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Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the Earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding.—Job 38:4
A 2001 spy novel by Tim Powers, Declare follows British agent Andrew Hale through a covert Cold War operation with roots in the intricacies of The Great Game and a distinct supernatural bent. It is written as a Secret History, postulating that there are supernatural events occurring behind the scenes of otherwise-mundane occurrances. At its center: he British spy and defector, Kim Philby, and his links with the djinn...
Powers has acknowledged that much of the novel was influenced by the works of John Le Carre, while the supernatural occurrances have a distinct Lovecraftian flavour to them. See also Charles Stross's Laundry novels; in the afterword of the first novel Stross admits the similarities--the Stale Beer-flavoured spy fiction, and the secret knowledge of the supernatural--but notes that they are coincidental.
- The Alcoholic: Guy Burgess.
- Anachronic Order: the first half of the book skips between the present day of 1963, and Hale's time in the SOE in and after World War II.
- Arc Words: "O fish, are you constant to the old covenant?" "Return, and we return. Keep faith, and so will we."
- "Declare" itself arguably qualifies--see Title Drop.
- Batman Gambit: Operation Declare which eventually succeeds in bringing down the Soviet Union by removing its supernatural protector.
- Berlin Wall: Built on Human Sacrifice as a magical borderline between East and West.
- Blue and Orange Morality: The djinns.
- Christianity Is Catholic: The Church of England is also present, but Catholicism is heavily implied to be the "right" version. Then again, there are plenty of Muslim themes throughout the work, and Powers deliberately leaves it all very ambiguous.
- Cloak and Dagger
- Deadly Euphemism: "establish the truth" and related phrases, taken from Victorian poet J. K. Stephen's To R.B.
Only this: or at least, if more,
You must know, not think it, and learn, not speak:
There is truth to be found on the unknown shore,
And many will find where few will seek.
- Depleted Phlebotinum Shells: For a djinn, shapes can be thoughts and thoughts can be actions--and an ellipsoid marked with perpendicular grooves means death.
- Disappeared Dad: Hale doesn't know who his father is, and it becomes a major plot point.
- Eldritch Abominations: Again, the djinn.
- Fake Defector: Both Hale and Philby, at one point or another.
- Foil: Kim Philby is this to Andrew Hale. There's a reason for it: they are two halves of a Literal Split Personality. Philby got the "home and hearth" aspects of it; Hale got the loyalty and dedication.
- Funny Foreigner: Farid, the Lebanese jailer. "I smite you now!"
- Grey and Black Morality: the Rabkrin are a horrifying lot, though this is because they must appease Machikha Nash to safeguard their homeland. The SOE is generally better, though it too has shown no remorse in killing off its own agents--most notably Cassagnac--in order to uphold and pursue Operation Declare.
- That said, individual members of both organizations are sympathetic enough. James Theodora is a decent enough fellow who seems almost relieved that he wouldn't be able to kill Andrew Hale, while Elena's Rabkrin handler visibly shows remorse for his organization's actions, and implies that most members of the Rabkrin feel the same way.
- Half-Human Hybrid: The king of Wabar. As a result, only half of him is Taken for Granite.
- The Handler: James Theodora.
- Historical Domain Character: Kim Philby and his father, St. John Philby.
- I'm a Humanitarian: Many if not all of the djinn, not to mention their human servants, readily eat humans. Indeed, the Ukrainian Terror Famine was done at least in part to show Machika Nash, the leader of the Russian djinn/ghuls, that Stalin was willing to feed her.
- Immortality Immorality: As means of avoiding God's judgment.
- Averted by the Kurdish tribesmen that Hale meets before his first attempt on Mount Ararat; though many of them are effectively immortal due to eating the amomon root, they are generally a nice enough bunch.
- Killed to Uphold the Masquerade: Operation Declare was noted to have taken the lives of T. E. Lawrence and Lord Kitchener, among others. By successfully concluding Operation Declare and then by threatening to make it public if he were killed, Andrew Hale manages to escape this fate.
- Literal Split Personality: Both Philby and Burgess could do that, as a result of their link with the djinn. Both of them lost the ability for different reasons.
- The Mole: Kim Philby, of course.
- Moscow Centre: And its rivals, the GRU. As it turns out, the Rabkrin dates back even further than this.
- Not My Driver
- Our Genies Are Different: taken mainly from Arabic and Muslim folklore, they think and exist more as motions than anything else, so their conceptions of time and identity are vastly different from humans. Most have no permanent bodies, and often appear in the form of storms or whirlwinds. Communication with them is difficult, but certain rhythms and shapes (such as ankhs) can be used to attract them, or to evade their notice.
- Posthumous Character: Claude Cassagnac is reported to be dead in the first chapter, though we do see him in the chapters set in the 1940s.
- Reference Overdosed: Hints about the nature of the djinn are often drawn from a variety of archaeological and mythological sources.
- Religion of Evil: The Russian cult of Machika Nash, Our Mother of Misfortune.
- The Scapegoat: Kim Philby plans on using the ghost of his father, residing in a pet fox (long story) as one, to avoid the negative mental consequences of dealing directly with the djinn. The Russians plan otherwise.
- Spanish Civil War: Part of Elena's backstory.
- Split At Birth/Separated at Birth: A strange variation. Philby and Hale are not twins, but (unbeknownst to them) half-brothers born exactly 10 years apart; but since they were born on the same date, the djinn perceive them as two halves of one person.
- Spy Speak
- Title Drop: the word "declare" shows up in multiple contexts, at first fairly insignificant but then becoming more and more important.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: Elena, at first. Cue Cold-Blooded Torture.