Horizons of Deceit
A Space 1889 Novel by Jonathan Cooper
Published by Untreed Books Kindle £1.84/$3.07
Disclaimer. I was given a copy of this book free by the publishers on condition that I review it. There was no restriction on the nature of the review.
The setting for this novel is in the game universe of "Space 1889". This wedded Victorian Scientific Romance to Colonial Adventure with an overlay of books like Edgar Rice Burrough's Barsoom series. It is, or was, less "Steampunk" than has become fashionable for retro-Victorian Science-Fantasy.
"Horizons of Deceit" is the twelfth novel in the second set of a continuing series (Space 1889 & Beyond) that has six books per series and is the author's first Science-Fiction novel.
I came to this as a afficianado of the setting, and of the books and films that served as its inspiration, and it is the first piece of "Space 1889" set fiction I have ever read. I knew nothing of the series until I started it though it is easy to deduce that it existed because you are pretty much thrown into the middle of things. There is no "What has gone before", here.
The book takes a little while to get going, but starts off intriguingly enough with the promise of mad anarchist bombers and a threat at the heart of the British Empire. There is little introduction to the characters, you are expected to be familiar with them, but you can pick up their essentials easily enough. The pace is still slow through two of the characters' (Adventuress Annabelle Somerset and Commander George Bedford of the Royal Navy) wedding that sent me the wrong way at first, having shades of the start of "The Four Feathers". I am not sure if that was a deliberate reference or not. However, characters now married, it transpires that the plot against the Empire seems to be broader than some anti-social ne're do wells with explosives and that the newly weds and friends must be sent to far flung corners of the globe to investigate the menace.
However, and this may seem perverse giving the last paragraph, I found the rest of the book suffered from being too short. The characters split up in various lines of enquiry, but their actions become rushed, particularly towards the end. I do not know if there is a particular format that the author had to fit in, but it might have been better for character development and sense of events if he could have taken more time.
The book does flow after the wedding, but there are historical inaccuracies that jar every so often when you read it and you think "that can't be right". An example is a character using a passport to travel from Ireland to Great Britain. Not only was Ireland part of the United Kingdom at the time, and internal passports are not part of British History, for international travel, British use of passports was rare at thst time. There are other errors, though if you are not as into the history of the period as I am, these might just pass the reader by, the use of modernisms like "intel" and "comms" will just be glossed over.
The speed at which the book rattles through does hurt character development. The character obstacles that, particularly Annabelle face, to help establish her strong personality are less effective for the one-dimensionalness of the antagonists. Similarly, there are some good villains, but they don't get enough time to entertain you with their villainy. They only really have one big scene apiece. I hope in future they get more of an evil mastermind plot to themselves.
This book has the slight characteristic of the penny-dreadful adventure that it needs but, of course, that means that it ends on a set of cliffhangers, so you will need to get the next book to find out what happens to our gallant adventurers and the travails they face. I'll probably do that, but I won't necessarily be hanging onto the release date in anticipation.
Down with Valar oppression!