Fiction Reviews

Pasquale's Angel

(1994) Paul McAuley, VGSF, 5.99, pbk, 384pp. ISBN 575-0-5917-6


Pasquale's Angel is a somewhat more light-hearted book than other recent works by McAuley such as Red Dust. It is set in an alternative renaissance where Leonardo's engineering has inspired an early industrial revolution. The story revolves around an investigation by Niccolo Machiavelli and the eponymous artist, Pasquale, as they look into a locked room murder that gradually draws them into the deep waters of politics and espionage.

McAuley tells an exciting story as usual, and paints his world in vivid colours: no doubt setting an alternative history in such a fascinating period helps somewhat in this respect. He seems to have a real feel for the day to day realities (or para-realities) of life and work in this version of Florence.

The angelic vision that Pasquale is seeking for his painting provides a unifying image for several key scenes of the book, and could be seen as providing a link to our own world, through that most famous renaissance work (that seems consciously not to be mentioned in the text). Perhaps the final sequences of the book are somewhat less successful than the rest, by the fact of piling on too many startling but implausible events, but otherwise this is an excellent story.

Matt Freestone

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