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The Escapement

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How weird can we get?!  Combining genre elements from just about every genre under the sun, Lavie can get very weird indeed.  This Carnivale caper is genius, fun, and again, very weird.
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As a father waits in a hospital by the side of his terminally ill son, he escapes to a fantasy world, where he journeys in the hope of finding a miraculous flower thst may save his child.

Sadly, this did not engage me as much as Tidhar's previous works. I cannot fault the writing, as the author's world-building is extraordinary and so very original, each paragraph filled with so many allusions to other books, films, cultures and religions, yet re-made here anew, that it will have your head spinning in wonder like your first night-time visit to a circus. And his language and turns of phrase are alternately poetic and humorous, surreal and barbaric. 

Technically, this is a brilliant work from a supremely intelligent and creative author; however, I just could not engage with it emotionally. I've been trying to find justifiable faults with the story, but I cannot, it is as near perfect as it could be. I think it's that I just don't like clowns or, at least, seldom seen and few in number is my comfort zone. There were just too many of them in this for my taste. 

The ending, however, was intensely moving without being mawkish, and worth the journey. Tidhar is a poet and a philosopher; in the guise of writing "mere" fantasy, he gives us fundamental human truths, surely the benchmark of all truly great art.

My thanks to Netgalley and Tachyon publications for the ARC of this beautiful book. (Cover artwork is stunning too.)
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Like Central Station, Tidhar brings his imagination and gorgeously intelligent writing to his newest novel, The Escapement.

While I found myself a bit lost at times in the complex plot, I was blown away by the level of depth and intricacy of the world building. Tidhar's world building shines in a way unlike any author I have ever read. From wanderings in clown country to references from Hebrew and Russian mythology, and even the Wizard of Oz, The Escapement is the story of a man grieving a terminally ill child and the places his grief take him. As readers, we jump back and forth between the fantastical world of The Escapement to The Stranger's "real" life. His fantastical world is made up of images and scenes from his present and past reality- but twisted and turned inside out. 

Since this is a book rich in ideas and the creation of a bizarre and original world, I found it harder to connect to the characters. The writing style, while visually descriptive, does not focus as much on the characters' internal thoughts and backstory as I would have liked. Also, I had some issues with the amount of characters who would pop up, narrate a story, and then disappear for the rest of the book. 

However, The Escapement is so rich in metaphor, allusions and satire, it's a work of fantasy/sci fi that will continue to bring its readers new and interesting ways to read the story each time they come back to it. I'd highly recommend The Escapement if you like complex world building, philosophical musing, literary allusions and a well-crafted  story.

* Thank you to Tachyon Publishing and NetGalley for an ARC copy in exchange for an honest review.
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The Escapement is the latest novel from award winning Israeli science fiction/fantasy writer, Lavie Tidhar - an author whose work I have barely touched in the past (I've read his Central Station, which I didn't particularly love).  Still, Tidhar's work has always been highly praised by people I trust, so I was interested in taking another shot at it. 

The Escapement is a really interesting short novel, although it's one that I have a hard time getting a full handle on.  The book is one part the story of a father dealing with the imminent death of a child, one part Dark-Tower like gunslinger in a fantasy western setting centered around clowns, and one part set of stories based upon historical and folk stories of various cultures.  It's a story about a single moment of happiness, and the longing for it to last forever rather than going away.  I'm not quite sure it all worked for me, or that large parts didn't go over my head, but it's certainly worth a read.  

-------------------------------------------------Plot Summary---------------------------------------------------------
In one world, a boy lies sick in a hospital bed, and a man grieves and frustratingly clings to their memories of happiness, and longs for the chance to bring back the child one more time.

In another world, The Escapement, The Stranger wanders a land full of clowns, where Colossi and Shadows wage war upon each other through human pawns, and where the landscape can turn into a shifting maze around you if you're not careful.  The Stranger, armed with his guns, searches for the Ur-shanabi, a flower also known as the Plant of Heartbeat, which could save the boy.  

But the Escapement is a land full of strange dangers, filled with beings native to the land and from the other world entirely, with the Substance between worlds being used in many different and deadly ways.  And so the Stranger will find his journey interrupted repeatedly by the stories of others, of killers and clowns, Colossi and shadows, of Arcana and carnies, which will test him time and time again, as the clock ticks down on the moments left in the boy's life....
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The Escapement is a short novel, but it's filled with ideas, stories, and two connecting worlds - one that is recognizably ours, and then that of the Escapement itself.  The two worlds are of course utterly intertwined, with the unnamed man in our world, grieving for his child, spending increasing amounts of time in the Escapement, looking for a flower that can save his boy's life.  The people of the Escapement depend increasingly on "Substance", which floods the area, and a hole of it leads directly into the other "real" world (you can get the metaphor there), and which can also be used to make narcotics among other things.  But whatever else the Escapement is, it's also a world based upon the last happy moment of the boy and the man, a world based on a moment of joy in a circus, with clowns and balloons.  And so clowns are their own species, sacred in some ways and hated in others, with cream pies being potentially deadly weapons, and churches devoted to their promotion.  

In this world, as the Stranger attempts to find the flower that can save the boy despite all the warnings about what it will cost, Tidhar tells a number of different stories.  Most of these stories are western flavored, and will remind readers very much of The Dark Tower - the Stranger is a dead ringer for the gunslinger, especially as he gains a sidekick named The Kid.  The stories here are based on historical murderers and events, folktales from various cultures, and more, and they are generally fascinating, and Tidhar does an excellent job making them feel natural one after the other, even as they're shifted into the fashion of the Escapement and feature similar characters.  

Of course, and this was an issue with the other Tidhar work I've read (Central Station), how well it all combines to form a cohesive whole with a strong message is more of a question, and I was very often kind of feeling that I wasn't quite sure what point the book was making with its two worlds.  The individual tales within are excellent and fascinating as mentioned above, and there's something really different about making the fantasy world be about that one moment in a child's life of true happiness....but where the book was going with that didn't quite work for me?  Like it's not bad, and the individual parts work well, and the ending is fine, but I just felt like it should've been going somewhere more.  It makes it kind of hard to add more to this review.  

I suspect this will work for others more than me, and it's certainly worth your time despite the above thoughts, since the individual parts are all solid and the book is short.  But alas.
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When's the last time you've read a dark fantasy western featuring feral clowns? Yeah, well, when's the last time a dark fantasy western featuring feral clowns made your CRY? Lavie Tidhar's "The Escapement" is a wildly unique, original take on the hero's journey, and though some of its ideas may be a tad under-baked, the world-building alone is worth the price of admission. Also, unlike many novels with such bizarre concepts/worlds, there's  beating heart beneath the weirdness, which had my in tears by the book's final passages. The times I spent in this world was far too brief, and I hope eventually we'll get to revisit the Stranger, the Kid, the Conjurer, and all the other strange but lovable characters who call the Escapement home, in this strange world where giants and shadow monsters battle in an eternal war, being in the presence of which being enough to permanently transform anything, where strongmen and carnies battle in the deep woods. Truly a treasure that I hope gets the attention it deserves.
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Thank you to the author and Netgalley for providing a copy. I have reviewed honestly.

The Escapement is an intricate tale woven with creative threads and a captivating tale. The world building was spectacular, descriptive and unique. The characters we meet along the journey are quirky and spectacular in their singularities.

Overall, this novel was well written with themes that drew me in and ensared me from start to finish.
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Lavie Tidhar’s The Escapement is a fantastic and fantastical fever dream of a novel, a weird western via Lewis Carroll, Gilgamesh if had been translated and illustrated by Norton Juster and scored by Ennio Morricone, The Searchers if it had starred Buster Keaton, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid had it been directed by David Lynch from a screenplay co-written by Steven King, Raymond Carver, and Italo Calvino and storyboarded by Salvador Dali. It’s a wondrous riot of imagination that veers back and forth from horrific to heartbreaking to laugh-out-loud funny to macabre to absurdist.  Defying genre, defying categorization, even perhaps defying plot, Tidhar has crafted a baroque hallucinatory tale you have to let wash over you as much as you read it. Will it be to everyone’s taste? Absolutely not. But those who find it enough to their liking to continue will revel in its many rewards. 

Somewhere in a harshly realistic world, a man (referenced only as “the man”) helplessly attends his despairingly ill son in the hospital where machines “beep and chirp” to no avail. Meanwhile, in The Escapement — a maniacal Wild West populated by clowns, immense stone giants, mimes, slave mines, the ghost of John Wayne Gacy, and others — a man known only as The Stranger quests for the Ur-shanabi, the Plant of Heartbeat, a mythical flower said to be able to cure anything, even time.  The worlds can each at times be seen, mistily, blurrily, one from the other in ghostly fashion, and people travel back and forth at times, but as to which, if either, is the “real one” even the Stranger is unsure, wondering “do we dream that other world or does it dream us?” And he wonders it again as he and the Man fade in and out of each other’s moments: 

He did not know if the Escapement were real, for what was real? The world was filled with impossible things, like the joyful laugh of a child. He closed his eyes. Behind them were only white walls, an antiseptic smell, the hum of machines. A doctor whispered something … When he opened his yes, the Kid was there.

The more realistic thread involving the man and his son, as noted above, reminded me of nothing so much as a Raymond Carver story in style and tone, the formation of the sentences, the language. That sense of despair, of always being on the edge. Tidhar captured me from the very opening:

The Boy was very still in the small white bed. The man held the book and he tried to keep reading from it, but his voice wouldn’t work … The man though of a day in spring, not that long ago, when he’d first taken the boy to see the circus. They’d walked hand in hand through the Midway … saw the clowns. He’d bought the boy a balloon and gave it to him to hold, but the boy let it go and the balloon floated far high into the sky, until it vanished. The boy had burst into tears and the man picked him up and held him close … and after but a moment the boy smiled and held the man’s face in hands and looked at him with such trust and love that would have broken the man’s heart had he let it. Dad, he said. Dad.

Sorrowful, bittersweet, filled with moment of aching pain but also aching beauty, the realistic section alone is worth the price of admission.

Intermingled with it, and taking up the lion’s share of the novel, the scenes involving the Stranger have a number of elements that act as parallels between stories beyond the two men blurring one into the other. The Stranger finds himself in a Waiting Room in a town that has the feel of the Lotus-Eater tale from The Odyssey. Later there is a great hole in the world.  And everywhere there are clocks, broken, distorted, ticking but never tocking, time always marked, time feeling frozen, never enough time, time moving glacially, agonizingly slow. 

The Stranger’s section is much more episodic, almost at times a series of short stories and digressive stories within stories.  Clowns are scalped and enslaved, trains are robbed, a war beyond human comprehension wages seemingly forever with humans as pawns moved across the board and sometimes taken over, possessed, robbed of any agency and turned into “sock puppets.” The Stranger meets and travels for a time with a female bounty hunter, meets and travels for a longer time with a young man called The Kid, on his own quest, this to find and kill The Conjurer (one of those digressive stories we get later in the novel). Tidhar employs the classic Western moments in language, plot, and imagery, as in the scene, easily recognizable from any Western film:

They had all moved to the window, guns drawn, and the Stranger peered out onto Main Street. He saw the shops were rapidly closing … the people outside were running for shelter, and in mere moments the street was deserted. Behind them, he heard the owner of the bar loudly pump a shotgun.

While the Western is the foundational homage here, Tidhar stocks the novel (mostly the Stranger’s section) with a host of allusions: to Narnia, to Oz, to silent comedies, to famous clowns, the Tarot deck, folktales and fables, Gilgamesh as mentioned, Shelley, Greek mythology, some of which he notes as influences in an afterword.  Half the fun is recognizing these breadcrumbs.  But that’s not the only fun. There’ s a surprising amount of humor in a book filled with death and violence, maimings and war, massacres and horrific transformations. Though admittedly, some of the humor is itself attached to violence, as in a wonderful scene involving an attack by mimes: “They fired methodically at the mimes climbing the walls. The mimes mimed getting hurt. The mimes fell, hitting invisible obstacles … The Kid was out of bullets and … stabbed the creature in the neck … ‘Got something to say?” the Kid screamed.”

As you can see, this book is seriously warped, seriously weird, and so as I said in the intro, it won’t be for everyone.  But everyone should at least start it. As for me, I can tell you already it’s going on my best of the year list, as have several earlier Tidhar novels. In fact, this one makes Tidhar Five for Five — it’s the fifth book by him I’ve given five stars to. I may have to start a new rating system for his next one . . .
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THE ESCAPEMENT, by Lavie Tidhar, is quite possibly the weirdest book I have ever read.  And no, I'm not saying it as if it's a bad thing.  It just, well, is.

I was going to try to be be clever, using a dictionary definition of the word "escapement" to help describe the book.  The website dictionary.com has 5 definitions of the word escapement, none of which (for me) accurately describe the book.  The website thesaurus.com wasn't much better.  It gave 8 synonyms for the word escapement, but I wasn't satisfied with any one of them.

It figures.  The book defies description.  But that's not a bad thing.  It's really a good thing.  How many books do readers comes across these days that are so different, so offbeat, so..weird, that they defy description?  Not many.  But we certainly have one here.

The Escapement (not the book, but the setting), is an alternate, parallel world populated with all sorts of weird creatures and  occurrences.  It is not unusual, to see on any given day, clowns (sometimes vicious), mimes (also sometimes vicious), bounty hunters, tarot cards, and giants made of stone.  There are unexplained wars occurring, including wars between symbols.  Heck, wars between different clown factions are referred to.  The landscape is sometimes surrealistic, invoking images that remind the reader of Salvador Dali. We meet a version of John Wayne Gacy (as a clown, of course), who is nearly impossible to kill.  It's...weird.  But that's not a bad thing.

Our protagonist, if he can be called that, is known as "the Stranger".  He has come to the Escapement to search for a particular flower, the "Ur-shanabi", the Plant of Heartbeat.  He has come from our reality, the one we are familiar with, where his son is dying in a hospital.  Our reality is known as that "other place", and there are ways of intentionally travelling between the two worlds, all of which involve the use of mind altering chemicals, whether it be alcohol or drugs.  Sometimes the Stranger can see across to the other worlds.  It's...weird.  But that's not a bad thing.

Without giving anything away, THE ESCAPEMENT tells the story of the Stranger looking for the aforementioned plant in order to help save his son back in our world.  But while that's the story element the novel hangs its hat on, it is almost such a minor point as to be almost irrelevant.  THE ESCAPEMENT is really Tidhar's excuse for taking a whole bunch of literary references and dumping them into one story to see if he can make them fit together.  And if he can't, so what? Yes, there's a narrative thread to follow throughout the book, but it's only here in order for Tidhar to masterfully weave all sorts of different things together
that make the reader's brain explode, or at the very least make readers shake their heads in bewilderment, but, ultimately, wonderment.

A few weeks ago as I write this Lavie Tidhar was a guest on The Coode Street Podcast.  When talking about THE ESCAPEMENT, he said "that book is just weird".  And I agree with him.  But it's not a bad weird.  It's a good weird.  It's a book that doesn't telegraph where it's going.  It's also a book that feels like it doesn't know where it's going until it gets there.  But it's not predictable by any stretch of the imagination.  And it does stretch the reader's imagination in a very good way.  It's something different, and something weird.  And in this case, it's a very good thing.
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“The Stranger had been travelling for a long time, searching for the Flower of Heartbeat, and he was destined to travel for a long time more.”

The description can tell you only so much. The Stranger travels with his rifle through unpredictable land of Escapement, to find the Flower of Heartbeat. The man tries to cope with the dying of his little son. 

I don´t think I´ve read so complex book since last year´s Driftwood by Marie Brennan (which was also amazing). From practically first paragraph you know this will be emotional journey. On the one hand, there is the man, devasted in hospital, trying to somehow save his son (no spoilers, first pages of the book), thinking about memories they have together – visiting of circus, the boy´s love for clowns, balloons,..). On the other hand, the Stranger is travelling through magical western of Escapement, trying to find the cure. 

BUT! Don´t expect sweet sad story. The Escapement is everything but. The Escapement is brutal, not forgiving, battleyard between giants and something else, equally terrifying. Magical storms which can transform parts of your body to hourclocks full of ants; clowns, throwing at you custard pies which melt your face; time warping villages to never let you go….

I´ve never saw such blending of two timelines/stories together. It reminded me movie The Fall, but the Escapement was more fluid, more brutal (and I hope, someday, Tidhar´ll give us some notes from writing this story). Everything is going one direction – can the Stranger find the Flower and save the boy? 

And as I´m accidentally listening Mad World right now, it somehow enhancing the sorrowful/insane feel of this book. The Escapement is literally mad, worlds are blending together, horrible massacres happening; but also watching the man in hospital, you are devasted along him. I love how this book is not personal (you don´t even know their names), but you feel everything with characters. Not only the main ones, but also sidekicks (as the right western), I love all of them.

It´s definitely one of the best books I´ve read for a long time. Also, did I mention it has a map? ♥ 

Thanks to Netgalley for an e-ARC. Now I want to have it on my shelves and hug it from time to time.
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Well written, easy to read story about the intersection of a magical land, real life and many strange dimensions.  Life-threatening clowns and mimes live here as well.
No plot, no character development just really strange world being.  Very visual and feels like a Salvador Dali painting with Dark Tower overtones.
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I like the concept - parallel worlds as an escape (literally, an Escapement) from grief, populated with whatever associations someone brings in - but the execution just felt messy and heavy-handed and overloaded with references (it’s the Tarot but it’s also some sort of spaghetti Western but it’s also war but it’s also some sort of bizarre clown as separate species type situation.) I guess this was supposed to be balanced by the constant flicker of the very grim real world scenario the man was in but instead it just led me to not be invested in either.
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Lavie Tidhar es un autor que siempre está buscando sorprender. En la búsqueda de contar historias distintas a lo que la mayoría de las novedades nos ofrecen su propuesta varía desde historias de género negro, ciencia ficción con puro sentido de la maravilla o ficciones históricas, entre otros muchos temas. En este caso no podía ser menos. Su nueva novela es una especie de western protagonizado por un padre que vela por su hijo en una habitación de hospital mientras viaja en sus sueños a un mundo cuasi desértico y fantástico lleno de payasos, circos, dioses, seres mitológicos y forajidos que le harán la vida imposible. Vayamos por partes.

Como decía, The Escapement arranca con un padre en un hospital. A su lado, su hijo enfermo en el filo entre la vida y la muerte. El adulto, mientras avanza con la lectura de su libro, va pegando unas cabezadas que lo llevan de manera ficticia, quizá real, a un mundo desértico llamado The Escapement que se asemeja a lo que vendría a ser el lejano oeste de las películas de vaqueros, pero con influencias de Carnivale, la serie de HBO de hace unos años.

En su sueño, The Stranger, que es como se le conoce en este lugar, comienza la búsqueda de una flor muy especifica que puede ayudar en el objetivo de salvar a su hijo de un fatal destino. La flor, llamada Ur-Shanabi, es la flor del corazón y solo puede ser encontrada en las Montañas de la Oscuridad, lejos de su punto de partida. Durante los episodios de esta historia iremos viendo como The Stranger se maneja en este mundo donde la supervivencia no es una cosa sencilla. De primeras veremos que se trata de un lugar lleno de payasos y acróbatas cuyas intenciones no son precisamente buenas.

Enseguida se encontrará con un aliado, un niño que lo ayudará a manejarse por las distintas fases de la historia. Como si de un videojuego se tratase, The Stranger se ira enfrentando en cada uno de los episodios a nuevos enemigos, algunos cuasi inmortales como veremos. Y es aquí donde la imaginería de Tidhar se despliega en su esplendor con todo un elenco de personajes de todo estilo y origen provenientes de las mitologías griega, hebrea, rusa y otras muchas. El elenco es increíble y cada ocurrencia a lo largo del camino resulta cada vez mas loca que la anterior.

En el arranque también tenía la sensación de que el autor había querido homenajear las clásicas tramas de las películas de vaqueros y cada capítulo alguno de los tópicos del género. Encontramos una ambientación muy similar: cazadores de recompensas, ladrones de bancos, bares de alterne poco recomendables, etc. También hay robos o duelos a tiros entre los personajes. Sin embargo, en apenas tres o cuatro episodios el abanico se despliega y el componente weird se abre para sorpresa continua de quien lo esta leyendo. Esto incluye Dioses en Guerra, personajes con instrumentos como extremidades, fusiones humanas con animales y otras muchas cosas que dan lugar a situaciones inverosímiles y, algún caso, muy divertidas.

En contraposición a este despliegue de imaginación e investigación por parte de Tidhar, no podemos olvidar el eje de la novela: el padre desesperado por la sueprvivencia de su hijo. Es interesante los retazos que se van salpicando cuando el personaje cambia entre ambos mundos preguntándose cuál es el verdadero en realidad. Le achaco a esta parte la escasez de componente emocional en la historia. Los viajes al mundo real apenas aportan un hilo conductor, pero una vez llegado al final de la novela apenas encuentro una motivación que justifique la alocada trama en el mundo alternativo, si es que era ese el objetivo.

The Escapement es por tanto una novela muy original. El despliegue de situaciones y personajes de toda índole, unido a una ambientación western y circense es una combinación que merece la pena visitar y dejarse llevar esperando lo imposible. El enlace con la historia del mundo real es anecdótico y ambiguo y el final bastante abierto, pero eso apenas supone un pequeño porcentaje de una historia alocada y llena de detalles fuera de lo común donde el asombro no deja de crecer según se avanzan las páginas.
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The Escapement est un roman de Lavie Tidhar, dans lequel l’auteur mêle Weird Fiction, western, Fantasy, et univers juxtaposés. Il met en scène la quête d’un père au chevet de son fils atteint d’une maladie cardiaque, qui évolue sous les traits du Stranger dans le monde surnaturel de l’Escapement, dans lequel il recherche Ur-Shanabi, une fleur qui pourrait guérir son enfant.
Ce monde, peu à peu colonisé par les humains, comporte des créatures surnaturelles telles que des clowns, les Arcanes Majeures du Tarot, mais aussi les Colosses et les pupae umbrarum, qui se livrent un conflit séculaire qui détruit ou transforme profondément les humains qui se retrouvent pris entre leurs feux.
Le récit s’ancre pleinement dans la Weird Fiction de par le monde et les métamorphoses qu’il décrit et le mélange des genres qu’il opère, ce que j’ai beaucoup apprécié ! J’ai trouvé la quête du Stranger et la fin du roman particulièrement touchants.
Si vous avez aimé Aucune terre n’est promise et que vous lisez en anglais, je vous recommande vivement la lecture de The Escapement !
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A very difficult work to categorize neatly, but a definite interesting one to experience.

I have received this book in exchange of an honest review, thank you to NetGalley and Tachyon Publications for the opportunity.

I have my own blog now (Daysinotherworlds.com), so please do give it a visit if you're interested in my other reviews :)

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I'm having a bit of difficulty trying to talk about this book, or more accurately, novella and I do believe that it comes down to the amount of things happening in it despite its length. Bottom line, it's one of the most creative pieces of writing I've ever had the pleasure to read, although, that in itself does make it difficult to categorize.

There is a circus vibe, parallel universes, a western take, some horror elements, mystery and one of the more interesting takes on clowns. To me personally, the more amazing thing here is that the author actually managed to make a cohesive story while trying to incorporate all of these elements in a creepy setting, and sort of maintain a somewhat whimsical flare to it? Like I said, it's an interesting read.

The first half of the novella is more than enough to grip me and I was definitely interested to learn more about this strange, yet also incredible world; more specifically, the clowns and the parallel universes.

Clowns exist in abundance in this world and better yet, there are types that I get to see every time the characters move to a new location and they experience it's horrors. There were plenty of fights as well, so the opportunity to see the clowns in that way was never missed, even if the opponents, to be fair of course, weren't always clowns. This brought my focus to the parallel universes and how the author fused those elements with the story he's telling, more specifically, in regards to the characters and their existence. I use existence here instead of just characters, because it's important and isn't just in passing.

Underneath all of this, it's a sad story of a father trying to find a cure for his dying son which is a problem that, at the story's basis, is never actually forgotten and I'm thankful for that; since the mix between universes definitely makes it feel like it's a child's fantasy at times even though it's much darker than one would expect. Maybe not, given what the child in question is actually going through here, but that's just me babbling.

However, while I did love the first half, the second was a bit of a tough one for me to get through and it comes down to the narrative styles. To better clarify it, the writing of the story seems to be a strange mix of a short story collection, alongside the usual more linear form of a story and that to me didn't always work out. The start of the novella had this sense of urgency to it, while I follow the Stranger through this weird world and as I continued onward, that sense of urgency sort of lessened, because of how many stops he actually made in that world and how many people he ended up meeting who aren't exactly beneficial to the quest.

I wouldn't have actually minded if it was a few paragraphs of a stop, but full chapters for side characters who most of the time aren't coming back? That was a stretch for me, because I thought that the world was just way too interesting and I don't think I got to see everything that made it what it was just yet.

In a novel of a lesser word and page count, it could potentially fall into the "It's trying to do too much" camp, which I believe, this one sort of did in the second half of it, which is saddening because it starts out very nicely with its creepy world, filled with unsavory characters and wrapped around the subplot concerning said parallel universes.

This happens to be my first try with Lavie Tidhar and I believe that it won't be the last as I admire this kind of creativity, I admire this whimsical/lyrical sort of writing and I do think that it's got more than enough going for it that it interests me in the author's other works.
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“Stories. Stories are all we have, really, in this world or the other.”

The Escapement by Lavie Tidhar was a fantasy story set in an American western. The writing style was different and magical which suit to the narrative. The characters and the new circus world were well-drawn. A heartbreaking story with humor and adventure that was dark for me.

In the Country of Clowns,
The Kid and the Stranger exchanged a glance,
The Stranger and the Conjurer exchanged a glance.

The Stranger looking for the Ur-shanabi, the Plant of Heartbeat, the healing plant which can cure even time; in the parallel world. In the Escapement, there was nowhere to escape to, only the mountains, the clowns, and death on every side. Clowns were indigenous to the Escapement, while people were not and nobody really liked clowns.

The Stranger journey was with three main companions, the boy who had become the Conjurer, the Kid that was not a kid anymore, and let's do not forget Temperanza,
“The more I see of men, the more I like dogs.” 

Many thanks to Tachyon Publications and NetGalley for giving me the chance to read The Escapement by Lavie Tidhar, I have given my honest review.
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It's difficult to review. On one hand, it's mind-bending and proves Tidhars' imagination has no limits. On the other hand, it's hard to relate to anyone in this story. It's cerebral fun, but emotionally it left me cold.
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Author Lavie Tidhar has created a Frankenstein genre combining Westerns, surrealism, and retro circuses in his upcoming September release, “ The Escapement.”
Welcome to the Escapement–a Westernesque world of clowns with a dash of Salvador Dali surrealism. The Escapement isn’t a merciful world; murderous clowns, train-robbing aerialists, and stone giants fighting an ancient war run rampant throughout this desolate landscape, all while a lone gunman–the Stranger–is set on an epic quest to save his dying son. 
The Escapement possesses intimate connections to the Stranger’s son, a kid who loves circuses and clowns. It makes it the perfect setting for The Stranger’s search to find the mythical Plant of Heartbeat and potential cure. 
There’s no denying the worldbuilding of “The Escapement” is spectacular. Like the Big Rock Candy Mountains, the surrealist creatures and extravagant landmarks can only be described as one of Salvador Dalí’s more elaborate wet dreams. Everything from the landscape and lore to this dangerous world’s inhabitants has been carefully woven into the tale and the Stranger’s quest. Even taking figures from reality, such as casting serial killer John Wayne Gacy as the murderous, giant clown and infamous showman P. T. Barnum as a clown slave owner, darkens this novel to something other than a heroes quest. Tidhar masters the art of creating a world so maniacally realistic and epic that it almost seems like you, too, can step through to the Escapement, just like the Stranger did. 
With its cast of eclectic, nameless characters and strange stirrings in the land, the novel is a quick page-turner and won’t have you reading chapters worth of useless worldbuilding to drag your excitement down.  Although undeniably epic, “The Escapement” often confuses with its allusions to real-world events and people that, for some, will make them scratch their head. 
This novel isn’t a heart-pounding thriller but is a decadent and showstopping story of hope, adventure, and at its heart–love.
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A man journeys through a parallel world, filled with a dangerous circus themed society and gods who are always at war, to find a cure for his sick son.

This is was good book, very engaging and interesting. The world building was amazing and it's rare that such a different world can feel so realistic and grounded.
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Lavie Tidhar’s The Escapement starts quietly enough: A man who has been sitting with his very ill son in a hospital room steps out for some fresh air and notices a small red flower by the sidewalk. Then we see that flower through the eyes of the Stranger in a surreal, barren landscape. We are off on a brilliant and unpredictable tour of a world only Tidhar could imagine. With his six-shooters, the Stranger rides his horse on a quest for a healing flower. This novel is a strange mix of darkly comic violence and the quiet devotion of a father’s love for his son.

The world the Stranger wanders is the Escapement. It is populated with grotesque clowns, bounty hunters who massacre them for money, and a variety of unique characters who sometimes help the Stranger, sometimes try to kill him. Above all, it is a world where time keeps sounding its relentless tick, tick but sometimes seems to stand still.
....

The story starts to shift when the Stranger notices traces of the “other place” as ghostly cars, people and buildings slip through the landscape from time to time. The man in that other place sits endlessly by the bedside of his ailing child. At one point, the Stranger travels into a deep tunnel that seems to come out at the hospital room, but as he approaches it his own body becomes translucent. He can’t be sure if the man in the hospital room has dreamed him into being or if the Stranger has dreamed that man. The barriers between realities are tenuous, and there is a frightening uncertainty about where he belongs.

These shifts of consciousness between worlds and the drawing of themes and symbols from one reality into another remind me of Iain Banks’ The Bridge. But The Escapement is an original masterpiece that is all Tidhar, full of echoes of his earlier stories and novels.

As Tidhar notes in an Afterword, he has drawn on numerous sources, including Hebrew and Russian fairytales, Greek myth, Dr. Seuss, Salvador Dali’s painting and the Epic of Gilgamesh, among others. But all of that is integrated perfectly into a compelling story that no one else could have envisioned. It is written in often beautifully moving language that reminds me of the more personal style of Tidhar’s Central Station, which also deals with boundaries and borders in a very different way.

Each of Lavie Tidhar’s novels seems unique, yet the quality of imagination, the brilliance of writing and many themes tie them together. For me each of his novels feels like a breakthrough into a different level of consciousness, full of wonder, bizarre twists and turns and always deep feeling.
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Series Info/Source:  This is a stand alone book.  I got an eGalley of this through NetGalley to review.

Thoughts:  I really loved this book, although it won't be for everyone.  Previous to this I read Tidhar’s Bookman Histories and really enjoyed them.  The story mainly follows a character called The Stranger who falls back and forth between our world and a circus-like world whose natural inhabitants are different types of clowns.  In our world he is a father sitting beside the bed of his dying child and in the circus world he is on a quest to find a rare flower that will save his child.

The descriptions are amazing throughout and the clown world is incredibly creative and imaginative.  I loved some of the imagery here and never knew what surprise I would find on the next page.  This does have a fairly dark vibe to it but still comes off as magical and whimsical at times.

The comparison between this book and The Dark Tower series is very apt.  The Stranger ends up joining up with a character called The Kid.  The Kid in turn is searching for The Conjurer.  The landscape here is a lot more fanciful than the Dark Tower series, but it has a similar questing type of vibe to it and characters fall back and forth between worlds.

My Summary (5/5): Overall I really, really enjoyed this and would recommend it.  My only caution is that the story feels a bit ambiguous at times and the ending is fairly open.  This is one that won't be for people who like a very straight-up and defined story.  However, for me it was about the journey, the adventure, and the crazy world that lies just beyond our own.  I just loved the world-building here and really enjoyed the strange and expected turns the story took.
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