Monday, April 7, 2008

When Mars Attacks - We'll Be Ready!

I've just finished reading The Martian War by Gabriel Mesta (pseudonym for Kevin J. Anderson). It's an amusing piece of Victorian speculative whimsy about the "real" adventures of Herbert George Wells, fighting the good fight for the Empire against the real Martian invaders. Nicely done overall. I liked the inclusion of Thomas Huxley as a main character in particular. One can't say too much about the book without giving things away, but Anderson weaves threads of our Wells' fictional creations throughout his narrative. Should you run out and get it right now? No. But if you like Steampunk or Wells or Anderson (first novel I've read by him), then you may like this.

(If you want to read a really good book with a somewhat parallel premise, search out The Space Machine by Christopher Priest. This novel may have a hint of the 60s New Wave to it, by association more than anything, which puts some folks off, but it's one of my favorite Priest novels. Of course, if you think "New Wave" only refers to late 70s/early 80s pop music, this reference is going to really confuse you, ain't it?)

The point of this post is actually to link you into this neat new world I found - the world of Victorian Science Fiction as acted out with homemade and storebought miniatures! Tiny things are really neat already, but tiny little ironclad tanks battling tiny little Martians in people's basements is so cool! Model railroading has nothing on this. I'd much rather paint a tiny lead figurine called "Masked Minion with Diabolical Weapon" than the caboose of a train!

A Correction, Decades Late:

Mr. Christopher Priest was kind enough to check out my blog today and his response to my categorization of The Space Machine as New Wave is thus:

"I've never heard anyone say that before!...I always thought of Space Machine as a sort of personal revolt against the dogma of the new wave, then current. I wrote it in the early 1970s, at a time when the main proponents of the new wave (Moorcock et al) had become decadent, orthodox and self-gratifying. I never did have much to do with it, although it was huge at the time I started writing. I could understand why you might say that about a couple of the novels that preceded it, but not The Space Machine..."

And he's right. I was writing about the book through the distorted lens of teenage perceptions, lumping it in with all the "dangerous" New Wave I was reading at the time, hence the continuing taint it has suffered in my sorry brain ever since. My younger self can't apologize, but I can. Sorry, Mr. Priest! And thank you for helping me to see my younger self in a new light. It was very interesting and refreshing.

Now playing: Teenage Fanclub - Neil Jung (Alternate Version)
via FoxyTunes

Now playing: Fairport Convention - If It Feels Good, You Know
via FoxyTunes


rogue46 said...

I read the mars book, too! It wasn't a classic, but it was fun and light. I've read other books by kevin j. anderson, and they are usually worth the ride.

gomonkeygo said...

Yeah, fun and light. I was kinda hoping for more, because more could definitely have been done with the premise. It could have been a deeper and more serious book without sacrificing the fun. I decided to try an Anderson because my usual suspects for "fun" reads aren't cranking them out as often as I'd like or I've just read everything by them.