Genre: Steampunk Sci-Fi
David McLaughlin is a college graduate in 1899 who isn’t happy with the seminary life. So he joined the Queen’s army, and from there, a whole new world of strange and unexplored has awaited him. We actually open up with him working with Lady Bryce, granddaughter to Viscount Sir James Bryce, to discover an ancient civilization on Mars whose technology, she believes, far outstrips theirs in jolly old England.
Yes, Mars. In this alternate history, Tesla created a Tesla coil which can power steamships through outer space. It’s quite fun and well explained, and I really enjoyed the idea of England in their colonization period working towards colonizing other planets.
Filled with discussion about history and religion, this book definitely kept me in the time period. Many of the characters either have a historical context, like Aleister Crowley, and almost all of them have a different viewpoint on Christianity. At one or two points the theological discussion was a shade heavy (I think a few changes in phrase could have made the point better), but all in all it was quite excellent.
The whole story was action-packed, in fact. It reminded me of books I’ve read or movies seen set in this time period, where we’re very much action adventure but with a twist. Think The Mummy. Given it’s on a sand-ridden red planet, it’s an apt comparison. The only thing that jarred me about reading this is about a third of the way through, we backtrack to David’s first day on the planet. Given where it leaves off, I was okay with a brief flashback, but this was the next third of the book. I didn’t find the breaking up of this tale to be necessary, and it added nothing to the story itself. However, in terms of reading it, it was a minor annoyance I was fine with overlooking because of how fun the story was.
A small caution to female readers – the main female lead, Lady Bryce, is very much steeped in her time period and pretty much regales herself to getting mad at any man who dares offer her help. She’s very much a strong female lead who is constrained by the time period and the foibles within, but if you’re expecting her to do anything on her own, you’ll be disappointed. This isn’t about her overcoming men. It’s about what happens on Mars.
The story is great. So are the characters. If you like steampunk or historical novels, I would definitely recommend this.
The Queen’s Martian Rifles can be found at: