An Occupation of Angels (book, Lavie Tidhar, 2005)
I’d almost forgotten I’d reviewed this novella in SFX 140. When I read it, I’d never heard of Lavie Tidhar, but now he’s a rising star in the SF world, and a fellow author at Angry Robot. This led to a little bit of a dilemma for me. I thought some aspects of the book were good, but didn’t rate it too highly. As I now know Lavie, albeit tangentially (we’ve never met) it’s a little embarassing. Should I put it on my blog at all? I thought.
But then to omit this review on the grounds of possibly offending someone who is now, effectively, a colleague of mine, would be cowardly indeed. This is why I think twice about reviewing the works of people with whom I am connected, unless I am sure I will enjoy it (people like Adam Roberts, for example, whose books are simply different shades of excellent). To exaggerate one’s appreciation of an author’s work on the basis of acquaintance is an unforgiveable sin; but to write a poor review of a friend’s work is heart-rending. Some people might say I should not review the work of people I know at all, but frankly I am still a journalist and I need the money. I strive to be unbiased. I probably don’t always succeed, but I will always hold true to my own opinion, as here.
TWO AND A HALF STARS
Lavie Tidhar/Pendragon Press/84pages
An uneasy mix of Buffy and Le Carre, An Occupation of Angels has the dangerous agent Killarney (a woman vaguely reminiscent of assassin Otto McGavin in Joe Haldeman’s novel All of My Sins Remembered) running across Cold War Europe in an attempt to find out who is killing off the angels. Yep, angels. This is an alternate history set in a universe where WWII was brought to an end by the manifestation of dozens of the feathery blighters, and they’re generally not nice. Or are they? Fact is, you can’t tell. The book has a first-draft feel that suggests the author hasn’t really thought through what his angels are, or how to convey it to the reader. It sparkles with the odd touch of brilliance – Killarney being especially well drawn, but then the Nazis turn up and what started out as a nice idea gets stretched too far. There’s a great short story here, but not a novella.