NESFA Members' Reviews


by Paul J. McAuley

AvoNova, ISBN 0-688-14154-4, 1995, 384pp, US$?

A book review by Evelyn C. Leeper

Copyright 1996 Evelyn C. Leeper

This is the second "alternate Leonardo" I read in quick succession (Jack Dann's MEMORY CATHEDRAL being the first, though this actually predates the Dann by about a year). In this, however, Leonardo is not one of the major characters on-stage. He does appear but mostly he is talked about as the "Great Engineer" in the tower. So far as I can determine, he got that way because Savonarola's revolution of 1498 succeeded and Leonardo turned from concentrating on art to concentrating on invention. The result is a Florence well into the Industrial Age in Leonardo's lifetime.

Let me start out by saying that I enjoyed this book and that I recommend it. I want to say that up front, because my comments might lead you to think I had a negative opinion of PASQUALE'S ANGEL, and that's not true.

One of my complaints has to do with the premise: I doubt the Industrial Revolution could have proceeded this fast this early. In twenty years, Florence seems to have gotten to the technological level we achieved around 1900--considerably more than twenty years after the Industrial Revolution started.

Another problem is that PASQUALE'S ANGEL starts with a "locked- room" (or rather "locked-tower") mystery whose solution, alas, should be obvious to most of the readers who would be attracted to this book.

Given that McAuley wanted a murder mystery, I wish he had designed one less derivative. He does a good job of describing his characters and making them come alive. (Of course, most of his characters WERE alive, at least in some form.) His use of the politics and conspiracies of the time is the most interesting aspect of the novel, and more emphasis on that, with less on detailing more technical advances than seem likely or are necessary, would have made me happier. But as they say, your mileage may vary, and even with my reservations, I still strongly recommend PASQUALE'S ANGEL.

%T      Pasquale's Angel
%A      Paul J. McAuley
%C      New York
%D      June 1995
%I      AvoNova
%O      hardback, US$22
%G      ISBN 0-688-14154-4
%P      384pp

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