OK, I admit it. I was first attracted to The Daedalus Incident because of the wicked cool cover. Call me shallow.
Not only am I shallow, but the book has turned me into a raving fanboy. This is really embarrassing. I normally do – mildly-enthusiastic-while-maintaining-composure. Raving. Fanboy. I seriously loved The Daedalus Incident. Let’s go through the mental checklist
- Great storyline ✓
- Characters you come to love and care about ✓
- Great dialog ✓
- Well written with tight pacing ✓
- Alternate history with alchemy allowing 18th century frigates in space ✓
- Straight SF with mars mission for Joint Space Command ala Star Trek ✓
- Disparate timelines that are merged together perfectly ✓
- Fabulously created worlds ✓
- Solid, clean ending while leaving an opening for a sequel. ✓
Did I mention that you have Master & Commander meets Star Trek? Oh and the audio book narration! Two great narrators who punctuate the different timelines with their reading then merge with the story timeline. OK, enough unabashed gushing, we return to our normally scheduled review.
The Daedalus Incident is a brilliant story that is predominately told from two perspectives: Second Lt. Thomas Weatherby of HMS Daedalus in 1779 (typically from his journal) and Lt. Shaila Jain, Joint Space Command (JSC) in 2132 assigned to Mars. Both are dedicated Royal Navy officers who handle themselves well (overall). A nice synopsis is given on Amazon. The book drew me into The Zone, that place where I simply find myself immersed in the worlds, the action and the people. The words simply disappear and I am in the midst of it.
Into the third chapter, I was really wondering how these two separate worlds were going to come together. Suffice it to say, it was done with aplomb. I love the way that the dialog, pacing, phrasing all bring the old and new into sharp relief, allowing one to dive into the timeline all the more easily.
There are a number of light nods to the differing social standards and mores of the respective periods. The British white males have a bit of trouble accepting women officers let alone officers of color (Indian & Hispanic decent). However, the focus on duty, loyalty and honor across the generations ties them together and comes to the fore. These are characteristics of our protagonists, Weatherby & Jain. Their sense of duty pervades the novel to the point that enemies at war band together to confront the evil of their day. It is refreshing to read of genuine heros in a literary landscape filled with anti-heros (see Do True Heros Remain Relevant? for more discussion of heros and anti-heros).
Weatherby puts it best in a note to Jain:
We are of very different times and worlds, it would seem, but if His Majesty’s Royal Navy produces officers of your caliber in 350 years, I will sleep soundly tonight, with great confidence in the future of any world in which you may play a part
So, as with a stirring salt breeze from the waves of a ship underway, we are stirred to look beyond ourselves and our own desires, to serve one another honorably.
Finally, some notes about the audio production. I read this on my Kindle (Paperwhite) and listened to it via the Audible app on my Windows Phone (Nokia Lumia 920). Not only are the narrators, Kristin Kalbli (22nd Cent) and Bernard Clark (18th Cent), excellent. Their take on the timelines is brilliant. When the timelines merge, they take a whole chapter, including voices that were the exclusive realm of the other narrator up until the timelines merge. Cool move. Ms. Kalbli shuttles between British, Hispanic, French and the occasional Brooklyn accent with seeming ease. Mr. Clark does an admirable job with the more formal Brits of the 18th century as well as less formal voices such as Miss Anne Baker.
While this is Mr. Martinez’s debut, his writing clearly benefits from his years as a journalist. Mr. Martinez, himself, gives credit to his editor Ross Lockhart. As he said in a recent post: “And dude…we ALL suck pre-editing”. So, a special shout out to Mr. Lockhart; to reach the level attained by this book must have been good editing indeed. I cannot recommend the novel highly enough. It is among my favorites this year, and that, among some pretty stiff competition. There was no point where I didn’t thoroughly enjoy reading (and listening) to it. The only point at which Mr. Martinez disappoints is that The Enceladus Crisis, the sequel to The Daedalus Incident, won’t be out until Spring of 2014; I await its arrival with bated breath. In the meantime, I will take solace in his serialized novella, The Gravity of the Affair. He has a couple excerpts available on his site: http://michaeljmartinez.net/