So, I have been admittedly lax about my “Friday is for Fiction” reviews because apparently, Friday is also for Date Nights. The Man and I have a short window left when The Boy is both old enough to babysit The Girl, and yet not old enough to have a driver’s license.
Plus, we know how my last Friday went. I don’t think you really would have wanted to read anything I wrote after that whole day.
I was also kind of hoping The Man would write a review of The Hunger Games, since he’s read all three books. I finished the first one this week and enjoyed it. But he has been busy with a family emergency for the last week or so, and thus unavailable to write guest posts on his wacky writer wife’s blog.
So anyway, on with the reviewing! This week, I’m going to talk about two books in a series that I picked up on Kindle.
The Chronological Man: Monster in the Mist and The Chronological Man: The Martian Emperor.
Both were pretty delightful reads. The author, Andrew Mayne, is a stage magician in his “day job.” (Which, probably, means he works evenings… oh, never mind. You know what I mean.)
The Chronological Man books take place in an late 1800s Boston and New York City where the full effect of the work of Edison and Tesla is still emerging and where technology is still in its infancy.
While the books have some steampunk elements in terms of technology, they are mostly science-fiction mysteries. There’s a bit of Tony Stark, a bit of Dr. Who, and a bit of Sherlock Holmes in the main character, Smith. If you’re a fan of Robert Downey, Jr.’s incarnations of both Stark and Holmes, these books will be exactly up your alley.
There’s also a bit of old-school Scooby Doo cartoons here, in that the plot centers around supposed supernatural threats that turn out to be scientifically explainable. Mayne’s stage magician experience is obvious when it comes to the audience misdirection in both books.
In both books, a young woman named April Malone works in a mysterious office where she is called upon to make coffee that mostly goes undrunk, purchase pastries that mostly go uneaten, and remain remarkably well-read on current events and scientific discoveries at all times.
At the beginning of both books, the charismatic and eccentric genius Smith (no honorific, and no other name) bounds into the office from a locked room, apparently with a weird sort of amnesia, to deal with a public emergency that a massive difference engine has detected based on recent newspaper items.
April tags along to provide assistance, since she has near photographic recall, and has been taking acting lessons in her ample spare time. Very cool gadgets are pulled out to deal with the various obstacles and bad guys that appear. Things get increasingly weird, building towards a climactic resolution where evil is defeated and flimflammery is debunked. That’s pretty much the formula, and it works quite well.
The pacing of both books is quick, and the relationship between April and Smith is nicely drawn out. I especially liked the inclusion of a youngish Teddy Roosevelt in The Martian Emperor. As one reviewer on Amazon put it: “Teddy Roosevelt appears in this book, and tells someone ‘I’m commandeering your rhinoceros.” If that doesn’t make you want to read it, there’s no hope for you.”
There were a few minor editing issues, but at $.99 each, they are both highly entertaining. If you like the new Sherlock Holmes movies, this series will be your cup of tea. If not, you probably want to take a pass.