Clockwork Angels Cover
Can a rock song make you think?

Yes. I’m living proof.  And I’m sure I’m not alone this time.

So am I reviewing music or a book? Both, actually.

That’s because Clockwork Angels by Kevin J Anderson is the novelization of the album of the same name by the legendary group Rush.

I sat down with Kevin J Anderson at Book Expo America in 2012 where he gave me a glossy preview piece of the forthcoming Clockwork Angels novel. My eyes went wide and I smiled. Luckily I still had the presence of mind to get him to sign the Clockwork Angels preview for me.

I’ve been a Rush fan for over 30 years. I’ve seen them live half a dozen times (mostly due to my old friend Ian O’Malley, legendary DJ over at Q104.3 in New York) and even scored backstage passes once. Oh man. What a time that was…

So that’s why my eyes went wide and I smiled. Two of my favorite things – music and fiction books – being melded together. I knew Clockwork Angels would be an incredible novel.

And I was right.

The Clockwork Angels Rush Album has 12 tracks and Kevin J Anderson wrote the Clockwork Angels novel around these 12 tracks.  The Rush album tells an incredible story and the novelization of the album lives up to its pedigree with no small amount of input from Neil Peart, lyricist and drummer for Rush.

The style and flavor of Clockwork Angels reminded me of Pauel Coelho’s The Alchemist in several fundamental ways.

Owen Hardy, our hero in Clockwork Angels, leaves his small cozy town and comfy job as an assistant manager of an apple orchard.  By stepping far outside his comfort zone and doing something most of his friends and neighbors would never even dream of doing, Owen Hardy went on the adventure of a lifetime living a life that most of the people he left behind couldn’t even dream about.

Mr. Anderson does an incredible job taking the sequential order of the songs of the Clockwork Angels album and expanding them.  As Neil Peart commented in the epilogue, that’s one of Mr. Anderson’s crafts in trade.  He built the world of Clockwork Angels, populated with good guys, bad guys and common folk.  We have The Watchmaker as the ultimate embodiment of Order with his “regulators” imposing order on the population of Albion who is opposed by The Anarchist who is Chaos personified.

Owen Hardy finds himself caught in the middle of this power struggle and I’ll leave it to you to find out if this was accidental or intentional.

Sidestepping this colossal, classical battle of two primal forces Owen Hardy sets out across the sea to escape it all only to find himself a hungry, broke beggar on the street who turns to stealing to landing a job with a Commodore earning him a handsome wage with warm food and a warm bed then off across a punishing desert in search of a place that nobody believes exists; The Seven Cities of Gold.

He returns from his quest (I won’t spoil the outcome of his sojourn) only to be propelled back across the sea and into a full-pitched battle between The Anarchist (leading The Wreckers) and The Watchmaker.

Both sides demand he pick a side and Owen, once again, refuses.  He returns to his native land and returns to friends he made just before he made his hasty escape from Crown City and finds exactly what he was looking for; which was there all along.  That’s just one of several parallels I’ve drawn between The Alchemist and Clockwork Angels.

Clockwork Angels is a novel of parables and fables, of truths and philosophies.  Anderson and Peart have done a sensational job taking 12 legendary songs and turning them into a book that deserves legendary status in its own right among the ranks of fiction books.

Two interesting points I need to make here:

1) Roughly 50% into Clockwork Angels I switched from The Kindle version to the audiobook version on Audible.  I don’t know why I didn’t start with the audio book version in the first place as Neil Peart himself is the reader which is a very serious added bonus.

2) Rush fans will be treated to lyrics from many past Rush songs woven into the novel.  This was done so smoothly and with such finesse.  Every quoted lyric was a perfect fit for that part of the story and made me smile.  Kevin J Anderson is at the top of his game to pull this off flawlessly so many times throughout the novel.

So which song really made me think? Almost every Rush song does.  This one is my favorite from The Clockwork Angels album: