The Venusian Gambit by Michael J. Martinez
|Book Name:||The Venusian Gambit|
|Author:||Michael J. Martinez|
|Publisher(s):||Night Shade Books|
|Formatt:||Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook|
|Genre(s):||Science Fiction / Alternate History|
|Release Date:||May 5, 2015 (US) May 21, 2015 (UK)|
The Venusian Gambit is the third and final instalment in the Daedalus series by Michael J. Martinez and boy does it strive to redefine the word ‘epic’.
I read the first book, The Daedalus Incident, a couple of years ago and found it to be an exciting swashbuckling, space-sailing adventure with multiple dimensions, races, species, and alternate history plot threads, all masterfully interwoven in a manner that would give Christopher Nolan pause for thought.
The second instalment, The Enceladus Crisis, then took that ballsy set up and went nuts with it. [Note: I was honoured to be offered the chance to beta read it for the author, so can’t review it here – however, if you liked the first…you know…go read it].
Now, three books in, we’ve reached the shores of the final act. But after such a breath-taking journey here, is there any wind left in those sails?
The Official Blurb
In the year 2135, dangerous alien life forms freed in the destruction of Saturn’s moon Enceladus are making their way towards Earth. A task force spearheaded by Lt. Cmdr. Shaila Jain is scrambling to beat them there while simultaneously trying to save crewmember Stephane Durand, who was infected during the mission to Saturn and is now controlled by a form of life intent on reopening a transdimensional rift and destroying the human race. But Jain doesn’t realize that the possessed Stephane has bigger plans, beaming critical data to other conspirators suspiciously heading not for Earth, but for Venus…
In 1809—a Napoleonic era far different from our own—the French have occupied England with their Corps Eternélle, undead soldiers risen through the darkest Alchemy. Only the actions of Lord Admiral Thomas Weatherby and the Royal Navy have kept the French contained to Earth. But the machinations of old enemies point to a bold and daring gambit: an ancient weapon, presumed lost in the jungles of Venus.
Now, Weatherby must choose whether to stay and fight to retake his homeland or pursue the French to the green planet. And Shaila must decide if it’s possible to save the man she loves, or if he must be sacrificed for the good of two dimensions. In the dark, alien jungles of Venus, humanity’s fate in both dimensions hangs in the balance—forcing past and present to once again join forces against an ancient terror.
The Good News
When a French zombie army marching across the English Channel to conquer our green and pleasant land isn’t the craziest event in a book, you know you’re in for a treat.
For those returning to the Daedalus series after a bit of a break, there is obviously a lot to remember. This is a tale that weaves between two dimensions and time periods after all. And while prologues can often be writing hazards, here the author nails it—not only acting as a refresher to the ‘events so far’ and reintroducing some beloved characters, but throwing caution to the wind and giving us even more epic insight to the ancient Martian conflict before the story even really gets going.
And what a story it is. Starting with the invasion of England by the French and their army of undead, we’re on the back foot immediately as the odds are quickly stacked against Lord Admiral Weatherby, our 18th century hero. Meanwhile, in the future, Lt Commander Jain closes in on an unresponsive spacecraft under the control of her infected partner, Stephane. From the outset the tension is almost unbearable, as both sides are led into setting sail for Venus for an almighty showdown.
Complex, thrilling plots aside, stories are nothing without characters to cheer for—and once again Martinez is on fine form. I dare anyone not to crack a smile when we first return to Weatherby as he grumbles about cravats to Finch, and then later bemoans the futurists’ adoption of the metric measurement system. For me, Weatherby and Finch have been the heart and soul of the series. Each has been given such a distinct voice that you can’t help but regard them as old friends. And although their relationship is pushed to breaking point during this journey, it really is a pleasure spending time with them one final time.
Happily, our future dimension friends are just as much fun to hang out with, as Jain and her commanding officer Diaz investigate the mysteries aboard the Chinese spacecraft. Gone are the knowing grins and winks that slightly hampered (in my opinion) things in the first book – the situation is dire and they know it. We truly feel Jain’s pain as she’s forced to do her duty, while all she wants to do is help Stephane who seems to have been infected… or possessed.
And though the setting up of the first half of the book is wonderfully tense and carries you onwards, the second half of the book is all about pay-off. We get a magnificent space battle on the edge of Venus. We get 18th century soldiers vs zombies vs mech battles on the exotic surface of the planet. We even get pyramids and ancient rituals.
But most importantly – and so joyfully – our two strands of characters are brought together again relatively early on. And it’s watching this magnificent mix of personalities play off each other as they join forces to save the universe that proves the highlight of the whole series.
The Bad News
Pah, hardly anything to write home about here. The only minor grumble I have is for a gut-punching moment near the end that possibly deserved a bit more of an appropriate response from the characters. Maybe a little more dwell time to reflect on what had just happened? I was certainly gutted, so it would have been good to feel a bit more of that from the characters in the room.
The Venusian Gambit is everything you could want in a finale. Bigger, better, darker and with more at stake than ever before, it’s a thrilling climax to a fresh, but delightfully old-fashioned swashbuckling adventure – the type of story we were sure they didn’t make any more.