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Exclusive Book Excerpt: Rush Expand on LP With ‘Clockwork Angels: The Novel’

Read the first chapter of the companion piece to band’s latest album

Rolling Stone Sep 01, 2012

Rush  drummer Neil Peart crafted such an epic story for the band’s new LP, Clockwork Angels, a mere rock album can’t tell the whole thing ”“ so early in the process, he teamed with science fiction novelist Kevin J. Anderson to help him turn it into a book. “Kevin did the heavy lifting on the prose-writing,” says Peart. “But I was involved all the way in review and suggestions and the general shape and mood of it.”

 The group will play a great deal of Clockwork Angels on their upcoming fall tour, but Peart hopes the story will continue to live. “I want to see it on Ice Capades,” says Peart. “As they say, ”˜I’ll be dining out on this for years.’ Cirque Du Soleil would also be amazing. As the character in one of the songs says, ”˜I can’t stop thinking big!’” 

Peart would also love to see Clockwork Angels eventually make its way to Broadway. “[South Park co-creator] Matt Stone is a pretty good friend of ours,” he says. “We just saw him in Ottawa. Those guys not only went from South Park to Broadway, but they had a huge hit on Broadway. I really admire that and I would be glad to take part in anything like that, too.”

Tickets for the Broadway production of Clockwork Angels aren’t quite ready to go on sale, but check out an exclusive except from the novel below. It hits stores on September 4th.  

-Andy Greene


The best place to start an adventure is with a quiet, perfect life . . . and someone who realizes that it can’t possibly be enough.

On the green orchard hill above a sinuous curve of the Winding Pinion River, Owen Hardy leaned against the trunk of an apple tree and stared into the distance. From here, he could see ”“ or at least imagine ”“ all of Albion. Crown City, the Watchmaker’s capital, was far away (impossibly distant, as far as he was concerned). He doubted anyone else in the village of Barrel Arbor bothered to think about the distance, since only a few had ever made the journey to the city, and Owen was certainly not one of them.

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“We should get going,” said Lavinia, his true love and perfect match. She stood up and brushed her skirts. “Don’t you need to get these apples to the cider house?” He would turn seventeen in a few weeks, but he was already the assistant manager of the orchard; even so, Lavinia was usually the one to remind him of his responsibility.

Still leaning against the apple tree, he fumbled out his pocket-watch, flipped open the lid. “It won’t be long now. Eleven more minutes.” He looked at the silver rails that threaded the gentle river valley below. 

Lavinia had such an endearing pout. “Do we have to watch the steamliners go by every day?”

“Every day, like clockwork.” Owen thumbed shut the pocket-watch, knowing she didn’t feel the same excitement as he did. “Don’t you find it comforting that everything is as it should be?” That, at least, was a reason she would understand.

“Yes. Thanks to our loving Watchmaker.” She paused a moment in reverent silence, and Owen thought of the wise, dapper old man who governed the whole country from his tower in Crown City.

Lavinia had a rounded nose, gray eyes, and a saucy splash of freckles across her face. Sometimes Owen imagined he could hear music in her soft voice, though he had never heard her sing. When he thought of her hair, he compared it to the color of warm hickory wood, or fresh-pressed coffee with just a dollop of cream. Once, he had asked Lavinia what color she called her hair. She answered, “Brown,” and he had laughed. Lavinia’s pithy simplicity was adorable.

“We have to get back early today,” she pointed out. “The almanac lists a rainstorm at 3:11.”

“We have time.”

“We’ll have to run . . .”

“It’ll be exciting.”

He pointed up at the fluffy clouds that would soon turn into thunderheads, for the Watchmaker’s weather alchemists were never wrong. “That one looks like a sheep.”

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“Which one?” She squinted at the sky.

He stood close, extended his arm. “Follow where I’m pointing . . . that one there, next to the long, flat one.”

“No, I mean which one of the sheep does it look like?”

He blinked. “Any sheep.”

“I don’t think sheep all look the same.”

“And that one looks like a dragon, if you think of the left part as its wings and that skinny extension its neck.”

“I’ve never seen a dragon. I don’t think they exist.” Lavinia frowned at his crestfallen expression. “Why do you always see shapes in the clouds?”

He wondered just as much why she didn’t see them. “Because there’s so much out there to imagine. The whole world! And if I can’t see everything for myself, then I have to imagine it all.”

“But why not just think about your day? There’s enough to do here in Barrel Arbor.”

“That’s too small. I can’t stop thinking big.”

In the distance, he heard the rhythmic clang of the passage bell, and he emerged from under the apple tree, shading his eyes, looking down to where the bright and razor-straight path of the steamliner track beckoned. The alchemically energized road led straight to the central jewel of Crown City. He caught his breath and fought back the impulse to wave, since the steamliner was too far away for anyone aboard to see him.

The line of floating dirigible cars came down from the sky and aligned with the rails ”“ large gray sacks tethered to the energy of the path below. There were heavy, low-riding cargo cars full of iron and copper from the mountain mines or stacked lumber from the northern forests, as well as ornate passenger gondolas. Linked together, the steamliner cars lumbered along like a fantastical, bloated caravan.

Cruising above the rugged terrain, the linked airships descended at the distant end of the valley, touched the rails with a light kiss, and, upon contact, the steel wheels completed the circuit. Coldfire energy charged their steam boilers, which kept the motive pistons pumping.