Salvage and Demolition

August 12, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

salvageSalvage and Demolition by Tim Powers

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Tim Powers! This is one of my favorite authors. I don’t follow him on the same level as I do Neil Gaiman or Stephen King, but whenever he has a new book come out, I pay attention. I found Salvage and Demolition on sale and added it to my Kindle collection. When I found myself killing time before a meeting, I pulled this up and started reading. Just a few hours later, I finished it. (And yes, I did make it to the meeting.)

The story is about Richard Blanzac, a rare book dealer who is given a box of books and papers on consignment. He finds a couple of collector’s items, some Ace double science-fiction novels, and a handwritten manuscript of verse. He also discovers that the box somehow has the ability to send him back in time, to San Francisco in 1957, where he meets the author of the manuscript, Sophie Greenwald.

The story has some similarities to The Anubis Gates, which isn’t a bad thing, though the story made me want to go back and re-read that book. Powers brings his clever style to bear here, with the time travel forming a closed loop that maintains the entire story. The story lacks the complexities of his book-length work, but it doesn’t suffer for it; in fact, this would be a good place for someone who hasn’t read Powers’ fiction before, as it encapsulates what makes his work unique. This book is a novella, just over 150 words, so it would only take a couple of hours to finish it.

Powers has a style unlike any other author I’ve read. His characters seem bland, uninteresting, but once they’re thrown into something extraordinary, they take on new life. I think it speaks to how well Powers develops his characters to be likable regardless of how interesting they are. The manuscript in question is a macguffin, there just to keep Richard and Sophie moving forward (and backward) through the story. His narrative is unobtrusive, but not uninteresting. In fact, he reminds me a bit of Connie Willis, in that the story looks effortless, even as it has a profound effect on you.

I’ve said before that Powers’ complex plots are best suited to his long-form fiction, but he can still write an effective story with more limited space. I’m surprised with how much I responded to the main characters of this piece, even as I wondered if I believed how close they became in such a short time. Regardless, it works, and it’s Tim Powers. It was a good read.

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