Tuesday, November 23, 2010

An Occupation of Angels

An Occupation of Angels is a novella by Lavie Tidhar from Apex Books*. I’ve grown to be a big fan of Tidhar’s work over the last year or so. I’ve read (and truly enjoyed) many of his short stories published in places like Strange Horizons and Fantasy Magazine, and I absolutely loved his novella The Tel Aviv Dossier co-written with Nir Yaniv and released through ChiZine Publications. In fact, The Tel Aviv Dossier is perhaps the most entertaining book I read all year. That said, An Occupation of Angels had a lot to live up to.

Did it live up to my expectations? For the most part, yes, and it passed with flying colors, too. It was a fun, quick read, full of action and intrigue. As far as plot goes you have angelic beings, dark Nazi experimentation, doors to other dimensions, and a female protagonist who is a James Bond-type character jumping across Europe on secret missions. We travel with the protagonist from historic Paris to the remote, frozen wastelands of Siberia and beyond, perhaps even to Heaven itself. The action scenes are well-written and compelling. This is an adventure story, plain and simple.

The fact the book is a plain and simple adventure story might be considered the book’s strength by many readers, but in a way, this fact became a weakness for me and my own high expectations. I guess I just expected more instances of the contemplative and strange from Tidhar. This book felt a little safe in places, relying on spy novel tropes in favor of the fantastic hinted at in the story. It is a novella more inspired by the language of Ian Fleming than Dante. It is an action-packed spy story more than a contemplative fantasy, and I tend to be the kind of reader who prefers contemplative fantasies. So, this was just a matter of my personal reading preferences tainting my enjoyment of the book to a minor extent (very minor).

That said, An Occupation of Angels is a very well-written spy book which I found fun to read and recommend highly, especially if you tend to enjoy spy stories and/or adventure novels. I think rabid fans of Indiana Jones or the Jason Bourne series would absolutely love this novella.

Using my six-pack rating system, I give An Occupation of Angels a solid 4 out of 6 Angel City Ales. I look forward to reading more of Tidhar’s work. He’s the kind of writer who always surprises, rarely repeats himself, and shows a lot of range in his oeuvre.

*Legal Disclosure: received a free electronic review copy of novella through publisher.

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