Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
 

Strange the Dreamer

Review

 
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David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy: Morningstar Award
 

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The Daedalus Incident by Michael J. Martinez

The Daedalus Incident by Michael J. Martinez
4.5
Book Name: The Daedalus Incident
Author: Michael J. Martinez
Publisher(s): Night Shade Books / Skyhorse Publishing
Formatt: Paperback / eBook
Genre(s): Fantasy / Alternate History / Science Fiction
Release Date: May 7, 2013*

The Daedalus Incident is one of those books that for many will be hard to pin down. A not-so-simple tale of adventure on the high seas of…well, nothing…it initially pops up on the horizon flying your colours, then pulls alongside, hoists the Jolly Roger and unleashes the cannons, and before you know it you’ve been broadsided by a flurry of exciting genres.

Thankfully while the separate parts of science-fiction thriller and fantastical alternate history might seem strange bedfellows at times, their eventual sum is satisfying and refreshingly whole. And in the end we have a thoroughly enjoyable, swashbuckling romp through worlds in which I would happily spend more time.

The official blurb sells it perfectly:

Mars is supposed to be dead.

Bizarre quakes are rumbling over the long-dormant tectonic plates of the planet, disrupting its trillion-dollar mining operations and driving scientists past the edges of theory and reason. However, when rocks shake off their ancient dust and begin to roll—seemingly of their own volition—carving canals as they converge to form a towering structure amid the ruddy terrain, Lt. Jain and her JSC team realize that their routine geological survey of a Martian cave system is anything but. The only clues they have stem from the emissions of a mysterious blue radiation, and a 300-year-old journal that is writing itself.

Lt. Thomas Weatherby of His Majesty’s Royal Navy is an honest 18th-century man of modest beginnings, doing his part for King and Country aboard the HMS Daedalus, a frigate sailing the high seas between continents…and the immense Void between the Known Worlds.

With the aid of his fierce captain, a drug-addled alchemist, and a servant girl with a remarkable past, Weatherby must track a great and powerful mystic, who has embarked upon a sinister quest to upset the balance of the planets—the consequences of which may reach far beyond the Solar System, threatening the very fabric of space itself.

Now if this doesn’t float your boat, nothing will. But if you need more convincing, let’s talk specifics.

The Good News

I don’t think it’s a spoiler to confirm that this book weaves its magic through the use of two separate storylines set from two very different perspectives. It starts simply, yet excitingly, enough. On Mars. In a familiar not-too-distant future. With strange events underfoot and a mystery to be solved by our heroine Lt. Shaila Jain and her team.

Standard fare, perhaps. But well written and engaging enough to easily coax you past the opening chapter looking for answers. At which point Chapter 2 happens.

It’s different. Very different. And there will be distinct moments of WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON, AND WHERE AM I, AND HOW IS THIS ALL EVEN POSSIBLE!? Yet trust in the author and throw caution to the solar winds of the Void, and I assure you by the end of the chapter you’ll be absolutely up for sailing on through the universe being painted before you.

It’s fair to say that the magic of The Daedalus Incident lies in this wondrous place. Full of space-faring sailors, alchemical tricks, and a beautifully reconstructed 18th-century history on a galaxy-sized map, it truly is a remarkable creation. I loved every minute I spent here and wouldn’t hesitate to return.

Of course, ambitious worlds are nothing without great characters and given the historical setting of this story (albeit an alternate history) the voice really had to be perfect in order to carry the reader’s belief. Thankfully it is, with just enough stiff-upper-lip, roguish charm and time-appropriate sexism sprinkled throughout to make you believe in this space-faring British Navy.

Lt. Weatherby and the reluctant alchemist Dr. Finch make for an entertaining team to follow around the galaxy, but I found each and every character in this alt-verse well drawn and fully realised, even the bit-part players. In their company it was easy to accept we were all aboard an 18th-century boat sailing between planets, hunting pirates and engaging our dastardly foe across the Void—no mean feat!

The Bad News

I have two minor problems with this book. The first is with the end. I won’t spoil how these two stories resolve themselves, but after such a grand adventure across the universe I wanted a bit more from the ultimate climax. It’s satisfying in that it answers all of the questions posed, but given what was at stake I would have liked some of the characters to experience a touch more suffering on that final leg of the journey before the end. While it’s certainly a subjective nit-pick, I didn’t feel as emotionally battered as I felt was warranted, and that’s mainly what keeps this fantastic novel from getting a perfect score.

The second issue I have is that the alternate 18th-century universe is simply too damn good! Not usually a bad problem to have, but when it runs alongside a more mainstream universe it can throw the balance.

Consequently while I thoroughly enjoyed the first chapter and it made me want to read more of Lt. Jain and her Martian mystery, Lt. Weatherby’s adventures were so immersive that every time we skipped back to Mars I was almost a little disappointed.

It’s not that the story on Mars is dull. Okay, the characters might not be quite as fresh and interesting, and there are perhaps a few too many knowing grins and winks between them, but they are generally fun to be around. And their tale involves a fair degree of mystery and drip-fed answers that keep you wanting to turn the page. But once you’ve seen such sights as two 18th-century frigates manoeuvring off Mercury’s solar winds and sun-currents in order to better get their alchemically-treated cannon shot off…

…well, what isn’t a comedown after that?

Conclusion

All in all The Daedalus Incident is a thoroughly entertaining adventure, with a well-structured and engaging dual narrative that works remarkably well. There are other layers at work here—the evolution of attitudes towards gender being cleverly interwoven throughout—but at its heart this is simply intended to be enjoyable, escapist fare and on that basis alone I’d recommend it.

However, for you worldbuilding aficionados this is absolutely a MUST READ. The HMS Daedalus sails a ballsy, brilliant and at times breathtaking universe and you get to tag along for the ride. I can’t speak highly enough of what the author has created here. Don’t hesitate in signing up.

*Due to the acquisition of Night Shade Books by Skyhorse Publishing, the release date of May 7, 2013 is now likely to be affected. Check the blog of author Michael J Martinez for further updates. In the meantime, be patient, it’s worth the wait!

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Rating: 10.0/10 (4 votes cast)
The Daedalus Incident by Michael J. Martinez, 10.0 out of 10 based on 4 ratings
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  1. […] Hanks took on The Daedalus Incident over on Fantasy Faction this morning, and really liked it: he gave it nine out of 10 stars. Here’s a snippet of what […]

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