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Science fiction, steam punk, fantasy?

April 30, 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, “A red sun also rises”. Hodder is the author who brought us the excellent Burton & Swinburne adventures. Labelling Hodder’s work is difficult…particularly this, which is a mixture of Victorian adventure in the Conan Doyle / H. Rider Haggard spirit, mixed with steam punk and 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 sunThis novel introduces Aiden Fleischer and Clarissa Stark, the former a village priest who has lost his faith, the latter 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, go to a tiny Pacific island and are tortured by a witch doctor, and finally, are projected to a far–distant planet, Ptallaya.

In Ptallaya, they find an extremely strange ecosystem, beautifully portrayed. The fauna of Ptallaya would have Mr Darwin scratching his head. Dominated by bizarre four-legged, mollusk–faced, sentient creatures, which are oddly endearing beings, which 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 are small and bright, and when they set, a gigantic red sun rises, everything changes, and the dreaded Blood Gods appear, and the fun really begins. I won’t give any more away, save to say that despite (or because of?) Hodder’s mix of multiple genres, this 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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