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4.1 out of 5 stars
27
4.1 out of 5 stars


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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Mark Hodder`s name is one that appears in just about every reference book about the Steampunk genre; this was my introduction to his work and what a marvellous novel it is...

Hodder takes a very mischievous, tongue-in-cheek approach to the Steampunk elements of his tale, sending up the conventions to a degree and soft-pedalling on some of the genre's excesses. Though leavened with humour, the novel has at It`s heart a pretty serious, well thought-out plot concept - as one would expect of any good science fiction novel. He has a particular gift for description, conjuring up landscapes evoking Roger Dean-like vistas inhabited by creatures straight out of the illustrations of Frank R. Paul; that he has been able to combine such strands of fantasy with the Steampunk slant is impressive indeed, raising it above the current conventions of that genre; this is - I think - a book that should appeal to a broader base of science fiction/fantasy readers, not just the author`s Steampunk followers - which is probably Hodder`s intention - I shall have to read his Burton and Swinburne novels to make a fair judgement on that. There are little touches of satire, references that perhaps evoke Wells, Burroughs and Moorcock here and there and a rattling good adventure story into the bargain.

An entertaining, at times subtle and thought-provoking novel; well-paced, gloriously imaginative and deserving of a wide readership.
Recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 19 February 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is the first book I've read by Mark Hodder but I don't think it will be my last. Mr Hodder has woven a deceptive, intricate and exciting tale with fascinating characters, fantastical creatures and bewitching descriptions of an entirely "other" world. He manages to pull off writing in a pseudo Victorian style by subtly enabling the reader to suspend disbelief without being aware of this fact. I read a lot of Graphic Novels (well, alright, collections of Super Hero comics- sue me) and the experience of reading A Red Sun Also Rises is very much like one of reading a prose version of a great tale from Marvel in the sixties. Even the totally ridiculous names adopted by some of the characters early on are, after an initial jolt of disbelief, assimilated into the totally and wonderfully insane, but totally believable, within its idiom, world.
Hidden within are a couple of morality tales, the explanation behind a famous supernatural phenomenon and an allegorical story which could be applied to the history of most Western European Imperial powers of the 19th Century. All with a peppering of irony-I'm being deliberately cryptic in order not to spoil this exciting story.
Highly Recommended.
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on 13 February 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I love Mark Hodder and this might be my favourite of his to date. I was expecting another steampunk tale, but this is high Victorianesque, inter-planetary SF. It has more in common with HG Wells than Burton & Swinburn.

A Red Sun Also Rises is a first-person narrative, told by Aiden Fleischer, a weak and hopeless sort; a failed vicar turned useless missionary, who becomes a true and selfless hero on an alien world - A world whose civilisation has been, accidentally and unwittingly, completely re-modelled by his companion and former servant, the terribly crippled Clarissa.

It's a terrific story; unique and completely, wonderfully bonkers. The world-building is especially good, complete and well-imagined. The characterisation is superb, the aliens especially, with their caricature Bertie Wooster speech and absurd, Dickensian names - Colonel Momentous Spearjab, Mademoiselle Crockery Clattersmash, Lady Falldown Bruisebad - the good humour and likeability of all the characters is what sets this above others in this genre for me. There are deeper themes, too, a dose of subtle philosophy as Fleischer's questions his faith, his quest for good in an evil world as he searches for God in the evil around him.

I loved the smooth, neat, completely surprising ending - leading into a sequel? I hope so.
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on 13 May 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
One of my favourite types of science fiction is social sci fi. This is the type of book that paints a what-if situation and explores how it affects society. Often these stories are told as if narrated in a diary or journal. There are some great examples; `Planet of the Apes', `The Day of the Triffids', `News from Gardinia'. Therefore, Mark Hodder is onto a good thing with `A Red Sun Also Rises', a book that purports to be the real writings of a missing Victorian Cleric. This Cleric, Aiden Fleischer, goes on a magnificent journey, with the aid of the brilliant Clarissa Stark, which spans more than one globe.

For narrative sci fi to work you have to paint an interesting world and sympathetic narrator. This is certainly successful in `Red Sun'. Fleischer is both intellectual and naïve, this mixture means that he is willing to explore and explains the details to you the reader. This is of paramount importance as `Red Sun' takes some unexpected twists that require good observations. I found the elements where Fleischer describes his surrounding as the best in the book. Hodder is a brilliant world builder and he fills the mysterious New Yatsillat with teeming life. I was captivated by what was going on around the main characters.

`Red Sun' has an old fashioned feel to it that harks back to 50s science fiction. The characters are the root of this, very Victorian in their social consciousness. Where I felt things fell down a little was in some of the developments in New Yatsillat - the names of characters in particular grew tiresome. There is also some inner turmoil for Fleischer that does not sit well. It would have been enough just to have two characters exploring new worlds, the story is a bonus, but at times slightly hampers the wonder in the book. Still a great read for lovers of old fashioned sci fi.
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VINE VOICEon 10 May 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
If this novel came out in 1900 it would have been a sensation! It's faster paced than HG Wells and contains better ideas than Jules Verne. However..... in 2013 it's a bit of a mishmash. In many ways the author plays it straight. The book is not full of ironic commentary, knowing winks to the modern world, deliberate anachronisms, etc. That is to be welcomed and allows a reader to get really involved in the adventure.

I found the first half really well-done in a Gothic 'steam-punk' kind of way. It was atmospheric, drew the characters well, and gave some meaningful motivation for their coming behaviour. There is some kind of choice in what happens to them. They are not like say, 'John Carter of Mars', just flung from one event to another, having the adventure done to him rather than by him. The early encounters with the cultures of Mars are well-drawn and show Mark Hodder at his best. I can see why he previously won the Philip K Dick award.

The second half is a different matter. The 3 stars above are based on 4 for the first half - and 2 for the second. First half is steeped in what has gone before in early Sci Fi, but is still fresh. Second half is derivative pastiche. The hero, Aiden Fleischer, even ends up in exactly the same bind as John Carter! First half has a disciplined plot development. Second half is all over the place. As a film it might work, since the second half lurches from set-piece spectacle to set-piece spectacle, followed by the messy Edgar Rice Burroughs style ending.

If you are already a fan you will not be put off. If you are unfamiliar with early Science Fiction and its sub-genres you may just take it as it comes. If you have spent most of your life on a diet of the best, you will be left slightly hungry.
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VINE VOICEon 17 February 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Despite this being almost exactly what steampunk isn't, for some reason this has a very steampunk feel to it, possibly the mental picture of the Clarrissa Stark character in her thick goggles. Instead of the idea of a Victorian Britain having made some scientific advances early, what we have here is a story with no real anachronisms, just a normal Victorian missionary finding himself somehow transported to a strange alien planet and trying to make sense of it.

This is an old-fashioned adventure in a couple of ways. Firstly it concentrates on making a world that is self-consistant rather than one that is entirely plausible in strict scientific terms and is no less enjoyable for that. So it is a bit like a classic SF story from Wallace or Wells.

The other way it is old-fashioned is that it is framed as the discovered journal of the hero, and therefore entirely written in the first person. This sort of device, with its little preamble about how the document found its way to the author can be annoying if done badly, but in this case it works very well.

I have to confess that I hadn't heard of Mark Hodder before, but after this I will certainly be downloading a few of his other books.
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VINE VOICEon 16 February 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is the sort of book that sets out the stall for an author. Blazing along with idea after idea, throwing in Victorian vicars and alien telepaths together with a touch of steampunk imagery and some explosive action and we have the kind of book that once you start it's hard to put down.

Certainly it's one which starts in pastoral Victorian England, with a somewhat bipolar vicar and his disabled companion going off to minister in the new world. Except they end up on a new world. Touches of many other authors and their styles could be identified here, but the book is a blizzard of content that sometimes can be hard work to keep up with.

If you like fantasy mixed in with your science fiction, it's definitely one for your reading list. I'm currently on my second read (always a good sign) to catch what I missed first time round. Definitely enjoyable if a little too hard on the mental exercises the author puts you through at times, but many readers look for precisely that avalanche of ideas and concepts.
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VINE VOICEon 19 January 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Faithless vicar Aiden Fleischer and his sidekick Clarissa Stark are assigned missionary duties on the island of Koluwai. From there they find themselves, by means of a strange ritual, transported to the alien world of Ptallaya. There they are picked up by a group of native aliens, the telepathic Yatsill who use their mimicry abilities to construct a vision of London based on Clarissa's memories.

What follows is a very readable and enjoyable mix of steampunk / fantasy as the two travellers try to make sense of their new surroundings and attempt to unravel the nature of the relationship between the Yatsill, their Blood God enemies and the island of Phrenadoor where the Yatsill believe their heaven to be.

It's unusual and a little silly in places (the aliens adoption of rather stereotyped upper class English language and silly names grated on me a little bit) but overall a cleverly done piece of writing that I very much enjoyed.
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on 10 January 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
In the science fiction/fantasy world my tastes run to steampunk/urban fantasy rather than 'hard' SF or strange worlds to conquer with quests and dragons, etc. I love Mark Hodder's Burton and Swinburne novels and I enjoyed this book though with some reservations.
The human characters were appealing. Aiden Fleischer, Victorian clergyman without faith or self-confidence, and Clarissa Stark, horribly injured in a childhood accident and thereafter educated in engineering (especially steampunk), chemistry and other scientific arts by the father of the boy who caused the accident, is physically disabled but perfectly capable of hands on building work and practically anything else. Aiden is eventually sent as a missionary to the island of Kolowai, near Papua/New Guinea, which is where, by magic and accident, Aiden and Clarissa find themselves transported to the world of the Yatsill, which is a very strange world indeed. As the gifts and the life cycles of the inhabitants is revealed the humans realise they have entered a world of mimics, and find a weird copy of Victorian London, taken from Clarissa's mind, building up around them and the Yatsill speaking English and employing such phrases as Tally Ho!, poor blighters and infernal rotters.
This phase grinds to a halt with the appearance of the Red Sun, and the action turns fast and furious. Not only the world of the Yatsill but Earth are in danger and Aiden must become a sword-wielding hero to save the day.
I liked the way the alien world was constructed, but I did find it a little hard to take at times, and I found it less than easy to empathise with the various inhabitants, which is more a reflection on me and my tastes than on the book. However, this was a very good read and I would recommend it.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A science fiction novel which is of the kind they used to make. In that it's complete and self contained in one short volume that runs for less than three hundred pages.

Which is a good start.

It's divided into twelve chapters. Plus a note at start from the writer. Which presents it as being a manuscript that was recovered from a sunken ship.

This turns out to be the story of a Victorian priest called Aiden Fleischer. Who thus narrates the whole thing in first person present tense.

Aiden was destined to become a priest. Of a small parish. But had doubts about his ability in the role. Then one day he meets a lady called Clarissa Stark. Whom is forced to wear goggles to protect her eyes, because of a past mishap. She becomes his sexton. The two of them are both intellectuals and enjoy great debates. But when he is forced to leave the parish and become a missionary, life takes both of them on a remarkable journey. First to London. Then a remote island. Then to an alien world.

The latter is a very strange place indeed. However, the presence of humans there has some unexpected side effects. And nobody, human or alien, will ever be the same again.

Being that this is meant to be the journal of a victorian man it is presented in a writing style akin to something of the time. Which does take a short while to get used to, but once you're into the first couple of chapters you do get hooked, and they are very readable.

The heart of the novel is the relationship between Aiden and Clarissa, and here it scores highly. The latter in particular being a sympathetic and appealing character from the off.

The alien world is as mentioned, downright alien, and here the novel scores highly for inventiveness. The victorian style and the total alienness of the place does mean that it then does start to get a bit involved at certain points, and you will need to give the prose your full attention from the beginning of the second half of the book as a result, otherwise some things might pass you by.

Not quite five star material because of that, but it's a book to be admired and one with great promise in the writing. So it's well worth a look.
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