Book Review: The Daedalus Incident by Michael J. Martinez

daedalusThe Daedalus Incident
Michael J. Martinez
Night Shade Books
$15.99

The Solar System is boring. Instead of jungles on Venus or ancient ruins on Mars, we have two lifeless worlds that are lethal to humanity. Instead of mysterious, eldritch aliens, we have some allegedly fossilized microbes and the theoretical possibility of life under Europa’s frozen ocean. Perhaps that is another reason why space exploration has been stagnate: there is just nothing out there to interest the average person.

But what if things were different? What if the laws of the universe worked from a different principal? What if instead of the Solar System, we had the “Known Worlds”? What if the Ages of Exploration and Colonization played out across the vastness of space?

That is the setting for author Michael J. Martinez’s debut novel, The Daedalus Incident, and he was kind enough to send Amazing Stories a review copy. I have actually been meaning to read this book ever since I interviewed Michael at my blog, Alternate History Weekly Update, but have been unable to fit it into my review pile…until now. So lets catch the solar winds and sail off into the adventure tale that is The Daedalus Incident.

Daedauls is a tale about two different parallel universes. One is set in the 22nd Century on Mars in a probable future for our own timeline. A Martian mining base is being disturbed by the sudden return of earthquakes to the dormant planet and it is up to Lt. Jain of the Royal Navy to investigate. During her investigation she stumbles upon a journal (seemingly writting itself) authored by Lt. Thomas Weatherby, an 18th century officer in the Royal Navy setting off on a mission to blockade New York…which happens to be on Ganymede. Following in the footsteps of Alvin Maker and The Age of Unreason, magic exists in this universe in the form of alchemy which allows sea-going sailing vessels to leave Earth and sail on the solar winds to the other planets. These are not dead worlds, but full of life reminiscent of pulp SF.

Weatherby, however, has his own problems besides some wayward colonists. A rogue alchemist named Cagliostro (who appeared as well in Aces High) is stealing the essences of the Known Worlds to carry out an occult ceremony to resurrect an imprisoned alien war criminal. These seemingly separate universes find themselves being inexorably linked as the veil between worlds recedes.

I really enjoyed Weatherby’s timeline. Although hardcore alternate historians will be distressed by so many dead butterflies, the huge potential of this pulpy universe excites me in ways the crisis on the Mars colony just couldn’t match. Even with history following a parallel path, there are still so many questions. If most slaves are from the diminutive race of Venusian lizard-men, what does this mean for West African civilizations? If the entire Solar System is open for colonization, what does this mean for the colonies established in our history in Africa, Asia and Oceania (of course Weatherby’s Earth is missing some important features).

If this book had one major flaw, it was the identity of the human traitor was somewhat obvious despite the authors attempt at a red herring. Nevertheless, I liked how he did away with certain SF tropes (i.e. the Relationship Sue) while at the same time showing that SF does not necessarily need to be strictly plausible and pessimistic to be good. Although a part of me wonders whether Napoleonic history will give away the ending of the sequel, The Enceladus Crisis (due out next year), I still recommend this fun adventure story that was solid debut for the author.

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