If you happen to follow this blog, you know that I gushed over Michael J. Martinez‘s The Daedalus Incident. Yes, I confess to being a bit rabid in my love for the book and becoming a raving fanboy of Mr. Martinez’ writing. Now, I was waiting, to borrow a phrase from the Bard, “…with bated breath, and whispring humblenesse” for its sequel, The Enceladus Crisis. Truth be told, however, I was also waiting with a little trepidation. After all, Mr. Martinez set a high bar for himself in his debut novel; could his sophomore effort live up to the expectations it established? It has and then some. His characters and their relationships are even more fully flushed out, his dialog , description of action (I love the first battle scene) and overall handling of the narrative is, if anything, tighter and better. Another feature I like about his books is that he ends each one; I know that sounds trivial but I get stunned at the number of good authors who don’t really end a book that’s in a series, they simply stop writing. While the The Enceladus Crisis has plenty of foreshadowing of the concluding book, The Venusian Gambit, he brings the storyline in Enceladus to a true end.
Before I dive in, if you’ve missed The Daedalus Incident, stop. Do not collect $200. Do not pass go. Head (physically or virtually) directly to your favorite bookstore and get it. I personally recommend the Kindle/Audible combination which I previously reviewed (the narration rocks, see the review for more details). Mr. Martinez actually gives you enough in The Enceladus Crisis to allow you to read it without reading Daedulus, but why? Seriously, go get it or download it now. It’s great.
To remind you of the Daedalus series ‘verse, it has a future timeline in which we travel the solar system with relative ease. Other planets are inhabited and we’ve met some of those inhabitants. It’s akin to Star Trek but no warp engines. There is another timeline that has earth’s 18th century world but filled with Alchemy that allows for British ships of the line to travel in space as well as on the seven seas. As the publisher’s blurb has it:
Lieutenant Commander Shaila Jain has been given the assignment of her dreams: the first manned mission to Saturn. But there’s competition and complications when she arrives aboard the survey ship Armstrong. The Chinese are vying for control of the critical moon Titan, and the moon Enceladus may harbor secrets deep under its icy crust. And back on Earth, Project DAEDALUS now seeks to defend against other dimensional incursions. But there are other players interested in opening the door between worlds . . . and they’re getting impatient.
For Thomas Weatherby, it’s been nineteen years since he was second lieutenant aboard HMS Daedalus. Now captain of the seventy-four-gun Fortitude, Weatherby helps destroy the French fleet at the Nile and must chase an escaped French ship from Egypt to Saturn, home of the enigmatic and increasingly unstable aliens who call themselves the Xan. Meanwhile, in Egypt, alchemist Andrew Finch has ingratiated himself with Napoleon’s forces . . . and finds the true, horrible reason why the French invaded Egypt in the first place.
Now that we have some context, let’s take a look at the characters. All of the characters we grew to love are back: Shaila Jain, Stephane Durand, Maria Diaz, Thomas Weatherby, Andrew Finch, and James Morrow as well as introducing new ones such as Jabir and Maggie Huntington. Since their basic characteristics and background have been established in The Daedalus Incident, Mr. Martinez had a freer hand to develop and deepen the characters and their relationships. The relationships take on new dimensions and turns; some take unexpected and disappointing turns. You know, kind of like life.
One of the aspects of Mr. Martinez’s novels that I love is that he writes in big, damn heroes. His good guys are good (but not perfect), his bad guys are bad (although sometimes deluded or conflicted) and anti-heroes be damned. His heroes are regular people doing extraordinary things based on conviction and commitment. While I love subtle complexity as much as the next guy, anti-heroes, kind of like dystopian novels, can get a little tiresome. Mr. Martinez is a bit of fresh air. To borrow images from another world, it’s a bit like roaming the fields of Rohan on horseback with the wind whipping around you after slogging through the Dead Marshes on the edge of Mordor. A little anti-hero & dystopia goes a long way. You can’t take the sky from me.
I love the values indirectly espoused in the novels. Loyalty, commitment, dedication, work hard/play hard and treating people fairly and with respect all play a large role. Now, don’t get me wrong. This is no moralist tale; it’s all about the “mystery, intrigue, and high adventure spanning two amazing dimensions.” These values are embedded (and indirectly applauded) in the storyline. While we’re not in total alignment (who is), I appreciate most of the moral underpinnings of Mr. Martinez’s world.
In terms of dialog, it’s hard to find an example set of dialog that (a) makes sense without too much context and (b) doesn’t contain spoilers. Here’s a fairly good example of what you’ll find from the 18th century timeline:
“Cairo is lost, Jabir. I’m sorry. The best we can do now is head north. I doubt the English will have allowed the French to simply sail across the Mediterranean without contest, and I’ll wager the Royal Navy will be at Aboukir Bay before long. There’s 25,000 Frenchmen down there, and they’re just about done cutting the heart out of the mameluke army. So we’ll go and tell the English what has happened here.” Jabir frowned as he slung their gear over his back. “Why? So that they too can come and launch a new crusade?” “No, Jabir,” the murshid said. “The English have India. They rule the sea and the Void, and they have little quarrel with the Ottomans. But this French general . . . he is canny. Last I heard, the Royal Navy is all that’s keeping him from launching an invasion of England itself, or taking flight beyond Earth. And should this general reach land, as you can see, there is no stopping him. He must be contained to the Continent, lest England fall.” The two continued to pick their way down the side of the crumbling limestone pyramid, occasionally stopping to watch the fighting rage on. “I thought you did not care about England, murshid,” Jabir observed. “It is true that I left home a long time ago,” the man replied. “But there are still friends whom I care about most dearly. And they will be among those who will be told to fight this General Bonaparte. I must tell them what happened here, so they may be prepared.” Jabir nodded; friendship he could understand. “I will defer to your wisdom, as I do in all things, murshid.” That brought a small, wry smile to the man’s face as he replied in quiet English. “Good luck with that…”
Martinez, Michael J. (2014-05-06). The Enceladus Crisis: Book Two of the Daedalus Series (Kindle Locations 128-141). Night Shade Books. Kindle Edition.
Here’s a snippet from the future timeline (and a bonus Firefly/Serenity reference):
Armstrong’s course was taking the ship just 10,000 kilometers above the ring plane at its closest point . The ship would then slip in between the rings and Saturn itself , using the gravity of the gas giant to slingshot around and, with a timely jolt from Armstrong’s engines, place the ship into an elliptical orbit that, in a few days’ time, eventually take it to Titan, where history— and an orbiting food and fuel depot ship— awaited. Stephane’s voice chimed into her headset from his sensor station below on the observation deck. “Remember, cherie, you are not a leaf on the wind.” Shaila’s grin grew wider. She had used that phrase a lot in training, until Stephane reminded her of what happened to the character who once said it, long ago in a 2-D space flick. “Roger that. I’m still going to soar,” she replied.
Martinez, Michael J. (2014-05-06). The Enceladus Crisis: Book Two of the Daedalus Series (Kindle Locations 924-931). Night Shade Books. Kindle Edition.
The action and battle scenes are amazing but I can’t share any with you without spoiling your experience when you read it, so I will simply say that Mr. Matinez has grown even more facile with his description and fluidity of the action and the action itself is even better. (These books would make such cool movies if they were done well.)
One intriguing facet of this sequel is that, while I still love the way these two dimensions intertwine, switching between them became harder simply because I didn’t want to leave the characters and storyline of the one in which I was currently vicariously living. Of course, I became enthralled with the next story thread and so got over it quickly. The jumps, however, were just a bit harder due to the “stickiness” of the current thread. I guess I have more invested in the characters and their world so it’s harder to leave them. The hardest part of all, of course, is finishing the book. I pretty much devoured it because I couldn’t stop, but even in the midst of said devouring, I was cognizant of nearing the end at all too quick a clip. Yes, the series conclusion, The Venusian Gambit, is coming, but it is a long year before I have an opportunity to be amidst my friends again. After that, I’ll simply need to weep and look forward to what future marvels Mr. Martinez brings our way outside of the series. That and I have a “to be read” list that seems to only grow.
As is my habit, I read this on my Kindle (Paperwhite) and listened to it via the Audible app on my Windows Phone (Nokia Lumia 920). Once again, the narrators, Kristin Kalbli (22nd Cent) and Bernard Clark (18th Cent), do a superb job with all of the different accents of all of the characters. They jump seamlessly between characters and bring a believability to the dialog. If you like audiobooks, See the review for The Daedalus Incident for more on the two outstanding narrators. I highly commend this one to you.
So, there you have it. I once again am slightly embarrassed at having waxed rhapsodic over another Michael J. Martinez book, but I cannot help myself. It’s that good. Do yourself a favor and get the book (and audiobook).