark. Hale is no James Bond. He's not suave. He's not perfect. He's flawed in real and believable ways. But he's sharp, and observant. Hale's foil in this adventure is Kim Philby, the real-life double-agent who was a high-ranking member of British Intelligence, while also providing secrets to the Soviet Union--where he eventually defected in 1963. This is where Powers works his magic...In the author's note, Powers tells how he happened to read le Carre's introduction to a book about Philby, and noticed some oddities about the man. After further research, more oddities emerged. --He was born on January 1. --His father was St John Philby, a noted author and Arabist who converted to Islam, and worked with Lawrence of Arabia. --"Kim" is a nickname that came from Rudyard Kipling's novel of the same name--excerpts of which are found at the beginning of section breaks in Declare. --Philby had a pet fox, and when it fell to its death, he spent two days in drunken grief. --As a boy he was given a twenty-carat diamond by an Arab prince. And these are just a few of them! What Powers does better than anyone else is to take these weird, disparate bits and weave a story around them. He "made it an ironclad rule that I could not change or disregard any of the recorded facts, nor rearrange any days of the calendar--and then I tried to figure out what momentous but unrecorded fact could explain them all." So we've got spies, magic, Lawrence of Arabia, Noah's Ark, The Brandenburg Gate, Kim Philby, faith lost, faith found again, card games with high stakes, and djinns that just might be fallen angels. You get done reading this insane mash-up and you think, "Yeah, that's probably exactly what happened." Even though you know that couldn't have happened. Powers is that good. His magic is just real, and subtle enough to be believable. Even the excerpts from Kipling's Kim that introduce new sections fit right in with the story as though they were always meant to be there. This book isn't for everyone. For one, Powers emulates the '70s spy novels of John le Carre and Len Deighton. And those are slooooooooooooow. This isn't as slow as those books, but a rollicking adventure it ain't. Also, it jumps around the timeline quite a bit, which can be off-putting as a reader. If someone told me they didn't like this book at all, I'd totally understand. And I'd never suggest this as someone's first dip in the Powers Pool. But it worked for me, and further solidified my admiration for this underrated author. I declare this a triumph.

  • Walt O'Hara
    2019-04-27 10:48

    Review based upon a reading of the original hardcover when it was published years ago, coupled with a recent listening of the version.Tim Powers is one of those go-to contemporary writers for me, in company with Jack McDevitt, Iain Banks, Michael Shea, and Gene Wolfe. This is a group of authors that I will read almost everything they write based upon their previous accomplishments, and will start their books with a generally positive, nay, eager, opinion of the work.DECLARE is a hard right turn in Tim Power's literary style. Powers has played around a bit with time-streams in previous works, and he certainly is a writer that likes to infuse a story with legendary and magical elements, portrayed in a "magical realism" style that I have consistently found entertaining. DECLARE features many of these elements, but leaps backward and forward in the time stream so much (1930s-1941-1945-1948-1955-1962, etc) that I often found myself scratching my head and stopping, trying to figure out WHEN I'm reading as well as WHERE. It's like a literary equivalent of Christopher Nolan's MEMENTO. DECLARE shifts focus quite a bit. Primarily it's a magical interpertation of the defining moments of the Cold War, integrating a mystical version of the British Secret Service, the Russian Ohkrana, DJinns, and the "Fifth Man" crisis of the 1950s. Powers is a dab hand with his characters in all his books-- portraying them as confused, arrogant, and often in a negative manner, and they are still riveting. The "anti-hero" trend has increased in the last several books published, and in general, I like it. The inclusion of the historical Kim Philby (one of history's scumbags) as a POV character in DECLARE became a bit tedious. Power's Philby is an insufferable ass, selfish, self-conscious, arrogant and cowardly, not unlike the real deal. It's clear Powers read Philby's self-serving biography at some point, because he does put us in his shoes and allows us access to his justifications for his actions. The other characters (Elena, Alan Hale, et al) are intriguing cyphers given to bizarre outbursts with very little setup. I didn't get behind any of them at any point. So, is this a love story? A spy story? A fantasy story? SHRUG. It's a fantasy spy story that bounces through time and is told is Power's classic elegiacal style. I found it to be not as riveting as some of his earlier work, nor as deeply realized as his modern "Fisher King" sequence, but still a lot of fun despite the presence of some despicable characters. DECLARE is not the best Powers book I have read, but definitely time enjoyed and worth the investment in reading.

  • Eastendleo
    2019-05-01 03:51

    This is truly a tour de force of re imagining events and people of recent history while inserting a fantasy back story that gallops between England, the Middle East, Paris and Moscow. And covers the period from the early part of the last century to its near close. And not once violating what we know of those actual people and events.The elaborate dance of evasion, double cross and morality in the world of espionage. The awakening and influence of spirits upon us. And the toll of being at the beck and call of others with ones life constantly at risk of being upended. All this Tim Powers handles masterfully. I don't know if the details of cities, weapons and glacier climbing are accurate, but he certainly makes all of it immediate and convincing.But...At some point in this book I became aware that each part of the book was impressive, but the whole wasn't working for me. Part of it is in it's construction, which others might or might not share. And part is in the subject matter, which might be wholly me.Construction: With this story moving amongst various geographic locations and moving backwards and forwards in time at those locations, I found the result to be not so much immersive, which the authors talent would indicate should be the result, but rather I experienced detachment. I did wonder if this was the effect being attempted. Could it be what our protagonist Andrew Hale would experience? But he isn't written that way, so I concluded that it's just me. I wasn't befuddled, but I definitely felt like a djinn was throwing me around.Subject: I quite happily suspend disbelief and read about mages and dragons. But the supernatural anchored in our wolds religions has the same effect on my reading experience as knowing some authors real life nastiness: it intrudes on the text. So when angels and devils appear, detachment ensued.I also felt the love story was cliched. Young love survives separation and conflict to triumph. Men play cards for the right to bed the trophy, I mean girl. Who never seems to particularly have her own story. The chapter giving her history seems more like the authors notes on her than an addition to the narrative. Excising her whole thread would have created some plot difficulties, but would have definitely cleaned up the story. So, a few reasons for my detachment from what is undoubtedly a very fine book. I would give this book 5 stars for sheer brilliance of writing talent. But ultimately we weren't meant for each other.