Review of The Pillars of Hercules by David Constantine

Title: The Pillars of Hercules
David J. Williams writing as David Constantine
06 March 2012
Night Shade Books
 mythology, historical, steampunk, alternate history
eARC from the publisher via NetGalley
Rating: 3/10

Alexander of Macedonia has just taken over Egypt, a province of the powerful Athenian Empire. His conquest marks the beginning of his campaign to crush the Empire as a whole. He believes himself to be a god, the son of Zeus, and it seems like nothing will stand in his way. Everyone speaks of the sorcery that Alexander has at his command – Greek fire, deadly war machines designed by his former tutor, Aristotle, as well as the seemingly god-like ability to control the weather. And Alexander isn’t just planning to conquer the Athenian Empire. Beyond the Pillars of Hercules – the gateway to the outer ocean – lies the lost city of Atlantis and powerful artefacts of the ancients. If Alexander can get control of such secrets, he won’t stop at conquering the Athenian Empire – he’ll aim for world domination.

Helping the ambitious prince is his ever-loyal lieutenant Eumenes, and experienced generals like Perdiccas. Many are trying to stop him or take the treasures of Atlantis for themselves. Alexander’s cold-hearted father, Philip, has sent his bastard son Ptolemy to thwart the legitimate son who wants to rule the Macedonian Empire. Barsine, a Persian noblewoman, holds a deep grudge against Alexander for conquering her homeland, and possesses the means to undermine his goals. She recruits a pair of soldiers to help her – a Gaul named Lugorix who wields an axe he calls Skullseeker, and a Greek archer named Matthias. The Athenian commander Leonidas is determined to save his Empire from slaughter as he pits his forces against Alexander’s.

These intertwined narratives clash in battles of blood and flame, with swords, axes and battleships going up against automatons, gunpowder and siege engines. Myth and magic are intertwined with science, in a novel that combines steampunk, alternate history, mythology and the ancient world.

It’s a pretty weird genre mash-up, but it sounded like an interesting idea. Unfortunately it failed. Miserably.

I don’t know what to start with, so I’ll start at the beginning, when I had hope. I generally liked the characters, of which there are many. Too many, I eventually realised. The story is made up of multiple strands, and the author, David J. Williams writing as David Constantine, frequently adds or removes POVs from the narrative, even towards the end (it’s really irritating). Not all the characters are likeable and some – like Alexander – could have been fleshed out more, but the narrators were interesting enough. Although I could handle the large cast of characters however, I was struggling to get a grasp on the politics and military strategy, simply because I have no head for that stuff and my mind tends to wander. To make things easier, I clicked over to the Wikipedia entry on Alexander the Great in order to get a better idea of what was going on. Instead I found that Constantine had little interest in historical accuracy and an article on Alexander wasn’t going to help much, except to confirm that some of the major character really did exist.

According to his website for the novel, Constantine’s intention was, in part, to explore the question of what might have happened had Alexander gone west, rather than east. In Pillars of the Earth, Alexander doesn’t die in Babylon as the history books tell us, but conquered it and continued east to Afghanistan. It’s there that he receives an order from his father to come home, so he turns around and returns to Pella, Macedonia, attacking Egypt on the way. This brings me to another major historical difference – at this point in Alexander’s life, his father had been dead for over a decade, and he was already King of Macedonia. Here, however, his father is alive and the two are caught in a power struggle for the throne. Philip is king, but Alexander’s army is more powerful, and their relationship has always been tense at best.

Alexander’s mother Olympias is long dead, although in reality she outlived both her husband and son. I was a bit miffed about her absence. Other than Alexander, she was the one character I wanted to see – the woman who claimed she’d been impregnated by Zeus and given birth to a god. I would have loved to see her interactions with Alexander, convincing him of his divinity. Instead, Constantine killed her off in favour of a more mundane father-son conflict.

Technically, all this puts the novel in the alternate history genre. However, it feels a lot more like the author is just exploiting an historical narrative to write an action adventure novel, without much respect for his source material. Constantine would hardly be the first to do this, and I can’t say I haven’t enjoyed wildly inaccurate books or movies simply because I thought they were fun. But in this case the author goes way too far and it really pissed me off.

My biggest issue was the language. Alternate history is fine. Steampunk in the ancient world sounds cool. But your characters cannot bloody speak in modern slang saying things like “awesome”, “what gives” and “dig this”, or high-five each other after blowing up enemy ships. The dialogue also has a very brash American quality to it, which makes it even worse. At one point, Barsine says “Suck on this” before firing a torpedo. The Macedonians are referred to as “Macks”. Matthias crudely says “Fuck you very much” to a man he doesn’t like. There is also mention of the terms “turkey shoot” and “human pretzel”. Pretzels?! Really? They didn’t even exist then! I’m fairly sure turkey shoots didn’t either.

I already hated Constantine’s writing because of this, but my opinion of it was further lowered by the fact that the book was riddled with errors. I usually don’t mention this when it comes to ARCs, because they still have to go through a final proof. In this case however, there were way, way more errors and inconsistencies than I’ve ever seen in an ARC and I just couldn’t see Constantine as anything other than a sloppy writer.

Then there’s the steampunk aspect, which also contributes to the historical authenticity issue. The idea in itself is fine, but there’s lot of tech that seriously pushes the boundaries of plausibility, usually for the sake of big explosions. Barsine, the Persian noblewoman, has a ship that can travel at high speed, fire torpedoes, and be converted into a submarine. Alexander has a hoard of war-machines designed by Aristotle. In this novel, Aristotle isn’t portrayed so much as a philosopher as a sorcerer/scientist. Magic and science are intertwined, in the sense that those who don’t understand things like periscopes or bombs call them magic, while those who know how they work call it science. Aristotle’s designs include a giant siege engine, automatons, and something called a Leviathan – a huge, mechanically controlled human figure. The siege engine and Leviathans were ok, but I couldn’t imagine how they’d program robots or have missiles and torpedoes. Constantine just pushes his premise way too far with little explanation for how these things are possible, to the extent that it feels like you’re reading about modern warfare.

The author’s final major crime is relying far too heavily on artificial mystery. The characters in the know keep their plans from others and the reader, so that you’re never sure exactly what’s going on until a plan is executed, and even then you might not know why. Sometimes, they don’t even keep significant information from you. A character might just see something worrying (like a bunch of soldiers coming at them), but they still won’t say what it is until later. To facilitate this, Constantine switches the POV every few pages, as if to create a diversion. So at the moment when it something momentous could be revealed, the POV switches so we can’t find out what it is. Constantine keeps this up right until the climax of the novel, when he starts switching POVs every few paragraphs.

As far as maintaining the mystery is concerned, this tactic works. But mystery should be tense and exciting whereas this is just extremely irritating and confusing, especially when almost every character is one step ahead of you. It also makes it devilishly hard to keep up with the complex plot and the large cast of characters. By the end I was so tired of it all I couldn’t give a fuck about the big secrets at the end of the Earth. I just wanted the damn book to end. My rating dropped from 5 to 3 because every sentence was setting my teeth on edge.

This story might have worked as a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster. It wouldn’t take up more than 2 or 3 hours of your time and there’d be sexy people and mind-blowing CGI to keep your attention off all the ghastly flaws. Instead, you have to spend a good few hours making the effort to read it, and it’s painfully obvious how much this doesn’t quite feel like the ancient world. If you really don’t care about any of this as long as someone’s getting an axe in the face every couple of pages, then there’s plenty for you to enjoy. If not, it will probably make you want to scream.

Review of Empire State by Adam Christopher

Title: Empire State
Author: Adam Christopher
Published: 27 December 2011 (USA/Canada); 05 January 2012 (Rest of the World)
Publisher:  Angry Robot Books
Genre:  detective noir, steampunk, science fiction
Source: eARC from publisher via NetGalley
My Rating: 5/10

It’s prohibition-era New York, and Rex Braybury, a small-time, no-scruples bootlegger, watches the city’s two rocket-boosted superheroes fight an epic battle in the sky. Once friends, now mortal enemies, the Skyguard and the Science Pirate end their final fight in an explosion that alters reality. Very few know about it, but the catastrophe spawns an alternative version of NYC:  the Empire State, “The City That Sleeps”.

Rex and the superheroes disappear for a while as the narrative crosses to the Empire State, a place that’s clearly a copied from NYC but at the same time is nothing like it. In this dreary city, Rad Bradley, the Empire State version of Rex, is a private detective down on his luck. He finds money and trouble when a beautiful dame in a red dress comes into his crappy little office anxiously asking Rad  to find her lover, a woman named Sam Saturn. Rad doesn’t hesitate to take the case, but it quickly gets him involved in something much bigger and more dangerous than tracking down a missing person. NYC and the Empire State are linked, not just by a tear in the fabric of reality but by a few people who have somehow crossed over. Among those people are Rad’s double Rex and Sam Saturn. But the rift between the worlds might close, and if it does it could destroy both cities. Rad suddenly finds himself having to deal with conspiracies, mysterious and dangerous people, fascinating steampunk technology, and an event that defies what anyone knows about physics, not mention the realisation that his home and his entire existence is just a flimsy copy of something else.

When reading this, I wondered how the book would work without a blurb or plot summary. It’s very seldom that you dive into a book without knowing what it’s about first, so can the blurb actually function as a necessary introduction? I wondered this because, after a few chapters from Rex’s perspective in NYC, you jump straight into the Empire State with Rad and it’s not until much later that it’s explicitly stated that this city was created by the superheroes’ fight (although this is implied). I wasn’t disorientated, because I already knew this from the blurb and plot summaries I’d read, but what if I hadn’t? Would I have felt very lost, wondering what this weird city was and why it was in the book?

Speculation aside though, The Empire State is an interesting place. It’s a mirrored impression of NYC, so that the two cities share similarities but are nevertheless vastly different. The Empire State is quiet, constantly shrouded in fog and almost always drenched in rain. It’s going through ‘Wartime’, fighting against ‘the Enemy’, which everyone just accepts even though it doesn’t make a shred of sense since no one ever leaves the Empire State. Such a thing is inconceivable because there simply isn’t anywhere else. But something about the Empire State simply prevents its citizens from thinking about all the contradictions of their existence. It completely lacks NYC’s energy, to the extent that the dreariness is almost palpable.

As in NYC, it’s the prohibition era of the Empire State, but the latter is more like a fascist state. It’s ruled by the City Commissioners, and any dissent will probably find you in an early grave. Not only is alcohol banned but cigarettes are forbidden too, and most food and drink are rationed (a tragedy for the traditional private dick who practically survives on coffee and booze).

Every person in the Empire State is a double of someone in NYC, although you won’t get to see many of them, just the few who play a role in the plot. In terms of tech, the Empire State is a steampunk world featuring massive iron ships (ironclads) and robots that are used for war, airships and automatons.

It’s an intriguing world, but the more you read the less impressive it becomes because Christopher’s world-building gets increasingly flawed and unstable in an unfortunate parallel with his end-of-the-world plot. Rather than getting a better grasp on what the Empire State is and how it works, everything seems to unravel leaving gaping plot holes and important questions unanswered. At one point we’re told that the Empire State and NYC “cannot co-exist, for they are the same place” and yet it’s very clear that they’re not the same place and they’ve obviously been co-existing for some time. Nevertheless we’re then told that the Fissure that links the two worlds might either be closing or opening wider, or that someone is planning to destroy it, but whatever the case, it’s BAD NEWS and Rad has to put a stop to it, whatever ‘it’ turns out to be. If he doesn’t then the Empire State will be destroyed, or possibly the Empire State and New York or maybe even the Empire State, New York and the world. Some people are trying to travel from the Empire State to NYC, either because they somehow got stuck in the wrong universe or because NYC is simply a better place. This may or may not work, and may or may not destroy the Empire State and possibly New York, who knows? There are clearly other methods of crossing over but these don’t seem to be an option. Key figures are hatching plots based on what they think they know but frankly no one really has a handle on the physics, me least of all. I’m not a fan of hard sci fi, but I’d really appreciate that kind of rigor here. The novel certainly claims to be sci fi rather than fantasy, but it’s really not trying very hard.

Perhaps the most frustrating plot point is when an archvillain is revealed to have set this whole thing in motion, but the book doesn’t tell you how his whole role in this in even possible. It’s INFURIATING.  Then there’s the matter of the doubles – every person in the Empire State has a double in NYC. However, there’s no consistency in the nature of the doubles. Rad is a private detective, the opposite of Rex who is a criminal. On the other hand another pair of doubles are so similar that they actually share memories and knowledge, which seems to contradict the way the two worlds work. Two pairs of doubles differ in age. Another pair looks dissimilar enough that no one realises they are doubles, whereas every other double is a splitting image of their counterparts. These inconsistencies suit the plot but weaken the structure of the whole.

Christopher is also guilty of the heinous crime of artificially maintaining the mystery by constantly varying Rad’s level of curiosity. This is one of my pet hates. Rad is a detective, a person who makes a living by noticing oddities and asking questions. And yet when he encounters things like Byron, a 7-foot tall automaton manservant in a brass helmet and boots, Rad decides it’s best not to ask about this kind of weirdness, only to make a mental note at the end of the novel that he must find out more. It drives me fucking loopy.

Perhaps I’m too fussy a reader for this book. It was released in the USA and Canada on 27 December and is being released worldwide today, and most of the reviews I’ve seen so far are positive. The novel does have a kind of pulpy appeal, especially for noir and steampunk fans. It also has some good ideas at its core and it’s well-written. There’s also a possibility that some of the gaps and inconsistencies in the plot were left there to give more creative space to the Worldbuilder project in which Christopher and publishers Angry Robot allow fan artists, writers and musicians to create their own works within the Empire State universe. Not that that’s a good excuse for a sloppy book, since it still has to stand on its own two feet. As a debut novel though, I’d say that even though Empire State doesn’t work for me, Christopher undoubtedly shows a lot of potential in terms of writing and ideas, so if he can tighten up the structure of his creations he could produce something really cool.

Buy a copy of Empire State at The Book Depository

Review & Giveaway of The Bookman by Lavie Tidhar

Title: The Bookman
Author: Lavie Tidhar
Published: 2010
Genre:  steampunk, metafiction, science fiction
Source: electronic ARC from publisher
My Rating: 8/10

“The Bookman’s only a myth,” Orphan said. Beside him, Gilgamesh slowly smiled.
“A myth,” he said. “Oh Orphan. This is the time of myths. They are woven into the present like silk strands from the past, like wire mesh from the future, creating an interlacing pattern a grand design, a repeating motif. Don’t dismiss myth boy. And never, ever, dismiss the Bookman.”

Gilgamesh is right – the Bookman is not to be dismissed, especially when he starts putting bombs in books for an unknown scheme.  And Orphan is a poet, so he of all people should understand the power of myth. Then Orphan’s fiancé Lucy is killed when the Bookman uses ones of his bombs to sabotage the launch of a Martian space probe, and Orphan goes looking for the mysterious terrorist after being told that the he can bring Lucy back to life. Somehow, the Bookman is tied up with Les Lézards, the reptilian royals who sit on the throne. Yes, the British Royal Family are giant lizards. In this alternate vision of Victorian England, the lizards supposedly evolved separately on a remote island (called Caliban’s Island), and now they rule the Everlasting Empire. But the reptilian royals don’t rule without dissent; rebel factions quietly but vehemently oppose the monarchy, and the novel sees London the verge of revolution. Orphan’s journey plunges him into the rebel underground, sends him on an ocean voyage and finds him on a pirate ship as he tries to reach the half-mythical Caliban’s Island. As he travels, he learns disturbing truths about who and what the Bookman is, as well as unravelling the mystery of who is own parents are and why he’s an orphan.

I worry that the bit about the lizards might make this sound like a silly book, but please believe me when I say it’s not. Because it’s awesome. The Bookman has a rich, metafictional steampunk world that I fell in love with in the opening chapter when Orphan reads Gilgamesh a news article about a notorious terrorist group called The Persons of Porlock who dressed up in clown outfits and shouted fragments from Edward Lear’s Book of Nonsense at Oscar Wilde who had been “engaged, in his own words, in a work of composition of the highest order”. “[A] confused Wilde said the title of his new play was to be called The Importance of Being Something, but for the life of him he could no longer recall what that something was.”

The book is laced with literary references like this, which is something I always enjoy, but since I am no expert on the classics, I know that every literary reference that amuses me, I know there is at least one that I don’t get. Which is fine. It just means that a re-read a couple of years down the line will be that much richer, with all those lovely “Oh! Now I get it!” moments.

Included in the cast of characters are literary figures such as Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes, Irene Adler and Moriarty; authors Jules Verne and Karl Marx; and Tom Thumb. A hundred others pop up in minor roles or brief mentions, such as when Orphan is described as having “once met, by chance, the ancient Wordsworth, as the great man was leaving a coffee house in Soho”.

Not surprisingly then, The Bookman reminds me of Jasper Fforde’s Bookworld series, featuring literary detective Thursday Next. It’s also alternative history, set in a world where literature, especially classic literature, is much more pervasive than usual, forming the basis of society’s culture and entertainment. The Bookworld series however, has a very oddball, mostly humorous world and plot. It’s light-hearted, with serious moments. The Bookman on the other hand is darker, edgier, more intense with a strong sense of the epic lurking below the surface. Which for me means it’s simply a whole lot cooler.

One thing in particular that I like is that there’s a touch of cyberpunk to this steampunk tale (actually I’m not that familiar with steampunk; forgive me if cyberpunk themes are common). Among the competing political forces of London are the automatons – the steampunk version of cyborgs – who are fighting for the right to be treated like humans. Some of them are clearly machines, while others are so perfectly crafted to look human that it’s hard to see the difference. Identities are further complicated by the fact that there are machines who don’t even know they’re machines, living under the belief that they’re flesh-and-blood humans. As in the cyberpunk genre, the novel poses question of what it is to be human, and the disturbing notion that humans and machines are not so very different as people like to think. “What do the automatons want?”, Orphan asks one of them.

The artificial eyes blinked at Orphan. “The right to exist. Freedom.”
“But you are machines,” Orphan said, and the Turk’s head turned in a slow odd shake, left to right to left.
“So are you,” it said.

Later Orphan encounters another automaton, and his reaction is to ask who owns or controls him. The automaton laughs at him and protests “Can I not be of my own party? […]Am I a machine, to be used and owned?” Orphan begins to understand their plight when he starts to feel more and more like a machine himself, realising how much he is being manipulated, how he has become the tool of people more powerful than himself.

As a character, Orphan is an archetypal orphan of myth and folklore with a mysterious but great destiny. He is also an incarnation of Orpheus, the poet and musician of Greek mythology. When Orpheus lost his love Eurydice to a snake bite, he was so overcome with grief that he descended to the underworld to plead with Hades and Persephone for her return. Like Orpheus, Orphan is a poet who lost the woman he loves, and he goes on a quest and bargains with a powerful otherworldly being to bring her back to life. In the Greek myth, Orpheus is told that he may lead Eurydice out of Hell, but he must not look back at her or he will lose her again, this time forever. In The Bookman, Orphan is often compared to a pawn on a chessboard, and “[p]awns can never go back. They can only move forward. To capture or be captured.”

Orphan may lack the power to control his fate, but that didn’t make his adventure any less exciting or the novel’s world any less fascinating. Admittedly, you might feel that certain aspects of the world could be been better explored and that the book leaves too many loose ends dangling. Quite a few reviewers have complained that there are too many ideas in this book, making it chaotic and unsatisfying. While I’ve had this problem in other novels, I didn’t find it here at all. Instead I found the flood of ideas captivating and loads of fun. And as far as exploring the world further and resolving plotlines goes, The Bookman is the first in a trilogy called The Bookman Histories. The second book, Camera Obscura was released this year, and the final instalment, The Great Game is due in 2012.

Since it’s been quite a while since I’ve had a giveaway and because I liked this book so damn much, I decided that I should do the decent thing and buy someone a copy of The Bookman.

To enter, please do the following:

  1. Follow my blog via email (subscription box in sidebar), WordPress, or Twitter @Violin_InA_Void.
  2. Leave a comment on this review.

Following via RSS feed and any method other than those listed above will not count. I will be using Book Depository to send the prize, so this giveaway is international, open to any area where Book Depository delivers. Entries will stay open until Tuesday 2 August, and I will announce the winner on Wednesday 3 August. Good luck!

Morlock Night by K.W. Jeter

Title: Morlock Night
Author: K.W. Jeter
Published: 1979, republished in 2011
Genre: steampunk, science fantasy, Arthurian legend, adventure.
Source: ARC received from publisher
My Rating: 6/10

Victorian England, 1892. Mr Edwin Hocker has just heard a tale about a Time Machine, the same tale that another member of the audience, Mr H.G. Wells, will one day publish as a novel. Hocker walks home with the mysterious Dr Ambrose, who insists that not only is the story true, but there’s more to it – by using the Time Machine, the inventor has left open a pathway between that future world and 1892. Now the Morlocks are using that pathway to travel to the past and are amassing an army to conquer England.

For those unfamiliar with H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine (1895), Morlocks are a cannibalistic post-human species created by class structure – they evolved from the working classes, who were forced to spend most of their lives working in appalling conditions in factories. The Morlocks live underground, and feed on the Eloi – the evolved aristocrats, weak and stupid, reduced to cannibals’ livestock. And now the Morlocks are in the sewers of London, preparing to attack. Not only do they threaten England, but their actions will cause a time paradox that will eventually wipe out all existence.

Dr Ambrose reveals that he is actually the mythical wizard Merlin, and to save London he needs King Arthur who is regularly reborn to save England and Christendom (hahaha) from any threats. Each time Arthur lives a normal life until he encounters Excalibur, whose runes awaken him to his true identity and restore his power. But Arthur in this age is an old war hero, and although Excalibur has been found, a dastardly villain has weakened the sword and imprisoned Arthur. Ambrose needs Hocker and Tafe (a “laconic” woman from an apocalyptic future) to go on a quest to free Arthur, re-empower Excalibur, and thereby give Arthur the strength he needs to defeat the Morlocks.

What follows is a short but action-packed steampunk adventure that hurtles onward like a runaway steam engine. Cross-genre ficton is publisher Angry Robot’s speciality, and here they have a novel that mixes science fiction, fantasy, Arthurian legend and metafiction. Author K.W. Jeter was the man to coin the term “steampunk” in a letter to Locus magazine, and is considered an inspiration to later steampunk writers. Morlock Night was actually first published in 1979, and Angry Robot re-released it this year, along with another of Jeter’s steampunk novels, Infernal Devices (1987).

I love the premise of Morlock Night, which stands as a sort of bizarre sequel to The Time Machine, running on the nightmarish (and paradoxical) thought of a society about to be eaten alive by the monsters it’s unthinkingly creating. Unlike its predecessor though, Morlock Night has a lot more fantasy than science, largely because of the Arthurian plot. There isn’t much tech, steampunk-ish or otherwise, which was a tad disappointing, but it does have other traits of the genre – a mythical hero brought to life, wild adventure and a Victorian-England setting.

Our hero Hocker is very much a man of his time – “steeped in overweening rationalism”, sexist, classist, sceptical. Early on he is suddenly transported into an apocalyptic future, where he finds a woman’s “belligerent” voice more shocking than the state of London wrecked by war. He complains about the Morlocks bringing their “infernal devices into the heart of a civilised nation’s capital instead of out among some peasants and savages where they belonged”. Seeing the vision of London under siege, he is “as outraged by this violation of the proper order as an astronomer would upon seeing the planets break from their orbits and dance into the sun”.

Thanks to Tafe’s courage and commitment, Hocker quickly adopts more egalitarian views of women, and obviously the whole thing with Arthur, the Time Machine and the Morlocks forces him to overcome some of that “overweening rationalism”. On the class front, he’s less progressive. The Morlocks are nothing but monsters to him – “[f]ilthy brutes”etc. – and although he acknowledges their human origins there is no sympathy or class consciousness there, no admission that the Morlocks are the result of social oppression that Hocker has never thought twice about, even if they are themselves a different and very dangerous species. Arthur at least mutters something angry about having lived all those lives “so that a few children of England could grow fat while the many sweat out their drab lives in the dark holes of the cities[…] Did I defend England so that other lands could be made to suffer our will, their people ground beneath our heel for our profit?”. His words make a bit of difference to the tone of the book and acknowledge the politics of Wells’s The Time Machine, but I still found Hocker to be a snob. On the whole though he’s a suitably likeable hero, amusingly if stereotypically English, and prone to humorous outbursts of indignation. Somehow, I found myself liking Tafe too, even though she barely says anything and we’re given almost no information about her. She spends most of the novel pretending to be a man, wearing a suit and smoking a cigar, which I thought was kind of cool.

She’s also a lot braver than Hocker, who doesn’t seem quite the man for saving the world. Then again the villains are not exactly terrifying – they’re the hopelessly inept sort: easily tricked, short on smarts with a tendency to try and make the good guys suffer long painful deaths, inevitably giving them the chance to escape. It’s also a difficult to believe that the Morlocks managed to become such a threat – with a few exceptions they’re a bickering, disorganised horde, dangerous only because of their numbers and viciousness.

I’m not sure what most people would make of all this, but luckily for me it mostly had the effect of making Morlock Night a wacky, old-fashioned, light-hearted adventure even if it does go so fast it occasionally trips over its own feet. The pace is so quick that the novel takes a few shortcuts: there are many rapid developments, often aided by plausibility-stretching behaviour, co-incidences and deus ex machinas. By the end the story is rushing forward at such breakneck speed, that a half a novel’s worth of progress and action get summarised in a few paragraphs and it’s all over before you know it. Best not to read this is if you’re going to be fussy, but if you can suspend your disbelief, it’s quite good fun. Sort of like watching a random movie on TV just because it’s on and you’re bored. You’re not expecting much, but you end up having a good time. If all this sounds like your cup of Earl Grey, then go for it.


Buy Morlock Night
Book Depository
Angry Robot (DRM-free eBook)