The Venusian Gambit brings the Daedalus series to a satisfying, yet bitter-sweet conclusion. Parting is such sweet sorrow particularly from a series of which I’ve been *blush* a raving fan-boy from the beginning. I am, however, heartened by the fact that Michael Martinez will sail on to new writing horizons. Right now, he’s having a little fun with a story built around the Pathfinder Game, about which more here.
Most of what I loved about this book are what I’ve loved about all of the books in the series, so I won’t tread over ground covered in my review of The Daedalus Incident and review of The Enceladus Crisis. In this review, I’ll focus on some new elements to the series The Venusian Gambit brings. (Amazon has a nice description of the plot.) Note: there are spoilers below for the previous two books in this post. Not going into detail over old ground doesn’t lessen or detract from what I’ve previously said, but I’ll simply summarize what I love most about these books. There are plenty of books with cleverly inspired plots and the idea of these two timelines coming together is brilliant. But the proof of the pudding is the eating and the greatness of a book is in the writing. Execution is everything. In this series, the ideas are fleshed out and live in dialog and pacing, story arc and character. It takes that initial plot line and allows us to live it. We have a sense of the duty and honor that pervade the lives on H.M.S Victory (and the Royal Navy) and (most of) those in the JSC. Not that there aren’t disagreements (and even times when one feels betrayed by what another thought honorable), but the willingness to seek out the best for King (and Queen) and country, even for the known worlds, wins out. Not that the books are morality tales, they are drama filled with hopes, loss, sacrifice, greed and love. We have villains and big damn heroes.
In this final chapter of the series, we have an opportunity to know the characters and worlds more deeply even as we are introduced to new players. We see Philip, the son of Anne, dowager Countess St. Germain and Elizabeth, the daughter of (now) Lord Admiral Weatherby as young adults and interesting in their own right. We also see known characters in new roles and witness the consistency of character but also how the roles bring out some features of them. One of my favorite aspects of The Venusian Gambit is that the timelines come together at about the mid-point of the book rather than the end. The players (mostly) know each other, so we have an opportunity to see them interact in a more robust and familiar way. Because Mr. Martinez has a larger canvas on which to play out the interaction of the worlds, and not just the people but the technology, we are able to have a little fun with the characters’ reactions to each and find more appreciation for the benefits of both worlds.
You might be a little surprised at the lateness of this review, given I’m such a fan and it was released in early May. I waited for the Audible book to become available because I love the narration so much. The two narrators, Kristen Kalbli & Bernard Clark, perform the future and past timelines, respectively, then swap chapters as the timelines come together. It’s brilliantly done. It’s amazing how much one associates characters with the narrator’s approach to voicing them. I’ve come to know General Maria Diaz through Ms. Kalbli’s voice. When Mr. Clark takes over, his approach is, understandably, starkly different. It took a bit of adjustment. Both are great, but different. As with all of the series, I highly recommend the audiobook, if you go for such things. These are great narrators with a clever scheme of having them in different roles.
What I loved about The Venusian Gambit
- A deeper dive into the combined worlds, people and technology
- New characters or ones with expanded roles and depth such as Philip and Elizabeth.
- Deeper understanding of previously introduced characters in new roles
- Everything I loved about the whole series
***Warning – spoilers***
What I was less fond of in The Venusian Gambit
- The defeat of Althotas and the relatively controlled, slow collapsing of the worlds were both a bit convenient. It was still a strong ending with sacrifice, battle, cultural barriers to overcome and heavy loss. So this is, at most, a light preference, but there you have it.
Once again, I cannot recommend the Daedalus series and The Venusian Gambit in particular, highly enough. A well-written adventure over sea and space on a grand scale amongst many cultures and worlds with fascinating characters, the best of whom exhibit exceptional honor. What’s not to love?