Posted by : atcampbell | On : October 1, 2002

Declare by Tim Powers

Twelve people attended this meeting held at Charles and Willie’s home. Our group had discussed and enjoyed several previous books by Tim Powers before, and we were looking forward to his latest novel. Declare is a World War II era spy novel with supernatural elements, and it recently won the World Fantasy Award.

While we approached Declare with high hopes, we generally found the reading experience unrewarding. Only four people finished the book, and the other seven who started reading it were not interested enough to stay with it to the end. The one person who claimed to enjoy the book could not cite any reasons beyond “Powers attempting to broaden his fan base.” Another person liked the espionage elements and the author’s writing style enough to finish the book and pronounce it an “OK read.”

Most of us found this book disappointed on a massive scale. All the humor, creativity, and sheer wackiness we had come to expect from Tim Powers was missing in this book. We were left with a fairly dry spy thriller with minor speculative elements. We found the nonlinear narrative style confusing and the characters uninteresting. People described reading the book as “slogging,” “not one to read late at night,” and “self indulgent at best”. One person felt the book read like “Raiders of the Lost Ark with all the action scenes removed.” Another person who was a big fan of World War II espionage and historical novels felt he was probably the perfect audience for this book, and his comment was “I declare this book is crap.” Several people suggested that the historical reference books cited by Powers would probably be more interesting than Declare. A self-described “Powers devotee” who likes how the author’s books usually “seem like coming back from the best acid trip possible” felt that Declare was “the low point of Tim Powers’s writing career.”

Overall we found Declare to be the least accessible and interesting work of Tim Powers. None of us understood why this book was nominated for major awards. After the meeting, several of had a nice dinner at Threadgill’s.

–A. T. Campbell, III