Saturday, 26 July 2014

The Martian Ambassador

Alan K. Baker

London, 1899 It has been six years since the discovery of intelligent life on Mars, and relations between the two worlds are rapidly developing. Three-legged Martian omnibuses stride through the streets and across the landscape, while Queen Victoria has been returned to the vigour of youth by Martian rejuvenation drugs. Victorian computer technology is proceeding apace, thanks to the faeries who power the ‘cogitators’, while the first Æther zeppelins are nearing completion, with a British expedition to the Moon being planned for the following year.
Everything seems to be going swimmingly, until Lunan R’ondd, Martian Ambassador to the Court of Saint James’s, dies while attending a banquet at Buckingham Palace. The discovery of strange, microscopic larvae in his breathing apparatus leads Queen Victoria to suspect that he may have been the victim of a bizarre assassination.

This is the first in a series of Steampunk novels featuring secret agent Thomas Blackwood and psychical researcher Lady Sophia Harrington.

It's a bit of a mess. The world into which we are plunged is at first glance that of Wells' War of the World but with benign Martians helping out, computers operated via little fairies that allow contract with the Earth's akashic records and there's an evil Venusian running around killing people whilst yelling "Look at me! I'm a Martian!" so people look to blame the peaceloving and helpful Martians. Like I said, it's a mess. It doesn't seem to know what it wants to be, urban fantasy, sci-fi, period Lovecraftian horror, Gaiman-esque appropriation of a English fairy lore or none, some or all of the above and so ends up being a hodgepodge of each and unfortunately doesn't have it in it to transcend its limitations.

In its favour though I read this on holiday and it was a bit of fun that I could dip and drop at will and certainly helped laze away the day but I won't be hunting out the second in a hurry.

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