23 October, 2009

Review: Evolution Expects by Jonathan Green

Evolution ExpectsUlysses Quicksilver, the debonair dandy adventurer and freelance agent of the Throne is back with a new challenge: Evolution Expects (2009) [US][UK] by Jonathan Green. This is the fourth adventure of Ulysses within the PAX BRITANNIA series:
"In the closing years of the 20th century the British Empire's rule is still going strong. Queen Victoria is about to celebrate her 160th jubilee, kept alive by advanced steam technology. London is a fantastical sprawling metropolis where dirigibles roam the skies, robot bobbies enforce the law and dinosaurs are on display in London Zoo. Welcome to Magna Britannia, a steam driven world full of fantastical creations and shady villains. Here dashing dandies and mustachioed villains battle for supremacy while below the city strange things stir in the flooded tunnels of the old London Underground." [Source] Read The World of PAX BRITANNIA for detailed information.
And again Jonathan Green delivers an additional short story: Conqueror Worm. Maybe you have heard or read this title before? Then I must say: You are right. It is also the title of a poem by Edgar Allan Poe. With this novella, we jump back into 1797 and get to know Cassandra Tyrrell, a the female secret agent. She rescues Sir George Sackville from highwaymen but to at what price...

The Setup

We are back in Londinium Maximum, the heart of the British Empire. But the heart is aching under a carpet of noxious smog. Beside its toxicity the smog is depressing the inhabitants. The people need a man who promise a bright future. And the new Prime Minister Devlin Valentine needs an impressive debut. All hope concentrates on the new Jupiter Station which shall blow away the smog after the launch. The town is preparing for the great day. But there are far more perils blaze the trail. The city's underworld is in uproar. Which gang will control the town? Who controls the Golem which is terrorizing the East End? Why are people changing into insects? Who his the man flying across London whom people take for the incarnation of Spring-Heel Jack? And what is going on in the Bethlem Royal Hospital, also known as Bedlam? A lot of lose ends and it is up to Ulysses Quicksilver, his manservant Nimrod and a few other supportes to clear the situation.
This is the fourth Ulysses Quicksilver adventure. I need to emphasize this because events of the past stories have an impact on this story. For example Ulysses has to cope with his left arm which is different from the right one. What happened with his left arm is part of Human Nature (2007) [US][UK] and to tell more would be a spoiler.

My Take in Brief

Before I start with my take I would like to present you the aspirations of Jonathan Green and the scope of the PAX BRITANNIA series. In June 2008 Graeme interviewed Jonathan Green and this is the last qustion plus answer:
" 10) Finally, why should everyone be reading your ‘Pax Britannia’ books?
Because they’re great fun reads and an entertaining way to take yourself out of the world for a few hours. Also, there’s a big story in there that’s steadily beginning to take shape (and which I had planned from day one), so you want to be there for the ride and the dramatic denouement in about… twelve books time (or thereabouts)."
So I think this should be the base on which this book and the rest of the series has to be reviewed. That means: Is it a great fun read and is it an entertaining way to take yourself out of the world for a few hours?
My simple and plain answer is: YES!

Jonathan Green has the gift to fill his alternate world with a bunch of suitable ingredients which work together very well. Letus start with the the debonair dandy adventurer and freelance agent of the Throne, Ulysses Quicksilver. He says about himself:
"I am only a hero of the empire." [page 219]
For me he is a mix of Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, Indiana Jones and Alain Quartermain. And I promise Ulysses is as entertaining as the mentioned gentlemen.
But he has not to face the enemies of the British Empire alone. Nimrod, his manservant is a stalwart character and he can not deny traces of a British butler.
They both are the linchpin of all the stories. And as in the previous adventures unexpected persons take side of Ulysses and Nimrod. In Evolution Expects we meet the arcane Spring-Heel Jack and Eliza, who is more than a whore.
This takes me immediately to another important point of entertainment. If you have an eye for sometimes obvious and sometimes in a roundabout way placed allusions from daily life via fiction up to history you get doubled entertainment. I often reread passages in order to detect all allusions. But I am sure I miss a lot.
Let me give you some examples in order to express what I mean.
"Keep moving and don't look back." [p. 169] Remember the bible when Lot and his family flee from Sodom and Gomorrha.
A crewman welcomes the passengers on board the Jupiter Station with the words: "Enjoy the ride." [p. 172]
If you have ever taken a ride on the London Eye you know what I'm talking about.
"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!" [p. 169]
Did you read the graphic novel Watchmen or watched the movie?
Then we have links to myths like the Golem and the Spring-Heel Jack which acts in several cases like Batman.
And finally I like the naming of characters. There is a doctor with Name Seziermesser. It is a German word. Translated it means scalpel. There is another doctor who is not the youngest. His name is Methusaleh.
Jupiter Station should solve the London toxic air problem. The station has been invented by Halcyon Beaufort-Monsoon. You see the relation to weather. There is the LCAL = London Clean Air League. In real life you have the CCAL = Campaign for Clean Air in London.
But Jonathan Green has more to offer. I Every book offers new technical ingredients (weapons, apparatuses, mechanical devices).
And the author takes care of readers which have missed one of the previous books. He integrates short flashbacks whenever it is necessary.
Evolution Expects differs in in several aspects from the previous books. For me it is more fidgety which - I assume - is a result of two things: On one hand to write a cracking adventure and on the other hand to build the foundation for the powerful background story which will be unfolded in the following books.
And it the story is more darker than the last one which I appreciate. The introduction of the sidekick Eliza gave more zest to the relation between Ulysses and Nimrod.

All in all it was a great fun to read. You will be surprised how time passes.

Anyway I recommend to buy the books, read them, and have fun with an awesome hero in a gorgeous steampunk world...
Viva La Steampunk!

Bona Fide's Book Oracle

What is Bona Fide's Book Oracle? To keep it short. It is a palaver about the reviewed book held by ediFanoB and his alter ego Bona Fide. And I am the keeper of the minutes. Now read my minutes.

Edi: "Hey Bona, we have to squash again our brain. A rhyme, a rhyme! Shall I write a poem?" Bona: "Numbskull! Shut up or I will send you to Londinium Maximum...." Edi: "OK, OK. That was a fast paced story. So much action. I would like to fly across London like this Spring-Heel Jack." Bona: "I didn't know that roly-poly can fly that high!" Edi: "Come on. Insults are not helpful. Maybe I should send you to Bedlam." Bona: "You are not a cent better as me. My English is getting worse. Maybe you are right." Edi: "Did you enjoy this fast paced,with breathtaking action mixed, riddled with allusions - Batman, Ozymandias, Golem, Watchmen, The Bible - just to name a few, enriched with eccentric characters where the name is a play on profession - the Jupiter Station has been invented by Halcyon Beaufort-Monsoon, peace of prose?" Bona: "Yes!" Edi: "Yes? That is your whole answer?" Bona: "Long question, short answer. But let me add following. This book is the prelude to something great. What is the Star Chamber? Who are the members? Which plans do they have? And not to forget the Crucible!" Edi: "That means you recommend to read this book and the prequels and the sequels?" Bona: "Of course! It is like a TV series. Do you watch just one episode in the middle? And do you know another sassy, cracking, rollicking and entertaining steampunk series? A series where each book enlightens grey autumn days." Edi: "To be honest, NO!" Bona: "Hey taker of the minutes. I hope for your life that you didn't miss a single word. Go, write it down in your strange babbage box." Edi: "Nothing to add from my side. Take your papers and go!"

More Jonathan Green and PAX BRITANNIA

For more information about the author you can use following links: Jonathan Green blog, Jonathan Green on Twitter, Another Jonathan Green blog.
For more information about the PAX BRITANNIA series: Official PAX BRITANNIA blog, The World of PAX BRITANNIA post, PAX BRITANNIA publisher Abaddon Books.

Origin of the copy

The copy of Evolution Expects which I read and used for this review has been purchased by me.


kittygoespotty said...

This cannot work in fact, that is what I consider.