Rush Wrote a Novel, and It's Not Embarassingly Awful
Based largely on themes that Rush explored in the '70s, Neil Peart is often hailed (and scorned) as a rock-star disciple of Ayn Rand. But Peart is hardly a strict Objectivist, and though some of Rand's ideas are clearly present here, Clockwork Angels is no Atlas Shrugged.
Instead, it's a rather obvious (though pleasant) retelling of Candide. In the end, our hero finds that self-actualization and good company are an adventure unto themselves.
Hey, if you're going to swipe ideas, you can do worse than Voltaire. For the fanboys, subtle and not-so-subtle references to Rush songs, albums and lyrics are sprinkled here and there throughout the book. They don't add much to the enjoyment of the story, but they don't detract any, either.
Is the novel self-indulgent? Shit yeah! It's the literary translation of a freaking prog-rock concept album, how could it not be? But that's practically the point. Indulging creative flights of fantasy for their own sake is what makes Rush tick.
This is no ancillary cash-in; it's a serious effort to stretch the band's ideas in a new direction, and in that regard it's pretty darn successful. Anderson has a practiced voice for science fiction, and his influence helps to ensure that the story doesn't collapse into silliness or pomposity as it might've.
Mostly, it's just nice to have Peart crackling with new ideas and ambitions again. After suffering well-publicized family tragedies in the late '90s, it looked for a time as if he might withdraw into solitude forever. Clockwork Angels, both the album and novel, find him with stories yet to tell and places yet to explore. To Rush fans young and old, that's a happy tale worth sharing.
Clockwork Angels: The Novel
By Kevin J. Anderson and Neil Peart
ECW Press, 304 pp, $15.57 at amazon.com
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