Venusian Chronicles Created by ggrihn on 10/3/2017 2:20:39 PM
Arabella and the Battle of Venus, by David D. Levine, and The Venusian Gambit, by Michael J. Martinez, reviewed by Gregory G.H. Rihn, Steampunk Chronicle Literary Editor
Arabella and the Battle of Venus is a direct sequel to Levine’s Arabella of Mars, picking up a few months after the events of that novel. Arabella is now officially betrothed to the upright Captain Singh, but no date has been set because Singh, having accepted a mission from the British Government, was captured by the French Navy near Venus, and now is languishing (or so Arabella assumes) as a prisoner of war on that distant planet. Nothing will do for Our Plucky Heroine that she set off to rescue her husband-to-be.
Improbably, getting her brother’s blessing and financial support isn’t hard. Finding a chaperone is only slightly moreso. (After all it is 1815 and a single young lady requires a chaperone--.) What is difficult is finding a ship willing to take her into French-controlled space, which results in her obtaining the services of the raffish Captain Fox, a privateer nominally in service to a Martian warlord, by literally buying him out of hock. Unfortunately, neither Arabella’s cleverness with three-dimensional maneuvering, nor the Captain’s undoubted shiphandling skills, can keep them from also falling afoul of the French fleet, and winding up in the same penal colony where Singh and his crew are immured.
Although Arabella and the Battle of Venus has more scope than Arabella of Mars, I didn’t find it quite as interesting, in part because while the Martian milieu of the first book was rather fresh and the Martian culture interesting, Venus and the downtrodden Venusians are less so. Also, once it’s made clear that these events occur during the period following Napoleon’s escape from exile, you do kind of know where it’s going to end up, although Levine’s treatment of the climactic battle of Venus is rather original.
Another indicator of the maturing of Steampunk as a genre is the evolution of tropes beyond the obvious. Interplanetary sailing ships and Napoleon also occur in The Venusian Gambit.
The Venusian Gambit is Book Three of the Daedalus Series, which began with The Daedalus Incident, and continued with The Enceladus Crisis.
Action, at least in the world of 21st Century Earth, picks up from the ending of The Enceladus Crisis. The Chinese spaceship Tienlong has been hijacked by Dr. Stephane Durant, who is possessed by the spirit of the ancient Martian warrior, Rathemas. The Tienlong is headed for Earth with a cargo of Martian “souls.” Lieutenant Commander Shalia Jain is in pursuit. Meanwhile, Evan Greene and Margaret Huntington, whose bodies survived the Martian debacle in the Egyptian desert last book, but whose minds are not their own, work to facilitate a new plan to release Althotas, the dreaded Martian warlord.
On the Earth of the 19th Century, years have passed, in which the French have succeeded in a cross-channel invasion using hordes of zombie soldiers, and have taken control of southern England. George, the Prince Regent, commands the holding action and plots to expel them, calling upon Thomas Weatherby, now Admiral of the Blue; his alchemist wife, Lady Anne; and Dr. Andrew Finch to execute his plans.
Meanwhile, the French alchemist, Claude-Louis Berthollet, aided by Alessandro Cagliostro, schemes for France to come out on top, no matter what.
Although this addition to the trilogy brings the tale of the two worlds to a close, I found it ultimately unsatisfying. On the one hand, the humans are too easily manipulated by the Martians’ plot; on the other hand, when the dreaded Althotas finally puts in a physical appearance, his defeat is almost anticlimactic.
Of interest if you have read the first two books and want to see how it ends.
Arabella and the Battle of Venus, at Amazon
The Venusian Gambit, at Amazon