By Mark Michalowski
Untreed Reads, out now
A trip to Mercury proves eye-opening for Nathanial and Annabelle…
After the disappointment of Vandals of Venus, it’s good to see the series get firmly back on course with Mark Michalowski’s first entry. In his various pieces of fiction, Michalowski has proved himself to be a writer who enjoys exploring the ideas behind a concept, and this short novel is no exception. He inserts some soul into this latest steampunk adventure, fusing high adventure with debates on the nature of existence and identity.
Michalowski makes good use of the time period: his characters aren’t 21st Century tropes dropped into this environment. Despite the changes that they’ve witnessed, and the wonders of other worlds, his Victorians are of their era, with their heightened reverence for the church, which can sometimes be a hindrance to the scientific mind.
He also introduces a great foil for Nathanial in French geologist Arnaud Fontaine, who manages to get a rise out of the Professor even when he doesn’t appear to be trying, but who can be deadly serious when the situation demands it. This also frees Annabelle up in story terms to carry out her own investigations, although some of the strongest scenes come when the three are working together – or debating the nature of life, death and related states.
Verdict: An enjoyable and thought-provoking tale. 8/10
Order The Ghosts of Mercury direct from Untreed Reads here