Friday, September 16, 2016

James Review -- Daedalus: The Venusian Gambit

This week I decided to review Daedalus: The Venusian Gambit by Michael J. Martinez. 

The series focuses on two universes which I have personally labeled the Daedalus universe, essentially a future version of our history, and the Known Worlds universe where Mars, Venus, and the moons of Saturn all have native sentient species and wooden ships, aided by alchemy, sail the solar system. The series focuses on the efforts of the Martian warlord Althotas, who was banished to a pocket universe for war crimes in the forty-second century BC of the Known Worlds, is seeking to break free and conquer both solar systems, with the story regularly jumping between the two timelines. 

The book starts by showing Althotas being exiled before shifting to Known Worlds 1803 AD. English Rear Admiral Thomas Weatherby is getting married but his wedding is crashed by Revenants, undead soldiers reanimated by alchemy, that have been marched across the English channel by the French army. Weatherby manages to escape along with his wife and some others but at a high cost as his mentor stays behind to lead the effort to stall the invaders long enough for Weatherby to flee. 

And in 2134 of the Daedalus universe, the head of Project Daedalus--formed to defend against Althotas and other such threats--is briefing the President of the United States on the project and the events of the first two books in the trilogy along with a new threat. The Chinese spacecraft Tienlong has been seized by two Joint Space Command officers and one Chinese officer possessed by the souls of ancient Martians loyal to Althotas. The JSC ship Armstrong is pursuing with her acting captain Shalia Jain determined to save her lover, Stephane Durand, who is one of the possessed. 

Eventually with aid from another JSC ship the Tienlong's crew is captured and, in time, a technique to allow Stephane to regain control of his body is developed. But other possessed agents are activated and head for Venus with the JSC in pursuit. 

In the Known Worlds it is now 1809 and, while much of England has been occupied by Napoleon's forces which have allied with renegade members of the Xan, (natives of Saturn's moons), the remaining free regions of the United Kingdom fight on. Admiral Weatherby is commander of the English Navy in both sea and space and, after repelling an attack on the primary English production facility for Mercurium, a substance which allows equipped ships to launch to space from anywhere on an ocean, while ships lacking it--like those used by the French--must take off from polar regions, over Mercury, he is recalled to England. 

After defending against an attack against the English government in exile's capital, plans are made to liberate the occupied sections of the United Kingom but the Xan approach explaining that they believe they have discovered a French plot to seize a Venusian Memory vault containing secrets dating back to the final war between the Martians and the Xan, a move that appears to be aimed at freeing Althotas,  Weatherby leads a small task force to Venus but finds a massive French fleet waiting for him. During the battle over Venus, a rift between the universes opens, depositing a small JSC force and the English and JSC units must team up for a final desperate attempt to prevent the liberation of a warlord imprisoned for almost six thousand years.

I give this book 8 out of 10. I thought the author did a really good job juggling the two stories until they merged, and there are some nice references to other Napoleon-era novel series' slipped in. The fleet battles were interesting but I also feel that they were far too short. Admittedly, my interest in Age of Sail naval warfare is strictly amateur but I'm almost certain that unless lucky hits were involved engagements lasted much longer then they did in this book. Also I wish the book had been longer to allow more development of both universes.

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