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Steampunk, alternate history, aliens?

March 11, 2014

Do you enjoy steam punk? Are you a fan of Rice Burroughs’ Martian chronicles? If so, you’ll enjoy this latest offering by Mark Hodder.  He is the author who brought us the excellent Burton & Swinburne adventures. Labeling Hodder’s work is difficult…particularly “A red sun also rises”. This is a mixture of Victorian adventure in the Conan Doyle / H. Rider Haggard spirit, mixed with steam punk, with a dash of alternate history. Hodder has a lively and intelligent imagination, and he’s a fine writer too…a winner of the Philip K. Dick Award.

red sunThe main characters are Aiden Fleischer, the former village priest who has lost his faith. and Clarissa Stark, a disabled vagrant who becomes Fleisher’s assistant, ally, fellow adventurer, and more. Together they journey to London for a brush with Jack The Ripper, to a tiny Pacific island where they are tortured by a witch doctor, and are finally projected to a far–distant planet, Ptallaya.

Here they find an extremely strange ecosystem, beautifully portrayed by the author. The fauna of Ptallaya would have Mr Darwin scratching his head, and is dominated by bizarre four-legged, mollusk–faced, sentient creatures. These oddly endearing beings begin mimicking 19th century British society, constructing an offbeat caricature of Victorian London.

Ptallaya has three suns and a “day” that lasts many of our Earth months. Two of the suns – The Eyes of the Saviour – are small and bright, and when they set, a gigantic red sun – the Heart Of Blood – rises, everything changes, the dreaded Blood Gods appear, and the fun really begins.

I won’t give any more away, save to say that despite Hodder’s mix of multiple genres, from Gothic to adventures among weird aliens, “A Red Sun Also Rises” is a highly entertaining read. It challenges the reader to pay attention, but the plot moves along at a lively pace, and there’s plenty of action and amusement, along with the odd dollop of social commentary.

Reviewed by Keith Smith

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