Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Pax Britannia: Unnatural History

Jonathan Green
Abaddon Books

In two scant months the nation, and all her colonies, will celebrate 160 years of Queen Victoria's glorious reign.
But all is not well at the heart of the empire of Magna Britannia. A chain of events is about to be set in motion that, if not stopped, could lead to a world-shattering conclusion.

It begins with a break-in at the Natural History Museum. A night watchman is murdered. An eminent Professor of Evolutionary Biology goes missing. Then a catastrophic Overground rail-crash unleashes the dinosaurs of London Zoo.

But how are all these events connected? Is it really the work of crazed revolutionaries, seeking the violent evolution of Magna Britannia? Or are there yet more sinister forces at work?
Enter Ulysses Quicksilver ­ dandy, rogue and agent of the throne ­ back from the dead. Aided by his ever faithful manservant Nimrod, it is up to this dashing soldier of fortune to solve the mystery and uncover the truth before London degenerates into primitive madness and a villainous mastermind brings about the unthinkable. The downfall of the British Empire!

Buckling his swash across this pulpiest of landscapes our hero, Ulysses Quicksilver, is a dashing young man of not inconsiderable daring do. He's equal part Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, d'Artagnan, Allan Quatermain and Batman (sans the gimp suit). Helping him serve Queen and Country is faithful family retainer, the improbably named, Nimrod.

It's quite hard to really find much to say about this book. For the most part it's world-building with a fairly obvious pulp adventure romp tacked onto it. It's enjoyable enough - Quicksilver is a personable enough hero without any real bite. The writing is solid - I've read a few of Green's Warhammer books and they were usually pretty readable (I thoroughly enjoyed the two Armageddon ones) - with some nice flourishes although the dialogue is knuckle bitingly cliched at points.

As a series it has promise and the world is an interesting setting with echoes of many pulp sci-fi tropes showing up with the promise of a fun ride ahead.

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