Top critical review
4 people found this helpful
on 10 May 2013
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.