Cowboy AngelsCowboy Angels by Paul J. McAuley
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

At a recent science fiction writers panel someone asked why we avoid discussing alternate universes. The answer, as exemplified in spades by this book, was that it’s almost impossible to tell a coherent, interesting story once you open that door. “Cowboy Angels” is an orgy of chaotic nonsense. I found it impossible to follow either the logic or the thread of the story, if, in fact, either actually exists. And the physics of quantum theory? Let’s not even go there.

What’s worse, the characters are as wooden as they can be. The style comes out of a military operations manual — some people like that, but I’m not one of them. The chief protagonist leaves a wake of blood and destruction wherever and whenever he goes while managing to remain as emotionless as a robot. He professes to feel grief occasionally, but that only serves to throw his emotions into an even deeper freeze.

If that’s not enough the author has some truly annoying quirks, like continually referring to principal characters by both their first and last names, long after we know who they are. The plot seems to loop around in dizzying circles, and every action scene sounds like every other action scene. And one last affront to my sensibilities: among the various alternate Americas that populate this book, one of them (not the primary one in the book) is clearly supposed to be ours. For no apparent reason, the author calls it the Nixon sheaf. Seriously? Is the name Nixon the single keyword with which we want our country associated?

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