978-0-688-14154-7 / 9780688141547

Pasquale's Angel


Publisher:William Morrow & Co



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About the book:

In his fifth SF novel, the versatile Paul McAuley turns from outer space to alternate history and a 16th-century Florence where many of the strange, wonderful devices sketched in the notebooks of the "Great Engineer", Leonardo da Vinci, have been built and made to work. The skies of Italy are darkened with sulphurous smog from Industrial Revolution factories, crude engines throb loudly everywhere, and steam-powered automobiles chug along the streets. Young artist Pasquale--threatened like other painters by Leonardo's latest invention of photography-- finds himself working hand in glove with cynical journalist Niccolo Machiavegli on the investigation of a locked-room murder which is one small symptom of the corruption at the heart of this transformed Florence. Michelangelo, Raphael, Aretino, Copernicus and other historical notables are entangled in events, while ancient Leonardo's now ageing toy-boy Salai plays a sinister part. War with Spain looms, and one particular creation of the Engineer must be kept out of enemy hands. This rearranged history is plausibly and cleverly developed, climaxing with a set-piece assault on the mansion of a supposed magician, using some eccentric state-of-the-art war machines. But Pasquale's art is more important to him than any technology, and McAuley persuades us to sympathize with his private goals. A satisfying read. --David Langford

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