The Age Atomic (Empire State #2)
by Adam Christopher
Angry Robot Books (2013)
After reading Empire State and walking away with a lukewarm feeling, I was a little hesitant about picking up its sequel, The Age Atomic. The series was so well received by others, and it's a melding of genres I enjoy, I wondered if I just wasn't in the right mood to read something like Empire State. Well, I made sure to wait until I got a hankering for some genre-mashing goodness before picking up The Age Atomic.
The book starts out with Empire State quite literally in the winter of its discotent, as the Fissure which connected the pocket universe to the original New York City (at least the alternate version Christopher has invented) is gone and Empire State is growing colder and deader by the day. Rad Bradley, the rough-and-tumble private eye who served as the hero in the first book, returns and is on the case to find out why an army of robots is being held in storage and who is responsible. At his side is the equally capable Jennifer Jones who has motives of her own in rooting out the robot menace. Meanwhile, back in New York City, a ghostly woman once known as Ellen McHale has assumed control of an organization called Atoms for Peace, designed to assess and contain the threat posed by the existence of the Empire State.
The mosaic of robots, ghosts, superheroes, mad scientists, hard-boiled detectives, airships, and good ol' fashioned fisticuffs might be a lot to take in at once. And frankly, it felt a little too muddled when done in Empire State. But with The Age Atomic, it looks like Adam Christopher really has struck a balance with the universe he's created--or I finally started smoking from the same hookah as he. The visual of a robot army laying in wait was a cool one, especially of the foreboding it offers as a similar one is constructed in the original universe. And seeing two sets of villains, one of each universe, almost working in tandem to bring about the ruin of Empire State and everyone in it created all kinds of what-if scenarios.
Rad Bradley felt like a much stronger and more fully realized character than before, and Jennifer Jones as the newcomer (in so much that I don't recall her from the first book) added a new angle to the action, especially in the second half of the story. Plenty of old face from Empire State reappear, more than one thought a goner, so if you want to really appreciate every that is happening it's best to read the first book before attempting to dive into this one, because the plot really requires a familiarity with what's already happened. And if you can read the two book back-to-back, all the better.
There's lots of room for a third book in this universe, but all the loose ends are adequately addressed in the confines of this book, so worries of cliffhangers and unresolved issues are only fodder for the epilogue that teases a brand new dilemma. As for The Age Atomic, I offer a much heartier recommendation than I did with its predecessor and I'll be looking out for more for Adam Christopher.