Rush Wrote a Novel, and It's Not Embarassingly Awful

At a time when nearly all of its early-'70s hard-rock contemporaries are comfortably coasting on past glories, Rush continues to be propelled by a restless creativity. More than 40 years into the band's career, it seems that Canada's ultimate power trio still can't stop thinking big.

This summer, the band released Clockwork Angels, its first concept album in decades and most intriguing work in nearly as long. It's an excuse to tour the Americas one more time, sure, but Rush isn't stopping there. This week, they presented fans with something new: Clockwork Angels: The Novel, the very first attempt at translating the band's musical narratives into dead-tree format.

It's a preposterous idea, really. Even amongst die-hard Rush nerds, who's got the time and inclination to read a prog-rock concept album? Still, it's not a total surprise that the band would give something like this a try. Neil Peart, the group's superhuman drummer and lyrics-writer, has always been a thoughtful, literary guy, and Rush could never have remained a vital creative force for so long if they were afraid to branch out in unexpected new directions. But, come on -- could this book actually be any good?

Put simply, yeah, it's pretty respectable. Though the overarching plot points and ideas have Peart's fingerprints all over them, he was smart enough to entrust the actual business of novel-writing to a friend and sometime-collaborator, Kevin J. Anderson.

While clearly a fan, Anderson is no chump. He's the prolific, award-winning sci-fi author of more than 100 novels, and an experienced hand at diving into fictional worlds dreamed up by others.

Much of his work explores the popular sci-fi/fantasy universes of Star Wars, The X-Files, DC Comics and Dune. Anderson was a wise choice to work with Peart on this project: His practiced writing style effectively renders vivid characters and imagery, bringing the drummer's vision to life on the page.

The story itself isn't exactly a wildly original masterpiece. If you were expecting one, please consult your doctor. The book's themes will be quite familiar to any fan of Rush, or of the sci-fi/fantasy genre, for that matter. It is, however, a richly imagined steampunk epic of travel and discovery. If that sort of thing doesn't appeal to you, you probably aren't a huge Rush person to begin with.

The novel follows the tale of Owen Hardy, a young man coming of age in a rural community that literally runs like clockwork. He's content and secure in his comfortable little hamlet, but his dreams stretch beyond the safe and well-worn boundaries of his prescribed existence.

Driven by a longing he doesn't quite understand, he hops a passing steam freighter in the night for the big city on a whim (or so he thinks!) to see the wondrous capitol of the Watchmaker, the nigh-omnipotent man who controls every aspect of life in the nation of Albion.

It's the beginning of a winding adventure that takes Hardy to faraway lands and hidden lairs of power and resistance as he's caught in a tug-of-war between the paternal, removed Watchmaker and his nemesis, the embittered and radical Anarchist.

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